My biggest life decision took ten seconds. Every age has its challenges
Stephen Gaertner was born on July 29, 1929 in Hamburg. He comes from a Czech Jewish family. Father Erich - like his brothers - spent the First World War on the front lines. In the 1920s, he moved to Hamburg with his mother Edith, where he ran a freight forwarding company. Due to health problems, Stephen travelled to Switzerland in the second half of the 1930s, where he eventually survived the war with his mother. In the meantime, his father and brother Hanuš were deported by the Nazis to concentration camps, where Erich Gaertner died. After the war, Stephen and his mother and brother settled in Prague, where the witness graduated from the University of Chemical Technology (ICT). From the 1950s, he worked as a technologist in a man-made fibre factory in the village of Rudník in the Trutnov region, from where he later moved to the Prague Industrial Automation Plant (ZPA). In the meantime, in the years 1953-1954, he completed compulsory military service in Červená Voda in the Orlické Ústí region. In the second half of the 1950s, he lost his position in ZPA due to an unsuitable personnel profile and had to accept a working-class position in the Kladno smelters. After spending 11 months by the furnaces and after a subsequent month-long compulsory military exercise, he was staff-cleared and was able to return to a professional position in the ZPA. In 1965, he was met with direct pressure to cooperate with the Czechoslovak military intelligence (ZSGŠ / ČSLA), and shortly afterwards he emigrated to the West together with his wife Věra. He eventually settled in California, where he - among others - befriended Oldřich Kýn or Ivan Havel. As a chemical engineer, he has been involved in a number of successful projects overseas. After 1989, he repeatedly visited the Czech Republic. At the time of the filming of the interview (2021), he lived in Rio Vista, California.