Ing. Hanuš Hron

* 1925  †︎ 2023

  • The arrival of prisoners from the death marches to Terezín "Then the times came when the death transports were arriving to Terezín. The people who were transported by the Germans, they were driven on foot, especially to Terezín, because they [Germans] wanted to cover their tracks. Suddenly several thousand of these death marches´ participants came to Terezín. They were totally exhausted. We created a brigade of young boys who were still able to organize something. We got hundreds of loaves of bread from the kitchen, we went among these people and cut the loaves into slices and put them in laundry baskets. Always two or three people took one basket and went to a group. The groups were in different places. We went to them and we wanted to give them the bread. But they were already at the stage of starvation where you can't think anymore. They didn't care. These people got up from the ground and rushed at us, snatched the basket from us, knocked it over, fought over it. The stronger ones managed to snatch some bread. A lot of bread was left trampled on the ground. 
After this experience, we carried the second batch to them with the help of fence poles. Same thing, but we guarded the bread with the poles. So we were able to line up the people and throw a slice of bread to everyone, at least for that first satiation."

  • "There was a period when transports from Germany began to arrive in Terezín. These were to liquidate the German Jewish homes for the elderly. That Nazi regime, among the Jews there were famous personalities, military leaders, politicians, various sportsmen. The Nazis wanted to conceal the fact that these people also had to go to the transports. So they moved all the Jews who were still in Germany to the old people's homes. But when those people didn't die of natural causes, they moved them out of the German cities. The slogan 'Juden frei', without Jews, was still in effect. So tens of thousands of aged German Jews, completely impoverished, came to Terezín in a short time. Because of their age, they couldn't live in the quarters where the three-story bunk beds were, because they couldn't even climb up there. They couldn't work, so they had no better food rations. These people had turned into a real reservoir of the dying. Up to a hundred and fifty people a day were dying. It was no longer possible to bury them in individual graves; they started digging mass graves. Every morning, funeral wagons went out, but they were specially adapted for this purpose. Because the Jewish communities had funeral wagons, which were all taken to Terezín. The upper part of the wagon, where the coffin was normally placed, was cut off, they became flatbed wagons. Ten men and two ropes were assigned to do that. The whole of the inner-Terezín transport took place on these wagons, they carried both food and corpses. Every morning, these funeral wagons would go out, they would go from barracks to another, people who had died overnight had been already thrown aside, the corpses were loaded onto the wagons, but not along, across, so that maybe ten could fit on the wagon. They were taken to the casemates, the fortress buildings that remained from the time of the construction of the Terezín fortress."

  • "Since the textile production had never been started, but the ten people were coming there every day, we practically had nothing to do, so we started to dabble with all sorts of things. I learned a lot of things there, even a bit of jewellery making, which helped me sometimes to get some bread. In Terezín, the 'rich' ones were cooks. There were various rumours that if a cook married a Jewish girl, which was possible in Terezín, she wouldn't go on the transport. But that was complete nonsense. It never happened. But the weddings did take place and rings were needed for those weddings. So I learned to make wedding rings there. The person who ordered the rings brought a German five- or ten-mark coin, a coin that contained a little silver. We learned this technology, we cut that coin with a spiral cut, we annealed it, we stretched it, and we had a bar of precious metal that contained nickel and a little silver. From that we twisted the ring, we had a way of taking the measurements to match the size of the finger. The ring was then braided together. That was a fancy trick, too. The braided ring was then put on a lathe, made from a sewing machine. We put the ring on a kind of wooden cone, polished it, ground it with a file, and then polished it with sandpaper until it sparkled like a real wedding ring for that moment. Whether it really was put on the fingers of the clients I don't know, I didn't take part in that. The fee for making a pair of rings was one loaf of bread, which was a great fortune."

  • “One beautiful day a rumor got around that a transport with a thousand children from Auschwitz had arrived. The transport actually did arrive, with doctors and nurses in it, all Jewish. They were supposed to go from Terezín to some other place. When the transport arrived, they wanted to shower the kids somewhere, so they took them to the showers and that’s when panic broke out amongst them because they thought it was the gas chambers. That was the first time we learned about the gas chambers in Auschwitz. The transport stayed in Terezín for several weeks but then it left back for Auschwitz, with all the staff and the children, and it went straight in the gas chambers.”

  • “The last story happened when I decided – while there was an endless Soviet convoy passing by the ghetto, going from Prague to Dresden – I told myself I’d break the discipline and leave the ghetto. I hailed a Russian car, this small war truck with a Russian soldier on it and I drove to Prague in the middle of that endless convoy. If that was even possible because I had had no knowledge of Russian back then, we communicated with gestures. When we arrived in Prague, the convoy suddenly stopped and there was a another huge convoy of German war prisoners going in the other direction. The traffic stopped for a while. A German war prisoner with shoes hung around his neck was standing in front of our truck. The Russian soldier pointed at my shoes which you couldn’t really call shoes anymore, and then pointed at the shoes hung around that man’s neck. So, for the first time after three, five years I had an opportunity to raise my voice at a German citizen and order him to give me his shoes. I plucked up the courage and shouted: “Gibt die Shuhe!” Well, then he took the shoes off and was handing them to me but when I leaned over, I saw that he was barefoot himself. He had no other shoes, just the ones he was trying to spare. I got furious but I was also ashamed, I took the shoes and flung them back at his head. At that point the convoy started moving again, so I only got to get better shoes later, but it didn’t take too long.”

  • “At Christmas 1943, Erich Matner asked me whether I would like to have a Christmas tree at the quarters. I said yes and as I had worked in the waterworks and had access to tools, ropes, candles, ladders… He told me what to prepare. I prepared everything and one day, about three days before Christmas Eve, he said: ‘Tonight we are going.’ We went through a secret passage, there were many of those in Terezín. He was walking first, carrying the ladder and I was carrying the back part of the ladder. Each of us had a candle and a rope and we were moving ahead somewhere, I don’t know where. But at one point the passage made a turn and we couldn’t pass with the ladder. He said: ‘Cut the ladder in two.’ So I did. Then we continued apart, each carrying his half of the ladder. Then we came up to a barred loophole from Maria Theresa times, which was tied with a chain and locked with a padlock. He ordered: Saw the chain. So I did, we opened the window and looked down – I don’t know many metres it was, maybe six. We tied the ladder together, put it down and climbed it, despite not knowing whether it had reached the ground or not. But we were out of the walls and then we just waited for the patrolling policeman to cross the main road Terezín-Lovosice. He [Erich Mautner] had thought it all through. At that point we ran across that road and emerged in a small forest where he showed me a tree, I cut it and we flew right back like two boomerangs, climbed the ladder, pulled it up and then we festively presented this tiny spruce on a table in our house of youth on Christmas Eve, undecorated of course. We had to overcome resistance of the Zionist educators but they were reasonable and understood. After three days we took the tree down.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Rehau, 12.07.2018

    duration: 01:24:41
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Karlovy Vary, 26.03.2022

    duration: 01:46:32
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

It was possible to escape from Terezín. But where would one go?

Hanuš Hron during recording
Hanuš Hron during recording
photo: Post Bellum recording

Hanuš Hron was born on 18 June 1925 in Most as Hanuš Weinstein. His father worked as a doctor specializing in ear, nose and throat medicine. The family had to seek shelter in Prague after the occupation of Sudetenland. Hanuš’s father tried to move the family abroad at the beginning of the Protectorate. Eventually, he was given the opportunity to travel to China, hoping that he would later arrange emigration for the entire family. Before he could arrange everything, his wife and both kids were called in a transport to Terezín. Sixteen-year-old Hanuš, who had been an apprentice in waterworks before that, got a job as pumps and pipes repairman [in Terezín] which protected him, his mother and sister from being transported to the east. In 1944 he volunteered to work in Germany for several months, building a camp for SS officers together with other Jewish prisoners. He spent the end of the war in Terezín, soon after that he set out to Prague with a convoy of Russian soldiers. He became a member of the Communist Party after the war, worked in a pump factory in Lutín near Olomouc and later as an employee of the Czechoslovak Youth Union in Třinec ironworks. He was, however, expelled from the Party after the show trial with Rudolf Slánský and during the new wave of antisemitism. This was also due to his conflicts with the party administration at Třinec Ironworks. He spent the following years working as a labourer in Ostrava and Most regions. In 1968 he won an open competition for a factory director in Nejdek but lost this post after the August 1968 Warsaw Pact Invasion. The family considered emigrating, but in the end they did not leave because of their older son, who refused to go into exile because of his girlfriend. Until 1989 the witness was kept under State Security surveillance, mainly because of his Jewish origin; he refused the offer of cooperation with them. He worked in the Chodos company in Chodov near Karlovy Vary until 1989. Hanuš Hron died on April 13th, 2023.