Ing. Hanuš Hron

* 1925  

  • “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 Theresienstadt 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 Theresienstadt for several weeks but then it left back to 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 little while. A German POV 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 to a German citizen and order him to give me his shoes. I plucked up the courage and shouted: “Gibt dies 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 mad but 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 go.’ We went through a secret passage, there were many of those in Theresienstadt. He walked first, carrying the ladder and I carried 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 the times of Maria Theresa which was tied with a chain and locked with a padlock. His command was: saw the chain. So I did, we opened the window and looked down – I don’t know many meters it was, maybe six. We tied the ladder together, let it down and climbed it, despite not knowing whether it reached the ground or not. But we had a chance 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, 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.”

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    Rehau, 12.07.2018

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    duration: 01:24:41
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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You could escape from Theresienstadt. But where would you go?

Hanuš Hron during shooting
Hanuš Hron during shooting
photo: natáčení Post Bellum

Hanuš Hron was born June 18, 1925 in Most under the name Hanuš Weinstein. His father worked as an ENT doctor. 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. Before he could arrange everything his wife and both kids were called in a transport to Theresienstadt. Sixteen-year-old Hanuš, who had been an apprentice in waterworks before that, got a job as pumps and pipes repairman which protected him, his mother and sister from the transports 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 Theresienstadt, 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 Union of Youth in Třinec ironworks. He was, however, expelled from the Party after the show trial with Rudolf Slánský and the new wave of antisemitism. He spent the following years working as a laborer in Ostrava a Most regions. In 1968 he won an open competition for a factory director in Nejdek but was deprived of this post after the August 1968 Warsaw Pact Invasion. He worked in the Chodos company in Chodov near Karlovy Vary until 1989.