Dr. Felix Kafka

* 1925

  • “When I was at school in Cheltenham, I was there for three years. During those three years, Cheltenham was only bombed once. So we almost avoided it. But London was different matter entirely. We lived, the room we had there was on one of the main streets, which they bombed. If I remember correctly, right in the beginning we went down into the tube station - lots of people slept there, so we stayed the night there as well, because it was deep and at least the bombs couldn’t get there. But it was unpleasant, so unpleasant that we never went there again. So we slept normally and always reckoned: ‘If it’s supposed to hit us, it’ll hit us, and if not, we’ll be okay.’ Luckily, we survived.”

  • “My father wasn’t a Zionist. My father was a Czech Jew. So we didn’t attend Zionist groups. We belonged to the Makabi, that was a Jewish sports club, but that’s about it. We sometimes went to the synagogue, but that was just on the big feast days. I must say that we really lived like Czech Jews, we were Czechs of Jewish religion, not Jews living in Czechoslovakia. That was my father’s influence. How he came to be chairman of the Jewish community as a Czech Jew, I think, I don’t know, but I think that the Zionists were against him back then.”

  • “Either way, both parents, Dad and Mum, took us to the station, put us in the train, and we were there with lots of other children. I must say that my parents, especially Mum, behaved absolutely spectacularly, Mum didn’t cry in front of us, but when I think about it now, in retrospect, I think it must have been horrible for them to send their children away. Other parents cried, you could see that, and I remember it, but for me - thank you for the word you used back there - it was more an adventure than anything else. So we say in the train, we were checked by the Germans, to see who we were, we had numbers hanging from around our necks. Everything was okay, as far as we were concerned, so we just sat there, and then finally we were off.”

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    Praha, 05.05.2016

    duration: 02:12:56
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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We were Czechs of Jewish religion, not Jews living in Czechoslovakia

Felix Kafka 2016
Felix Kafka 2016
photo: natáčení ED

Dr Felix Kafka was born on 28 June 1925 in Prague as the second son of a Jewish family. His father Emil Kafka (1880-1948) worked as a lawyer and also served as the chairman of the Jewish Community in Prague; his mother Eliška taught French and later stayed at home as a housewife. On 28 June 1939 the two brothers, the older Jiří Pavel (1924) and Felix, joined a children’s transport to Great Britain, organised by Nicholas Winton. Their father also managed to reach England in September 1939 - he later worked for Beneš’s government in exile. Their mother remained in Prague. Felix and his brother had a brief stay in a refugee camp, then in a school in Southampton, and finally in a boarding school in Cheltenham, where they spent three years. His brother joined the RAF in 1942, he underwent training and took part in combat. Felix later moved to London, where he studied chemical engineering. After the war, in summer 1945, he visited Czechoslovakia and was reunited with his mother, who had survived the ghetto in Łódź and the camps in Auschwitz and Bernsdorf; however, he returned to England to finish his studies. His brother Jiří Pavel also returned to England in 1947; after the death of their father (1948), they were joined by their mother. Felix Kafka worked as a chemical technologist, his job took him to the Netherlands, Australia, and Belgium; even as a pensioner he worked as an EU consultant in Brussels until recently. Felix Kafka is a widower; he and his wife raised a son and daughter; he now lives in York, England.