“My mum had to wear the Star of David and she was very sensitive about it and suffered greatly. She felt guilty about the family suffering hardship because of her – for instance by receiving smaller food rations. Moreover, she could only go out at a certain time. So ever since I was a small child I learned to make arrangements, go shopping, to the post office – I was used to taking action. When we were out in the street with our mum she would walk either in front of us or behind us so that we wouldn’t get ostracized because of her. She also attempted to hide the star with her handbag even though that was forbidden. I remember once walking in the Smíchov quarter where we lived. There was an ice ring below Petřín and I went there with my sister. I was fairly independent already and brought my sister everywhere. I put skates on for both me and my sister and we attempted to skate. Then I noticed our mum standing behind the fence. She waited for us, worried. Suddenly, the guard came over and threw us out, saying that the ice ring is not for Jews. We as small kids haven’t worn stars so he only did it because he saw our mum standing behind the fence.”
“As soon as the uprising was over and the war ended, my dad left for Terezín to get my mum. She got severely ill in the meantime because by the end of the war there were such transports arriving to Terezín, carrying prisoners from the worst extermination camps. Whenever such a train arrived, Terezín inhabitants would run towards it and look for their relatives. My mum later told me that when those cattle trains arrived, they opened up the car door and people began falling out on the embankment. Some of them alive, some of them dead but all the same not moving as even the living ones were almost dead. The Terezín prisoners then went there to search for their loved ones. My mum never found my grandma who was murdered in Treblinka but she did find her sister, our aunt Andulka. She laid there completely exhausted, weighing under 40 kilos and suffering from typhus. My mum put her sister on her back and brought her to the hospital. This is where she took care of her and naturally, she herself became infected with typhus. So Andulka got better, recovered and then lived quite happily for many years. My mum overcame typhus but at the same time got inflammation of the middle ear. At that time there were no antibiotics and it was a serious illness. So they drilled into her skull. Ever since her hearing was impaired and she was affected up until her death. The effects had shown on her nervous system and her general immunity.”
“Yes, we had some wiretappings but we learned to live with it to some extent. First of all, we never said anything on the phone relating to time, place and people. In fact, I stick to this more or less up to now, just out of habit. Besides, whenever we wanted to make some arrangements with friends, we would get up and walk outside. This is how many people used to do it. Sometimes, for instance when there was a reading at our place, we found out that someone took a picture of our house and published it in Rudé právo newspaper or somewhere. And there was a text saying that various anti-regime elements were meeting at our place. That was fairly unpleasant.”
My parents ended up in the camps and I in an orphanage
Helena Klímová was born on 3 February 1937 into the family of Josef Malý, an engineer in the Ringhoffer Tatra fatory. Since he refused to divorce his Jewish wife, Josef Malý was imprisoned in a labor camp during WW II. Helena and her younger sister Hana ended up in orphanage after their mother was deported to the Terezín ghetto. Both her parents survived the camps but Helena’s mother ended up with perpetual health problems. Helena graduated from Czech language and literature at Charles University. Ever since 1962 she worked as an editor of Literary Papers. She married the writer Ivan Klíma. Because of her dismissal of the communist regime and contacts with dissidents she found it difficult to find employment and was interrogated by the secret police. In 1978 she signed Charter 77. She wrote texts in support of people persecuted by the communist regime, which were also being published abroad. Eventually, she found a job in a marital advice office in Mělník. Ever since 1970s she has pursued psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.