Felix Kolmer

* 1922  

  • “We had another advantage. We could sign our closest people in on our family card, declaring them as relatives. So I wrote down a number of people on that card, even though not all of them got protection. Some of them ended up in a transport. Nevertheless, I saved the lives of four people. They managed to stay in Terezín also thanks to me paying at times with the most valuable thing there was – bread. I would rather not eat and give my bread to the person at the filing room to keep those people in.”

  • “The end of the war was approaching. We knew exactly what was happening at the battlefront because Karel Ančerl was selected by the camp commander to clean for him, serving as a so-called kalfaktor. The commander must have been rather kind; one could have seen it in the camp regime. Karel Ančerl would go to his place at noon and at 2 p.m. he would turn on the radio and tune in the Czech broadcast of the BBC. So each and every day we had news on the state of the battlefront; by contrast, the SS-men had to wait for the information to pass through censorship. When some town fell into the hands of the Soviet army – that was most interesting to us, being close to the Eastern battlefront – the SS-men were unable to maintain discipline. They did not know why but we did: because liberation was coming. Apart from that, there was always half loaf of bread lying in that apartment. Karel Ančerl initially let it lie there but then he got curious, he took it and brought it to the camp. The bread was meant for him by the camp commander – this I also give him credit for. Karel Ančerl would not eat that half bread, instead cutting it into thin slices and sharing it with several people. Obviously, this had no real impact on the nutrition of those people but it was important for their mental health. Karel Ančerl knew it and did that, instead of eating that bread himself.“

  • “As the first transport which arrived to Terezín, AK-1, we had a certain advantage – a big one initially, but eventually turning into its very opposite. Most of us were not put into transports to extermination camps. Only exceptionally were some of us selected. On the other hand, since the autumn of 1944, we were being assigned to transports preferentially because the battlefront was closing in from both the East and the West and the SS-men were afraid of a young people’s uprising, as was the case in some of the other concentration camps. And thus, young people must have been slaughtered, going into the transports as a matter of priority.“

  • “We arrived to Auschwitz as a transport of one thousand five hundred people. And the day after, there were two hundred and fifty of us. Meaning that the first day, after the first selection, the well-known doctor Mengele sent one thousand two hundred and fifty people to gas chambers. With a smile, quietly, with a polite gesture. But they went for death. For the first two hours in Auschwitz I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I only saw flames blazing from the chimneys. I thought, ´Well, of course, people die even here, they are cremating the bodies, just like in any other crematorium.´ But I had absolutely no idea that these were mass cremations, that the murdering capacity of gas chambers, about whose existence I didn’t know at all, was eight thousand people a day.”

  • “Meanwhile I was being escorted to the Small Fortress a lot, by an SS man, sometimes twice a week, and I was working there as a joiner and carpenter. Thus today I am perhaps the only living prisoner who knows both concentration camps, the Small Fortress and the Main Fortress as well. The SS man was with me all day. He was my personal guard. It was not really uplifting. His task was to watch me so that I don’t make contact with prisoners from the Small Fortress. But what I saw was enough for me. This inhuman torturing of prisoners. I saw Jews with hands broken, and SS men were forcing them to work by a whip. With broken hands! They couldn’t, of course. The whipping thus continued till they beat them to death.”

  • “If somebody broke a rule and he was seen, he simply infringed the law, because all the rules were political regulations. He became a political prisoner. As a political prisoner he would usually get to the Small Fortress, and for Jews, the Small Fortress nearly always equalled death. Many of them got arrested because of some trifle. They went to a cinema and got caught, they passed through Wenceslas square (I believe Jews were banned from entering Wenceslas Square), the Vltava embankment was also forbidden, Jews were not allowed to leave the village or place where they lived. And I was canoeing the Vltava river with boy scouts at that time. At night a policeman asked to see our IDs, and he saw there was the letter “J” written in mine. He didn’t bat an eyelid and left. He was a good man. My life could have ended there.”

  • “One night we were driven between the camps B II – Birkenau, accompanied by SS men whipping us, their barking dogs and shooting in the air. Each camp was surrounded by a barb-wire fence, which at nights and partly during the day was charged with twenty-two thousand volts. We were rushed to a ramp. There was a train, consisting of cattle trucks. And I was pushed into a cattle truck destined for sulphur mines, for an ancillary camp in sulphur mines. But in the adjacent truck I noticed former fellow prisoners from Terezín. And also Karel Ančerl, who was my friend. I have passed through Terezín with him, through Auschwitz, and also through the third camp, called Friedland. This is in present-day Poland and it’s called Mieroszów. At night, while the headlamps were still blazing, I managed to leave my truck and sneak into the other one. And thus escaped the Auschwitz area. But I didn’t know it.”

  • "Of course I can, because they really affected me. Even during those processes, voting took place in most of the companies, where the people who had nothing to do with it at all, the employees, had to say if they agreed to have the death penalty, or not. And in our institute too, everyone voted that they should have the death penalty, but not me. So, my study colleague, who was the chairman of the Communist Party, he wanted to get me out of the institute. He was terribly inventive and terribly smart. He was a real genius, but he never finished anything and he still considered himself my competitor because we were of the same age and we studied together, and based on that he suggested firing me. However, the director didn't do it and he, because he never finished anything, he had troubles with the director, and eventually left."

  • “The life in Auschwitz II – Birkenau was terrible. There was a sweet smell, or rather stench, all over the camp. It was the stench of bodies being burnt in fifty ovens, which were located in five crematoriums. These stood next to five gas chambers. And the gas chambers had the capacity to kill eight thousand people a day. But even more people were dying. In all camps in Auschwitz on average there were twelve thousand people dying every day. The remaining four thousand were either tortured to death or those, who were no longer able to work, often had to bend in the workplace, and an SS man or a capo broke their spine with an iron rod or some stick.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    V Praze, 21.04.2010

    (audio)
    duration: 03:20:35
  • 2

    Praha, 11.11.2013

    (audio)
    duration: 01:08:08
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Praha, Vinohrady, 12.11.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 01:44:13
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 4

    Praha, Vinohrady, 12.11.2015, 08.03.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 01:57:59
  • 5

    Praha, 22.03.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 02:07:31
  • 6

    Praha, 09.05.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 01:08:47
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

“I was lucky to meet good people. Or at least I don’t remember those who were not good so much. “

The graduation photo
The graduation photo
photo: archive of Felix Kolmer

Prof. Ing. Felix Kolmer, DrSc. was born on May 3, 1922, in Prague into a family of an Italian legionnaire and tradesman of electrotechnics. Influenced by his father’s profession, he was interested in electrical technology since his childhood, and his future career path was clear - he would become an electrical engineer. After his father’s death in 1932 he spent summer holidays and Christmas with his uncle in Austria, where he watched the occupation of the country by the Nazis. He was an eager and active scout. After the rise of Nazism, as a result of anti-Jewish repression he became a carpenter’s apprentice. On November 24, 1941, he went to Terezín as a member of the so-called Aufbaukommando, where he worked on the ghetto construction, and later witnessed the horrors taking place in the Small Fortress and also became a member of the underground movement there. His mother died in Terezín in 1941. On October 16, 1944, he was transported to Auschwitz, where he also saw smiling Dr. Mengele sending people to gas chambers. With luck, he managed to escape to the camp Friedland, where he survived until the end of the war. After that, he was finally able to study and he eventually became a world-renowned expert on acoustics. He is one of the pioneers of this field in our country, he is active as a lecturer and he also authored and co-authored many works. He incessantly works on the process of recompensing the victims of Nazi terror. He has received several awards and decorations for this activity and for his academic achievements.