Antonín Moťovič

* 1927  

  • “We – my mum, three children, and also Mum’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law – we set off the earliest day possible in the night on the one side of the Dniester, there where he told us to go. A kilo of sugar, and they took us across in rowing boats. The Dniester was flooded, it washed my sister somewhere far off, and it took us several hours to find her, but she got out somehow or other. We wouldn’t all fit into one boat. Then we were ambushed by the locals in the night; my sister still has a big scar from that, and they stole everything we had there, those few sugar cubes. But what they took, they took with them and left. So we got to the closest town, Nadworna it was called, to some family, and we gave all we had left to one man who guided us over the Carpathians back to Subcarpathian Ruthenia.”

  • “We went there. We were there for some two or three weeks. We were among the last people in the ghetto. In the meantime my brother – who hadn’t been accepted to grammar school – trained as a car mechanic, and the Gestapo in Khust took him in to care for their cars. And that’s why we were among the last to go, in the last transport. They brought in some cattle wagons on the siding, stuffed 45–50 people into them, a big barrel for weeing and pooing into, and off we went. We only saw through a wired-up window at the top, we never opened it. But before that, we travelled in the direction of Slovakia, through Slovakia to Poland, to Auschwitz, to Osviecim. There were Eisenbahners at the station in Košice in Slovakia, they tapped our wheels and told us: ‘Don’t worry, the second front has started, the Americans have crossed the sea, they’re starting to conquer Germany.’ But we were already in the wagons.”

  • “I must say that it was without violence or anything, we didn’t put up a fight either; they sat us into cars again and took us over the border. I remember that as a child – I was fourteen years old in the year forty-one. I remember that as the most horrible experience, not in the concentration camp, but I’d never had such a shock at the time. My brother had his wits about thouigh, he didn’t go with us on the hay wagon. There were carts with hay or farm produce that went to Khust in the morning. It was market day in Khust. He joined them and went with them and wasn’t with us. We later found out that it didn’t matter – he came there, started living there, and that was that. When we came out the second time, we reckoned: ‘We’ll wait until the night, we’ll be wiser this time, we won’t say hi to all the workers, not with any families, but also by road, in some wagon...’ We didn’t have anything to give, but hopefully there would be someone who’d take us to Khust. And so we got back to Khust.”

  • “One of the chauffeurs, one of the lorry drivers, was a cousin of my mother. I recognised him and he recognised me. ‘Hey, I’ve been looking for you the whole time.’ They transported supplies, food, and he’d take out sugar, sugar cubes from sacks, and give it to the people. For ten cubes of sugar, you’d get ten kilos potatoes. He gazed at us: ‘I’ve been looking for you.’ And he started crying. ‘Get out of here, go. Do anything in the world, just don’t stay here.’ He told us what had happened in Kamianets-Podilskyi – they knew about it. He said: ‘They’ll all kill you here. Germans, Ukrainians, Hungarians, they don’t want you, try to get away.’ He gave us some addresses – he was prepared for it – the addresses of some families on one side of the Dniester and the addresses of people on the other side of the Dniester, who would help us cross the border. ‘Cross the Dniester here, and they’ll help you on the other side for the sugar I’ll give you. For a kilo of sugar, they’ll take you back across the borders, over the Carpathians; you can only go there in the night – not in the day, or they’d catch you – and they’ll take you back. Find a place to hide; there have been others who’ve returned like this before.’”

  • “One night we suddenly hear that there’s a raid going on. They’re rounding up Jews, but only the ones from Hungary, for now. There’s a large city there, Kamenets Podolsk. By the way, the Czech Ministry of Defence didn’t know it existed, and I told them later on when we applied for the two-fifty-five and that we had been there. Later, they acknowledge I was right, that it really was like that. In the course of a few nights, the Germans shot 28,000 people with the assistance of the Hungarians, with the help of the local inhabitants, who gathered us up. Kamenets Podolsk. No one or hardly anyone knows about that, but we were among that number, all lined up in the street to join the transport to Kamenets Podolsk. I’ll never ever forget about that. Suddenly they pulled us out of the line, the whole family. [Q: Who did?] I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s true that back then there were Jews in the Hungarian army who served as lorry drivers. In a Hungarian uniform with a white armband.”

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    Kfar Saba, Izrael, 11.03.2018

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Czechoslovakia made a person of me

Antonín Moťovič. Prague 1950´s
Antonín Moťovič. Prague 1950´s
photo: archiv pamětníka

MUDr. Antonín Moťovič was born on 17 January 1927 to a Jewish family in Khust in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. He had an older brother and a younger sister, his father traded with wood and his mother tended to the house. The witness attended a Czech grammar school in Khust. In 1939 Subcarpathian Ruthenia was annexed by Hungary, and his father was drafted into the Hungarian army as a manual labourer. On 15 July 1941 the mother and her three children were arrested and deported from Khust to Yasinia, which was a collection point for Jews without state citizenship. Several days later they were transported to the village of Tlustá (Tovste in Ukrainian), which was part of the occupied territory of Poland. Most Jews without state citizenship were murdered in August 1941 in mass executions by Einsatzgruppen units in Kamianets-Podilskyi. The Moťovič family managed to escape the transport to Kamianets-Podilskyi at the last moment thanks to the intervention of the mother’s cousin, who helped them return to Khust in secret. The family was arrested a second time in summer 1944; after several days in the ghetto in Khust they were deported to Auschwitz in June 1944. The witness and his father were taken first to the Mauthausen concentration camp and then to the labour camp in Eibensee, where they dug the foundations for a road through a mountain valley. His father died in early May 1945, soon before the camp was liberated. Antonín Moťovič returned to Khust, where he was reunited with his mother, sister, and brother, who had survived the war in labour camps. When Subcarpathian Ruthenia was annexed by the Soviet Union, they decided to move to Czechoslovakia. The witness attended a grammar school in Prague and then studied medicine at university. His siblings emigrated to Israel and the USA after the war. After graduating, Antonín Moťovič worked as a surgeon at the hospital in Krč. From the 1960s he and his family applied unsuccessfully for permission to emigrate to Israel. In 1965 he and his wife and two daughters immigrated to Israel via Yugoslavia. He was employed as a surgeon there and was one of the founders of children’s surgery in Israel. For his contributions in the field of medicine, he was awarded the Kafka Medal in 1998. Antonín Moťovič has two daughters and lives in Kfar Saba in Israel.