“Right behind the showers and the clothes, we came to the front of a large table at which Mengele was sitting. There is no need to tell you who he was. Well, we came to him and he asked what our job was. I mean what our profession was. And I said I was a gardener. And because we were young and it was in October 1944, they probably needed some work force already. Well, he gave me this look, I took off my glasses... And he did like this. And I went to the left. I had no idea what was on the right hand side. Only later I got to know that all those who went to the right went to the gas chamber.”
“(Markéta Nováková): “As we were young women we had periods of course. When we were given some clothes there was always a pile of some cloth... cloth sanitary towels. Well, we had cloth sanitary towels, there are cotton wool ones today. Well, there were those cloth sanitary towels and they were laid there just like that, ready for those who had their periods right at that moment. So we said to ourselves because we were smart enough: 'It's October, it's cold and we have got nothing to cover our heads with.' So we put it on our heads. At least I did.” (Ilsa Maier): “Well, me too.” (Markéta Nováková): “The white stuff on my head.” (Interviewer): “And can you recognize any more people in the crowd?” (Markéta Nováková): “No.”
“I can't remember now what it was at that time, if it was a school where they made an assembly point. I can't remember, really... It was like this. Everyone was allowed to have 50 kilo with him or her. It meant a suitcase and usually a backpack with the most important things. There were straw mattresses or mattresses or just nothing at all. And we spent about three days there. Then we came in columns of five at the railway station. But I remember such a thing – there went grandfather and my grandmother in front of me. And the SS men were flying all around us all the time shouting: 'Faster, faster! Schneller, schneller! (Faster, faster!)' And my grandfather was very old already and it was making him terribly nervous. And I told him: 'Relax, slowly! Do not be provoked!"
“My boss came from Frankfurt am Main was quite a short man. He simply checked up on me if I was doing this or that right and such. But they were not allowed to talk to us. But once, it was after some time later on in the winter, (1945, editorial note) I had an open plan in front of me and he came from behind and we pretended we were talking about something in the plan. And then he asked me: 'Why are you here?' And I replied to him: 'Well, because I'm Jewish.' And he said to me: 'Nothing else? You have not murdered anyone?' So they were probably told that we were women murderers. It is obvious that each ordinary human must despise a woman murderer...”
“I kept in touch with the outside in the following way: As I looked after the rabbits I had to go out for grass. Because what would they live on? I had a wheel barrow and a sickle and I had to pass by the police on my way out (of the ghetto, editorial note). I had to give the police my identity card there so that they knew I was out. On my way back they gave me my identity card back and I went to the garden. And once I was out there getting some grass for the rabbits and I sat down for awhile, there was something growing behind me. All of a sudden I heard someone speaking Czech behind me: 'Don't move, I'm from abroad, I just want to ask you some questions and such.' Simply a young girl from Prague trying to smuggle some stuff to her acquaintances in the ghetto. Mostly cigarettes because they were selling like hot cakes. Because we were not issued with anything of that kind and anyone who was a heavy smoker would give anything for it. So later on we always met on a particular day at a particular time when I went out for some grass for the rabbits. She always gave me some cigarettes and I hid them under my skirt and I brought them to the ghetto this way. Well, it was a risk. Of course it was not for free. She also brought me some food and such stuff.”
“We woke up in the morning and the chief female leader was gone and so were the SS women. And in a while, about nine o'clock or so, three guys from Náchod turned up and I remember that one of them was called Rudolf Rudolf. It was such a funny name, so I remembered that. And they told us that they were contacted by our chief female leader the day before. They were asked to bring them some civilian clothes (the women had no civilian clothes, they had uniforms only) and then they would simply leave us alone. They would do nothing to us, which actually happened. The Germans fled to the woods around Náchod. They were captured later but it is another story. And the guys said: 'The war is over.' They arranged us and led us to Náchod.”
“By unfortunate accident I fell down in Terezín and had my arm in a plaster cast. It automatically meant death in Auschwitz. I was very lucky because in the same transport was my cousin (Ilsa Maier, editorial note) and a former good friend of hers (and mine at the same time). Her name was also Ilsa. So we were three girls who knew one another before the war and we could rely on each other. Well, the two girls helped me enormously when I was getting off the wagon. We had to stand in columns of five and I was hiding my arm in plaster at the back. They were standing so close to me so that they couldn't see it. When they were checking us, the SS men were walking among us in a row. Well, I had no arm in front and he didn't notice that. And when he walked behind us, well, I put my arm to the front.”
(Markéta Nováková): “These are the buildings, which were stables before they put us up on the bunk beds there. There were two separate camps with a road in the middle. And we went along the road until we reached the place where they wanted to put us up.” (Ilsa Maier): “And it was typical for me, when you're asking me what my feelings were... I have got such a protective reaction that I smile. I do that every time when I find something fishy. Well, I smile and don't know about it. I think it is a kind of a shock that you just do not realize. I felt absolutely nothing.”
“I had my arm in plaster, which obviously meant death in Auschwitz.”
Markéta (Margit) Nováková was born as Markéta Drexlerová in Bratislava on December 5th, 1922. Her father was a journalist, which caused the family to move a lot. When Markéta turned two, her family moved to Prague. At ten, she returned with her mother, who divorced in the meantime, to Brno. Markéta’s happy childhood and youth ended with the Nazi occupation - her parents were Jews. All the anti-Jewish measures applied to her. She had to leave Brno Real Grammar School after the first term of her sixth year. For the following two seasons she worked as a woman farmer. She also worked for the Jewish community distributing summons to transports. Herself, her mother and her grandparents were transported to Terezín in March 1942.
Due to her previous contacts, she was able to start farming in Terezín ghetto, which brought her certain advantages (staying outside the overcrowded ghetto, the chance to steal food and smuggle goods into the ghetto). She married her friend Egonem Forscher in Terezín. When Egon was ordered to go to the transport to the East in 1944, Markéta asked to be transported as well. Immediately after their arrival in Auschwitz - Birkenau she was separated from her husband. However, she met her cousin Ilsa (later Maierová) in the transport. They shared the same fate until the end of the war.
Despite Markéta arrival in Auschwitz with a broken arm, she luckily managed to go through Mengele selection and she was sent to work. After six weeks she was deported from Silesia to a little town, Bad Kudowa (Kudowa Zdroj in Poland today) in the autumn of 1944. It was only a few kilometres from the Czech town, Náchod. The women from the transport were interned at the Gross Rosen concentration camp. Markéta worked with a milling machine in the local munition factory. Thanks to her contacts with the prisoners of war and forced-labor workers, she was informed about the forthcoming front. The SS women commanders left the camp at night on May 8th and 9th. Markéta and the other female prisoners were liberated as a result of help from Czech rioters from Náchod.
Markéta met her husband after the war and followed him to Prague. However, their relationship didn’t last in ‘ordinary’ conditions. Markéta graduated from Business School and married a former political prisoner whom she met during her curative stay in Karlovy Vary. After February 1948, the family lost her husband’s delicacy shop. Markéta worked as an accountant in a textile store. She raised two children. Markéta Nováková died on 23 June 2020.