Markéta Pacovská, roz. Hiršová

* 1921  

  • “When Podivín was being purged from the Jews, my sister – married with two children, five and six years old – went straight to Auschwitz. They were probably gassed immediately. My parents remained in Terezín, they left from there about two years later, after that they also died by gas in Auschwitz. They have not returned, either. My brother, who was about twenty, was in the concentration camp in Kaufering. He lived till the liberation. I was told this by one man, with whom my brother escaped from the camp. After the camp had been liberated, they were returning home. Walking on the road, my brother could not anymore; he died there on the way home. He stayed on the road. After the liberation. Thus I remained the only one of our entire family. None of our relatives returned either. About four of the former inhabitants returned to Podivín, but they are now also dead. Thus I am the only one alive.”

  • “Podivín’s population was about three thousand people, out of which there were two hundred and seventy Jews. It was a relatively large Jewish community. Again, I have to reiterate that there was no anti-Semitism there. The Jews and non-Jews were living together. They had understanding for our Jewish holidays. On our Easter (Pesach) we eat so-called matzoh from unleavened dough, for eight days you can eat only unleavened bread. For example, I was bringing these matzoh to our Catholic priest, who liked eating them very much. So he was getting the matzoh bread from us every time, because my daddy was friend with this priest. Such was the community that was there.”

  • “I met my husband Josef Pacovský in Terezín. He was a chemist, and he was in charge of delousing. It was terrible there. I used to say that my life had been saved thanks to bugs and lice. The Germans needed him, they were afraid of an epidemic, in case of some contagious disease. Thus I married him. He was ´protected.´ He was sent to Terezín as part of the so-called Aufbaukomando. It consisted of three hundred and fifty men from Prague who came to Terezín to build the ghetto there. They arrived there on November 24th 1941. At that time there were still non-Jews, Aryans living there, who had to move out. My husband was among those three hundred and fifty people who constructed the Terezín ghetto.”

  • “A rabbi from Chicago was here. The Torahs from villages where there were no longer any Jews living were gathered in Maisel St. 15. And he chose precisely the Torah which was originally from my native village of Podivín. So he took a taxi and one interpreter with him, and he went all the way from Prague to Podivín in southern Moravia in the Břeclav district. It is more than four hundred kilometres. There he learned that I was the only living Jew from Podivín. One evening at about ten o’clock I had a phone call, and this rabbi was calling me, asking me if I would like to go to Chicago. That they would be beginning this Torah from Podivín, which he got in Prague. Asking whether I would like to be present at the ceremony. I accepted and set out to Chicago. With all honours they gave me a welcome at the airport. I stayed there for about seven days, it was great celebration. For me this event was very special, to see that the Torah from Podivín was opened in Chicago.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha 1, 25.05.2009

    (audio)
    duration: 52:22
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“I owe my survival to bed bugs, fleas and lice.”

Markéta Pacovská in 2009
Markéta Pacovská in 2009
photo: Hynek Moravec, Post Bellum

Markéta Pacovská, née Hiršová, was born January 17th 1921 as the youngest of four children in Podivín, in the district of Břeclav. Her father owned a kosher butchery in Podivín, where an important and numerous Jewish community had been living for centuries. This profession was being passed from one generation to another in this family. Markéta Hiršová was transported to the Terezín ghetto in one of the first arrivals as early as December 1941. Soon after her arrival she met her future husband Josef Pacovský. He was a member of a so-called Aufbaukomando, which was preparing Terezín for the arrival of the first Jewish transports. They celebrated their small wedding in Terezín, and the new family was saved by the fact that the husband, a chemist by profession, was an expert on disinfection of fleas, lice and bed bugs. Markéta Pacovská had children shortly after the war and she fully committed to their upbringing. She was not too interested in the political changes around 1948, and she was never involved in political affairs. She had two sons, when the youngest turned six years, she found employment. All her life, she worked as a clerk, among other occupations, like the export companies Čechofracht and Strojexport. As the only survivor of the Jewish community in Podivín, in 1997 she was invited by the Jewish community in Chicago to the ceremonial reading of the Torah, which originally came from this small town in southern Moravia.