Dora Pešková, rozená Steinová

* 1921  †︎ 2020

  • “November 1941. The first transport, a so-called Aufbaukommando (AK) had arrived to Terezín. They were mostly young boys; there were no women among them. They got into the largest barracks in Terezín, Sudetenkaserne, where they were accommodated. They were prohibited from ever going outside because the whole of Terezín had still been occupied. It was a town where normal people had lived. And they had to build up Terezín as a ghetto. Those boys who arrived first received guarantees – although these were later violated – that their parents and wives or fiancés would be protected. On 15 December, the second AK transport was dispatched, and my boyfriend was in it. At that time, there was still no closed ghetto, but a regular town. But they could not go anywhere in the town.”

  • “They brought us down there into a canteen for dinner. There were large bowls of pea eintopf. But that was a real eintopf, meat was floating in it, it was an eintopf and everyone could have had as much as they wished. And bread. Bread! Bread! Do you know what bread is? You cannot imagine what bread meant to us. Every week we would receive just this tiny piece, a quarter. And there was suddenly so much bread on the table! Have as much as you want. Fair enough. So we ate and this Sturmführer of ours had a speech. He welcomed us and promised to treat us fairly. Not to punish us, not to tyrannize us, not to beat us. But – he was a German man: ‘I want order. And if there is anything wrong, you will feel my anger.’”

  • "We were aware that the first transport had gone to the gas chambers. It was the whole camp, Lagersperre, and all the people from the transport who were loaded on trucks and taken away. They told us they were going to work. But, the next day the trucks returned just with clothes. So we knew what was going to happen. Fredy Hirsch joined the transport with children, voluntarily; that was about the beginning of May. He did not have to go. And now they said, ´Some people will go to work and the others to the gas chambers.´ We didn't believe that anybody would go to work. But some wanted to believe that. And then the selection."

  • “It was not possible to sit or lie down. People were standing next to each other. I don't remember it well but I think we left in the morning before dawn – they were in a hurry because they didn't want people to see it. But I don't know what time we left. Probably in the morning. We set off but nobody knew where we were going. They said, ´For wok, for work.´ An overcrowded train. There was just one bucket in the middle of the train for going to the toilet and when it was full, one man took it and poured it out of the window. There was just a small window, quite high. We were going for a day and night and some people who knew the way or had travelled by train a lot recognized we were going east. We went through Ostrava so we knew we were going east."

  • "And then they were looking for girls to carry meals, the grub, in beer barrels. I think it was hundreds of litres. It might have been fifty litres but I think it was more. Each barrel had a handle on one side and they put rods through them. We were given some hooks and there was a girl on each side. For doing that we were given an extra portion of soup. It was a terribly hard job. We were weak girls, two of us for each barrel. Gita went for the soup and then she exchanged it for a lump of sugar and took it to her father. It was tough. Our hands were freezing – the handles were made of metal. I don't even know now ... It was about December, second half of December, and I was able to do it for about two months. It was too hard for me – I collapsed."

  • "We were on the truck – Mom, Dad and the two of us. Dad was ill – he had heart disease. He had always been an optimist and thought it would be over soon and that we would get home again. We were standing on the truck there ... In fact, it is the worst moment of my life. He embraced us, me and Gita, and said, ´We won't survive this. It is a concentration camp.´ We knew nothing about what a concentration camp was. ´It is a concentration camp. You must stick together and look after each other. We won't be here, we won't survive.´ It was like that, parting with my father.”

  • “It was the last stop. Bergen-Belsen. It was the worst camp, well, we did not work there. But nobody registered us. Nothing. They threw us out of the wagons or we walked there – I just don't remember well how we got there. The buildings were full – it was almost impossible to get into one. The field was full of corpses, corpses everywhere, inside, outside. We didn't spend a long time there – just five or ten days. There was no water, there was nothing. No food, of course, and nothing to drink! It was terribly filthy – the dead and the living lying on the ground. People who couldn't get up were unable to get out of there. It was not possible to get inside. There were no officers – it was just anarchy. I don't know if anybody was taking the corpses away – I thought there were just more and more corpses."

  • "When I arrived I saw that the whole loft was full of filth and dust, and loads of people. There was a German boy on duty. He asked me, ´Can you do anything? Can you give people injections?´´No,´I replied, ´they didn't teach us that at grammar school.´ – ´It doesn't matter. I will teach you. I have been on duty for a week, day and night. I must go to sleep. Today, the night shift is yours. Don't be afraid: you'll do nothing. You have nothing – no food, no drink, no pills. You just have to go round the ward every hour – they will be calling you but you mustn't do anything. Don't give up. And when you think someone has died, I will give you these tags and you will write their name on it and attach it to their toes.´ I had never seen a corpse. How could I know whether or not they were dead. The night was horrendous."

  • D.P.:"They suggested going to Sweden to recover. I would have gone there if it hadn't been my ´clever´ sister. She insisted on going home – even if there was nothing like home left – our parents were dead, as we knew. But, I had promised my father to look after her so I went with her. It was on July 15th, when she arrived saying that the last train to Czechoslovakia was leaving. She wanted to go there, never to Sweden. Interviewer: "Do you regret going back with her?" D.P.: "I do. Very much."

  • "Well, the selection. Of course, Mom didn't even go there – she wouldn't have been chosen. I went there as I had to – it was because my age. But, my legs were swollen after the disease so it meant nothing. I went nowhere. Anyway, we didn't know which was better – whether to stay or go. But Gita, who worked in the Kinderheim, always had the most reliable news, came and said,´I was at the selection and was accepted!´ I just said,´He didn't accept me.´ – But she insisted, ´You must go there once again, you must do everything to get out of here. You mustn't stay here. ´So I went there once again. And it was fate again – there was a Czech doctor who assisted him – there was always somebody who assisted him. She was watching me and asked, ´What's the matter with your legs?´ – ´I´ve had typhoid.´ She replied, ´Don't tell anybody about it. Do you speak German?´ – ´Yes, I do.´ – ´Well, tell him you fell off the bed and that I said it would be OK in two or three days.´ She went back and I was able to stutter that somehow. And yes, they accepted me."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, v bydlišti pamětníka, 04.11.2010

    duration: 03:07:53
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Hagibor, 13.02.2014

    duration: 01:13:47
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We could go abroad but my dad always said, ´The Czechs will protect us.´

Dora Pešková in 1941
Dora Pešková in 1941
photo: Repro z Paměť a dějiny 03/09

Dora Pešková, née Steinová, was born on January 15, 1921 to a Jewish family in Karlovy Vary as the eldest daughter. Her father owned a shoe shop and her mother was a housewife. They spoke German and so Dora went to German primary and secondary schools. In September 1938, when  the Sudetenland was occupied by the Germans, the whole family moved to the centre of Czechoslovakia, to Prague, where they lived on the benefits given to them by the Jewish community. Dora attended agricultural courses called ´Hachsharah´, which were intended for those who wanted to emigrate to Palestine; she also taught English and worked as a maid. In Prague she met Kurt Egon Pick (Pešek), her future husband. On September 4, 1942 Dora Pešková was sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto in a transport called “Bd”; the other members of her family had been there since July 1942. At first, she worked there as a nurse for the elderly. On December 18, 1943 the Steins were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the second transport to a so-called ´family camp´. Both her parents died in Auschwitz. Dora was ill with pneumonia and typhoid but she and her sister, Gita, were sent to Hamburg for work and then to a camp in Bergen-Belsen. There they stayed until liberation in April, 1945. They returned to Prague in July, 1945 and later Dora moved to Karlovy Vary. However, she was not given a ´national dependability´certificate and thus was not allowed to study medicine. She also met up again with her fiancé Kurt Egon Pick (Pešek), who had survived the Theresienstadt and Auschwitz camps. They lived in Pardubice where her husband was given back a gingerbread factory in restitution. However, the factory was nationalised in 1948 without any compensation. Later they moved to Kadaň where she worked in an office. Dora Pešková is a widow and she has lived in Hagibor in Prague since 2008.