Zuzana Peterová

* 1950  

  • “Mom somehow found out that in prison, once a week, dad washes the windows which face the town square. I think that it’s name today is Hrdinů [Place of Heroes]. It was supposed to be every Monday afternoon. Mom and grandma decided that we would go to that square and we would try to let him know that we are there with him. We had this idea that we would bring a white handkerchief and we would walk on the square. The window in question was a small invisible dot in the wall of the Pankrác prison. We agreed that we would pull our handkerchiefs out, pretend to air them and wipe our noses. We went there and started our act. I knew that when mom was wiping her nose, I cannot do it, I am allowed to follow only after some time. I knew that there is a dot in distance which is actually a window. Behind the glass, there is dad who is washing it and he is holding a white rag. Suddenly, I saw a glinting dot. At the same time, we had to be very cautious so that nobody would notice and we would not reveal that we were actually waving at our dad to prison.”

  • „Food was valued in our family. All food items had immense respect and could not be just thrown away. I remember that when I was in the first grade, mom found an uneaten sandwich in my school bag. It was a major unpleasant event. I had to listen to a long sermon how I do not appreciate food enough, what food means, how food saves lives, what would other people give in exchange for food. Her attitude to food was unbelievably strong. She would never leave our flat without making sure that there is one banana and one bread roll in her handbag, regardless of the handbag’s size. At that time, I found it ridiculous. I would tell her: ‘Mom, please. You’re only going to get the groceries.’ She looked at me and replied: ‘You never know.’”

  • „It impacted the greated part of my time at the basic school. Out of sudden, everyone knew that I am not from a working class family and that I have a dad whom I do not have at the same time. Many schoolmates did not want to be friends with me. Later, I found out that the parents had warned them: ‘Do not play with that Zuzana, her father is in jail. He is a thief.’ I knew only too well that he was not a thief. But if I defended myself, the whole class would resent me. At the end, I had almost no friend because I was not the one to be friends with.”

  • “The most touching was that my father would leave in March. They said he was arrested on March the 19th. And as they would arrest him at night, at this place, they would allow him to take just his suit. And he would choose the lighter one as it wasn´t so cold in Praha back then, and they would drive him away. And after years, there was this amnesty and he was released, and no one anticipated such a thing, it came just out of the blue, and suddenly, he would ring at our door and I would go open it, I might be twelve-years old back then. And as I would open the door, there was this old, stooped man with white hair, dressed just in a suit. And I wouldn´t even recognise him. I would say: 'Good evening, whom are you looking for?' And he would say: 'I am looking for you, Zuzana, I am your father.'”

  • "The criminal police would come at night to search the flat where we have been living. So at 2AM, someone would ring your doorbell. And we would wake up, they would rush into the flat, they would empty all the cabinets and wardrobes, they would check everything, looking for some materials. And I remember that at this place there was this cabinet, we couldn´t part with it until today, we took it to our cottage, and I had my toys in it. And, as I told you already, as we were poor, there was this wide assemblage of toys inherited from my deceased relatives who didn´t come back from the concentration camps. And I would get the toys and I would be grateful. So there were many toys in the cabinet, some teddy-bears, little monkeys and so on. And they would throw it all out and as they had these bayonets they would pierce the toys to make sure noting was hidden in them. And I remember that I would cry a lot , yelling that they were hurting the teddy-bear. And after they left, my mother would calm me down, stating that the teddy-bear didn´t feel a thing. But for a child it was such a traumatising event that I can still remember that.”

  • “And because of that, my grandmother would take me to the place where she felt most at ease, to the place where in fact I spent my childhood, to a Jewish cemetery. And it was the New Jewish Cemetery at Želivského, that´s how that part of the city has been called today. And we would go there every day when I was a child. And she would reenact the times of the Holocaust by taking me from one beautiful gravestone to another saying: 'See, they died at the right time.' And I couldn´t imagine what did she mean by dying at the right time. Later, she would explain it to me and I realised the full depth of the fact that to die at the right time did mean to die before 1939, before the World War II had started. Before that hell my grandmother would share with me by doing this. So that has been a symbol I have been carrying with me since my childhood, a Jewish cemetery and the art of dying at the right time.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 05.02.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 03:39:52
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
  • 2

    Praha, 08.10.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:22:12
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

We all do have freedom, the question is what we would do with it

Zuzana Peterová, a portrait
Zuzana Peterová, a portrait
photo: archiv pamětnice

Zuzana Peterová was born on October 25th of 1950 in Praha to a Jewish family. Her family had been traumatised by the events of the Second World War during which about sixty people related to her perished in the concentration camps. Her father, Miloslav Schneider, was sentenced in a show-trial in the 50s and spent many years in prison. Because of that, she had not been allowed to study at the gymnasium. However, in 1966, she had succeeded. After that, she studied at the Charles University´s Faculty of the Social Sciences where she got her doctorate and a PhDr. title. After she had graduated, she couldn´t get a job position she was qualified for. She joined the staff at Zemědělské noviny, working as an editor. In 1969, she married and after that she gave birth to four children. During her maternity leave she took courses in psychology and psychotherapy and used her experience as a journalist in writing several books. At present, she has been creating works of literature and working as a psychotherapist at Prague´s Jewish Community.