“The food was just indescribable. In the morning we got water and bread, about a quarter of a kilo. Bad for you if you didn’t eat it immediately, because someone would then steal it from you. At noon we were getting some sort of soup; each of us had to bring their own spoon and bowl. It was only soup, sometimes, but only rarely, there was a piece of some turnip inside. In the evening there were unpeeled potatoes or some liquid food, and we would get no bread. I don’t remember precisely how it was in Auschwitz, but the food was scarce, and one wouldn’t be able to live long on that.” Interviewer: “The packages thus saved your life?”– “Certainly.”
“The second shock was that they deprived us of our humanity. They cut our hair, they took away our civilian clothing, and they gave us horrible bloodied rags, as it happened to me. They promised us a shower, a chance to be clean and they made us run under ice-cold water.”
“It was an apocalypse. Nobody can imagine that system today. The journey in the passenger cars was normal, those who accompanied us even talked to us and they were pointing to us what was where as we were passing by the camp. The men’s camp reminded a scene from the final judgment. Nobody can probably grasp it today, but what you saw were the transports, men standing in lines of five, they were emaciated and yellowish, with their caps held clutched to their right thighs. They were shouting at them to hurry up. I can’t even describe it. You would have to see it, this is impossible to repeat, for the same system can not exist anywhere else in the world. This drill and the German precision, and all this combined with this absolutely inhumane and dehumanizing way of manipulating with people...”
“At first we were going to work on gummipflanzen, which the Germans were growing there. They wanted to produce rubber from it. We worked with hoes, and this was still relatively agreeable work, the weather was quite nice, it was not windy, and so on. We were going to work there for a few of days, but then the girls from Ukraine appeared and they just took over us. Before we trudged to the gate, there were already there, the entire block of them, and they were already standing by the gummipflanzen. What was left to us was only the work with the ground, where no hoes and we had to work with shovels and pickaxes. You should know how heavy a pickaxe can get and how hard this work is. Compared to the others, I still felt strong as a bear - I was tough and strong. But after falling ill, the work with the pickaxe was very terrifying to me because later they were working on removing stumps, and leveling the ground. I don’t know if they planned to build a new camp there or what they needed that piece of land for.”
Interviewer: “Did you suspect that your brother was in the resistance movement?” – “No. Never. He never shared these things with us. He would only say a little bit now and then. The only thing I know, as I have said several times already, that in the spring of 1942, my sister Zdena said that K. H. Frank should be done away with, that somebody ought to kill him, and he said: ´You think so? I know of a better person!´ That was the only time he alluded to it. And my other brother, Jarek, who was younger than Vladimír, visited him and said that there were some people coming to see our brother. But we didn’t know anything else.”
They deprive you of your humanity. They cut your hair, they take away your civilian clothing, they give you horrible bloodied rags...
Mrs. Jiřina Petřková was born on April 2, 1914 in a Greek Orthodox family. She spent her childhood in Pavlovičky near Olomouc. She studied at a grammar school and a teachers’ institute. After graduation she worked in minority schools in Moravská Chrástová and Hrušovany nad Jevišovkou. After the occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938 she returned to Olomouc and she was teaching in the nearby villages. Her brother, Vladimír Petřek, was a Greek Orthodox priest who had studied theology in Yugoslavia. He was involved in the resistance movement during WWII and he was helping to hide the paratroopers who had assassinated R. Heydrich. He was executed in September 1942. Mrs. Jiřina and her family were first imprisoned in Olomouc and subsequently in Brno. In March 1943 they were transported to Auschwitz. Mrs. Jiřina was working there on leveling the ground and later she was separating clothing confiscated from the newly arriving prisoners. Her mother and her sister Milada died in Auschwitz. In August, Jiřina and her sisters were transported to Ravensbrück and shortly after, to Neubrandenburg where she worked in an aircraft factory. In spring 1945 she and other prisoners were to leave Neubrandenburg in another transport. In the chaos at the end of the war, the wardens left the transport and the imprisoned women were left free. Mrs. Jiřina returned to Czechoslovakia, settled in Prague and continued to work as a teacher. She died just a day before celebrating her 98th birthday on Sunday April 1, 2012.