Jana Urbanová

* 1937  †︎ 2023

  • "I was offered to join the [communist] party only once and I refused. I was a little afraid if it would have an unpleasant consequence. Fortunately, it looked good, except for some time when they came to me that it was necessary. And I think that was when I was a distance learner at college. At that time I gave up, because the headmaster said, look, it's no big deal, we'll recommend you for further education and we'll have a meeting once a month, there's four of you. I succumbed to it and we paid a lot for it afterwards, because after 1968 we had to say yes or no. I said I couldn't go on, and that's when I stopped teaching art and Russian. I wasn't fired, I was just transferred to a small school, there were only four classes. The problem was that I had to go to the headmistress and say, please, if you give me the first class, I have no idea how the children will learn to read and write. A number of people were very kind to us at that time, the headmistress gave me fourth and fifth classes to teach. I taught like that for twelve years..." "Were you expelled from the party at that time?" "I wasn't expelled, I left the party. I didn't sign another membership and I lost my job because of that. My husband, who had a much more complicated situation, experienced the same thing. Somehow it was possible to overcome it for the sake of having a somewhat clear conscience."

  • "The end of the war in Terezín...the transports of prisoners were extremely depressing, there was already a railway line to Terezín, train freight cars were arriving. Carriages that were closed and had a small window. There were people crowded around the window, shouting, because there wasn't enough air. Under the windows of the house where we were, there was such a train for some time. It was terribly depressing until they opened that train, and half-mad people came out of there, dead people fell out. It was terribly depressing, we had these things happening right under our windows. These people had nowhere to sleep, they had nothing to eat. I remember the experience of being outside waiting for lunch, for the food to come out. I was given six potatoes and I was still so spoiled that I peeled the potatoes and carried the skins in my mess tin. I was walking past a group of women prisoners, I think it was Polish that they were speaking, I don't know. They begged me to give them the potato skins. I gave them the skins, and I'll never forget how they were fighting over it and how they were eating it. To this day, this is a terribly cruel experience for me because we hadn´t known this before. There was hunger, but this cruel situation that came after Terezín was overpopulated and after the diseases spread there, especially the typhus, and there was no medicine... The end of Terezín was quite terrible. After the revolution the Russians closed the whole thing down, which was reasonable, they were afraid that the epidemic would spread to the whole republic."

  • "A very nice lovely lady came into the house, told us to stand against the wall and to walk towards her as if we were handing her a fruit basket. We didn't have to speak, which surprised me. Depending on how we did this task, she had us go left and right, and then she went with this one group to the local Sokol hall, which was a rather shabby building, but there was a stage and an orchestra pit. She explained to us that we were going to play theatre. There were preparations to receive the Red Cross commission, which supposedly came there from time to time to confirm that it was not a concentration camp but a town that Hitler had given to the Jews. Incredible situations happened, with pavements being scrubbed, flowers being planted, because it was already March. They rehearsed theatre, they brought costumes from the National Theatre for the children, they made a set. It was to show that there was a performance for children and a performance for adults. I was included in the children's performance. That beautiful lady was called Váva Schönová, she was an actress who wrote a transcription of Little Beetles by Karafiát for us. That was the book that all the children read back then. The idea that for this commission, with the kind accompaniment of SS men, Jewish children were performing a fairy tale written by an evangelical pastor - that is an absurd thing. However, nobody thought anything of it, we were playing Beetles. It was a big performance with an orchestra, with singing and dancing."

  • "My mother accompanied me to Hagibor, she was very brave. We had to walk because the Jews couldn't take the tram, especially me with the bags I was carrying, because they already had a sign on them saying where I was going. We walked through the Old Town Square, but through those narrow streets, because Jews were not allowed there, especially on holidays, to today's Republic Square, where the Catholic Church of St. Thaddeus is. My mother took me there and said: Kneel down here and pray to come back. I prayed the Our Father, my mother took my hand and we walked on. She was very brave and when we came to Hagibor in front of the gate, she suddenly grabbed me and started crying terribly. There was a uniformed man at the gate, probably a soldier, I don't know, but he was obviously part of some Hagibor patrol. Either he couldn't look at it, or he thought it was taking too long, so he pulled me out of his arms, pushed me behind the gate and slammed it. That was it. I already had my daddy there, who went first. So, as I wrote in my letter to my mother, I had a number of children there that I had met in Lublaňská Street. That's also where I write that it's all right, that we'll take out our toys and play, because I knew what it meant, this leaving. I had already experienced it many times with other relatives, it was always very tearful and very sad. I didn't want to add to my mum's worry and sadness, so I wrote her a letter about playing with dolls."

  • "Everything looked very rosy and beautiful until the occupation came and with it, of course, the ban on the medical activity of the Jewish doctor for the Christian settlements. Another doctor was called to Mníšek pod Brdy and we survived there for some time. First of all, because people were nice to us and mainly because some of my father's patients did not want to leave him. Not because of what was going on, perhaps, but because they felt they should continue the treatment my dad had started. They would come to us secretly in the evenings, he wasn't allowed to practice, and they paid him. They would bring us food, the people from Mníšek were excellent at that time. But there was a newspaper called the Aryan Struggle. And in the Aryan Struggle, suddenly there was an article that said that the people of Mníšek pod Brdy should be ashamed of themselves because they were tolerating among themselves a Jewish doctor who was greeted on the streets by people, and some even continued to be treated by him. Which was probably the reason that on Christmas Eve in 1940 a car arrived and my father was taken away. We didn't know where, they took him. For me, those are the first childhood experiences - the Christmas tree, my mother crying, the mess all over the flat, because they did a search as well. Finally, our landlady took me away so I wouldn't see my mum crying, so I wouldn't be in the flat. She took me in, showed me a beautiful carved nativity scene, and those are my first childhood memories. A beautiful nativity scene and my mother crying."

  • “We were visited by a protestant priest named Přemysl Pitter, together with his wife Mrs Fierzová. He was a close friend of Dad, and he helped us throughout the whole time there with their visits. They weren’t afraid to visit us on Havlíček Street. One thing was that they’d bring us a packet of food, or Mrs Fierzová would make me a small doll out of rags, and I even got a little suitcase with clothes for the doll. I took it with me to Terezín. I loved it so much, plus it was very small, made of rags, and light. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring it back with me from Terezín. Those were brave people, who risked a lot, but helped all the same. I met with Přemysl Pitter again later on, mainly because after the war, when Terezín was closed up and there was the big epidemic there, Přemysl Pitter managed to get the children out. I was also in the children’s transport organised by Přemysl Pitter, and I spent some time in his sanatorium, those were three country houses, and I was at Štiřín.”

  • “It was very intense, to rehearse it quickly enough. Some technicians came from Prague, they claimed they were from the National Theatre, but I’m not sure about that, and they prepared the stage, built the sets, made our costumes. The committee really did arrive. We played the first performance just for the camp leaders. I only remember that because the auditorium was all dark with just a few cigarettes glowing in it. They smoked while watching us. Such a strange memory. Then, when we played it for the committee, the Ältestenrat came for us, he was called Murmelstein, and he took me and the girl Květuška, that is [the actors of] Ladybird and Firefly, by the hand, and he led us to the committee, there was someone else there as well, so they stroked our hair, said ‘schön, schön’, and led us away again. But we also performed it for the prisoners. We played it three or four times, I’m not sure now.”

  • “When the Sudetes were annexed, although that included Osek, my father was apparently decided not to leave, because he thought it wasn’t necessary, that he had his clients there and he hadn’t done anything to anyone. People started leaving. There were two stations in Osek, and the upper station was managed by a man called Mourek, who was friends with our family. Apparently, this stationmaster Mourek came to us, saying that my father and our whole family should leave, that there’s a danger that Jewish families will start being persecuted, and that the last train is leaving the lower station in a few hours. So my father accepted that, and he took me and my mother and boarded that train, leaving practically everything behind.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 08.06.2015

    duration: 03:06:54
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Louny, 21.09.2023

    duration: 02:51:41
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The Terezín ghetto took away the magic of her childhood. But she began playing theatre there

Jana Urbanová, née Klačerová, in the summer of 1945 after her return from Terezín
Jana Urbanová, née Klačerová, in the summer of 1945 after her return from Terezín
photo: Witness´s archive

Jana Urbanová, née Klačerová, was born on 10 November 1937 in Teplice, her father was of Jewish origin and her mother a Christian. After the occupation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany, they had to flee to the interior of the country and settled in Mníšek pod Brdy. During the Nazi occupation, her father continued to treat his patients there despite the ban, for which he was arrested and briefly detained. Afterwards, the family had to leave for Prague, where they lived separately in the Jewish community. The father worked in the Treuhandstelle, then found a job as a doctor in the Jewish hospital in Lublaňská Street, where he helped hide orphans from transport. In 1944, the Klačers were summoned to the transport, and the witness and her father boarded and left for Terezín in February 1945. The mother hid from deportation with witness´s younger brother Ivan until the end of the war. While in the concentration camp, the witness performed in a play called The Little Beetles, performed for the Red Cross committee. After the liberation of the concentration camp, her father helped her during the typhus epidemic; he contracted it himself, but later recovered in Prague. After the war, the family was reunited and returned to Osek, where Josef Klačer helped the displaced Germans. He also founded an amateur theatre there. The witness became a teacher there, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, she left the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and was reassigned at work. Later, she studied directing at the Academy of Performing Arts, Theatre Faculty (DAMU) and worked as a regional methodologist of amateur theatre. She devoted most of her life to it, she worked in ensembles in Osek and Krupka and won many awards. She died on 4 October 2023.