Helena Vovsová

* 1926  

  • “Had they not awaited Himmler, the gate would have been closed and the boys would have stayed at home. Allegedly, the soldier picked him up and when Ms. Heydrich – who was wearing something white that day – found out, she ran in there. Allegedly, she took Klaus into his arms and cried terribly that she would have both the driver and the soldier shot. Simply as a mom when something happens to her child. When I went there to see what was going one, a car arrived, stopped and I was asked about where is Ms. Heydrich’s chateau. That was the doctor.”

  • “That day my dad was at home and a large package had arrived. He was very happy that we received a package, he ripped it open and saw that it said: ‘For Milan’. It was a big mess then, he shouted at me. I hadn’t asked him for years what was he thinking back then because he dragged me with my mom towards the gate, perhaps he wanted to take me to the chateau – to turn me in or something. He must have turned completely crazy. We were crying there with my mom, I was holding the gate, my dad pulling my hand. Mom said: ‘Don’t be crazy!’ This is how it all got revealed so I needed to promise him that I would cease to do it. Later when I told Milan, he was very sorry that it was all because of him. And he said: ‘Helenka, why does your dad hate me? He doesn’t even know me.’”

  • “We were planting something in there when suddenly a soldier arrived and remained standing there. I don’t know if he thought that Zdeněk (they were seventeen- or nineteen-year-old boys) was not working hard enough or if he told him something and he had replied – I don’t know. Long story short, I witnessed the soldier slapping him in the face. He had a blue cap which fell down. I stood up. The soldier had a small stick which he swatted against his rubber boots. I jumped in there, snatched his stick and broke it in half. And imagine, that soldier didn’t tell me anything, didn’t slap me, nothing. This is how I was back then.”

  • "The number of prisoners that were kept in the chateau was subsequently decreasing as they were taken away to Theresienstadt or to other places. Eventually, only about 60 inmates remained and these ones stayed for almost a year and a half. I supported four of them quite a bit. Once I brought a chunk of salami from Prague. But even before that, the SS-man Hans wanted me to do his laundry. I promised him to do it but my dad wouldn't let me. So I found a poorer family that was willing to do it. Just when I was taking that salami to Milan, I ran into Hans who told me he had some laundry to wash for me. I had to come with him and I hid that salami in my skirt. On the way there he complained to me that I was talking to the Jews too much. When we came into the room, I wanted to take the laundry but Hans would grab me and the salami came out. He said: 'Was ist das?' 'Hans, das ist meine Wurst (Hans, that's my salami)."

  • "We had no clue about what had happened. There was a lot of shouting, soldiers were everywhere. I was in the greenhouse when Hans came in with little Silke sitting on his arm. I asked him about what was going on. He said that there had been an assasination attempt on our boss. I wanted to know whether he was dead. Hans said: 'Noch nicht (not yet)'. We expected somebody to come and to interrogate us but no one came, nothing happened. We kept on going to work, the usual routine. At that time, the wine from Italy had arrived. It was in the storerrom. I snapped away a couple of balls. Well, you could say that I stole them."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Panenské Břežany, 24.02.2012

    duration: 03:29:56
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 26.10.2014

    duration: 02:10:05
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

The Chateau of Březany is my destiny

1636-portrait_former.jpg (historic)
Helena Vovsová
photo: archív paní Vovsové a Eye Direct

Mrs. Helena Vovsová was born on February 12, 1926, in Prague. She lived with her family in Prague Karlín till she was four years old. Her mother was a housewife and her father was employed as a driver for Neumann and Co., a Jewish firm manufacturing shirts. He kept this job even after moving to Panenské Březany where little Helena started to go to school. Her life has been connected with this small town ever since. During the war, in 1941, she took up the position of a support worker in the gardens of Březany’s Chateau. She also got to know the original Jewish owners. She entered the service of Konstantin von Neurath and remained even after his succession by Reinhard Heydrich. She experienced the assassination of Heydrich and the death of Heydrich’s firstborn son Klaus who was run over by a truck. She witnessed Klaus’ funeral in the Chateau park and experienced what life at the Chateau was like. During her service at the Chateau she used to help Jewish prisoners who worked there as well in various ways. Most notably Milan Platkovský, František Proper (called Průša), Miki Bauer and Karel Schuck. After their departure to the Theresienstadt and Auschwitz concentration camps, she would also help incoming prisoners of Jehovah’s faith who originated in Germany and the Netherlands. She also experienced the departure of Heydrich’s family to the United States. After the war her father became a national custodian of the upper Chateau where K. H. Frank used to live during the war. The upper Chateau served as an internment camp for German women and the inmates of the camp were frequently visited by Soviet soldiers. The headquarters of the Soviet army were situated in the lower Chateau until the end of October 1945. In 1948, Mrs. Vovsová got employed in the Institute for Metal Research that was located in the lower Chateau after the departure of the Soviets. Mrs. Vovsová worked there until her retirement. She received post-war satisfaction. One of the Jewish prisoners who survived the concentration camps wrote a book about her help during wartime called To survive and live. She reunited with Milan Platkovský after the war and afterwards they corresponded. She met other prisoners and the representatives of Jehovah historians as well. Thanks to the former mayor of Letňany Mr. Dobrý and historian Čvančara, she also received public recognition. She still lives in Panenské Březany.