So I, at the age of ten or eleven, had to give up my skis, my ice skates, my sled and my most prized possession of all, which was my red bicycle. I loved the red bicycle and I had to give that up. My mother told the story that I once came home crying because I saw a boy riding my bicycle.
Concentration camp Tag
When we went to Germany, we lived in Germany in the same town because the U.S. Army built the buildings for us, so we were in one area always together. We tried to keep our holidays, our football [soccer] games like at home. We tried to do the best we can because ‘Oh maybe we might go home soon, we might go home,’ but it never happened.
Initially, when I came to Australia – I think partially under my mother’s influence; she literally was disgusted with Europe, with the Nazis and the communists, and I, reflecting that, my attitude was ‘I want to learn English, I want to assimilate and to hell with the background.’ Yes, my father was a famous guy, so what? And so in Australia, I had virtually no connection with anything Czech.
My father believed in communism. He thought, after the War – it was the Soviet soldiers that liberated him, it was the Soviet soldiers that liberated Auschwitz, and so, my mother wasn’t involved at all, but my father was a member of the Party. And he believed that this is the right way to go. And now, bang, his brother gets arrested and he says, ‘No, this is not possible, this is wrong.’
We couldn’t visit parks, we couldn’t go to the movies, we couldn’t travel without a permit, and we had to wear the Star of David. So you had to be marked. And that was not a very pleasant thing, and not necessarily because of the fact that you had to deliver your sporting equipment.
My cousin was actually telling me about the concentration camp and only much, much later I found out that I was probably the only person she told, and I suppose she told only me because she thought I didn’t understand – I was little. I knew the word ‘camp’ for summer camps, because bigger children spoke about summer camps, so I thought she went to one of these. And when she was telling me about things that happened, I thought they were games.
Three weeks after the victory, I went to a bookshop and the owner said ‘You were talking German. I’m calling the police.’ I said ‘Yes, I was talking German to an anti-fascist German soldier.’ ‘No, no. You were talking German. I have to tell the police.’ Fortunately, I had my identity card at that time which said ‘Prisoner in so-and-so [labor camp]’ and so I showed it and he said ‘Well, I must have made a mistake.’
I remember my grandpa returning from the concentration camp, which was very lucky because his good friend learned of his imprisonment and intervened with the Allies and put him on a list to be exchanged. So my grandpa and the other leaders of Sokol – he was one of the five leaders – were on transport to Auschwitz, all the others died there, but they took him out of a railroad car, cattle car in Terezín and gave him a ticket to Prague.