You know, it was such a terrible thing to happen to my country. I’d always grown up with a memory of the Nazis coming in and killing part of my family and all that, and then we were so looking forward to a peaceful, democratic world after the War was going to be over and we weren’t going to have any…
World War II Tag
I also remember that one time there was a big commotion outside on the street and the soldier – I don’t know who it was – were after somebody, and they shot him right in the street, several men. That was kind of scary for me. Then one time – I had to walk to school past a church, it was like a churchyard – and apparently there was a bombing or some shooting there, and they had a bunch of bodies laying on the church ground, covered with cloth, and I had to walk through there to get to school and it really scared the heck out of me.
She got beaten quite a bit in the camps, because you had all this quota that you had to fulfill. Since she was a professional seamstress she was really very good. And she worked very hard, and of course they were on starvation food – they got watered-down beet soup, watered-down oatmeal – that was kind of the food of the day.
1924, the year, the people who were born in 1924 were given as a gift to the Third Reich. And everybody had to be shipped to work for whatever they needed. And I had the papers already to Kassel or Essen, and that was bombarded by Americans, so I already had my friend, and he said ‘How about we get married?’
When the deportation of the Jewish population started in 1942, my parents, to protect me, put me in an orphanage that was run by Catholic nuns in Bratislava. So I was there for two years. Fortunately, my parents were not put into a concentration camp, mainly because my mother was a physician and they needed physicians even during the War.
We remember the Nazi occupation for sure. Even as kids, we know how the situation is, we understand it. Even if we were young kids, it didn’t bother us much, but we knew it was a really serious thing, especially after the Heydrich assassination and so on. ‘Keep your mouth shut and be careful.’
I remember when we were about 12, we were with my friends and classmates and suddenly the sound was wailing, preparing for bombardment, and we had to rush out to shelter, and one of us shouted ‘Vladimír, rush!’ and this 12 year old creature said ‘By now, everything in life has bypassed me. I have missed everything. Why should I run?’
So I come to the gate and the soldier is closing the gate and I start crying – I’m 14, I look like I’m 11, and I said ‘My mother will kill me if I don’t see my father!’ He says ‘Well stay right here.’ Actually, it was the commandant of the labor camp that came out and he said ‘Okay, here is a piece of paper, and you will go to the place where your father is and show them this paper.’
My best friend and schoolmate and his younger brother and older sister, father and mother perished in the concentration camp. I was about 12 or 13 years old. I came to school one morning and he didn’t come. They day before was the last time I saw him, and they never returned back.
When I was a kid I liked to cook. We had a garden and, on my own, I went, pulled out some vegetables, some fruit and I was making soup, and he [George’s father] said ‘My god, you cannot eat that. It’ll spoil your stomach!’ What can ten year old kids cook if you don’t have any experience? So then my mother said ‘Ok, I will take care of it.’ And she was dictating some recipes to me. I remember the first one – potato soup.