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Heller family papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2011.435.1

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    Heller family papers

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    Consists of material related to the Holocaust experiences of Rudolph Heller and Ilona Neumann Hellerova and their son, Ota Karel (now Charles Ota) Heller, originally of Kojetice u Prahy, Czechoslovakia. Includes images of family members and of the family company, Firma Gustav Neumann. Includes a handwritten family history written by Gustav Neumann prior to his deportation to Theresienstadt and death at Treblinka. The family history was continued by Ilona, who used the book as a diary of her experiences remaining in Czechoslovakia with Ota and posing as non-Jews. In 1944, Ilona was sent for forced labor and the collection includes a photograph of Ota in hiding with the Tuma family on a farm. Rudolph Heller managed to escape in 1940, joined the Czech brigade in Palestine and fought in North Africa and on the western front before reuniting with his wife and son in 1945. Includes the dictonary Rudolph used during the war to teach himself English, as well as a letter written by his mother, Otilie, and sent from the Izbica concentration camp shortly before her death in 1942.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Charles O. Heller
    Collection Creator
    Charles Heller
    Ota Karel (now Charles Ota) Heller was born in 1936 in Kojetice, Czechoslovakia to Rudolf Heller and Ilona Neumann. Ilona’s grandparents, Gustav Neumann and Louisa Neumannová had three children: Ida, who passed away at age 17, Artur, and Ota. Gustav and his sons worked in the family business, a firm called “Gustav Neumann” which was the largest factory of work clothing in central Europe, based in Kojetice. Artur met Marie Kozuschníková, who was an ethnic German and a Christian. Though Artur and Marie never married, their daughter Ilona was born on Nov. 21, 1915. Ilona was brought up as a Catholic. Rudolph Heller was the son of Leopold Heller and Otilie Neumann Hellerová and was born on Dec. 17, 1910. Leopold was killed in World War I and Rudolph was raised by his mother and his maternal uncle, Emil Neumann. Rudolph and Ilona married and Ilona gave birth to Ota Karel Heller on Jan. 25, 1936.
    The family was separated after the beginning of the war. Artur and Ota Neumann escaped Czechoslovakia but were captured in Yugoslavia and killed. Rudolph Heller also escaped in 1940 and went through Hungary in an attempt to join the partisans in Yugoslavia. He was arrested as a spy in Belgrade since he was seen in public trying to teach himself English. He was imprisoned, but one of the prison guards was a member of the Resistance and assisted Rudolph in his escape. He traveled by boat to Palestine, where he joined the Czech brigade in Jaffa. He fought in North Africa, landed on the beaches of Normandy and participated in the battle of the Bulge. Ilona’s grandfather, Gustav, remained in Czechoslovakia with Ilona and Ota until April 21, 1942, when he was deported to Theresienstadt (Terezin). On October 15, 1942, he was deported from Terezin to Treblinka, where he was killed upon arrival at the camp. Rudolph’s mother, Otilie, also remained with Ilona and Ota until her deportation to Theresienstadt on March 17, 1942 and from there, to Izbica on March 17, 1942, where she was killed.
    Ilona and Ota remained in Czechoslovakia and attempted to establish their identities as non-Jews, though Ilona was ethnically half-Jewish and Ota had three Jewish grandparents. Though the family was estranged from Ilona’s mother, Marie, at this point, she testified three times that Ilona’s father, Artur, was not Jewish. Ilona and Ota were selected for deportation three times, but each time managed to avoid the transports. In 1944, Ilona was sent to a slave labor camp called Hagibor with other women who were married to men considered to be Jewish. Ota went into hiding with the Tuma family on a farm. After the war ended, Rudolph was able to return to Czechoslovakia in May 1945 and the family reunited. They spent several years in various displaced persons camps, including Mosendorf, Schweibach, and Ludwigsburg before being sponsored for immigration by family friends, the Eisners, who had emigrated to the United States before the war. They arrived in the United States in May 1949 on the SS General Stewart.

    Physical Details

    Czech English
    1 folder

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Administrative Notes

    Dr. Charles Heller donated this collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2011.
    Funding Note
    The accessibility of this collection was made possible by the generous donors to our crowdfunded Save Their Stories campaign.
    Special Collection
    Save Their Stories
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-11 13:19:13
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