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Oral history interview with Zdenka Erlich

Oral History | Accession Number: 1995.A.1285.51 | RG Number: RG-50.149.0051

Erlich Zdenka (née Fantl), born in 1922 in Czechoslovakia, describes her family moving when she was two years old to Rokycany Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic); her family and educations; being expelled from school for being Jewish; the degree to which Jews were assimilated into society; mobilization during the Munich crisis in 1938; being in contact with refugees; the German invasion in March 1939; the registration of Jewish population; the increasing restrictions; attending the English Institute in Prague, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic); the arrest of her father by the Gestapo in the fall of 1940 and his imprisonment in Buchenwald and Bayreuth; her aunt going to England; the degree of collaboration and resistance within the Czech population; being transported to Theresienstadt in 1942; their treatment during the journey to the camp; conditions in the camp; the contrast between Czech and German inmates; the organization of the camp; working in the kitchens; Jewish inmates being hanged for smuggling cigarettes; cultural life in camp and participation in plays; the importance of satire; her memories of Karel Svenk; selections in the camp; a visit by Adolf Eichmann and the Red Cross in 1943; being transported to Auschwitz in October 1944; arriving in the camp, experiencing the selections, hiding a ring, and having her head shaved; adjusting to camp rules and its effect on survival; the barracks; being told her mother’s fate; daily routine including roll calls and food; camp rumors; treatment by Kapos; having to give blood for German soldiers; building fortifications in East Prussia from November 1944 to January 1945; coping with working conditions; carrying tree trunks to a sawmill; the state of prisoners’ health; marching westwards in January 21, 1945; supporting each other when sleeping and walking; the shooting of prisoners who fell by wayside; crossing River Oder; staying in Gross-Rosen in February 1945; the sight of male prisoners; the journey to Mauthausen in early 1945; working in the quarry; a composer’s wife committing suicide in the camp; the train ride to Bergen-Belsen and writing a message as the train passed her hometown; receiving aid from Czech workers in Pilsen; daily life in Bergen-Belsen; rations; finding a knife that was then discovered by the warden, Irma Grese; the outbreak of typhus; the removal of corpses; the lack of water and having to drink from puddles; the state of health in the camp; liberation by British troops; collapsing in front of the Red Cross hut; her hospitalization in Sweden; the contrast in men and women inmates’ survival rates; mental states in the camp; cooperation between inmates; stealing in camps; hearing how her brother had been shot trying to escape; the lack of religion in camps except Theresienstadt; the role of fantasy in the survival process and importance of human relationships; and what she gained from her experience as a survivor.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Erlich, Zdenka
interview:  1985 August 08
4 sound cassettes (90 min.).
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 20:09:50
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