Portrait of four Slovak Jewish women.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 75019
1933 - 1939
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Czechoslovakia -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hetty Klein
Portrait of four Slovak Jewish women.
Beatte Hartvig is on the far left. Next to her is Gisi Fleischmann.
- Hetty Klein (born Hetty Fisch) is the daughter of Dr. Geza Fisch and Jeannette Hartvig. She was born on May 30, 1933 in Bratislava where her father was among Bratislava's leading ophthalmologists. Tragically Hetty's mother died in childbirth, but following her death, her sister Beate Hartvig came to live with them and raise Hetty. Beatte had read law at the university and worked as an aid to a government minister in Berlin. She raised Hetty for the first eight years of her life until she married and left to start her own family. Hetty's mother had been active with WIZO and had founded a Jewish orphanage, and Beatte continued her philanthropic work after her death. Dr. Fisch served as the chairman of ophthalmology of the Jewish hospital but had both Jewish and non-Jewish patients. He was religiously observant and a Zionist. Many Polish Jews en route to Palestine stayed over at their house, and Hetty belonged to Bnai Akiva, the religious Zionist youth movement. In 1936, Dr. Fisch traveled to Palestine and obtained work at Hadassah Hospital. He then returned to Bratislava to prepare for immigration. However, several small events delayed their departure until it became too late. Slovakia became an independent nation allied with Germany after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939. By the following year, Hetty already felt the effects of increasing antisemitism. One day, on the way to a Bnai Akiva meeting, a group of Hitler Youth attacked her and ripped off her clothing. The government enacted increasing anti-Jewish legislation the following year. However, as an essential worker, Dr. Fisch received permission to wear a smaller Jewish star than others and to remain out after curfew. He also gained an exemption from living on a designated Jewish street. Since he maintained his clinic in his home and since his non-Jewish clients objected to visiting him in the ghetto, he and Hetty were allowed to remain in the attic rooms of their home while the Hlinka Guard newspaper occupied the rest of the building. However since most of her friends had moved to the Jewish quarter, it became very difficult for Hetty to see her classmates and she spent much of her time indoors. In 1942 Slovakia sent many Jews to a camp in Zilina prior to their deportation. When the deportations ceased after a few months as a result of political pressure, the camp remained in operation. Since Bratislava became increasingly unsafe and Hetty had to spent much of her time alone while her father was at work, Dr. Fisch decided to send her to Zilina to stay with her aunt Beate Weiner (the same aunt who had raised Hetty as a surrogate mother) and her husband who were working in the camp. Hetty's uncle, who had been a prosperous businessman, had been rounded up for forced labor to build a sports stadium. However, the stadium workers were treated well and given adequate food. The camp commandant even allowed Hetty's uncle to live in his own apartment outside the camp in exchange for money. Conditions were therefore better than in Bratislava. Hetty attended a makeshift school, played sports and swam and maintained a correspondence with her father. August 1944 marked the start of the Slovak national uprising. After its suppression, Germany became determined to deport all of the remaining Jewish population. Hetty's uncle had previously prepared a hiding place in the nearby hills, and they fled there together with another Jewish family. After a couple of days, they heard that the overseer of the Sports Stadium had obtained an exemption for his workers from deportation, and the Weiners returned to the stadium. However, soon afterwards, despite the manager's best intentions, the Hlinka arrived to carry out the deportation. Everyone was told to pack their suitcases; since the Weiners had been living outside the camp, they were permitted to return to their apartment under escort to pack. Though she was not officially registered on any list, Hetty went with her aunt and uncle. When they arrived at the apartment house, a stranger suddenly grabbed her, whispered to her not to worry and pulled her into his apartment. Hetty later learned that her uncle had asked to him to help her reunite with her father in Bratislava. The man, Dr. Michal Majercik intended to keep Hetty overnight and put her on a train back to Bratislava the following morning. The following day, Hetty's aunt and uncle were deported to Auschwitz. Dr. Majercik was a young lawyer, and his wife Anna was an English and French teacher. They had a baby boy and a three-year-old girl. That night Hlinka guards twice searched their apartment looking for Hetty. The Majercik's hid her in the baby's crib and the police never found her. Before leaving for the train station the following day, Dr. Majercik turned on the radio and learned that no one was permitted to ride public transport without a special permit. The Majerciks immediately decided to shelter Hetty for the remainder of the war. Anna quit her job so that she could dismiss their nanny and stay home to protect Hetty. They cared for her as they would their own child. While Anna cared for Hetty's physical needs, Michal supplied her with books and news. On one bitterly cold night in February 1945, the Majerciks told Hetty to take the baby for a long walk in its carriage. They found her after several hours almost numb from cold, but Hetty managed to escape another house to house search by the Hlinka. The guard did discover seven other Jews hidden next-door by Michal Majercik's elderly mother who, despite her age, was fined and punished. Zilina was liberated on May 5. The Majerciks wanted to adopt Hetty, but she wanted to return to Bratislava to try to find her family. On the train home, she found her uncle, and they found Beatte soon afterwards in the home of a Christian friend. Beatte was extremely ill, malnourished and barely able to walk. She spent the following year in a sanatorium slowly recuperating. She told Hetty that she had been on the same transport as her father. Dr. Fisch arrived at Auschwitz the first week of October 1944 and perished there at the age of 60. For the next two years, Hetty lived with her aunt and uncle in Bratislava while maintaining contact with the Majerciks. Her uncle once tried to bring the Majercik's a basket of food, but they refused to accept it saying that they had acted purely out of love. After Beatte recovered, the Weiners moved to Prague where Hetty's uncle opened a new store. Mr. Majercik meanwhile was appointed to become the Czech ambassador to Poland. He suggested that Hetty attend a special school in Prague to train to become his secretary. In 1948, the Communists took control of Czechoslovakia, and both the Weiner and the Majercik's lives changed as a result. The Weiners decided that it would be impossible to live Jewish lives under the Communists. They therefore sent Hetty to England, while they prepared to immigrate to Israel. Mr. Majercik was later arrested by the Soviets. He lost his diplomatic position and was imprisoned for a few years. In late 1949 Hetty went on Youth Aliyah and reunited with her aunt and uncle who were then living in poverty. Beatte died a few years later from cancer. Hetty married Aryeh Klein, another Czech survivor, and in 1986, Yad Vashem honored Michal and Anna Majercik as Righteous Among the Nations.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Hetty Klein
Record last modified: 2007-02-06 00:00:00
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