The fates Lostice

Artur Langer

01A_Langer_skolaArthur was born in 1923 as the youngest offspring of Mrs. and Mr. Langer. He had six oldest sisters. His parents owned a small cotton-wool factory. When their factory burned down, they opened a tvaruzky cheese manufacture. Several other Jewish families in Lostice were making this local specialty - tvaruzky cheese. Langers also grew and sell fruits. During the WWI my father served in the Austrian Army as a cavalryman. He was injured and therefore sometimes he had to walk with a cane. But it was not too serious,recalls Arthur Langer. We lived in a house with a large garden and we had a dog - German Sheppard. My sisters and I went to the Czech school; at home we spoke Czech and also German. Our Yiddish was not very good. Twice a week we attended the exercise in the Czech Athletic Club Sokol (Falcon). We considered ourselves to be a Jewish family, but my friends were Jewish and also Christian boys. I do not remember any anti-Semitism in Lostice.

Arthur´s father Emil Langer with workers in his tvaruzky cheese factory. Langer started his production in 1910. Emil, his wife Flora and three of their daughters perished in the Holocaust in 1942. Lostice circa 1920
About religion Arthur Langer says: "“There were several Jewish families in Lostice. We had minyan - it is a minimum of ten adults, who are required for public act of worship and for sefer Torah readings. Our synagogue was very nice; I still clearly remember my sister´s wedding there. We were not too religious, but we observed all Jewish holidays. On big holidays we did not go to school."

In 1933, when Arthur was ten, Langers moved to the nearby town of Mohelnice. This town was predominantly German, but even here Arthur attend the Czech school and was member of Czech Athletic Club. The family lived in an apartment house together with Czechs and Germans. However, shortly after Hitler occupied Sudetenland their landlord asked them to leave the house, because they were Jews. They moved to Brno, which was then in the unoccupied territory.

04A_Langer_PatriaEscape to Palestine.
In 1939 situation in the rest of the country started to be quite dangerous. Three Arthur´s sisters managed to acquire a special permit and left for Palestine. Arthur wanted to leave as well, but his parents disagreed. They thought he is too young for such unsafe journey to a distant and unknown destination. He was just sixteen. He was also small and skinny so he looked about 14. Against the will of his parents he devoted most of his energy and time to preparation for the passage to the Promised Land. In September 1940 he received a nice gift for his birthday from German police the permission to emigrate. With a group of a few hundred other lucky people he left Prague. They were supposed to travel to Vienna, where they would board a ship, which would bring them to Rumania and eventually to Palestine. Unfortunately the initial feeling of happiness was for many travelers premature. Not all of them were destined to come to Palestine. The first obstacle awaited them at the border with Austria. Nazis decided to do the last control. One of their evil procedures was dividing some families. Langer explains:

They allowed a father to leave with a child, while mother with other child had to return home. Fortunately I traveled alone and I passed. We went to Vienna, where we boarded the ship, which took us to Rumania without problems. Soon our delight was spoiled by another unexpected event. We continued our trip on ship Rosita (Milos). I remember it was quite crowded there. Suddenly at night some other vessel collided with our ship and made a large hole in our hull. Repairs took about three days. Then we left the port called Tulce. After a quite long sail we finally saw the Palestine coast. However, there we were caught by the English Navy who escorted us to vicinity of the port of Haifa.

The land of their dreams was in a sight, but their drama continued. At that time the Palestine was under the British administration, which tried to limit the immigration as much as possible. Arthur and other refugees were not allowed to leave the ship. Instead they were transferred to the ship Patria. The infamous story of Patria still belongs to shameful chapters of the history of the WWII. When the passengers and members of Jewish underground movement learned, that Patria has the order to transport poor and tired refugees to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean they decided to prevent the ship from sailing. They tried to damage the engine, but unfortunately their attempt resulted in an accidental explosion. Patria sank and 257 people drowned.

Arthur was lucky again. He was a good swimmer and managed to reach the pier. He was happy he saved his life, even though he had different expectation about his arrival to the Holy Land. Those who survived were put in a jail in the same day. They were released after eight months. Then all men got opportunity to register in the Czechoslovak unit and fight Nazis under the British Army.

A persecuted man is transformed into a soldier
In July 1942 Arthur Langer joined the Czech army unit. He learned much later that exactly in the same time most of Jews of Lostice - 59 men, women and children where transported to a concentration camp.

" .. started with the anti-aircraft artillery training. I served some time in Haifa. Our gun was stationed on the pier which I reached some time ago when I swam from Patria. Later I was sent to the port of Tobruk in Libya, which we defended against the German Army. After about six months I was sent to England. During the time of the D Day I served as the driver of an armored vehicle called Half truck. I spent the rest of the war in France. When the Peace treaty was signed I went back to Czechoslovakia. General Liska and about thirty soldiers including me were stationed in the War Academy in Prague. I functioned there as a driver until December 1945".

There were some German prisoners of war in the Academy as well. They worked as helpers and cleaners. One of them spoke Czech well. He was older then Arthur and by a coincidence was born in the town, where Arthur used to live as a boy - in Mohelnice. During their conversation Arthur realized this man´s parents were those who kicked out Langer family from their apartment in 1938. No revenge took place. He considered it more as a funny fluke of fate. Shortly after the war he learned much more tragic facts. His parents Emil and Flora, three sisters Greta, Marta, Erna and her four years old son Peter perished in the Holocaust. For some time Arthur Langer worked as a clerk and also as an instructor of Israeli soldiers in the Czechoslovak army training base. In early 1949 he moved back to Israel, which most probably saved him from being arrested by the communist police.

03A.Langer_rabinLife in Tel Aviv
Presently Athur Langer lives in Tel Aviv. In November 2006 Rabbi Bruce Elder and members of the Congregation Hakafa from Glencoe (Illinois) visited him in his home. The Congregation Hakafa uses one of the Lostice historic Torahs. Their wish was to meet a member of the prewar Jewish Lostice Community. Members of the Foundation Respect and Tolerance helped to organize the meeting. They are in a contact with Arthur Langer. About two years ago they sent him a small package with information and a photograph of his father with a pipe.

"He called us by a phone and in very good Czech thanked for material and a photograph, which he saw for the first time. He was happy we contacted him. He said sometimes he talks to his descendents and relatives about his childhood in Lostice and he wanders if they believe him. Now he is happy he can show them some proofs. He considered it as an unexpected gift from above,"says a member of the Foundation Ludek Stipl about the first contact with Mr. Langer.

05A.Langer_zena_SkrobalWheel work of History
Arthur Langer became a participant in several important historical events of the 20th century. Some of them are still partially covered by an imaginary veil. It is not generally known that it was still possible to get permission to leave the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in 1940. It was not certainly easy, abut about 6 000 Jews left legally the country in that year. During the next year situation changed from bad to worse. Jewish people were forced to wear the yellow star and first organized deportation to concentration camps begun. Possibility to sail to Palestine became for millions of people just an impossible dream.

The truth remains that many refugees who started their journey to the free world never reached their destination. Unfortunately the sad story of Patria is not the only one. The British Navy sent some other ships back to ports, where their trip originated, which meant almost certain death for its passengers. To this gloomy chapter for instance belongs also a story of the ship Struma, which was sung by a mine or Russian submarine in the open sea, after she was not allowed to land in Palestine and a drama of the river paddle steamer Pencho, which wrecked in the Aegean Sea or the tragedy of the ship transport which got stuck in the frozen Danube River in 1939. Refugees suffered there for months from hunger and cold and were saved only after international agencies became involved in the affair.

Life stories of Arthur Langer bring us also to involvement of Jewish men and women in fight against Nazis. While historians of the previous (communist) era in our country tried hard to minimize the Jewish participation in war efforts and described them as passive participants of tragic events, Mr. Langer´s memories lead us to information, which illustrates that majority of those who managed to escape, did not care about their own well being, but immediately started to work for the renewal of Czechoslovakia and took an active part in the fight against Nazis. From 8000 Czech and Slovak Jews in Palestine about 2000 joined the Czechoslovak army unit. Jews from our country also served in Royal Air Force and other units and represented almost 70% of all soldiers in the Czechoslovak unit fighting Nazis in the Russian front.
Text LS
Photos: Respect and Tolerance archives

Rybickova, S. a Stipl L.: Jeden osud uprostred holocaustu. In: Moravsky sever 30. 01 2007 Telephone conservation and letters from: A. Langer a G. Kornfeld, Tel Aviv (RaT archives) Artur Langer, Tel Aviv, Israel (cassette 1049 a A.L., Jewish Museum in Prague)

Photo description

Arthur´s father Emil Langer with workers in his tvaruzky cheese factory. Langer started his production in 1910. Emil, his wife Flora and three of their daughters perished in the Holocaust in 1942. Lostice circa 1920

Czech Elementary School, grade 3, Mohelnice 1930. Atur Langer - 4th sitting from right Igor Skrobal 2nd raw, 3rd from right


Artur Langer and his wife visited Lostice and Mohelnice in 1991. He also met there with his friend and schoolmate Igor Skrobal (right).

Rabbi Bruce Elder and members of the Congregation Hakafa (Glencoe, Illinois) visiting Arthur Langer and his sister in Israel. Tel Aviv, November 2006

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