The fates Mohelnice

Jiri Fiser

Jiri Fiser - an interview with a man who met the Angel of Death
Mr. Fiser lives with his wife in Mohelnice. During our first meeting he told me he does not like to think about his childhood in the concentration camp. However he occasionally gives interviews or provides information for articles, because he wants to honor the memory of his relatives and friends who perished in the Holocaust. He shares his information to give the frank warning to those who did not experience suffering caused by Nazis and therefore do not understand what happened and what could happen. Now he sees the danger in those who preach theories about solutions which will simply and quickly solve all problems of the mankind. He believes the race hatred, violence and killing did not end. Horrors just moved to other parts of the World.

How everything started?
I was born in 1936 in Ceska Trebova, where my father worked in the Czechoslovak Railway. At the beginning of the Nazi occupation he was arrested for his activities against state and shipped to Germany, where he was executed. We used to live in Nesovice, not too far from Brno. In April 1942, when I was six I was deported together with my mother, twin brother and younger sister to the Theresienstadt Ghetto (transport Ah19). The reason for our arrest was just one we were Jewish. We were held in the Ghetto for two years. The time went by very slowly in this gloomy environment and we were very homesick. We went to school just for a short period of time. We often had to help to clean the courtyard or peal potatoes in the kitchen. We had better time in the summer, because we could go with our uncle Richard Fischer to fields and help him with his work. He worked as a horse driver and he was gathering harvest and cattle food there.

But you were children. Did you have a place to play? Were you in any mood to play?

Children can play everywhere and it is very good. In a spare time we modeled a little plasticine figures, cut out fairy tale heroes from book illustrations and later we even created a small puppet theatre. We also participated in a real theatre, which was set up in a makeshift space in the attic above the barracks. I still remember the name of that play - it was Brundibar. Such activities were extremely important and useful, because they helped us to get our thoughts away from the horrors which surrounded and threatened us.

How did you get from Teresienstadt to the Angel of Death?
Our stay in Theresienstadt was suddenly brought to the end on May 15, 1944, when we were with the rest of the family send by the transport DZ 410 -413 to the feared Auschwitz. Our journey lasted three days and two nights but to us it seemed endless. We were crammed in cattle wagons without food and water. Many people died before we got to the final destination. The saddest moment of our “trip came when the train went through our native town Ceska Trebova. We stepped on top of our baggage and stared through a small window on places we used to know. They were so close but in the same time so far away for us. Immediately after our morning arrival to Birkenau there was a selection, which was conducted by Joseph Mengele. We were lucky, because we were placed in so called Theresienstadt Family Camp B II b. We stayed there until the fateful night from June 11 to June 12, 1944, when the Family Camp was destroyed and all people not able to work and also mothers who did not want to separate from their children were murdered in gas chambers. Our mother with our younger sister Vera felt to this category. The mother did not want to give up her daughter, so they had to both die. Vera was just ten at that time.

Why you were spared?
My brother Joseph and I were saved because we are twin brothers. Together with many other twins from Italy, Hungary, Austria and other states we were placed to the special hospital section, which was frequently visited by Josef Mengele. This Nazi criminal, philosopher, physician and anthropologist called the Angel of Death was conducting there his pseudo scientific experiments. He regularly examined us, compared our measures, weights, fingerprints, lengths of nails and many other things. Each month he took samples of our blood for a laboratory analysis. Sometimes he injected to our arms solutions, which caused feverish diseases, and he monitored if course and reactions are the same in both twins. Mengele´s experiments also surveyed the possibilities of improvements in amputations and blood transfusions for the injured German soldiers. He was also researching methods, which would ensure the higher fertility of German women to compensate the decrees in racially pure men killed in the war.

Were you afraid?
We were children and especially from the beginning we believed that we are really sick and we thought the doctor is trying to cure us. When a blood sample was taken from us we received several sugar cubes and other treats. We survived the Holocaust, because we were children and we did not realize what was really happening. For that reason we went through these events with more hope then adults. The feeling of terror came upon us later, after the war, when we learned what was happening in other sections. Suddenly we realized how easy we could be transferred from groups where experiment were performed on living material to other sections, where the results of experiments were verified by an autopsy.

All medical experiments were conducted by the doctor Mengele only?

He was not the only one there. He was accompanied by many German doctors, which were bad as well. They were competing with each other. There were also several doctors- prisoners. They tried to make our lives easier, in a given circumstances. However, it is necessarily to realize that any “fault in their conduct could mean the execution for them. After the war some of Mengele´s colleagues were brought to the justice and punished. Unfortunately Mengele escaped to the South America, where he lived for a long time. I learned that some of his relatives supported him for decades after the war. It is hard for me to comprehend that.

What do you remember about the end of the war?
Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945. In 1948 we wrote an article about our feelings from these beautiful moments. Let me quote from the authentic text which was written three years after the liberation. We were twelve years old.
"“We will never forget June 27, 1945. One day we felt something extraordinary is happening outside. We heard guns and cannons and also stamping of German soldiers, who were running in the courtyard. The doctor did not show up. Aircrafts were flaying above the camp and cannon shots were getting closer. No one was allowed to go outside. We whispered: Russians are coming. Suddenly we heard yelling, crying, singing -everything mixed together. Prisoners were running from their sheds like a flood. It was a sure sign that Russians entered the camp. Russians were quite careful and tried to capture some Germans. Prisoners ignored the danger, they were crying and hugging and kissing soldiers."
Russian soldiers were very tired and exhausted. I think they were as hungry as we were at that time. Apparently they were advancing so fast to save us that their supply unit got lost somewhere. They were nice to us. Even though they faced the death for many years during the war, horrors of Auschwitz moved them. Very soon they started to care about our food, clothing and health.
Russians were filming these events and some shots included into a documentary movie called "“Leningrad and Auschwitz". In one shot people can see me and my brother walking in striped prison uniforms between barbed wire fences. We were eight years old.

How did you get home?

Our journey back home was quite complicated. We were only survivors from our family. Instead names we had just tattooed numbers. We had no parents and no home. We were sent to Kosice to a sanatorium which was set up to help people to recover from trauma they experienced during their imprisonment. In the meantime our uncle Emil was searching for us. After four months he found us in Slovakia and brought us back to Nesovice. We lived with him and later we moved to Lostice.

What is the conclusion?
I really wish that the horrors of Nazism and concentration camps will never repeat again. Therefore I beg you: "“Do not be silent and right in the beginning uncover all signs of intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism and restriction of freedom - not only in our country but also around the world."

The interview with Mr. Fiser was prepared by Ludek Stipl, coordinator of the Foundation for the Respect and Tolerance. Information from the interview was used for the articles which were published in a magazine Narodni Odboj (2004) and Ceske listy (2005).
The record of the interview was also used during the preparation of project The Angel of Death and my Recollection of Him. This project, prepared by the student Katerina Tysonova of the Gymnasium Unicov, won in the National competition Daniel 2006, declared by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic.
The destruction of the Family Camp in Auschwitz, which mentioned Mr. Fiser belongs to the most tragic events in the Czech history. It started in the on March 8, 1944. During a single night almost 3 800 Czech Jews were killed in gas chambers. They marched towards the death singing the Czech national anthem. Tragedy continued several months later, in the middle of July. During the two nights another 6 500 Jewish men, women and children were killed.
Undoubtedly this was the biggest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens during WWII, but the previous (communist) regime willingly ignored such events. Perhaps that is why even today many people do not realize what happened and history textbooks do not explain it. (LS)

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