Father of Daniel J. Terna.
INTRODUCTION TO MY NOTES FOR THE SHOAH ARCHIVE OF THE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
My notes are intended as background to studies about the Shoah. Each note is a self-contained unit. When the context demands it I'm repeating some data. Quite obviously my information is fragmentary, and, occasionally, restrained. I have focused on recollections and family life before the Shoah, rather than on details about concentration camps. To this day I find it difficult to tell about events very much alive in my mind. Recalling these memories can be rather disturbing, and leave me upset for quite a while.
As of today, June 20, 2015, I have recorded twenty-eight sets of notes for the Shoah Archives. Some time ago members of the Shoah Archives Committee asked parents of Heschel students to record memories of their families. Many of these families included survivors of the events in Europe before and after World War II. This is my contribution.
Fred Terna's Blog: https://fredterna.wordpress.com/
SFCTV's Tia Quirk introduces us to Fred Terna, a Holocaust survivor who uses his art to combat the never-ending memory: https://youtu.be/jxfOyusUTHA
CUNY Television - Arts in the City: Fred Terna Interview
The Ripple Project
Yom HaShoah: Murry Sidlin's Defiant Requiem with Fred Terna
Painter and Holocaust survivor Frederick Terna joined Maestro Murry Sidlin, founder of The Defiant Requiem Foundation for the annual Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration at St. Francis College on April 25, 2016: http://www.sfc.edu/cf_news/view.cfm?newsid=622d
May 17, 1998
FIRST NOTE FOR THE SHOAH ARCHIVE OF THE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
While writing these notes in May 1998, Daniel Terna, our son, is a pupil in the fifth grade of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. His mother, Rebecca Shiffman, is the daughter of survivors of the Shoah. I, Frederick Terna, Daniel's father, am a survivor.
It is close to sixty years since German troops occupied Prague, my hometown. From then on the life of the Jewish community of Prague, that of my family, and also mine was quite restricted and confined. Gradually the entire Jewish community was shipped to a transit camp, Ghetto Theresienstadt and from there to death camps such as Auschwitz and Treblinka. After the war ended in May 1945 a few survivors returned. Our families, our community had perished. I am the only survivor in the Taussig/Terna family.
After the occupation of Prague by German troops Jewish children were expelled from school. My formal education came to an end early in 1939 at age fifteen. Levels of oppression were added from day to day. Marketing was restricted to fewer and fewer hours. Food rations were reduced. We had to wear a yellow star at all times. There was a curfew at 8 o'clock. Several families were forced to move together into one apartment. Anything of value, radios, jewelry, bank accounts, art, were confiscated. Random brutality and terror accompanied each one of these steps; including even physical attacks against old people and children.
October 3rd 1941, I was put into a labor camp named Lipa, in German called Linden bei Deutsch-Brod. Then from Linden in March 1943 I was moved to Ghetto Theresienstadt, from Theresienstadt in 1944 to Auschwitz, and from Auschwitz to a sub-camp of Dachau, Kaufering. I was liberated near Kaufering on April 27th, 1945, after three years, six month, three weeks, and two days in concentration camps. I was one of the shuffling skeletons photographed by liberating allied soldiers. I weighed less than 35 kilos, about 75 lb., and I was near death.
It would take more emotional energy than available to me today to describe events very much alive in my memory. I know from past experience that dwelling on details will evoke feelings within me that will disturb my functioning for a long time. The murderous brutality of the system has been documented, and described by witnesses and historians. Words fail to tell the pain and suffering, and I shall not attempt it here.
My survival was due to luck. I was, statistically, of the right age, useful as slave labor, old enough to be picked for temporary enslavement, rather than to be sent immediately into the gas. When every tenth was shot I was number nine. On a long train ride in a jammed cattle-car I did not die of thirst. On a long march my boots held out, and I was not shot lagging behind. I was emotionally well prepared by my father for the stress that was to come my way. I know that I owe my emotional survival to my father's teaching. I was rather young then but I knew at all times what I was, what my tradition stood for, and that my oppressors were doomed criminals.
In the Kaufering camps we were slave labor working twelve-hour shifts building huge factories. We were marched for over an hour to the work site, and back another hour after work. There were hours spent being counted. Before work we got "coffee", a black brew made from chicory. It was at least a liquid we felt safe to drink. At work, during a break, we got a slice of moldy bread, occasionally a tiny amount of artificial honey. Upon returning to camp there was a long wait for soup, a thin liquid with traces of cabbage, occasionally a slice of potato. It added up to about 600 calories and to an assured death after a few months. Brutal guards driving us to work faster accelerated that death. In the camp we had about five hours of sleep in earth huts, leaky roofs on muddy soil.
It did not take long to understand that group cohesion was a survival mechanism. There was hardly any violence between inmates; systems of mutual protection arose without planning. While we were all nameless inmates each one of us had been a functioning person before, and remained so in the camps. A teacher remained a teacher, a baker a baker, a physician a physician. The Nazis tried to demoralize us, but they failed. There was no soap, and barely enough water to drink. We became smelly, lice- infested, and dirt-encrusted, ghostly apparitions the Nazis felt they had every right to murder. They killed teachers, bakers, and physicians. We lived, and died upholding the values of our communities.
While in the camps we promised to each other that the one who survives would tell what happened to us. I remember every one of them, teacher, baker, and physician, every one of them a person, a life to be remembered, a memory to be observed.
The self-imposed limits of this space allow me to omit detail, and I welcome that condition. While the Shoah was limited in time, and many years have passed since then, it is here for me now. I'm aware of it every second of my life: Inside of me there is a crazed double bass playing an unpredictable tune. Over the years I have learned to play a fiddle above it so that there should be some harmony to my life.
May 29, 1998
A SECOND SET OF NOTES FORTHE SHOAH ARCHIVE OF
THE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
These lines are written by Frederick Terna, father of Daniel J. Terna. Today, in May 1998, Daniel is a pupil in the fifth grade of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School.
Jochanan (Jan) Terna, the grandfather of Daniel Jochanan Terna, was born in 1893 in Prague, today the capital of the Czech Republic. He went to school in Prague, eventually attending Charles University there, and graduating as a Doctor of Law. When World War I broke out in 1914 he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army as a lieutenant. For a short time after the end of World War I he worked and lived in Vienna where he married Lona Herzog, Daniel's grandmother. I, Frederick Terna, and my younger brother Tommy were born in Vienna. The family soon moved back to Prague where my father worked in the insurance business. While the business provided for the family, my father's focus was on philosophy and sociology. My most vivid memory of that time is that of my father sitting in his study surrounded by heavy volumes, underlining text, and taking notes.
Early in 1939 Nazi Germany occupied Prague. The oppression of Jews began almost immediately. I shall omit here details of the increasing harshness of this persecution. In December 1941 Daniel's grandfather was shipped to Terezin, in German called Theresienstadt. It was the second transport of two sent to convert the fortress town of a few thousand into a transit camp for tens of thousands of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia. All members of these first two transports were young men. At age 48 Jochanan Terna was probably the oldest, and as 'the old man' had a position of respect. In 1942 he was shipped with a small group to a coal mine in Kladno, not too far from Terezin. Try to visualize a 49-year-old professorial, intellectual Doctor of Law suddenly forced to work in a coal mine. Without adequate food, in abysmally wretched living conditions he became ill with tuberculosis, and was shipped back to Terezin. By then the place was called Ghetto Theresienstadt.
In Terezin he was assigned to a part of barracks that was set aside for tuberculosis patients. There were separate rooms for women, men, and also for children. Instead of the standard triple bunks there were double bunks for those still in reasonable physical condition, but some rooms had single bunks. There were excellent doctors there, but no medication, and only rather primitive medical equipment. The nursing staff was heroic in their effort to keep their patients comfortable, and in good spirit. There was the same lack of food as in the rest of Terezin. The main reason for the separate area for tuberculosis patients was the effort to keep the rest of the inmates of Terezin from contact with a then incurable, and eventually fatal disease.
As one of the early arrivals in Terezin Daniel's grandfather was allowed to pick his roommates, twelve men. They were all exceptionally well educated, and experts in many fields, including former scientists, lawyers, physicists, manufacturers, high administrative officials, a judge, and authorities in other fields. Their narrow bunks were made of barely finished planks; their mattresses were burlap sacks filled with straw. There was not enough space to walk between bunks. Their few possessions were stored on a narrow shelf above the head. What little sanitation existed was totally inadequate. Everybody had bed bugs and fleas. When a member of the room would die of tuberculosis or of complications caused by it another well-educated or interesting person would replace him. Their main activity was talk, and more talk, argument, and more argument. They switched freely and comfortably from Czech to German and back again, and would, on occasion, include other foreign language phrases, expecting everyone to understand.
In March 1943, then not quite 20 years old, I was transferred from a labor camp, Linden bei Deutsch-Brod, in Czech called Lipa, to Ghetto Theresienstadt. Quite unexpectedly I found out that my father was there. In Terezin I was assigned to a work group that did internal maintenance work wherever it was needed: digging ditches, building barracks, repairing roofs, etc. My working hours were rather loose and irregular, and that allowed me to spend time with my father, before I had to be back in my barracks at 8 p.m., curfew time. It was a time for long conversations, and for learning.
As often as I could I would listen in on the conversation and arguments in the room. As the one who had gathered the others in the room my father appropriated to himself the role of arbiter and chair. No subject was out of limits though politics and the war often were the focus. There were heated arguments about philosophy, ethics and aesthetics, history and the arts. I was aware of listening to an unusual gathering of sages.
One of the subjects discussed was the question what to do about Germany after the war. The defeat of Germany was an agreed-upon fact, and expected within a foreseeable time. To have the discussion proceed in a structured, and realistic fashion it was decided that each man in the room would represent, and speak for one of the allied nations: USA, England, France, Russia, Canada, etc. and so down the list. The need was perceived to include the then still Nazi-occupied countries such as Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, etc. Each man would propose a settlement favorable to the nation he represented. The discussion lasted quite a few days. There were as many suggestions as there were speakers. Proposals included the division of Germany into ten occupied territories, another one asked for the division of Germany into states as they existed early in the 19th century under Napoleon. There was the recommendation to divide Germany into the same 300 or so units following the treaty of Westphalia of 1648. One idea was presented quite facetiously. It was the one that I liked best. Germany was to retain its borders of 1932 with one strictly enforced condition: All metal, every last scrap was to be collected, and delivered to the Allies. No use of any metal was to be permitted in the future.
The discussion was kept in serious bounds, national feelings, economics, geography, historical experience were all given their due attention. No conclusion was reached. In a small way the room was anticipating a debate in the future United Nations. The man representing the Soviet Union, (he was a fiery communist), insisted that he, the USSR, because of the heavy burden of military casualties, and the damage suffered, should have extra votes. He insisted, as the only socialist representative in the group, that there had to be unanimity in any major decision about Germany. The UN veto was formally proposed in Ghetto Theresienstadt in 1943!
The debate continued into 1944. Some members of my father's room died of tuberculosis, others were put into transports east to a then unknown destination.
In the fall of 1944 I was put into a transport. When it arrived in Auschwitz I was one of the younger men pulled out to become slave labor. A few weeks later the entire ward of tuberculosis patients of Terezin, their doctors, and their nurses were loaded into freight cars, part of a transport of 1500 men, women, and children. Upon arrival in Auschwitz all were forced into the gas chamber. Daniel's grandfather was one of them.
October 26, 1998
A THIRD SET OF NOTES FORTHE SHOAH ARCHIVE OF THE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
These lines are written by Frederick Terna, father of Daniel Terna. Daniel is a pupil in the sixth grade of the Middle School.
Before the war I lived, and went to school in Prague, today the capital of the Czech Republic. After March 15th 1939, and the occupation of Prague by Nazi Germany, the education of Jewish children was prohibited. Attempted circumvention was punished severely by the German authorities. I shall record here some of my recollections about my education and learning during the war.
After the expulsion from public and private schools Jewish parents tried to organize private educational networks for their children. This proved to be a dangerous venture, the Gestapo, the German secret police, quickly stopped these attempts with their usual brutality. Parents provided education, occasionally children were taught in a most informal way by friends or family.
Between the fall of 1938 and the seizure of the "Sudetenland", and the eventual Nazi occupation of the rest of Bohemia and Prague in 1939, the educational system fell under the influence of Nazi political power and ideology. Jewish teachers were dismissed, and replaced by Nazi sympathizers. Jewish students had to sit in the back of the classroom, the "Judenbankerl", the Jew's bench. I was then a student of a "Staatsrealgymnasium", the equivalent of a lower high school. We were nine Jews in a class of about 35. We made it our task to excel in our studies, to know more that the rest of the class. It did not make us too popular with our new teachers, but made us feel good.
After March 1939, then 15 years old, I, as all other Jewish children, was forbidden to continue school. Since even informal classes proved to be too dangerous my father found friends of his to talk to me. It was the most thorough teaching I ever experienced. Jewish adults had been dismissed from their jobs, were not allowed to continue in their profession, or had their businesses confiscated. Informal teaching was a welcome distraction from their gnawing worries of how to cope with a steadily worsening oppression. Thus I continued learning mathematics from a structural engineer, who gave me practical problems to solve, learned French from a translator, chemistry and biology from pharmacist, I learned bookkeeping and commercial law. My father's hobby was sociology and philosophy. I had always enjoyed reading about history and far-away places. This became a rigorous study of history and geography.
In 1940 my father got me false papers, and arranged for me to work on a huge farm as an assistant to the manager. There I learned about agriculture. This attempt to hide with false papers came to an abrupt end. Since this is an account about learning I shall omit details.
In 1941, then not quite 18 years old, I was taken to my first camp called in German Linden bei Deutsch-Brod. In Czech it was called Lipa. It was a labor camp established on a large estate, and run by the Gestapo of Prague. It was a small camp, about 300 men, mostly former college students, one, "the old man", was 35 years old. We were slave labor, doing farm and forestry work, road building, and construction. It was hard work with little food, but in a relative way it was a "good" camp. Nobody was killed there, though all inmates eventually wound up in Ghetto Theresienstadt, and from there inevitably were shipped to Auschwitz. We were acutely aware of the fact that our education had stopped. A system developed rather spontaneously: "Teach me what you know, and I'll teach you what I know". There were no books to learn from, and we had to depend on memory. We knew that there had been civilizations that functioned on oral history alone, without a written record. We managed to acquire paper and writing utensils. I learned, e.g., differential calculus, some basic English, and music theory. I in turn taught geography, history, and sociology. The main problem was finding time and energy within the camp system.
In March 1943 all inmates of Lipa were shipped to Ghetto Theresienstadt, in Czech called Terezin. Today there are many books about Terezin, well-researched studies, and detailed records about the effort to educate children there.
In an earlier set of notes I mentioned that upon arriving in Terezin I found my father there. To the extent possible he continued to teach me. I was about 20 years old then. We talked about ethics and well ordered society, justice and law, about his ideas, and his philosophy. It was one long discussion lasting nearly one year and a half. My physical survival of the war is a statistical accident; my spiritual survival is due to of my father's teaching. While in Terezin I attended all lectures I could find time for. I remember quite well the lectures of Rabbi Leo Baeck about ancient philosophy. I sought conversation with people who could teach me something, anything. It was a rare person who would refuse my questions. Many inmates of Terezin had been honored and important in their fields, and they willingly talked about their expertise.
In the fall of 1944 a number of transports shipped most of the remaining inmates of Terezin to Auschwitz. I was in one of them. On arrival in Auschwitz I was one of the few of our transport that were picked for slave labor. All the others were gassed. The eastern front line was getting closer, and Auschwitz was being evacuated. There were a few more selections in the "Zigeunerlager", the part of Auschwitz/Birkenau I was in. Men still in tolerable physical condition were herded into freight cars. After several days, without water or food, and barely enough air to breathe, the train stopped. Survivors of the train ride were herded into an enclosure that was called Kaufering 4, a sub-camp of Dachau.
The Kaufering camps in southern Bavaria were a cluster of camps close to a huge construction site for underground factories. Upon their completion they were to be assembly plants for German fighter planes. We, remnants of Jewish communities from Lithuania to Amsterdam to Saloniki, were the slaves to build them. In the winter of 1944/1945 there was no doubt about the early end of Nazi Germany. Allied armies had pushed deep into German territory, German defeat, and our liberation were a certainty. This did not deter the Nazis from forcing us to work twelve-hour shifts day and night, seven days a week, with one slice of moldy bread, and a bowl of thin cabbage soup a day. Kaufering was the worst camp I experienced. The camp guards were particularly brutal and violent. If they did not kill us, hunger and exhaustion would do it for them in a short time.
We were thinking about the future, the need to function after the war. We talked in small groups, learning this or that from each other. I remember a diminutive man from a small town somewhere in Poland, who was a young mathematics teacher. He taught some of us analytic geometry without even a scrap of paper, patiently repeating points on an imaginary graph, connecting them into a line, and going over formulas again and again. He was a true genius, and a dedicated teacher. I learned about glass manufacturing from a man who had owned a factory in Bohemia. I taught as much as my energy would allow. By then I knew that the need for learning was an acknowledgment of life after concentration camps, that teaching and learning were instruments of survival.
Only a few of us lived to see our liberation. Looking back over the many years of the war, the years spent in concentration camps, I know that learning made us look towards the future, even though we were not aware of it at first. Learning gave us strength to look beyond the horror of the moment to a new life.
November 2, 1998
A FOURTH SET OF NOTES FOR THE SHOAH ARCHIVE OFTHE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
These lines are written by Frederick Terna, father of Daniel Terna. Daniel is a pupil in the sixth grade of the Middle School.
Tommy Terna, Daniel's uncle, was born in 1926. He lived, and went to school in Prague, today the capital of the Czech Republic. Tommy was my younger brother. We were born about three years apart. Our family was part of the Jewish community, less than 25,000 in a city of nearly one million.
Prague Jews had a long and illustrious history, and we were well aware of it. While growing up there during the late 1920's and the 1930's Prague Jewish families were largely middle-class, rather intellectual, art and culture oriented, comfortable, but not wealthy, and only few were poor. Up to 1938 Prague Jews were contributing to the cultural life of the city quite out of proportion to their numbers. Anti-Semitism, to the extent that it manifested itself in the Czech lands, was much lower than in other Slavic countries to the east, the residue of centuries of church and government vilification, and persecution. In the newly established Czechoslovakia of 1918, and until 1938, except for noisy, and largely ineffectual anti-Jewish political groups, there was no significant friction between the Jews of Prague, and the rest of the citizenry. I don't recall a single expression of anti-Semitic sentiment or behavior in those years.
Tommy grew up in an atmosphere of tolerance, good will, and middle class values, not too different from that of children of the Herschel School today. In 1932 our mother suddenly died of pneumonia, a disease often fatal in those days. Both Tommy and I did not quite grasp the magnitude of our loss. Tommy was six years old then, and I nine. For a short time there were nannies taking care of us, but since our father did not re-marry, and could not give us the day-to-day care he wanted for us, we were living in "room and board" with a family of friends, in a good, and caring home. My father, our grandparents, and we lived in close proximity, and so did other relatives.
Less that a year later, in 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany.
Tommy's life and mine too, was similar to that of a child today. There were differences, but they were mostly technical. In the early 1930's there was no television, there were no refrigerators, none of the many appliances and gadgets we take for granted. We had a telephone, we had a radio. There was no hot running water. A gas water heater in the bathroom heated water. The kitchen had a huge coal-fired stove that allowed for a large cooking surface. The same firebox also heated two ovens, and a large kettle for hot water. All rooms were heated by stoves, some using coal, some coke, and some used "briquettes", compressed coal powder in the shape of small bricks. These were used in huge ceramic ovens. At all times there was household help living with us.
We lived in a large apartment. While our mother was alive, the home was a "1920's Modern" one. The building we lived in was in a, then, new section of the city. Large areas around us were open fields and gardens. Today that part of the city is built up, and is considered to be close to the old core of Prague. We were allowed to play in the street, and in the adjacent fields. There was no traffic, now and then a car would pass by, more likely it would be a horse-drawn wagon. I don't recall even one parked car. All year round we played with other children on the street, and, most likely, none of them were Jews. We may have been the only Jewish family in the building.
After 1933 we lived very close to the center of the city. From our grandparents home, from an alcove, using opera glasses, we could watch almost all parades, entering or leaving Wenceslaus Square, then as now the center of the "New Town". (It was settled in the 14th century!). In their home, and also in other places of the family, the furnishings were Victorian, massive, and somewhat somber. There were heavy curtains and drapes, Persian carpets on intricately patterned floorboards. All this was somewhat intimidating for youngsters of our age, and did not lend itself easily to romping and raucous play. It did however radiate an aura of security, of solid values. As children we were not aware how well to do our condition was. Within this comfortable ambiance our food, and our clothing were quite simple, we were made aware of the less fortunate world around us. There were comparatively few toys; we had scooters, and only much later bicycles, an obvious and deliberate policy not to spoil us. Books, however, were around us in large numbers. There was a large library in our home. There was no closed shelf; we could read whatever interested us. My father's policy was that we would get bored with subjects we did not understand. Any book we wanted to read would soon be bought. Music was part of our life. When about 12 years old we were allowed to go to the opera, and to go to see plays. Prague had several repertory stages, performing plays in Czech, and in German. Shakespeare, Moliere, Lope de Vega, Shaw or Schiller, and other classics plays would be presented sooner or later. We had to read the plays before seeing them performed.
In our home Czech and German was spoken with equal facility. (Yiddish had ceased to be a working language many generations ago.) Both parents and grandparents too, were fluent in several languages. My father was fluent in seven languages, and he certainly would not brag about that. It was rather common, and there were people around us who spoke more of them.
The age difference between Tommy and me, nearly three years allowed us to develop in somewhat different directions. We played together; we had different sets of friends, different interests.
Both Tommy and I attended public schools, and we went to different schools. Tommy's school was a Czech speaking school, where French was the second language, mine was a bi-lingual one, with Czech and German instruction given equal weight. School started at 7:30 or 8:00 and generally ended at 1 P.M. Saturday was a shorter school day, ending at noon. This presented a problem for Jewish families. There were hardly any Jewish day schools, and they were in the eastern part of Czechoslovakia. The instruction there was in Yiddish, and in the mold of cheders, and rather inadequate. Because of the strict separation of religious and public education, religious institutions, in our case yeshivas, were educating future rabbis. We both walked to school, and back. It took me about half an hour. No thought was given to escort. It was safe for a child - or an adult - day, or night, to walk in the city. Once we knew our way, we walked alone. After homework we played, usually outside. There was a large park minutes away, and we would meet our friends there. Ball games, -soccer was a first choice-, and, depending on age, counting and hiding, cowboys and Indians, these were our outdoor activities. In winter we went skating or sledding. The Vltava River would freeze, and eventually the ice would get strong enough to skate on. Up to age 12, except for opera nights, bedtime was 8. P.M.
Summer vacation was spent in the country. While mother was alive we owned an old farmhouse. After the farmhouse was sold we went to summer camps. They were rather similar to summer camps here in this country. We probably would feel quite at home at Camp Ramah of today. There was travel to "distant" places. Distant meant about 100 miles away. Travel outside the country was a rare occurrence. Almost all travel was by train. During winter vacation we went skiing in mountains of northern Bohemia.
Almost all Sundays were spent with father. In good and warm weather there was a wide variety of possible activities. There were favorite ones, such as taking a paddle steamer up the Vltava river for about ten miles, have a picnic in the area, go swimming in the river, and return with another paddle-steamer. There were smaller steamers going a shorter distance to a large garden and restaurant with a bandstand where a military brass band performed. Often such outings were in a group of family and friends. The grown-ups would sit around a large table have coffee and cake, and talk and talk. We children were looking forward to get "grenadine", club soda with strawberry syrup. There were elegant palaces, there were castles to visit within a short train ride, and there were hikes in the country, the zoo. When it was too cold we could go to the movies. Some movie houses would show animated cartoons only. That was where we saw color pictures long before feature films were shot in color. We loved Disney's "Silly Symphonies". The oldest part of Prague was always there as a sightseeing attraction. Walking and relating buildings to their past was a lesson in history, was a course about architectural styles from the Middle Ages to modern times.
On March 15th, 1939 all this came to an abrupt end with the occupation of Prague by Nazi Germany. Both Tommy and I were forbidden to continue in school, as were all other Jewish children. Tommy was 13 years old then. The oppression and persecution of Jews began right away, edict after edict repressing, confiscating, and limiting Jewish life with brutal force. It affected all of us, including children. It made us grow up quite rapidly in directions we had not anticipated. For a time I lived with false documents on a farm north of the city, and did not communicate directly with the family, and merely knew about Tommy's activities. Tommy became a resourceful provider of food. This was quite dangerous at time; he had become a businessman circumventing the multitude of restrictions imposed.
Tommy had shown some of his business acumen right after school ended for him. Some time before that father had bought him a simple camera. Not too much later Tommy came home with a Leica, then perhaps the best and most expensive camera available. Father was upset, and wanted to know where the camera came from. Tommy gave him a precise accounting. He had made photos of objects for a collector, got paid well, and bought a better camera. He found a laboratory where he could rent time and equipment to process film, and print photos. After subsequent jobs he bought better and better cameras, and, finally, bought the Leica.
This led to Tommy's apprenticeship in one of the best photo studios of Prague, "Photo Stehlik". That studio was owned by a man who had recognized Karel Stehlik's unusual gift as a portrait photographer, set Stehlik up as a business, and had the skill to keep Stehlik functioning. Stehlik was an alcoholic. Since the owner was a Jew he was thrown out by a German who insisted that Stehlik turn over to him a certain amount every month, but otherwise did not wish to run the business. There was Tommy, not yet 14 years old, sitting alone in the lab and a problem on his hand. The previous lab technician had left for a better job. Tommy knew of another boy from his earlier camera transactions, which too had been expelled from school, and was willing to help out. The main problem was Stehlik, and his drinking. The two kids soon had Stehlik under their thumb, were strict taskmasters, handled the business, and made sure that Stehlik had just enough money to buy a little wine. They would buy his food, pay his rent, buy him a new shirt, rather than let him go, and use the shirt money for a bottle of wine.
Tommy's job in "Photo Stehlik" lasted through most of 1940, and part of 1941. By then I was living with false papers on a farm north of Prague. Late in summer 1941 I was betrayed, and had to return home in great haste. Shortly thereafter I was put into my first camp, Lipa. There was no time to talk with Tommy.
The Tommy I remember is an inquisitive, enterprising, courageous, inventive, fearless, and lovable 14-year-old, yet at the same time a textbook teen-ager. He graciously tolerated me, and the grown-ups around him. To me he is still my kid brother, still 14 years old. At times I wonder what his life would have been like, if he had survived the Shoah. Today he would have been over 72 years old. In my heart he is still 14.
Father had been deported to Terezin in December 1941. When I arrived in Terezin in March 1943, father told me about Tommy's life in 1941 and 1942. While still in Prague Tommy managed family matters in a situation that would have overwhelmed adults. Taking considerable risks, his energy, his skills, and his optimism kept a number of older folks functioning.
Working in "Photo Stehlik" included being outside the house, and without the yellow star. "Photo Stehlik" attracted German soldiers as customers. The two boys had bought well-tailored army jackets to allow the soldiers to be shown well dressed on their photos. While the soldiers were in front of the camera, one of the boys detained them long enough so that the other one had time to photo documents in their regular uniform jackets. Father did not know where this information was forwarded.
Tommy and grandmother were deported to Terezin early in 1942. The three were housed in different barracks, but Tommy and father could meet and talk.
After only a short time in Terezin Tommy and grandmother were put into a transport to a then unknown destination. After the war I found out that the transport went to Treblinka, one of the death camps in occupied Poland. There were no survivors. Tommy was 16 years old.
A postscript added in July 2014.
On May 10, 2014, Zdenka Novakova, then close to ninety old, died in Miletin, Czech Republic. This information came from Jan Capoun, greatgrandson of Zdenka Novakova, known to Tommy as Zdenka Herboltova.
Tommy and Zdenka were teen-age friends.
In November 2013 Jan Capoun had e-mailed me photos of my father and Tommy which the Capouns had found at www.holocaust.cz.
In his recent e-mail Jan Capoun remembers his great-grandmother talking about Tommy, or Tomas, as Zdenka remembered him. Throughout her life Zdenka talked about Tommy, he was a part of her youth. Alas, except for a short time before being taken to my first camp, Lipa, I did not have a chance to find out more about Tommy. While I was living with false papers in 1940 and into 1941 in Lobkovice in Bohemia my contact with my family in Prague was minimal. Tommy was a young fourteen-year-old. For me he was the kid-brother. He and Zdenka were teen-agers in love.
Zdenka kept Tommy's memory alive in Bohemia for seventyfive years.
Copy of e-mail mentioned above received from Jan Capoun on Novembwer 21, 2013:
Good evening, Mr. Terna,
I am writing you in the matter of an old friendship that existed between my grandgrandmother and your brother Tomáš. They were very close during 1942 and when they took separate ways in June, my grandgrandmother lost track of him and never found out that he died. She was too scared to search for him after the war.
I have found your brother among the victims of the Holocaust (www.holocaust.cz) along with his close relatives my grandgrandmother told me about - you were missing, and my grandgrandmother was thrilled by the fact that you managed to survive and live in the States. She is very interested in contacting you through the phone, supposing you still speak Czech (her English and German is not good).
In case of your interest, her name is Nováková (borned and known by your brother as Heřboltová) and her number is +420493693401. She can as well call you and she already tried, but you don't seem to answer the number I've found on your web.
I enclose photos of your brother, father, grandmother (from the internet) and a harmonica, which my grandgrandmother was given by your brother as a rememberance.
A FIFTH SET OF NOTES FORTHE SHOAH ARCHIVE OFTHE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
These lines are written by Frederick Terna, father of Daniel Terna. Daniel is a pupil in the sixth grade of the Middle School.
Jenny Taussig, Daniel's great-grandmother was born as Jenny Lederer in 1875 in Teplice, then also known as Teplitz in Northern Bohemia. Teplice is part of the Czech Republic today. When she was quite young her parents moved to Prague, and opened a store selling fashion accessories in vogue then. In 1911, a few years before World War I she became the second wife of Adolf Taussig, Daniel's great-grandfather. His first wife Helen Spiegel had died in childbirth, an occurrence much more frequent early in the century than today. Early in World War I Jenny Taussig became a nurse in an army hospital, but advanced rapidly into administrative positions. In her bedroom she displayed several framed citations, some with medals, signed by members of the Imperial Habsburg household, in appreciation for her work on behalf of disabled soldiers. In the new Czechoslovak Republic of 1918 - 1938 such tributes by the former opponents were not appreciated, and that, probably, was the reason that she kept them in her bedroom. Today I'm puzzled how, in the pre-1918 Austro-Hungarian monarchy, a woman, a Jewish woman, was allowed to function at a level that merited an official recognition of her accomplishments.
My earliest memories of Jenny Taussig, going back to the early 1930's, are those of an active and energetic person. Her husband's position, and income, allowed her the life style of a moderately well to do middle class woman of Central Europe. She had received a thorough education, something rather unusual for a young Jewish woman of that time. Official anti-Jewish legislation, covering many aspects of Jewish life had been revoked in Bohemia in 1867, a mere eight years before her birth. Unofficial, social, and economic anti-Jewish strictures remained in full force for another half-century. Some of it lingered in the Czechoslovakia of 1918 - 1938.
In the manner of European homes and families we were given little information about the family's social standing, income, or affiliation with organizations. I have only the sketchiest notion about my grandmother's memberships. The one item I'm sure of is her position as president of a big sisterhood, though this is probably only one of several groups she belonged to. She knew by heart the telephone numbers of almost all members, and she was teased about it by her friends, and also by the family. Her memory was probably visual. I say this because I know that she could play a composition of music on the piano that was new to her, and she did not have to refer to the printed notes again.
Other than taking care of their families, a good part of grandmother, and her circle's time was taken up by community work: visiting the sick, helping poor newly-weds to set up a home, - the entire range of shared responsibility for the old, the poor, and the sick of the, comparatively, small Jewish community of Prague. All this was done in a low key, quietly, and without self-admiration. This is what gave meaning to their days.
Music was an important part of her life. There were two pianos in the largest room of her home. Before radio, or phonographs, most orchestral pieces of music, and especially operas, were transcribed for two pianos. Along one of the walls of the room were bookcases with narrowly spaced shelves where sheet music was kept. Wednesdays were music nights. Friends would meet in her home, carrying their instruments, violins, oboes, flutes, or clarinets. They would spell each other playing chamber music, talk, have coffee and cake, argue about phrasing and interpretation, talk some more, have more cake, and play some more. When someone would object to the way a passage was performed, that person would be asked to go and play it along his or her guidelines. I remember those evenings with much joy. We children were allowed to listen until it was time for us to go home, and to go to bed. It is, perhaps, this early exposure that made chamber music a part of my life in later years.
Grandmother had a subscription to the opera, and she had the same seats year in and out. In ways, which I don't remember, she was quite involved in the efforts of the opera house. Actors, singers, and "theater people" were frequent visitors to her home.
Grandmother was loved by all. There was one exception: Haschile, the schnorrer. He had a name but the entire world called him Haschile, and he referred to himself as Haschile in the third person. A schnorrer is not a beggar. A schnorrer allows you to give tzedakah in style. He knows that we know that one third of the world' existence is guaranteed by tzedakah. If ignored, Haschile would remind you of that fact with much eloquence, quoting from Psalms, Isiah, or Ezekiel. Grandmother loathed Haschile. We, the children, were much amused by that. She would cross the street, change direction, do anything to avoid him. I think that grandmother was afraid of him. Haschile was dressed with dramatic shabbiness, unkempt, with a thin seedy beard, rotting teeth, unwashed, with a cloud of garlic smell around him. At appropriate occasions during the year he would ring the doorbell. He must have had a way of sneaking by the concierge, and that was not an easy feat. There were standing rules for the maid to tell Haschile at the door that Mrs. Taussig was not in. That rarely worked. Haschile knew her routine. The maid then would be told to give him a crown, about five times the amount a beggar would receive, and to ask him to leave. Haschile would explode with a wail, claiming to be no ordinary beggar, that his rate for Mrs. Taussig was five crowns. Haschile would get his five crowns every time.
On March 15th 1939 German troops marched into Prague, and the persecution of the Jewish community of Prague began. On September 1, 1939, grandfather died. It was the day WW II started. On the day of his funeral so many people crowded around the cemetery entrance that the street was blocked for a time, and mounted police came to re-direct traffic. Grandfather is the only one in my immediate family to have a tomb, a stone, and a known burial place. It is 12-8-2 on the Olsany New Jewish Cemetery. Franz Kafka is buried in the same cemetery.
A few months after her husband's death the energetic, take-charge-of-life Jenny Taussig suddenly became a helpless, frightened old lady. Did she sense what was going to happen to the community?
A short time later I went into hiding with false papers, was betrayed, and wound up in my first concentration camp. Others, including my father when I met him in Terezin in 1943, told what follows to me:
After my father was shipped to Terezin late in 1941 my brother Tommy and grandmother Taussig remained in Prague until early in 1942, when they were put into a transport to Terezin. There grandmother Taussig, within that frightful transition, suddenly snapped back to her forceful, and efficient former self. She was nominated to supervise the distribution of food for the women's barracks. Her judgment, probity, integrity, and her record from earlier years made her an obvious choice.
From Terezin, a few months later, still in 1942, Jenny Taussig, and my brother Tommy were put into a transport to the east. After the war I learned that the transport's destination was Treblinka. Upon arriving there all were marched into the gas chamber. There were no survivors from that transport.
January 3, 1999
A SIXTH SET OF NOTES FORTHE SHOAH ARCHIVE OFTHE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
Today Daniel Terna is a pupil in the sixth grade of the Middle School. I, Frederick Terna, am a survivor, and the father of Daniel. I'm recording here some of my memories and thoughts about the Shoah.
Cecilie Horner was the grandmother of my former wife, Stella Horner, who was the daughter of Kurt Horner. Stella died early in the 1980's. Some of the events dating back to the early part of this century were told to me by the sons, and also by other relatives of Cecilie Horner. Family reminiscences tend to be colored by strong feelings, by complicated interpretations, and a wide range of self-deceptions. The sources of such influences may go back generations. It is difficult for me to give an impartial account of Cecilie Horner's family. I'm aware of this dilemma, and I hope to show them in the best possible light. None of the Horners I want to mention here are alive today, and, alas, cannot correct or amplify this narrative. They belonged to one of the of the Jewish communities of Moravia that had been allowed out of the ghettos late in the 18th century, granted, at least on paper, equal citizenship in the latter part of the 19th century, and achieved a small measure of economic and political security in the early years of the 20th century. Most of them eventually perished during the Shoah.
Cecilie Horner was born around 1860. Her family came from a town named Prerov, also known as Prerau in Moravia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Today Prerov is in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. I don't know where her husband came from, and I don't remember his first name. They had six sons, Kurt, Erwin, Felix, Victor, and two other sons whose names I cannot recall. All of them were born in the last decades of the 19th century. The Horners owned a store that sold, and distributed coal by the bucket, and sold bottled kerosene for lamps. Cecilie's husband died while their sons were small children. With much skill, and incredible energy she decided to fend for herself and her children, to have the coal business support her family.
By the time World War I started Cecilie Horner had moved to Vienna, and continued her coal and kerosene business there, though on a larger scale. The business was now called "Cecilie Horner und Soehne, Kohlengrosshandel", i.e. Cecilie Horner and Sons, Wholesale Coal Dealers.
One of her sons, Felix Horner, had studied to become an electrical engineer, another one; Erwin Horner became a physician, surgeon. Kurt Horner, father of Stella Horner, and my late father-in-law, became the manager of the family business, Victor Horner became a business developer, one Horner became a lawyer, and I don't recall the field of the sixth son. The level of education achieved by the sons illustrates the energy, and also the power of their mother. She imbued her sons with a will to succeed. The price they had to pay for this was the emotional submission to their mother well into adulthood. She ruled her sons with an iron will. It made her the rival of her daughters-in-law. The sons would heed their mother's wishes before considering the needs of their own families or spouses. I recall Kurt's wife Adele, my late mother-in-law, being afraid of her mother-in-law, though Cecilie Horner by then was a frail, and very old lady. I may want to expand further down a little about four of the six sons.
In Vienna, from 1918 to 1938, during years of political and economic turmoil, and also the years of the depression, Cecilie Horner & Sons expanded the business, owned parts of coal mines, had oil drilling rights and mining leases for several tracts in Lower Austria. The smallest quantity of a coal sale was a truckload.
The Horners lived the style of comfortable middle-class business people, spent their vacations in spas or on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, they had servants and nannies, they had cars that were chauffeured by men in leather uniforms. Their homes in a fashionable district in Vienna were large, and lavishly furnished.
Cecilie Horner, as well as Kurt and Victor, and two of her other sons, all born in Moravia, had retained her citizenship of the, then, Czechoslovakia.
On March 12th 1938 Nazi Germany marched into Austria, the so-called "Anschluss". Cecilie Horner, her sons Kurt and Victor, two other sons, and their families fled to Czechoslovakia, and went to live in Prague. They left most of their possessions in Austria.
I shall write a separate set of notes about Kurt Horner and his wife Adele, their son Fritz, and their daughters Eva and Stella.
Let me digress first about two other sons, Felix and Erwin who survived the war here in the USA.
In the first decade of the 20th century Felix Horner married Gisella, (I don't know her maiden name), and they had two children, Harry and Edith. Harry was born 1910 in Holic in Moravia. He was a sunny and vivacious young man with many gifts. He had studied architecture, but he became first a student, and later an actor in the theater of Max Reinhardt, a well known, innovative, and distinguished stage director and producer. In 1933, when Max Reinhardt was expelled from Germany by the Nazi regime Harry Horner accompanied him to the USA, and moved with Reinhardt to Los Angeles. Harry remained there, becoming among his other achievements a stage designer. At one time he designed the sets and costumes for Mozart's The Magic Flute for the Metropolitan Opera here in New York. He received two Oscars for designing movies whose names I cannot recall right now. Oscars seem to run in the family: One of Harry's sons, James Horner, is a composer. He has written the music for many currently successful movies, e.g. The Titanic. He received an Oscar recently.
In the years following our arrival in this country, meeting Harry here in New York or in Los Angeles was invariably a happy occasion. There was charm and wit, old-fashioned courtesy and empathy. Though spending the major part of his life in the Hollywood film business Harry remained a "Mensch".
After the occupation of Austria in 1938, and before the beginning of World War II in September 1939, Harry, by then a citizen of the USA, succeeded in obtaining US immigration visas for his parents, Felix and Gisella, his sister Edith, and also for his uncle Erwin and family. The remaining family, particularly Kurt Horner and family were in Czechoslovakia, and did not feel that they could emigrate and leave their mother Cecilie behind, or impose a long voyage on her frail body. There were also other, older relatives who needed support. None of them lived in areas then under direct Nazi rule. There were few precedents by which to judge potential developments. Those who remained in Europe acted within the experience of preceding centuries. The last time a large number of Jews had become a victim was in 1648, when the Cossack Hejtman Bohdan Chmielnicky and his troops went on murderous rampage. But that was three hundred years earlier, and in the Ukraine, far to the east of Central Europe.
Felix Horner had the usual difficulties of immigrants to this country, and to adjusting to a new life here. He worked as design engineer, but probably using only a small part of his talents and skills. He died a number of years ago, so did his wife Gisella, and his daughter Edith. Harry too died a few years ago. There are children and grandchildren of the families of Harry and Edith, and I don't know how many, I lost touch with that part of my former wife's family. Erwin Horner, the other son of Cecilie Horner, was a renowned surgeon in Vienna before 1938. He managed to obtain the necessary licenses to practice medicine here in New York. He was rather bitter about the procedure. He had to pass license boards run by examiners who had been his students in Vienna. The medical establishment here did not like competition. He too died good many years ago, as did his wife who was a gynecologist.
One of the reasons Stella and I decided to come to this country were the uncles Felix and Erwin, the only surviving relatives of her family. Because of the quota system of the old McCurran/Walter immigration law we had to wait until 1952 to arrive here legally. Soon after our arrival here the relationship with the family became strained. We were told quite directly not to talk about the past, but to concentrate on our new life here. Stella and I had, even then, an insight into the set of symptoms of denial, repression, and other responses to survivors. It hurt, but we understood. We too had gone through similar phases of not wanting to talk about our experiences. One item, however, rankled, and was offensive. The daughter of Uncle Felix was married to a businessman who had become quite wealthy during the war as a supplier of fabrics. He and his family lived in a big house in Scarsdale, owning many acres of land surrounding the house, and left undeveloped so as to provide a protective buffer. The other uncle, Erwin, was a medical doctor, living in a huge apartment on West End Avenue. He did not look like a pauper. The one question we were not asked after our arrival here was whether we needed any help. We would have refused it, but we expected to hear that question. It put a crimp into our relationship with Stella's family. We had to listen, however, to the tales of struggle and deprivation they had to endure upon arriving here, and about the hardships suffered during the war. We understood, and kept our thoughts to ourselves.
What they did not want to hear were the details of the fate of the rest of the family. I don't know how and where Cecilie Horner died. I had met Stella briefly in 1941 in Prague, before I was shipped to my first camp. Stella was my girl friend. I was seventeen years old then. On perhaps two occasions when I came to her home I saw three old ladies there, and I certainly don't remember which one of them was Cecilie Horner, which one was Stella's maternal grand-mother, which one her grand-aunt. I don't know in detail what happened to the two other brothers. Starting in October 1941 transports to the east began. In 1943, when I arrived in Terezin, Victor Horner and his wife were still there. Sometime in 1944 they were shipped to Auschwitz.
By 1944 most Jews of Bohemia and Moravia, men, women, children, the old and the young had been gassed, starved, kicked to death, shot, burned, - murdered with ruthless brutality.
One of the victims was Cecilie Horner.
January 22, 1999
A SEVENTH SET OF NOTES FOR THE SHOAH ARCHIVE OFTHE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
Today, Daniel Terna, our son, is a pupil in the sixth grade of the Middle School. Rebecca Shiffman, Daniel's mother, is the daughter of survivors of the Shoah. I, Frederick Terna, Daniel's father, am a survivor.
Kurt Horner, my former father-in-law, was the father of Stella Horner, my former wife. Stella was a survivor of the Shoah. She died early in the 1980's.
In my preceding, sixth, set of notes about the sons of Cecilie Horner I mentioned that I would write separately about Kurt Horner and his family. Kurt Horner was probably born in Prerov, in German called Prerau, in Moravia, in the last decade of the 19th century. Soon after the end of World War I he married Adele, born Seidel, who came from the same general area. They had three children. Eva was born about 1920, Stella, born in 1922, and Frederick, or Fritz, born about 1926. All three children were born in Vienna.
In the preceding set of notes I mentioned how Cecilie Horner had moved her family to Vienna, and how they successfully expanded their business, and became wholesale coal dealers. Kurt Horner was the son who managed the business, while the other sons pursued careers in their own fields. Upon the occupation of Austria by Germany in February 1938 the Horners escaped into Czechoslovakia. The Germans confiscated their properties, homes, assets, anything of fixed value in Austria. Two of the six sons, and their families, managed to emigrate to the USA before the beginning of World War II. All the others eventually were caught by the Nazi occupation.
I first met the family of Kurt Horner late in 1940 in Prague. Stella Horner was my girl friend, we were both about seventeen years old then. The war had been in its second year. Nazi oppression of the Jewish community had become more severe from day to day. Kurt Horner was under considerable stress, as were other heads of Jewish families to solve day-to-day problems within a brutal system that tried to crush all aspects of Jewish life. Nazi chicanery, constantly changing edicts, random, and unexplained new regulations, were designed to terrorize individuals, and the community, to make Jewish life unbearable. At times Jewish men, women, and even children were seized on the street, or in their homes, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and often executed. Fear of what the next day would bring, more trepidation, and dread were the only assured certainty.
Today, more than half a century after the events, I'm aware of my inadequacy to describe in detail occurrences, people and characters, their feelings and attitudes I observed in the 1940's as a teen-ager. I hope that I can do justice to the memory of the Horners.
Kurt Horner was a short, balding man, quite rotund then, with a self-assured look reflecting physically the image he had of himself. He knew the ways of the world, the order of importance of what came first, and what had to wait. He virtually oozed authority that was beyond questioning. He exhibited love and kindness to his children, and also to his wife. That love did not include insight into their individual emotional needs. If reminded of this lack he probably would have been quite puzzled. Such cognizance was outside his field of consciousness.
Kurt Horner had spent his adult life as a manager of an enterprise that was initiated by his mother. He was a take-charge person, ready to solve problems as they arose. He had accomplished this by intelligence, hard work, and an intuitive insight into the world, and the people around him. Until shortly before my first meeting him he was dominated by his mother's ideas, and her power over her sons. Though Cecilie Horner, his mother, was an old lady by then, her needs, and her ideas ruled the family. World events interfered grimly, and were at odds with emotional obligations, the need of the son to prove his devotion to his mother.
Kurt Horner was well trained to do a fine job as a businessman, but probably not much more. I don't recall having seen him reading a book, or discussing other than quite mundane matters. Ideas, reasoned doctrines, metaphysical considerations were outside his field of interests. His forte was business, but modified by compassion, and thoughtful care for the tangible, practical needs of those around him. Adele, his wife, had a peripheral place in the family, not much different from that of a child. She was in terror of her mother-in-law, and, I would say, with good reason. None of Cecilie Horner's daughters-in-law could ever do anything right in her eyes. Their positions were doomed from the day of their wedding. None of them brought forth six sons, none of them had built a small business into a major enterprise, failures all of them, barely good enough to produce a grandchild here or there.
Today, looking back to the life of Adele Horner I feel sad for more than one reason. Adele was depressed, and she did not know it, neither did anybody else in the family. While they lived years and years in Vienna, they may not even have been aware of the term depression. Moreover, Adele may have inherited her predilection to depression from her mother, who was known to have "strange dark moods". This was family hearsay. When I met Adele's mother briefly in their home in Prague I saw only an old lady, somewhat absentminded, but not much different from other old folks. Was the tendency to depression handed down from one generation to the next? Adele's daughters Eva and Stella both suffered from bi-polar depression. Both Eva and Stella survived the Shoah; both were hospitalized many times. Eva committed suicide, and Stella made numerous attempts to do the same. I may want to talk about them further down.
Why did Kurt Horner, a matter-of-fact, and practical man pick the ineffectual, delicate Adele? There were the usual criteria: A bride from a good family, from the same social setting, the same general community, it may have been arranged the old-fashioned way. Picking Adele assured the continued power of Cecilie Horner over the home of her son, where she continued to live. Poor Adele.
In 1941 my contact with the Horners was brief, and intermittent. I was in hiding with false papers north of Prague, and only on a few occasions dared to get in touch with Stella. While in hiding I was betrayed, had to return to my family, and was shipped to my first camp, Lipa, on October 3, 1941. That ended my contact with the Horners until 1943. In March 1943 I was transferred from Lipa to Ghetto Theresienstadt. In the summer of 1943 the Horners, Kurt, Adele, and their children, Eva, Stella, and Fritz arrived in a transport from Prague. I saw the Horners nearly every day in Theresienstadt until I was shipped to Auschwitz in the fall of 1944.
The story of the constantly changing chronicle of Ghetto Theresienstadt, in Czech Terezin, from December 1941 to its liberation in May 1945 has been well researched, and recorded in many books. There exist fine accounts of every facet of life there. It would be preposterous here to attempt even an outline.
In Theresienstadt Kurt Horner, and Fritz Horner were housed in different barracks, Adele and her daughters were housed in a women's barrack. That is where we met, usually after work, until it was time for the men to leave so as to be back in their barracks before curfew at 8 p.m. Adele and Eva were working in a shop that was slicing mica into thin sheets. Mica was used in electrical devices as insulation. Stella worked on an assembly line packaging spare parts of military equipment. Fritz was employed in the "gardens", an area between the fortification walls, raising vegetables for the Nazis. I don't remember Kurt Horner's job.
It was mostly small talk that was exchanged; this was not a family that discussed larger subjects. One of the subjects that was not discussed before me was the fate of the older generation. I don't know when Cecilie Horner and Adele's mother were deported. They probably were put into transports that went east directly from Prague. Adele Horner was as helpless as I remembered her in 1941, asking at every turn what she had to do next, shaking her head in amazement. She did, however, take care of her own physical grooming. Kurt Horner found ways to find extra food to supplement the totally inadequate rations in Theresienstadt. In his accustomed way he provided that extra ingredient to make life a little easier. He was rather quiet, uncommunicative, obviously troubled by the prospect of transports east to an uncertain future. It was Eva, the first-born, who tried to assume a leading role, seeking to become a substitute wife, a substitute mother, indeed to become a substitute Cecilie Horner. She was displaying the traits of a person who feels the need to manage everything lest chaos overtakes life. It was not a role appreciated by the rest of the family. In later years I wondered whether her behavior then was an early manifestation of her manic depression.
Fritz Horner, still a somewhat gawky teen-ager made fun of her, her father tolerated her conduct, her mother did not understand what was going on, and Stella tried to find an excuse to go anywhere else, usually in my company, so as not to be hectored.
Except for occasional irrational actions by the Nazi commanders life in Terezin was survivable for a reasonably healthy person. By 1944 it was obvious to just about everybody that Germany would collapse within a foreseeable time. Transports east had stopped since the ones connected with the visit of the International Red Cross. There was little that changed from late spring 1944. The threat of being shipped east remained, but that was a potential threat, and not an expected one. The Russian front-line had advanced deep into Poland, in the west the Allied armies were at the Rhine River. Life in Terezin remained tense and uncertain, hunger and disease, the irrational and unpredictable actions by the Germans continued, but these were constant ingredients. Then, suddenly, in October 1944 transports were resumed on a large scale. Except for a small group of very prominent persons, the Danish prisoners, and some technical personnel, everybody was shipped east. All transports went to Auschwitz. These were the last transports to Auschwitz. Tens of thousands were driven into the gas chambers. Shortly thereafter, with the Russians approaching, Auschwitz was closed, and all inmates still alive, selected to be slave labor were shipped to other concentration camps inside Germany. I was one of these.
Arriving in Auschwitz Eva and Stella Horner were sent to one side to become slave labor in a different concentration camp. Both survived the Shoah.
Kurt Horner, his wife Adele and his son Fritz perished in the gas chambers.