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Pavel Oliva (1923) - Lebenslauf


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Historia magistra vitae - history is the teacher of life! A beautiful saying, but it doesn´t work

Pavel Oliva was born on November 23rd, 1923 in Prague-Karlín to a Jewish family, his native name was Ohrenstein. He changed his name to Oliva after the war (olive is a tree that grows in Greece, known for its beneficial oil, oil also symbolizes victory). When he was eighteen he was ordered by the occupation authorities to report for transport; in December 1941 he took part in the so-called AK (Aufbaukommando) II, which was one of the first Jewish groups who were preparing the ghetto in Terezín for the arrival of thousands of Jews. He remembers that while, on the train, the young people were singing; they thought they were simply going for a working holiday and that they would be back by spring. In Terezín, he was assigned to mess-hall services (Menagedienst); he was in charge of distribution of meals. In December 1943, he, along with some other 2500 Jews, were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and assigned to the Kanalreiniger commando - cleaners of sewers. The sewer piping was very narrow in order to prevent escapes of prisoners, and it was often clogged. In the autumn of 1944, he passed a selection of prisoners to be sent to labour camps in the Reich, and was sent to a camp built at the site of a bombed-out factory in Schwarzheide, which had been used for the production of synthetic petrol made from wood. He also endured the death march to Vansdorf and Litoměřice; he walked all the way to Terezín, where the Red Cross then took care of him. While imprisoned, he and his friend began believing in the communist ideology as a possibility for the new world order. After the war he joined the Communist Party; he studied classical philology and specialized in the history of ancient Greece. He eventually became a university professor and an author in ancient Greek history, which was respected all over the world. With horror, he watched the political trials of the 1950s, and then parted with the communist ideology in 1956, after the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but he kept his party ID card. In 1983, his son Ivan Oliva immigrated to West Germany. In spite of that, Pavel Oliva was still permitted to travel abroad, owing this to his expertise in ancient history and also thanks to his colleague from the Institute of History, who had an "influential" brother and who became Oliva's guarantor.


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