Erika Bezdíčková

* 1931  

  • “Life in there… I was simply never worried about mine because all my thoughts and hopes were with my mum. I was never ready to accept what happened and completely illogically kept asking people whether they hadn’t seen my mum. They replied: ‘We haven’t, little girl.’ How could Mengele make such a mistake and send me to the side, which meant life – that I still don’t understand. I was always short and I was also quite thin because we did sports all the time. I really don’t know. In any case, surviving Auschwitz was hell. Even Dante couldn’t have thought of what was happening there.”

  • “The infamous Dr. Death – Mengele – was standing there. He sent me to the side of life. My mum wore multiple layers of clothes and even though she was thirty-five, he concluded she was old. She turned around as he asked me: ‘Wie alt bist du?’ – How old are you? I told him what my parents told us to say – sixteen – so that we’d stay together with the grown-ups. We knew they were separating children from their parents. My mum had turned around and shouted: ‘That’s not true, she is only thirteen.’ But there were over a thousand people in that transport and they were pouring in like a wave and suddenly, my mummy was gone along with all the others I arrived with. I was standing in a group where I knew nobody and I was completely shocked.”

  • “There was a moment when I met Erika. We were both so happy – I can’t even describe it – to have met someone from our past lives. We were placed in the same building and stood at the appeal together. She was the last in the row, and it was raining. After a while, she told me her back was soaked and asked me to change places with her for a bit. I told her okay. We changed our places but then, the so-call counting began. Four, five, eight – nobody knew how it went. Erika was one of those selected and we knew she was going to be gassed. This was the last stone in my soul that I had to bear. But I invented a story for myself. As we were standing at the appeal at night, I was looking at the sky and found three stars there. I told myself that my mum could do nothing but send me those stars and that as long as they keep shining, she is alive, as is my daddy and as am I. This was something I believed in full, and it was my consolation.”

  • “Soon thereafter, there was a transport to Auschwitz. In our railway car, it was really rather tragic. It was completely packed with people who had to be standing. Only when someone died on the way, they were laid down. There were two buckets there – one with drinking water and one serving as a toilet. But it didn’t make much sense because nobody was able to reach either of them. The journey was bitter. My father who used to work at the railway in Vrútky and knew how things went fought his way towards a small barred window in the cattle car, and peeked out to see in which direction we were going. He told us it was bad, that we were going towards the East. Already back then, East meant terror.”

  • “I have had a single vision – Žilina. My thought was that whoever from my family survived, would also return there. And so I arrived to my longed-desired city. First thing that I recall was hotel Rémy opposite to the railway station where I sometimes used to go with my parents to have lunch or dinner. As I was was returning, I thought everything would be in ruins; as much as I was a ruin myself. But that house was still standing there. Then I went down the street where my daddy used to have a shop – and that one was also still in place. After that, I went to our house – there was nothing at all there. Then I went to the house to which we were displaced. I got in front of the apartment of Mr. Pleško, a guardsman who moved in after we left. He asked me what I wanted. I told him we left our furniture behind when we were leaving. He only opened the door a crack but I was able to see our wardrobes. I told him: ‘All of it is still here.’ He said: ‘No, and don’t come back,’ and he slammed the door. This was the end of my visit in our former lousy home.”

  • “At that time a woman approached me and told me that she was a Serbian partisan and that she would take care of me, because she had had a little girl just like me who had gone to the gas chambers. The woman told me that I would not survive without a bowl. She had already been there for a longer time and she knew that many people without a bowl have died. I can still recall the bowl even today, it was made of wood and it had a little hole, and in a way it has helped me to survive.”

  • “The world knew about Auschwitz. After all, it is known, that two Slovaks, Weber and Wetzler – prisoners – escaped from Auschwitz and with difficulties they reached Žilina and they wrote a report for the Red Cross and for all the worldwide organizations, and in it they described precisely that it was a factory for death and that they were entreating the Allies to bomb the crematoria and gas chambers, but nobody has done anything. At that time there were hundreds of Jews in Hungary awaiting deportation, but nothing happened.”

  • “It would be probably not necessary to explain in detail about life in a concentration camp; what is important is that only very strong individuals were able to survive there. For example, there were young women, whose children had been taken away, and since the camp was surrounded by barbwire with electric current running through it, these women were often touching the wires in despair… the trauma which one was experiencing there every day cannot be cured or forgotten.”

  • “From those rose-shaped vents in the corner on the right there they were releasing the Zyclon B, which suffocated the people. Those of us who went to the left side had to undress completely, they shaved our heads, tattooed numbers on us and they gave us clothing from people who were no longer alive. I received an evening dress, which was funny. In October, when I came to Auschwitz, it was terribly cold there, there was already snow and none of us had received any underwear, and for footwear we were given wooden clogs.”

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I am happy that I can pass my Jewish genes onto my family

before the transport to Auschwitz
before the transport to Auschwitz

Erika Bezdíčková was born September 26, 1931 in Žilina in the family of Arnold and Alice Kellermann as the younger daughter of her father and the only daughter of her mother, whom the widowed father married after the death of his first wife. In October 1944 the Jewish family Kellermann was transported to Auschwitz due to their ethnic origin, and both her parents died together with most of Erika‘s extended family. Erika Bezdíčková was taken from Auschwitz to work in camps Genshagen and Sachsenhausen. In April 1945 she escaped from a death march. After her return to her native Žilina she discovered that her parents have not survived and that her sister had meanwhile married and was living in Romania. Erika Bezdíčková set out to search for her, and as a fourteen-year-old she was wandering through Europe all by herself. Later she settled in Bratislava. She married in 1948, when she was not even seventeen, and she had two children. Erika and her husband moved to Prague, but later they divorced. As a single mother in the 1950s she worked in the Czechoslovak radio in Prague. After her second marriage she moved to Louny, where she worked as an editor of the local radio broadcast. Her third child was born, but even her second marriage ended in divorce. In the early 1960s she came to Brno, where she began working in the BVV Trade Fairs Brno as a foreign-language correspondent, then as an editor, and eventually she became the head of the foreign press centre. She had to leave the company in the beginning of the normalization era. After long time of searching for a job, she eventually found employment in Technical Newspaper in Bratislava, where she worked as an editor and wrote about Czechoslovak science and technology until 1989. At the same time she worked as a translator, and even now she occasionally does simultaneous interpreting from German and Hungarian. She remarried in 1973 and she still lives in Brno.