“We had a fairly good life there but when I recall my life in Eastern Germany, all I can remember is that it all looked somehow grey and bleak. Everything seemed so cold and gloomy there. I don’t have good memories when I think back to the time we spent in Germany. There’s nothing in particular that bothered me about the Germans but they’re just different from us. The Germans simply have a different nature than our people. It’s not that I didn’t have any friends there – I had a couple of friends in Berlin. But it was nothing like home. The Israelis were also alien to me, but they’re different than the Germans. They’re much warmer and kinder to you. I mean you find good and bad people everywhere. We had a very good acquaintance in Berlin who later stayed with us. Whenever my mom was at work, she would pick us up from school and my mom would do the same for her kids when she was at work. That friend of my mom brought us a bit closer to the Germans. I learned the language very quickly and speak fluently till today. But still, I’ve never quite familiarized myself with Germany and the Germans. Well, and you have to take into account that the people living in Berlin are much more friendly and liberal than the rest of Germany. The Berliners are a nation within a nation. The rest of Germany is much more conservative.”
Interviewer: “You had no idea what your dad was doing? You thought he was a bureaucrat and later an attaché at the Berlin embassy?” “Yes, I think he was a press attaché or something of the sort. For me, he has always been an employee of the embassy or of the Ministry of foreign affairs and that was all I needed to know. He wouldn’t tell us what he was really doing at the embassy and why should he have told us? I think not even my mom knew what he was really doing there. I was only told the truth about his real occupation in Berlin afterwards, when we lived in Germany – no, actually it was already by the time we lived in Israel.” Interviewer: “Did you meet him afterwards? For example in Vienna?” “No, and I was really mad about it. I told my mom that she took us away from there, that we were in Vienna and I was not even allowed to see him. No, we didn’t meet. But some time later he came to visit us in Israel. I still have no clue who he was really working for. I kind of think that at times, he might have even worked for both sides.”
“When I think back to the time in Berlin, my recollections are grey and black. I don’t have many particular stories I remember from those times, it’s more like impressions and feelings I can remember. I know that I went ice skating there and that I sang in a choir. For us, leaving Germany and emigrating to Israel meant leaving a play ground where we didn’t want to be and going to another playground where we didn’t want to be either. Well, I know the fate of the Jews in Germany and I know that Israel is the promised land of the Jews. However, I grew up as a normal Czech kid, with the exception that I read, heard and was taught about the Second World War at school. But I wasn’t led to anything in particular, no particular belief or religion. I was growing up as a Czech kid. They took me to a country where it was hot and there were no forests to go for a walk. I loved that about Bohemia. I didn’t understand the language, the people behaved differently there from what I was used to at home. They constantly shouted at each other and there were just so many annoying things about the country. It’s not true that simply because I have Jewish origins, Jewish roots, I fell in love with Israel. I don’t have Jewish feelings – this has never appealed to me. So, I can truly tell you that I wasn’t enthusiastic at all about coming to Israel.”
“As long as the old regime was in power in Czechoslovakia, there was no point in contemplating a return. My dad emigrated in 1968. We didn’t come back from Romania and went straight to Israel. That was at the time when my dad worked at the Embassy in Vienna. From Vienna, he then fled to Germany and from there to the United States. When he ran away to America, he was tried in Czechoslovakia and sentenced to death for high treason so we couldn’t come back here. It was a very tough time for me as I was badly home sick. The first years were especially bad. I remember how I would chat everybody up in Israel about the kind of forests and mushrooms we have back in Czechoslovakia, about the villages and people in my country. The Israelis didn’t understand what I was up to and looked at me in a funny way. When our Czech friends came to Israel in 1990 and told us to come to Czechoslovakia to see how things had changed, we said yes and came back for the first time after over twenty years. That was at the end of 1990 and I when I came to Czechoslovakia, I said to myself: ‘I’m going back’.”
V bydlišti pamětníka, Praha - Vinohrady, 28.09.2011
There was no chance for us to come back to Czechoslovakia because our dad was sentenced to death there.
Mrs. Kateřina Bittmanová was born on July 14, 1952, in Prague, as the first daughter of Anna Schönová, a doctor who later married Ladislav Bittman, a Czechoslovak counter-intelligence officer. Kateřina‘s mother originated in a Jewish family from eastern Slovakia, and she had to go into hiding after her release from the Sered camp. Kateřina spent a portion of her childhood with her mother in Košice where they lived with her grandparents. Later, she lived with her parents and her younger brother Michael in Prague. In 1961, the family moved to Eastern Berlin where her dad was working at the embassy. After a few years, her father was called back to Prague and both of the kids went with him. Later, her parents got divorced and Kateřina lived together with her mother and brother in Berlin. They stayed in Berlin till the summer of 1968 when they emigrated to Israel. The same year, her father emigrated to Western Germany and later to the United States of America. In Israel, Kateřina attended school and then she passed the compulsory service in the army. After having served in the army, she studied medicine at the Hebrew University and graduated in gynecology. She got married and had two kids. In Israel, she worked as a gynecologist in a hospital. In 1991 - because of the war in the Persion Gulf - she decided to return to the Czech Republic together with her children. Back in Prague, she opened up a small gynecological office that she‘s been running to this day. Mrs. Kateřina Bittmanová is divorced. She lives with her boyfriend and her son in Prague.