Jiří Diamant

* 1930  

  • “We arranged with our mother-in-law, who came to help us with packing in our flat, that if we failed to pass through then we would stay in South Bohemia and would let her know. If we went through we would send her a message from Vienna. We came to the border with two small children. Then some customs officers, who collaborated, came. ‘Where are you going?’ - ‘To Yugoslavia.’ - ‘Well, you are well packed to Yugoslavia.’ My wife: ‘Mum gave us winter coats over the pieces of suitcase and the children were sat on four sleeping bags.’ The customs officer told us: ‘You see, don't be cross but I have to inspect you, the Russian major is watching me.’ They knew what was going on and so did we. All of a sudden the officer left and one of the children cried out. ‘Oooh, we're on the border, where is my doll?’ We deluded the children that we were going to see our ill auntie in Uherský Brod. My wife: ‘We wouldn't go through. Míša's school teacher was a Communist Party member. Just imagine she would be telling her something like that. We said then we were going at auntie's. The customs officer came back and wished us a safe journey. We went under the bars. There was a long queue of cars on the other side. They were on their way back to Bohemia and all worried they asked what it looked like in Prague.”

  • “One of my reasons (for emigration) was that I didn't want to repeat the mistake of my father. By his vacillation he caused the ruination of our family. I could not do that. I had to leave for the sake of my children. It also played its role. My wife got necessary passports. We went by car. We didn't buy our car for my clinic salary but because I went to study to the US for a year in 1966/67.”

  • “It's also important to say that before our departure to the concentration camp my father was informed about the chance to send children to England. The transports ended up at the man (Nicolas Winton), who saved a few hundreds of children. My younger brother Tomáš and I had everything ready. Our passports were sent off and so were the ‘lifts’ to England that ended up in Belgium then. In the last-minute my father canceled the journey because he didn't want to split the family into two – children and parents. Of course it became fatal for us.”

  • “As boys we used to secretly climb over the fence and breaking the ban we went to the workers in crematory. I found a Polish Jew there whose surname happened to be Diamant as well. He quite took fancy of me and he told me his life history, by the way including sending his wife and children to the gas. The people were so traumatized that they spent whole days drunk. They could keep everything, gold, jewelery, watches. They were giving it that way and we were given bread. They didn't enjoy their lives as they know they would be killed in a few months. Dead marching I saw a prisoner who wanted to cut off somebody else's rucksack. When he spotted that and started shouting, it was in the evening before sleeping over, he stabbed a dagger into his back. You saw such things in your puberty. Our meeting death was almost immediate.”

  • “I was chosen to go to the basic camp in Auschwitz in December. I worked there with horses and I stayed there till January 23rd, 1945. We always left early in the morning, after five, at half past six. I actually almost never saw the camp. We went through snow till we got to the places with the stables and horses. We returned at dark. We went out on January 23rd and we got a command at midday that we would not come back to our camp but would go for a death march instead. They went also with the animals to nearby Loslau (?), we heard cannon shooting at the background. Eventually the SS men decided they would put us in coal wagons. We went through Germany, first to Gross-Rosen. There was a famous concentration camp which everybody was scared of. Luckily there were no more capacities so we followed to Buchenwald.”

  • “When we got to the University we were shocked. There were Lenin, Stalin, Mao Ce-tung, Marx, Engels everywhere, even in the lifts. All five apostles. And sickles and hammers. So we said to ourselves, o my God, where we fled to. First of all, we thought we would have to pack our things and carry on.”

  • “A front was approaching, this time an American one. When I asked the doctor whether to stay or undergo another death march he told me: ‘I can't tell you. When you stay here they will blow us up, when you go for the death march they can shoot you dead.’ At that time I was not 15 yet so I decided for the death march. It was a Czech transport with many famous Czechs who got engaged in politics later. By the way, there were Plojhar and Zenkl etc. in Buchenwald. Well, we went with the transport from Buchenwald to Weimar. We were put in closed carriages. We went at an unknown direction, we had no idea where. We got to know later it should have been the camp Flossenbürg by the Czech border. Our train was watched by the American pilots, so called ‘grass cutters.’ The engine was shot through not far from the town Jena in East Germany. We couldn't carry on. We gained one day and it was our good luck. We were expecting some other commands which didn't come earlier but after twenty-four hours. We started marching slowly through Jena. A bridge was blown up, there was a bit of the transport left, we were in the front part. Eventually we got at such a place where we were besieged. Our guards, they were retired Wehrmachts men and SS men, because the others were either at the front or dead already. They lead us to some kind of a mount. On April 13th, 1945 we were picked up by some civilians with white bands and they took us to a nearby gym. We got some food and drink and we stayed there overnight. All of a sudden, an American soldier jumped in through the window in the morning on April 14th and with his gun covering he asked whether there were some armed guards among us. It turned out there were none there. They probably gave up and gave off their weapons and we were liberated.”

  • “I know Fredy Hirsch very well. He was my instructor in Brno, I knew him there already. Last time I met him in Birkenau where he was our trainer in the children section. We trained The Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarfs and such. He was a very brave, nice and children-caring man.”

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    Praha, 18.09.2008

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„One of my reasons for emigration was that I did not want to repeat the mistakes of my father. By his vacillation he caused that ruination of our family. I could not do that. I had to leave for the sake of my children.“

Jiří Diamant in 1954
Jiří Diamant in 1954
zdroj: archiv pamětnika

A psychologist and doctor, Jiří Diamant has lived in the Netherlands since 1968. Today, he only comes home to the Czech Republic. There, he remembers his past: Jiří Diamant was born in Brno in 1930. His father was a textile salesman for a factory in South Moravia. In March 1942, the Diamant family was sent to Terezí concentration camp. Although being part of the so called „Terezí family camp“, a group of families sent to Terezín that were mostly all executed by the summer of 1944, Jiri managed to survive. In December 1943, he was sent to a different camp in Osvětim-Birkenau. He then belonged to the so called ‘Birkenau Boys‘ - boys aged 12-16 from the family camp who passed through Nazi selection because of their strength and ability to work. Jiri was transported to Buchenwald in January 1945 and was liberated by the American soldiers in mid April. In May 1945 he participated in organizing repatriation of cellmates to Czechoslovakia. He completed his Psychology studies at the University in Brno after the war, and worker as a clinical psychologist. In September 1968 he emigrated to the Netherlands, where he continued to work as a clinic psychologist at the University. He was an external lecturer at universities in Prague and Brno in the 90‘s.