Pavel Kohn

* 1929  †︎ 2017

  • “It was at the train station in Auschwitz. There were SS men in various uniforms in front of the gates, and people, and they were yelling: ‘Out, out, get out, leave everything here. Out, out!’ And we thus tried to get out of the train car, but the train car doors were about one metre above the ground and we thus jumped out and fell down to the ground and they started beating us immediately. One of course does not forget things like that, this trails along with you throughout your entire life.”

  • “A bunch of people were waiting for their relatives there, because they had obviously learnt about it somehow. A sort of a postal service was working, and they were thus waiting for their relatives. When the relatives got out of the bus, their family members took care of them and they took them probably somewhere to their homes. Well, I simply got off the bus. And obviously, there was nobody waiting for me, and I actually did not even know where to go, because… home, what does ‘home’ mean? I knew that our flat had been simply confiscated. It meant that Germans had confiscated it and that certainly – well, not certainly, but I supposed so, and it was true, that some strangers were living there instead of us - and so I arrived to Prague and I had nowhere to go. Since I was a Prague native, I knew that the Wilson Train Station was not far from the Wenceslas Square and so I walked to the train station and I spent the first night at the Wilson Station.”

  • “Somebody told me to say that I had some job and to say that I was older or to say that I did some work which could be of use to the Nazi war industry. I thus went there and I announced: Achtzehn Jahre, Maschinenschlosser, eighteen years old, machine fitter. And he, well… Perhaps I was not so emaciated yet, and he thus pointed to me where to go, to one side. And I went to the side that he pointed to me, and fortunately it was the good side, of course we did not know it at that time, but the other side meant gas chambers. And my brother passed in the same way, too. He was two years older. I don’t know what he said as his job… I don’t know. But my mom, who was not with us, she stayed in a separate block a bit further away from us, and there was a selection process like this before or after, and I don’t know whether she went to the correct side or to the worse side, to the catastrophic side. I have actually never learnt that.”

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    byt pana Kohna, 18.10.2016

    délka: 01:08:41
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu The Stories of Our Neigbours
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Home? What does ‘home’ mean?

Pavel Kohn in 1949
Pavel Kohn in 1949
zdroj: PNS

Pavel Kohn was born October 14, 1929 in Prague. As a Jewish child, in 1941 he was forbidden to attend school and he and his brother were being educated in a Jewish home school for several months. In 1942 the Kohn family were transported to Terezín, where his father died. In 1943 the rest of his family were transported to the family camp in Auschwitz. The camp was eliminated several months later. Pavel Kohn and his brother passed the selection process in front of doctor Mengele, but they have never seen their mother anymore. Pavel was later taken to the labour camp Blechhammer and from there he went with a death march to Buchenwald. He survived in Buchenwald until the camp was liberated by the US Army. After his return to Prague he had no place to stay and he thus went to the sanatorium in the Štiřín chateau which was established by Přemysl Pitter as part of the project Zámky (Chateaux). Pavel Kohn emigrated with his wife Ruth to Germany in 1967. From 1968 until the 1990s he was working for Radio Free Europe. Pavel Kohn passed away in 2017.