“When I lived in the orphanage, we sometimes had to walk down the Stahuwna, where they brought a prisoner that was to be hanged by the Germans. He might have said as little as: ‘Why are you Germans doing this to us?’ and he was hanged. He was tied together and on the meadows was a gallows. The car of the undertaker was already there. And all the kids from the orphanage had to watch this grizzly show. It must have been terrible for the convict to see the undertaker’s car already standing there.”
„We were given spinach and ate it together with potato peels. My mom grinded it in a small milling machine. I don’t know if she brought it with her or found it in the ghetto in Lódź. We used it to grind spinach, potato peels, saccharine and saltbush. We made a kind of a pie from it. We would then have it in the morning together with substitute coffee.”
“As late as 1937 we were on holiday in Belgium and my dad insisted on coming back to Czechoslovakia even though he had a hunch that things are not going well for us Jews in Bohemia. But he had his factory here together with Glaser and he was very much attached to it, so we came back. If we had stayed in Belgium, we might have done the right thing. But we returned and that’s how it turned out.”
“There were about 60 of us in that cattle car, but we had only two buckets. The Nazis called the transport a ‘Fahrt ins Blaue’, a ‘journey into the blue’. Nobody told us where we were going. One morning, they woke us up by shouting ‘Schnell, schnell’ (quickly, quickly). We had to get out of the cattle car in a hurry. They called us ‘Hunde’ – ‘dogs’ and other names. They lined up women with their children. Depending on their age, the children either stood next to their mothers or they were held in their mother’s hands. The soldiers came from the entrance gate and started to take the children away from their mothers. It was a terrible moment. The children were pretty much all that was left to those women. They didn’t expect this – they thought that they would be allowed to stay together in the camp. They screamed in desperation, cried, some even fainted.”
“When we lived in Walborska street in the ghetto, my brother and me used to go shopping in a grocery store. Instead of potatoes, however, we had to buy potato peels. When we wanted to buy some saccharine, we had to buy it from the local Polish Jews who were selling it on the streets. They were speaking in the Jewish jargon. There was no butter, just margarine. Instead of honey, you had the ‘artificial honey’ or ‘Kunsthonig’, as it was called in German. It was a yellow brick that tasted somewhere between margarine and honey. We ate this with bread. The bread was Polish; it was a big loaf of black bread. This Polish bread was available.”
“We took a bath and they cut our hair. We lined up in front of the commission and a German officer, a doctor, did the selection. Some people were sent to the left, some to the right. To the left, there stood about twenty people, to the right about eighty, maybe a hundred. I had already been selected to join the group of the weak ones that was going to end up in the gas chambers. We didn’t know where they were going… All of a sudden, the German officer called me back and asked me where I came from. I told him, that I was from Teplitz-Schönnau - Teplice-Šanov. He said: ‘But then we’re country-men. I’m from Žatec!’ I said: ‘Das ist aber ein Zufall’ – ‘What a coincidence’ in German. He told me to join the other group. This saved my life.”
František Lederer was born in July, 1930 in Teplice in a Jewish family. His father Richard was the co-owner of a textile factory and his mother Eliška did the housekeeping. The family had a very high standard of living. They lived in their own villa in Teplice and his father drove a Hudson. They went on vacation frequently to the sea-side resorts in Belgium. Sometimes, they would even fly to Belgium. The turning point was the year 1938, when bad times began for the family. First, they had to leave their villa and move from Teplice (that was part of the Sudetenland that was annexed by the Germans in September 1938) to Prague. Here they became the object of disdain from their environment for their Jewish origin. Eventually, in October 1941, they were deported to the Lódź ghetto. In the Lódź ghetto, František Lederer lost his parents in 1942 and only six months later his only brother Jindřich Lederer. At age 12, he became an orphan and the fact that he survived the ghetto and later the concentration camp in Auschwitz equals a miracle. His life was saved by pure chance during the second selection in Auschwitz, that took place immediately after his arrival in the camp. After the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of January 1945, Mr. Lederer set out on a long return journey home via Hungary that took three months. After the war, he briefly lived in Prague before he returned to his native Teplice, where he then worked in the textile industry for forty years. František Lederer passed away on December, the 10th, 2018.