Valerie Slezáková

* 1923

  • "This happened already in Birkenau, where we worked at the writing office. I wasn’t well at all, because I was suffering diarrhea all the time. There was no running water, we couldn’t drink or wash ourselves, we couldn’t even change our underwear. At least there was some shanty where the clothes was being separated. A woman from Nitra town worked here and recognized me, so she always brought clean clothes for me. At least something...Anyway I was being so weak that I couldn’t hold the pen or pencil in my hand while we were writing. I also found out that a friend of mine along with her sister got seriously ill and were both resting in that part of the camp, from where people were taking to the gas chamber. Feeling so miserable I crawled to this block hoping they would take me to the gas room as well. I just couldn’t bare it anymore. But then one Poland girl came with the Romanian SS officer and pulled me out of there. They were looking for me and she figured were I could be. They brought me back to the writing room and told me that if someone comes for an inspection I should just hold the pen and pretend I’m thinking - ´ Just pretend you’re thinking about what to write there. ´ And this is how it really was, nothing happened to me after all."

  • "It was this Herzl at the time who wanted to create an Israeli state. My dad had a money box where he would always put some money. I knew that he was not an orthodox Jew but he was a Sionist. He also brought me up in that. I even learnt Hebrew when I was older. But when I was just seven years old, he taught me a Hebrew poem, word from word. In Nitra, there was some congress and the poet himself showed up. His name was Hayim Nahman Bialik. And at this congress, I presented the poem and it was a great success because I declaimed it with sense knowing what it was about. It was about some bird, my dad explained it to me. Well, I have received big applause. This was my big Jewish fame.

  • "There were rumors we heard in 1942 that young Slovakian girls were taken to Germany to provide some farm works. The guardsmen took the girls and then disappeared. We also heard that apparently if they didn’t find any young girl in the house, they took the parents instead and arrested them. That really scared me, because I also had three years younger sister and I was worried if they would take our father away what could happen to our family then. Later on I found out that there has been an escape planned for me and my best friend from Hungary, who lives in California now. Her escape was successful unlike mine, because I insisted on the farm work in Germany. I have cut my hair, took a knapsack filled up with few necessary things and then I let the guard to take me to the train station. That was the last time I saw my father who came to the train station too. They didn’t want my sister, because she was still very young. The train took us to Bratislava town where we spent about three weeks in some camp. We didn’t know when or where we’ll go. After three weeks they put us on the cattle wagons."

  • "This man Erber came perfectly dressed and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. It was a list of thirteen people, which as he claimed were ´ saved ´ by him. My maiden name was on the list too. It made me laugh to hear that he saved me. But I was well prepared for him. I started to speak about his good days, when he really helped me - I was talking about my cousins. But the things he could do when times got rough - when they were taking poor people to the gas chamber, he was always the first to be there. He was very keen on keeping things going smoothly if they sent someone to the gas and he was the one who took the people there."

  • "I ran in, everything was locked so I went to ring the neighbour's bell. This, I won't ever forget. The gentleman was a sales representative for Hellada soap-making company and the woman was a Jew. They had a son and a daughter. She was two years older than me and with the boy I was in love as a kid. Door had opened, the girl was just putting a stocking on her leg and when she spotted me, she fell down, completely fainted. She told me everyone said that I can no longer be alive. And that only my mum would still believe that I'd return. Even with a kid or pregnant because the gossip was that I had an affair with the Hungarian on the train. So I was at the neigbours' place. My mom was at the train station, about to go to Bratislava to see my sister who was working as a photographer in some firm. But when she was told by Mr. Krámer that he drove me home, she returned instantly and rang the neigbours' bell because she thought I'd be there. So I was and that was grand. When mom saw me she didn't know what to do because of all the joy. But we gave each other a promise: they wouldn't talk about how my dad died and I couldn't talk about the lager."

  • "We were baldheaded wearing a head cloth and wooden shoes that were too big for me. We were going to work there, we worked in the garden which wasn’t bad at all, so we were quite satisfied. But it was very hot outside, because it was beginning of May. Then a huge blister appeared on my instep all of a sudden one day. I have never seen anything like that before. Thank God, there was this lady commander in the camp, she used to wear this striped uniform - later on I have discovered that she used to be a prostitute. Anyway, this lady, our kapo, she was such a nice person. She told me: ´I will hide you here and then I will take you to the ambulance in the morning so the doctor can take care of it. ´"

  • "There were seven people together hiding there. The two of us and another five girls. All of us were from Slovakia. We just sat inside there, hiding. But as soon as the sun came up that was the end of it. The shad was full of holes, because it was a former beehive, bee less though, but full of holes. We thought to ourselves that if they start to count the people, it would be our death. There use to be quite a mess up while they were separating us, so we were not sure if they will count us again. They did, in deed and when they were done, seven girls were missing. They were sniffing around us so we just sat there without a sound. We stuffed our mouths with something so we wouldn’t laugh. Young man is totally idiotic. Further more if he’s being locked for three years somewhere where nothing is normal. So we thought it was hilarious that they were walking round and round and we just sit there and nothing is going on. And nothing really happened, they left."

  • "Do you know what it is to lose three years at one's best age? It changes a person completely. I missed them very much. After liberation, I became terribly superficial. On one hand, I was happy to be home. Every morning I was surprised about it and was glad. But one question remained and will remain until my death: 'How come I am here when there used to be so many valuable people around and where are they?' And nobody will ever be able to answer this. Even though I ask everybody, even the rabbi. Nobody gave me a credible answer. Someone relies on Virgin Mary or on messiah's arrival and his salvation but those are fairy tales for adults. I don't believe that - any religion or nationality. It was a rough school. But I learned not to judge any community but always only the individual person. Because every human being is different and all are born innocent. What they grow up into is what the adults make of them. There was a rumor that the Poles are swines. And I used to say that they are exactly as much swines as are Jews, Germans and any other nation. One can't judge this. There are good Poles and there are swines among them. It's the same with all nations. In Birkenau, Germans would murder Russians for not wanting to bring the living over into gas chambers. But the Jews took them there, even their own relatives. But one doesn't know, I haven't talked to them. Those Russians, they were heroes for not doing that. There are also swines and decent people among the Russians. This is what I learned in the concentration camp."

  • "In the morning when we gathered up for the counting, she came, pulled me out of there and took me to this huge booth, where other older women were, but none of them was a Jew. I found out later that also thieves and murderess were among these women. The were making these huge hay packs. The women who brought me in there took me to the very end, removed one of the hay packs and pushed me inside. I felt like Alice in the Wonderland because three was a closet, some bed and even a sink. And then she took me to the ambulance where I met Dr. Mengele. Of course I didn’t know who he was back then. He cut the coat open and some liquid ran out of there. Then she out clean paper bandage over it. As I got up, Dr. Mengele took my hand and said: ´Knochentuberkulose, ins Krematorium!‘" (Bone tuberculosis, to the crematory - translator’s note.)

  • "And there was also anti-Semitism. At my husbands work there were only one or two people who were not Jews. Just so nobody could say that there are only Jews working there. Mr. Slánský was also Jew. All of the executed people were Jews. To be honest, I feel very embarrassed for not leaving the party (communist) right after the court trials. When the loyalty check ups came one of my colleagues brought his ID card in and told them that he doesn’t feel strong enough too remain in the party any longer. But I didn’t do that, because I was afraid that there would be only the two of us left then, but I didn’t do it also for I was being a crud too."

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„I didn’t believe for a moment that someone might get alive out of there.“

slezakova_01.jpg (historic)
Valerie Slezáková
zdroj: pamětník

Valerie Slezáková, née Jungová, was born on 1st July 1923 in Nové Zámky, Slovakia. When she was one year old her family moved to Nitra . Here she attended the first four grades of the Jewish - Slovakian grammar school. Later, she attended a public gymnasium. She stayed there until 1939 when the Slovak State was proclaimed, introducing numerous discriminating measures against Jews. Valerie began to attend various cooking, sewing, language (English, French and Hebrew) classes and even a nursing course. In 1942 she was transported into Auschwitz concentration camp and later was imprisoned in Auschwitz - Birkenau camp. She had been transported again in 1945, this time to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Shortly after that she applied for Retzow town labor camp where living conditions were more bearable. Here, she worked as an assistant medic. At the end of the war she took part in the „death march“ to Malchow but luckily managed to escape. She went on foot, on a hay wagon and by train to get through Warsaw to Nitra. The hardships of war took their cruel tool on the family - her mother committed suicide in 1946 and her sister died of tuberculosis three years later while her father was executed during the Slovak National Uprising. Valerie left Nitra in 1947 to follow her boyfriend and future husband Evžen Slezák to Prague. After graduating from a typewriting course she took a job in a public agency Monitor where she worked as a translator of foreign press. In 1966 she testified in the second Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt and helped convict the war criminal Josef Erber (Chustek).