"I wanted to become a cook. I bothered my dad for so long, pleading that I wanted to be a cook, so he arranged a place for me in the best restaurant in Prague where I was to go after school and train. At that time you had to pay for it. I was supposed to start on Monday. On Friday I was in the English school, and the Germans came to Prague on that day. We could even hear the tanks. And so we went home from school and that was it. What followed was not life anymore."
"The names of those who were to get ready for a transport were published in newspapers every month or every week. But the worst thing that happened to us was when they assassinated Heydrich. You were not even born at that time, obviously. The assassins were Czechs who came from London, and then they rode there on bicycles and threw a bomb on that ... (car). After that, every day they would pick three names from the telephone book to shoot these persons until the assassins were found. Every day like this, zap, zap, zap... Just imagine it. When they found the paratroopers, they destroyed Lidice because a lover, or a girlfriend of one of them lived in Lidice. That´s all I remember now, but the reason why Lidice was destroyed was this. They were looking for bicycles, too – we had two bikes at home and my dad threw them out on the street. At midnight he went down and threw them out on the street."
"I was working alternately one week at nights and one week during the days. Once, when I worked the night shift, I returned to the barracks and saw that my blanket had been stolen. It was thirty degrees below zero. So I stole a blanket from somebody who was at work. Somebody saw me. I was punished with twenty-five blows. Nobody had ever survived this punishment. They even had a special table where they did the beating. But I was lucky: on the day that I was to be beaten, the Russians arrived. The punishment was not carried out. Otherwise they would have killed me, they would have killed me that very day."
"A gente pede explicação porque deixaram acontecer. Era melhor bombardear Auschwitz, você mataria dez mil pessoas, mas não mataria seis milhões." (We demand explanation why they allowed this to happen. It would have been better to bomb Auschwitz. You would have killed ten thousand, but six million would not have been killed). And they knew that ten thousand people were being burnt there every day, and nobody moved a finger. This will not be forgotten. It will never be forgotten. Cruz Vermelha, Cruz não sei de que, mas ninguém se preocupou. (The Red Cross, the cross of those who knew, but didn't care.) Now, when a few hundred people die, it is a scandal, all newspapers write about it, but there, ten thousand people had been murdered every day on average, and nobody did anything. This was the great mistake of that war."
"The most important thing in life is freedom. If you live free, you can do anything, you can endure anything, but if you don’t have freedom, it is terrible. When they treat you like... We were treated like beasts. My dog’s life is ten times better than my life was. It is horrible. We were not humans, they didn’t even treat us like humans. You got a number. You have no name, you have nothing. Nothing."
We had a good life, and we did not lack anything. This came to an end with the arrival of the Germans.
Alfred Gerhard Sobotka was born June 3, 1928 in Prague. His father owned a carpet shop near Můstek in Prague. His mother was a housewife. He did not complete his school due to the outbreak of WWII. His father lost his shop at that time, and Alfred helped to provide for the family. On July 13, 1943 he was sent to Terezín together with his parents and his younger brother in the last transport sent from Prague. Upon arrival they became separated, but they were able to see each other from time to time. Alfred Sobotka worked in the garden and in the workshop where train cars were being repaired. On September 28, 1944 he was transported to Auschwitz. His brother and father were sent to Auschwitz two days later. They did not survive. Alfred experienced the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russians. After his return to Prague he joined the Jewish Community, but he left for France soon after, where he was reunited with his mother and grandparents in Paris. He learnt the goldsmith‘s trade there, although he had wished to become a cook when he was a young boy. He decided against returning to Czechoslovakia, and applied for an emigration permit. He received the necessary documents in 1948 and together with his mother they left for Brazil and settled in Rio de Janeiro. He met his wife Diamantine there; she was a Jew of Egyptian origin. At first he worked as a jewellery designer in a goldsmith‘s shop in Rio, later he opened his own jewellery design studio. His designs proved to be very successful and he was awarded many prestigious prizes. After 1989 he established contacts with Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic). He welcomed the delegation of President Václav Havel, began promoting Czech crystal glass in Brazil, and above all he was assisting Czech citizens in Brazil who sought him in need of help. For this activity, he was awarded with a silver commemorative plaque of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001, and in 2010 he received the Gratias Agit Award for spreading the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. His wife is an honorary consul of the Czech Republic. They have three daughters, and he lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, where he is widely known as Freddy.