Petr Vavřín

* 1929  

  • “After a year Dad made the acquaintance of a lady who was willing to take care of two half-Jewish orphans. Dad married her. But it was a terrible complication because she was an Austrian by origin, until Austria was occupied by Germany in 1938, when she suddenly became a German citizen. If Dad wanted to marry her, the only option was - to accept German citizenship. So he did it for this pragmatic reason. He knew that we couldn’t stay with our Jewish grandparents in Židenice for long. He had to secure our safe-keeping somehow. I was ten years old, my brother was six. So my dad, a Czechoslovak officer, a lieutenant, suddenly turned into a German. I guess you can imagine what kind of German he was - it was purely a formality. But it had terrible consequences for me because I had to start attending a German school.”

  • “Our grandparents immediately started looking for a new place to live, which they found in Židenice. Well, and our mum couldn’t endure the atmosphere there any more and took her life. So my brother and I stayed with our grandparents in Židenice for some time. Mum took her life towards the end of October 1939. I was in my fourth year at school. She poisoned herself with coal gas. She had already been suffering from depression due to the way things were developing, although it wasn’t called as such back then. I don’t know if she was predisposed to it before that. But thinking back I reckon that she had suffered from depressions and similar states of the mind. She was in hospital for two weeks before, and then they released her. I don’t know if it improved or if they found they couldn’t do anything about it. It all happened in the autumn or shortly before that. Then she was at home for a while, and then she did what she did.”

  • “And the worst thing was that, especially after Munich [the Munich Agreement - trans.], the Nazis in our house really started putting on airs. They knew that Mum was Jewish, and her sisters too. They provoked them, cussed them, spat in front of them, painted their doors. So even before the occupation, before 15 March, they started showing their colours, and they had no respect. After 15 March it became insufferable. They kept painting a Jewish star on the door and declared that Jews had no business being there. They regarded the house as a solely German environment that belonged to them, their territory, and no one else had any business being there.”

  • “Of course, we also did formation drills in the Deutsche Jugend. We went on walks, and there was also some ideological training, of course. But no one understood that. Not even the other boys. Our superior talked on about something, but no one understood him. Or, one part of the training was that we had to listen to some speeches by Hitler or Goebbels or whoever. But I think that most of us were left untouched by that. I mean, how could ten-, eleven-year-old boys make sense of what Hitler was shouting about, whom he was threatening? And the same goes for Goebbels. Until one fine day they invited me over to the headquarters, and the commander asked me directly if it was true that my mother was a Jew. I replied that my first mother had been a Jew and that my second one was a German. He said we had to bid each other goodbye, that I couldn’t stay there any more. So we said goodbye, and I was glad because I hadn’t liked there one bit.”

  • “My aunt and her sister ended up in the Pohořelice march. They suffered through it, but each in a different way. My auntie, she was a factory forewoman, a bit on the stout side, but still quite physically able. Her sister was greatly overweight, however. They sorted them in Mendel Square, as my auntie Alba recounted. Those who didn’t have it in them to walk could ride in the wagon. They both walked to begin with because they wanted to stay together, as sisters, but the more corpulent one ended up in the wagon, and the more able one, Auntie Albi, she had to march. She was so fit that she walked all the way to Vienna.”

  • “The front door burst open and two blokes from the Revolutionary Guard charged in with guns ready, one of our neighbours as well, and a civilian who introduced himself and said he was from the national committee [city council - trans.]. They said they were coming to arrest us as Germans and that we would be deported. Dad jumped up and said that we boys were Czechs. So they verified that we were Czechs and left us there. I was sixteen. It all happened so quickly that before I could muster a single question, my parents were gone, and I didn’t find out until later that they kept the German men imprisoned, gathered up in the longest of the tunnels right next to Lesná. They held them there and easily kept guard over them - it was enough to guard both ends of the tunnel, and no one could escape. So they were there. And the women were taken straight to the labour camp in Maloměřice.”

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    Brno, EyeDirect, 28.10.2017

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I had to join the Hitlerjugend, but then they found that Mum was Jewish

1939, Petr
1939, Petr
zdroj: archiv Pamětníka

Petr Vavřín was born on 24 June 1929 in Brno into the family of Jindřich and Marie Vavřín. His mother was descended from the Löwenthals, a Jewish family of businessmen; his father‘s ancestors were deep-rooted German inhabitants of Brno. His mother could not endure the pressure of the increasing persecution of Jews and committed suicide in 1939. His father married again a year later. His second wife Josefa was a Czech Austrian with German citizenship, and so Jindřich Vavřín was forced to become a German citizen as well. Petr Vavřín had to switch to a German grammar school and participate in Hitlerjugend activities for some time. At the age of 15 he found employment at a fabric dyeing plant. In 1945 he survived the bombing of Brno; he waited out the end of the war outside the city, in a shelter in Křtiny. In May 1945 his father and stepmother were interned in the camp in Maloměřice as part of the retaliatory anti-German repression; Brno citizens drove his German great-aunts out of the city in the so-called Pohořelice death march. Most of his Jewish relatives had died in concentration camps. After the war Petr Vavřín attended the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts and studied pedagogy. He taught music education for eight years at a teacher‘s school in Boskovice and was then employed at the conservatoire in Kroměříž for the next 25 years. He drew his greatest joy from his daughter and his family life.