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Zdenka Popper

Kolinec, Czechoslovakia

Zdenka was one of four children born to a Jewish family in Kolinec, a southwestern Bohemian town near the German border. Her father was a farmer and a lumber and grain merchant. Situated in the foothills of the Bohemian Forest, Kolinec was surrounded by rolling hills. Zdenka attended business school in the nearby town of Klatovy and, in 1927, moved to Prague with her uncle.

1933-39: I remember how worried my mother was about the rise of German antisemitism in 1932. After listening to a radio broadcast about Germany she told us, "Something terrible is going to happen to the Jewish people." My sister and I responded, "Not in Czechoslovakia; we have democracy." In the fall of 1938 the Western powers allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland, and on March 15, 1939, the Germans occupied Bohemia.

1940-44: In 1942 I was deported to Theresienstadt, the Nazis' "model ghetto" used to show their "humane" treatment of Jews. Once a German camera crew was in the ghetto and when I walked up, they shoved me out of the way; they were only filming people who were homely or had large noses--those who fit the German stereotypes of Jews. In July 1944 the Nazis let the Red Cross inspect the ghetto . Before the visit, they ordered a beautification project. Dummy parks and schools were set up. Film crews recorded the ghetto's "beauty."

In 1944 Zdenka was deported to the Oederan camp where she worked in an ammunition factory. Oederan's prisoners were later marched to Theresienstadt and liberated there in May 1945.

 

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