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Peter Winternitz

Prague, Czechoslovakia

Peter was the oldest of two children born to a Jewish family in the Czechoslovakian capital of Prague, a city with a Jewish community that dated back to the eleventh century. His family lived on Karlova Street in the city's Karlin district. Peter's father owned a wholesale business that sold floor coverings.

1933-39: As a boy, Peter was active in a Zionist sports organization, Maccabi Ha-Zair. The group also helped prepare youth to emigrate to Palestine [Aliyah Bet] by training them in agricultural work. In 1937, because of rising antisemitism, Peter and his sister, Lisl, transferred from their German-language school to a Czech public school. On March 15, 1939, German occupation forces entered Prague.

1940-44: In 1941 Peter was sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto. Since he had experience working with animals, he was assigned to tend the SS' horses. In June 1942 Peter's family was sent to Theresienstadt, where his mother soon fell ill. Peter tried to smuggle sugar, used for the horses, to his mother, but was caught. He was taken to be punished to a place outside the ghetto from which few were known to return. After a few days, Peter did return, though barely recognizable from beatings. He had been spared to care for the horses.

In September 1943 Peter volunteered to join a transport to Auschwitz on which his family had been placed. He died in Auschwitz.

 

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