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Charles (Karel) Bruml

Prague, Czechoslovakia

Charles was born to a Jewish family in Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia. His father owned several shoe factories there. Prague's Jewish minority enjoyed a great deal of cultural freedom because of the new democratic Republic. Though antisemitism still existed in Czechoslovakia, Prague was a relatively tolerant city.

1933-39: My father's business thrived in Prague, and we lived well. I enjoyed painting as a child and decided to study at an art school in the city. On the morning of March 15, 1939, the Germans occupied Prague. From my window I watched German troops march through the streets. The Germans forbad Jews and dogs to use public parks. There was a nightly curfew, and Jews could only shop during certain late hours--by that time the shelves were bare.

1940-44: In 1941 I was deported to Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz. On the train, our toilet was a barrel. An old man sitting in front of me died. When the train stopped, someone asked a guard where we were. "Honolulu," he answered. There was pandemonium on the platform; no one knew what was happening. It was like the end of the world. As the Allies approached three years later, we were force-marched to Gleiwitz and put on open coal wagons for Dora-Nordhausen; we finally arrived at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Charles was liberated by the British army in the spring of 1945. He emigrated to the United States in 1946.


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