Oldřich Stránský

01.07.2012 | 00:00

How much luck is needed in unlucky times?
Oldřich Stránský was born on June 2, 1921, in Most to the Jewish family of a Czech grain merchant, František Stránský. However, he and his brother Jiří were not brought up in the Jewish tradition, but at home only celebrated the main Jewish and Christian festivals and public holidays. Czech was spoken in the Stránský household and Oldřich and his brother went to Czech schools, although they also spoke German fluently.

Oldřich was a member of the Scouts and the Sokol sports club and did not experience any form of anti-Semitism before the Occupation. In 1941 the SS decided to set up a special agricultural program on a local Jewish farm in Lípa, near Havlíčkův Brod. They “selected” 300 young people, including Oldřich, for their workforce. Soon afterwards they began transporting Jews to Terezín. On June 1st 1942 the fi rst transport left Český Brod, containing Oldřich’s entire family apart from his grandmother, Anna Karolína Stránská. Instead of going to Terezín, they were taken directly to Lublin camp in Eastern Poland. The women, children and elderly were sent to the gas chambers, while the able-bodied men were forced to build roads in conditions which nobody survived. This was how Oldřich’s family met its end. Grandmother Anna was sent to the Terezín ghetto, but after a month she met the same fate as the others near Lublin. Thanks to luck and his work on the farm in Lípa, Oldřich won the fi rst round in the fi ght for his life. However, on 19th September 1943, it was decided that he would also be transported to Terezín.
In Terezín he was placed into the Kamýk work group, which contained around 13 men and was given the hardest work around the camp. They got up at five in the morning and, guarded by soldiers, had to walk six kilometres through the whole of Litoměřice, where they did ten hours of heavy labour before walking back to the ghetto. The only advantage was that, unlike the prisoners working in the ghetto, they received a little extra food. Oldřich remained in this work squad for the whole of the three months he spent in Terezín, before being transported east. On the night of December 16th to 17th 1943, after two days spent in a crowded cattle truck, he found himself in Auschwitz. After being brutally driven from the train, he and others were taken to camp BIIb – a family camp in nearby Birkenau. On 8 March 1944 the local prisoners who arrived from Terezín in September 1943 were eradicated. That night, as many as 3800 Czechoslovak Jews were murdered. It was the largest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens, committed by the Nazis during World War II. “After six months we were supposed to go to the gas chambers, too. But, as the war situation changed, the SS-men decided to make the selections in camp and to send all working-age men and women to other camps. In the selection process they chose a thousand ablebodied men and eight hundred women. We stood in a crowd and had to file past Doctor Mengele, who merely pointed left or right. Luckily I passed on the second attempt, and probably only because Mengele was short of people.”
So this is how Oldřich came to be part of a group of prisoners intended for slave labour in the synthetic gasoline factory at Schwarzheide, a subsidiary facility of the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. On April 18th 1945 the order was given to destroy the camp before the advancing front. A group of some 30 prisoners unable to march, including Oldřich, was taken to Sachsenhausen. The remaining six hundred prisoners set off on a death march to Terezín; two thirds of them did not survive the journey. After that also Sachsenhausen had to be left by the prisoners, who all were able to walk. Oldřich, however, remained in camp, despite his friends urging him to go. On April 22nd the camp was liberated by the Red Army. A few weeks later a convoy of vehicles arrived from Czechoslovakia to pick up any surviving countrymen.
He returned home on July 7th 1945, the only member of his family to survive. His home had been turned into a chemicals store. Although he went to court and managed to get his house back in 1948, in the wake of the February coup, the ruling meant nothing. It was finally returned to him in 1992. Nowadays, despite his age, he is one of the most charismatic fi gures and still does good work worthy of the highest praise. He has also received many awards, from the most senior representatives of Germany, Austria, Poland, and other countries, although nothing from his homeland.

For the Terezín Monument, Luděk Sládek

Oldřich Stránský Parents With brother, 1926 From the family album With brother and mum in front of daddy‘s shop With parents on the walk From the family album From the family album 1936 1936 In Terezín working commando 1945 Oldřich Stránský Oldřich Stránský, Old Town Square, Prague 2007 Obrázek č.14 Oldřich Stránský and cardinal Duka Oldřich Stránský was awarded many times Obrázek č.17 Obrázek č.18 Obrázek č.19

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