Rudolf Fantl

25.02.2019 | 15:28
Rudolf Fantl

For love…
The life story of the student Rudolf Fantl is another proof of the protectorate conditions during the period of the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. Although the story of the Fantl family is one of many of that time, it has been possible to tell only as a result of a happy coincidence.

Rudolf Fantl (25th June 1920–26th February 1942) was born to the family of a successful Jewish textile merchant Ota Fantl (10th July 1884 – October 1944) and his wife, Hermína, born Grőgerová (26th September 1895–9th October 1944), in Jindřichův Hradec. Four years later, a second son, Pavel, was born to the Fantls (23th April 1924–1944).
It so happened that, in late January 2017, a letter from England was sent to the address of the Vítězslav Novák Grammar School in Jindřichův Hradec. Ing. František Fantl (9th January 1926), born in Jindřichův Hradec, who has been living in England since 1968, asked in it to commemorate the tragic life story of his cousin Rudolf Fantl. “In Jindřichův Hradec, the Fantls lived a life of a well-off family. Ota managed his father‘s textile shop at today‘s 161 Náměstí míru, and the sons, after fi nishing their primary school, attended grammar school, which was located just across the street. They were good students and had many friends. For example Rudolf was friends with Karel Berman (14th April 1919–11th August 1995), later a well-known opera singer, director, composer, librettist, and translator,” František Fantl recalls. After fi nishing grammar school, Karel Berman attended the Prague Conservatory (1938) until its dissolution on 17th November 1939, as a result of a decree on the dissolution of higher education institutions within the protectorate issued by the imperial protector Neurath. On 6th March 1943, he was deported from Prague by transport Cv (1 021 people) to the Terezín ghetto (No. 1 002). From there, he fi rst got to Auschwitz by transport Ek (2 499 people) on 28th September 1944 as No. 2 345, and then to the Dachau concentration camp (No. 115 446). He experienced the end of the war in Allach, which was liberated by the Americans on 29th April 1945.
František Fantl was deported from Brno, where the family had relocated from Jindřichův Hradec. By transport G (1 000 people), on 2nd December 1941, he set off for the involuntary journey to the Terezín ghetto as No. 165. He left the Terezín ghetto on transport Eq (1500 people) on 12th October 1944 towards Auschwitz as transport No. 149. The end of the war caught him in Allach, in a workgroup of the Dachau concentration camp.
The Fantls lived in a detached house on the Gymnasijní Street (today’s Husova Street) and, when Rudolf was six month old, the construction of the new building of the grammar school began here on 20th January 1921. It was performed by the builder Šonský according to the designs of arch. Bendelmayer, and fi rst classes started on 1st September 1923. Students organized popular music shows. Among them, also later major musical artists such as B. Dobrodinský, Vítězslav Novák (the grammar school now bears his name), the previously mentioned Karel Berman or Viktor Kalabis, husband of Věra Růžičková Kalabisová, a harpsichordist. Today, PhDr. Jana Burianová teaches here, who has strived to commemorate the former graduate of the grammar school, Rudolf Fantl.
The family lived in Jindřichův Hradec until August 1937, when they moved to Královské Vinohrady in Prague, Na Švihance Street 4, by Riegerovy sady. Rudolf was given a home certificate by the municipal district of Prague XII on 1st September 1937. His father managed a clothing shop in Prague, and the family lived without major problems. That is until 15th March 1939, when the German occupation forces took possession of the remains of the truncated country and established the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on its territory. As a result, the so-called Nuremberg Laws came into force. The principles they contained, such as concerning Jewish property, racial discrimination or genocide, came into force by the regulation issued by the imperial protector (Neurath) on 21st June 1939. But that was just the beginning. Further humiliation and discriminatory regulations followed. For example that, beginning on 1st September 1941, Jews had to to wear a yellow star, or the regulation on Jews and Jewish mischlings of 7th March 1942.
The Fantl family lost all their property and, being Jews, also their dignity, human rights, including the right to live. The Jewish ghetto Terezín was completed in November 1941. The Fantl family got the summons to the transport, which allowed only luggage limited by weight, whose contents, no matter how practical, could not protect them from what was waiting for them. On transport M (1 000 people), they left Prague on 14th December 1941. Father Ota, as number 814, mother Hermína as number 815, Rudolf as 816 and his brother Pavel as 817. The train took them to Bohušovice, from where they continued on foot to the Terezín ghetto. Racial segregation, lack of food, clothing, insuffi cient accommodation or sanitary conditions, it was all bearable only with respect to the fact that Terezín was not an extermination camp. Rudolf, who had been in a serious relationship before leaving for Terezín, decided to send a letter to his girlfriend. It is impossible to fi nd out today whether he knew that all communication with the outside world from Terezín was prohibited under the penalty of death. We cannot find out what he wrote to the girl either. He probably just wanted to tell her he was all right, alive and well. To take the letter out of the ghetto, he had convinced (perhaps bribed) a Czech policeman performing a guarding duty at Terezín. However, the Germans intercepted the letter and Rudolf was imprisoned.
“I lived with my father in the so-called Sudeten Barracks, where the prison of those sixteen unlucky people was also located. I saw Rudolf several times when prisoners were being led for a walk, and we got a chance to wave at each other. At that time, nobody knew it would end so tragically.” František Fantl recalls.
The inhabitants of the ghetto learnt from the daily order (Tagesbefehl) on 10th January 1942 that “By the order of the commander of the security services, nine inhabitants of the Jewish ghetto had been sentenced to death by hanging.” The same happened to Rudolf, who was executed in a group of seven prisoners on 26th February 1942. The victims were, in both cases, hanged for the forbidden sending of messages from the ghetto or for not saluting to a member of the protection section of the SS (Schutzstaffel). The execution was watched by the Jewish Council of Elders, the Czech police, the guards of the SS and the Kommandatur.
Rudolf‘s brother Pavel went on transport Dz (2 503 people) to Auschwitz on 15th May 1944 as transport number 192. Rudolf‘s father Ota was included in transport Er (1 500 people), also going to Auschwitz on 16th October 1944 as transport number 108. Mother Hermína left as the last of the family on 19th October 1944 by transport Es (1 500 people), also to Auschwitz, as number 1316. Both parents died in the same year, as well as their second son Pavel, in gas chambers.
“How the school will deal with the old story of its student, I leave up to you of course. I would be very pleased if Rudolf was remembered by the school he loved. And I also believe that today‘s students can realize once more how everything has changed for the better, and that, despite all the current problems, life is easier, and, most importantly, freer. “
The death of Rudolf Fantl is, as of this year, recalled by a permanent panel placed on the fi rst fl oor of the grammar school in Jindřichův Hradec.
After the war, the Jewish community in Jindřichův Hradec was never resumed. Although there were 178 Jews in 1940, 126 of them did not survive the Shoah and only a handful returned home. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the transport of local Jews to the Terezín ghetto, on 21st May 2017, the Shoah Memorial was revealed in Zakostelecké Square in Jindřichův Hradec. Among the guests present, there was even the 91-year-old Ing. František Fantl.

For the Terezín Memorial, Luděk Sládek
the author gives his thanks to PhDr. Jana Burianová for her cooperation

Rudolf Fantl (on the right), younger brother Pavel and a cousin Request to issue a passport for Rudolf Fantl from August 30, 1935 Obrázek č.3 Record of the execution, February 26, 1942

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