Otto Seidler

01.09.2017 | 18:26
Otto Seidler

The story of a surviving boy …
Otto Seidler was born on 5 February 1930 in Mladá Boleslav as the only child in the family of Jewish business traveler Emil Seidler (1898 – about 1942) and Marie, born as Margoliusová (1906 – about 1945). His father came from the village of Studená (Benešov district) of seven children and his mother from Velké Křepy (Pelhřimov district) from eight children. Parents got married in Kolín in 1928, where they had also met in the family of their father‘s sister (Otýlie Marvanová, maiden name Seidlerová). They went to Kolín after being trained in Dolní Královice as shop assistants for the textile shop.

After the wedding, they lived in Mladá Boleslav gradually in two houses in Žižkova Street. Eventually, in 1933 they bought a house where Otto has been living until now. From 1920, his father worked as a shop assistant for Eisler & Fuchs, whose business was then taken over by Václav Mikuláš et al. Otto recalls that he and his parents used to visit their relatives, especially grandmothers in Velké Křepiny – they went by train only to Světlá nad Sázavou, and then it was possible only by taxi, because nothing else ran to the village. In 1938, Otto even left for this place at the time of the mobilization, and for a short time he went to Dolní Město (about 4 km) to elementary school. Parents sent him here when his father ran into Čáslav during mobilization. They were afraid of a war during which housing near the Škoda factory might not have been safe for their son.
Otto began to attend Edvard Beneš‘s elementary school in Mladá Boleslav in September 1936, in the year of its completion. After Munich and demobilization, he returned home, where he attended the school, Sokol and enjoyed his careless childhood. No one in the family ever met with an expression of anti-Semitism, even though his mother was a chairwoman of the parent‘s association, and his father traveled from Mladá Boleslav to Jičín and off ered haberdashery.
In 1939, practically everything ended with the arrival of the Germans. But worries about what was coming were much earlier. Parents knew about the situation in Germany and even talked about evictions. But it was not that easy. On the one hand, no state wanted Jews at that time; besides, the family was not so wealthy to aff ord going with a little boy to meet the unknown. A number of wealthy Jewish families from Mladá Boleslav also stayed, but no one survived. Otto clearly remembers the day when the Nazis entered the city, as it was yesterday. On that day, they went with his mother to the town, snowy rain was falling down, winter was freezing, and they saw how the German army arrived.
In June 1940, Otto left the fourth year of the school and the next day the whole family had to leave their home. All Jews from Mladá Boleslav, including the families who came here from the border and looking for a new home, had to move to the local castle where they were interned. The original fortifi ed settlement from the end of the 10th century, founded by Boleslav II., from the middle of the 13th century as the royal castle, transformed into barracks in the 18th century, had been used as an internment camp for the Jews since 1940. They were deported from here fi rst to Terezín and the vast majority of them to Poland. The large rooms were divided into the parts for the families, depending on the number of people. The Family Seidler was given one half of one of the rooms which was separated by furniture. There was no electricity, water distribution, just one toilet and just one tap on the fl oor. A German was moving into their house. It was ironic that Otto‘s father had to pay taxes for him as an offi cial owner of the property.
His father, after dismissing him from work, worked as a road maintenance worker. In 1942, however, the Gestapo arrested him, and Otto had never heard of it. He remembers only that his father left to the Gestapo offi ce in Mladá Boleslav on April 27, he was in prison in Mladá Boleslav until May 15, 1942 and then he was transferred to the Small Fortress of Terezín. His mother used to send him 100 crowns as pocket money, and several correspondence cards came from his father. He stayed in Terezín until July 1942, when he was transported to an extermination camp in Auschwitz, where he reportedly died on August 15, 1942. This sad news reached the family in the form of a telegram still at the castle in Mladá Boleslav.
In January 1943, Otto and his mother were summoned to Cm transport (491 people), by which they left from Mladá Boleslav to Bohušovice on January 16, 1943 and from there they went on foot, in snow and frost, with backpacks and all the other things that the Nazis allowed them to carry to the Terezín Ghetto. The things, they were not able to carry, were taken by lorries driving behind them.
Upon arrival in the ghetto, they were temporarily sleeping in passages and corridors before Otto was placed in the building of today‘s Ghetto Museum (L-417) and his mum in another house designed for women. A certain regime had to be followed in a boy‘s house because classrooms occupied by 20–30 boys were also furnished with bunk beds. Boleslav´s boys had a great deal of misfortune. They stayed in Terezín only for a short time and they all left to Auschwitz within one month, from where none of them returned. Shortly before the transport, on his birthday (February 5, 1942), Otto fell ill of scarlet fever and was sent to the infectious ward. Thanks to that, his mother did not have to be transported. The youngest father‘s brother Bohumil Seidler (* 1913) worked in the ghetto at the forge, where Otto also joined as an apprentice at the end of 1943 or early 1944. They were forging the shovels, hammers, and other tools for the Terezín prisoners.
In May 1944, Otto and his mother had to go to the transport (Eb, May 18, 1944) as well. After several days of miserable voyage to the unknown, they passed through the notorious gate of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp (Auschwitz-Birkenau) at night. Finally, the train stopped. There was an indescribable roar, accompanied by ominous dog barking and brutal beating of the guards. The whole scene of the worst nightmares was framed by the sharp lights that illuminated the platforms covered by barbed wire columns. The entire transport was carried out without a selection to the so-called family camp, called as section BIIb in Birkenau. Here, they were divided into huts by gender and age. They did not know that the camp should be physically destroyed by the end of June. In Auschwitz, Otto was tattooed a number of A2494 on a left forearm.
In the autumn of 1944 in Auschwitz, Otto saw his uncle Otto Margolius, the younger brother of his mother. He arrived at the camp by Em transport (October 1, 1944), and Otto saw him among the wires. He came to Auschwitz with his wife and daughter, but they headed straight from the station to the gas chambers. His uncle had more luck. He was waiting for the liberation of the Red Army in the “hell” factory Buna-Werke and Leuna- Werke near Gliwice in Upper Silesia. During the war, this company produced synthetic rubber, gasoline and the infamous Cyclone B.
The men and woman capable of work were sent to various places in Germany by the Nazis, as a result of the liquidation of the family camp. But Otto does not know where his mum was taken. After the war, he only learned that perhaps in May 1945, she was embarked on a ship in Hamburg, which perhaps on May 5, 1945 bombed and sank by the Allied Air Force. He learned this information from his cousin and she had learned it from a former prisoner, aunt‘s friend Žofia Veselková, Margoliusová (mother´s sister). Her daughter Hana (* 1927), who came from a mixed marriage with a Catholic who was from Ledeč nad Sázavou, was two and a half years older than Otto. Hana stayed at home and the mother as a Jew was deported to the Terezín ghetto in the autumn of 1944 and the father was sent to forced labor in Germany. But in May 1945, the married couple returned happily to their home where they found not only a daughter but also Arnošt, the husband of Žofi‘s sister Marta, born as Margoliusová, married Kohnová, who in 1942 escaped from a labor camp near Warsaw. His wife, however, failed to escape.
Otto passed the selection in Auschwitz, where he survived the liquidation of the family camp. For about two more months, he “traveled” in the camps in Birkenau, then they placed him in a farm camp near Gliwice. When the allies bombed the industrial area in Gliwice, the bombs were also dropped in their camp. He stayed on the farm until the liquidation of Auschwitz (freed on January 27, 1945 by units of the 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front). He was then selected for the death march. Without food, in poor clothes, in twenty-degree frost, the transport started on January 15, 1945 from the camp near Gliwice. After two days, they came to a village where they were sent to the local school, and in the morning, they were taken into the low, uncovered, unoccupied wagons, each carrying 150 standing prisoners. The train was set for a journey of three days and three nights in the frosty weather. People frozen to death could not be thrown out of the train, there were guards looking after all wagons. The prisoners therefore used the dead bodies to sit on. Under these inhumane conditions, transport came fi rst to Weimar in Thuringia, where the guards had to leave trucks for the depleted prisoners who carried the entire transport to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Completely exhausted prisoners had to go to the shower fi rst after a fi ve-day ride and then the injection was waiting for them. They knew well from Auschwitz what injections meant. Certain death. Surprisingly, they did not die after applying, it was probably vaccination. The end of January 1945 was written, there was no work needed in the camp, in addition to the cleaning, but the conditions for living were miserable. Lack of food, lack of warm clothes, ubiquitous diseases. That was the day after day. Otto recalls how the Nazis sought to wipe out the traces of their long-term atrocities in the camp. About a thousand people, including Otto, joined the appelplatz on April 10, 1945. All of them were then put into a transport going back to Weimar.
On the second day, April 11, 1945, the Buchenwald camp was liberated by the US troops of the Third Army, the 89th Infantry. But Otto learned that after the war. The transport which he had made the hiking trip with, was sometimes flown by Allied airmen. In such moments, the guards mingled with the prisoners. After about eight kilometers of march, they came to Weimar, where they spent the night, and in the morning, they sent a hundred people into closed wagons – cattle- breeders. As the train started to move, the fi ghter-haulers came in and shot the locomotive. The idle train stood helplessly on the track. After some time, the guards pushed the prisoners out and walked with them toward the towns of Jena and Gera. During the three-day march they heard the thunder of the approaching front line. They never came to Gera because the area was surrounded and the Nazis did not know where to go. That is why they hid the prisoners in the mines near Eisenach and were waiting for what was going to happen.
Ubiquitous confusion was exacerbated by the fl eeing German civilian population. There was a forest nearby, which many prisoners decided to use to escape. Although there was the end of the war, the German militia did not give the fl eeing people any chance. The rest of the survivors of the original thousands-haul transport, about fi fty men, heard the shooting from the nearby town of Eisenach. Survivors, including the Ukrainians ran away. When the shooting stopped, they returned. Otto did not know what to expect until the last moment. Will the guards kill them to get rid of them as dangerous witnesses?
It was evening on April 13, 1945, and the rest of the transport accommodated at the local gym in Eisenach. The next morning, at about eleven o‘clock, someone knocked on the windows of the building. The prisoners pulled out a black opaque paper, serving as blackout, from the windows, and saw the Americans behind the windows. They received military food cans from them, but it was no blessing for the hungry exhausted prisoners.
Many of them suff ered from severe digestive troubles. After less than a week spent in Eisenach, an American soldier arrived with a freight car and gave former prisoners a choice. Either take them back to Buchenwald, or to Erfurt, the largest city in Thuringia to the tank complex of tank units abandoned by the Germans. The choice was clear because no one wanted to go back to Buchenwald. They were then taken to Erfurt, where they were placed in a gym in the barracks. In Erfurth, other Czechs were forced to work in the food industry. When they learned about prisoners from the same country, they pledged to feed them daily. Otto was in Erfurt from mid-April to May 17, when he learned that Mladá Boleslav sent a bus to the prisoners of Buchenwald. That same night, he and another Czech prisoner were taken over by a military car KdF 82 (nicknamed Kaďour) to Buchenwald, where they stayed for a night. The next day, they went home with a number of other prisoners by a bus. In Karlovy Vary, during the transition from the US to the Soviet zone, they abstained briefl y by the necessary formalities and continued to Prague. They arrived at the Old Town Square around noon and saw the town hall burned by the Nazis. After a short stop, they went to Mladá Boleslav. At the Old Town Square, they arrived at about 4 pm, on 18 May 1945.
Many people came to greet their relatives and acquaintances who were returning from the road to hell. Nobody was waiting for only fi fteen-yearold Otto. The only one who knew him was Mr. Polák, a philatelist he knew from the time they were interned at the castle. His family, the mixed marriage of Jews and Catholics, was moved to the Jewish school in Mladá Boleslav after Otto‘ s transport, where people from mixed marriages lived until the end of the war. Mr. Polák off ered Otto that he could live with them in meantime because the Seidler house was damaged by the Soviet bombardment of Škoda and the area on May 9, 1945. In the following days he also helped Otto to allow him to return to his parents‘ house, which had been sealed since the end of the war because the Germans lived there.
So, Otto fi nally returned home. He could stay in one room only, because the bombs that were in the neighborhood of the house damaged the windows and the roof, but he was at home. The fi fteen- year-old boy started to work on the house. As a result of the housing crisis, the town offi ce moved into the Otto´s house a fi ve-member family and an old lady who had lost the house in the square, also during the bombing. Three families lived in a small house. After some time, Otto‘s father‘ s co-worker, a business shop assistant from where he worked, who got married to German during the war, came along. Because Otto knew her and her husband had been arrested after the war, she had accepted her request and let her live in his house. It was almost ironic that her husband was released after a month because of the lack of evidence of his anti-Czech activity, and Otto had a German at home.
Shortly after his arrival, Otto was contacted by his aunt from the gamekeeper‘s lodge, Žofi e Veselková, and she invited him to their house to get more fi t. The boy agreed and went to his aunt for about fourteen days. After returning home, he found an invitation in the post, with a date of 1 July, when he should be present at a bourgeois school in Mladá Boleslav. The reasons were several. On the one hand, he fi nished schooling in the fourth grade of the elementary school, and after returning from the concentration camps, he was fi fteen, and in 1945, the school attendance was extended to replace the May events until the end of July. Otto went straight to the fourth year of the bourgeois school and received a certifi cate after fourteen days. It opened the door for further study for him.
So, he tried to get to the industry vocational school, he had passed the entrance examinations, but not as good as his peers who could study during the war. So, he tried to get to the business academy, but there were troubles too. Luckily, there was the father‘s brother, Bohumil Seidler, who survived the war and became Otto‘s guardian. Former mechanic worked as a driver for the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the fi rst humanitarian international and development aid of the United Nations). He managed to negotiate the exception for Otto at the Ministry of Education because of many years of imprisonment. So, he eventually got to the business academy, a school attended by his mother´s brother, Bedřich Margolius, who lived at Seidler at that time. Otto fi nished the academy with honors in 1949, which was not easy in his case. Then, he did not want to study more. The orphan‘s pension was low and he needed money. He then joined TEP (textile stores) as a scheduler. After the regional administration was canceled in 1950, they transferred Otto from January 1, 1951 to the Prague headquarters in Rytířská Street, where he worked as a shopkeeper controller. In October 1951, he went to the army, and in 1953 he was appointed as an accountant at the offi ce furniture factory in Mladá Boleslav – Debři (Interior Debř). Because in 1960 he had his own family, two children and the earnings of the accountant were not enough, he moved to Mladá Boleslav as a planner of water management buildings, which, after merging, were parts of Průmstav Praha, the Mladá Boleslav factory.
He got married to Marie in 1956 and have two children together. His son Ota is a designer in Špindlerův Mlýn and his daughter lives in Mnichovo Hradiště and works in Mladá Boleslav. Otto has a total of fi ve grandchildren and no grand grandchildren yet.

For Památník Terezín Luděk Sládek

Marie Seidler Emil Seidler With Mother Marie, 1934 With parents around 1932 From the Otta´s family album From the Otta´s family album From the Otta´s family album Documents that Otto received after he had returned home after the
liberation of Buchenwald During the war A telegram announcing the death of Otto‘s father List Birkenau Boys, boys who passed through Auschwitz selection Obrázek č.12 Obrázek č.13 Daddy´s postcard from Terezín Daddy´s postcard from Terezín Otto Seidler‘s Buchenwald Record, Buchenwald

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