Herbert Heller

* 1929  †︎ 2021

  • “The longest it took to get rid of the hate for the Germans. That took a long time. The hate… I mean, for what they have done. I had a hard time with the religion. I lost faith; I do not have faith anymore. I want my children and grandchildren to have faith I do not have. (…) I just cannot believe that so many people could die and get killed and destroyed… That there is no other power to save them. I cannot understand that. I was given books, you know… like ‘Why do bad things happen to good people’. You read wonderful theories, but I am not a theory person, so I have a hard time with that. As I said, the last thing I would ever wanted to do is not to let my children have faith, or my grandchildren. Unfortunately, I do not have it. Many people get stronger when bad things are happening. It just had to work the other way on me.”

  • “My father was ahead of me, his number was 82108 and I was 82109. Then, they put us in barracks and at that point, I really didn’t know where my mother was. She was in another barrack across the street. They separated us by street, on one side were men and one was women. Then, some of the smaller children which were on the transport, I have just not seen them anymore. I remember at the line, we were going through there was this doctor Mengele. I still picture him. I know who he was. You know, he would say links and rechts. Left and right. And then, as you are in the camp you find out more when you see the smoke what was going on.” - “Did you know what was going on?” “Oh, that day I found out, yes…” - “How long did it take?” “I do not think it took more than day or two to find out.” - “What was that like?” “It was just scary feeling. It was very scary…” - “Was it in the camp where you found your brother?” “I did find my brother there, and my mother and her sister were across the street. So, I would see them. I was at the same barrack with my father. My brother was in another barrack. I just do not remember the timelines anymore, because my mother was shipped-out of Auschwitz, to I believe was Bergen-Belsen and so did her sister. Then, my brother got shipped-out in another time…” - “Where was he send?” “I do not know. I never found out. Then my father was shipped-out and I just never heard of him, never found out where he went. I never heard from him anymore.”

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Let me be remembered as someone who cared about others

Herbert Heller
Herbert Heller
zdroj: Herbert Heller

Herbert Heller was born on 26 April 1929 in the then predominantly German-speaking town of Teplitz-Schönau (Teplice-Šanov) near Ústí nad Labem. The family was of Jewish origin. However, unlike other households, religion was not such a defining element of all events in their family. Herbert‘s father was a cheerful and bright enthusiast for new technologies and worked as an engineer and mechanic. His mother was, among other things, a lover of music. Herbert also had one brother seven years older. In 1934 the family moved to Prague, where they lived, as before in Teplice, in a rented apartment. In the capital, the boy started primary school. However, due to the war, he completed only four grades. From the beginning of the World War II he remembers, for example, the yellow stars he had to mark his clothes with. In 1942, the whole family had to move to the Terezín ghetto by order of the Gestapo. There, the boy, only thirteen years old, worked as a gardener. The two years in Terezín were not such a traumatic experience for him. The family lived together and at a young age he was not fully aware of what was happening around him. This began to change as the Germans increasingly sent transports to the extermination camps. First his older brother left and Herbert never saw him again. The rest of the family left Terezin together on another transport, and not long after arriving at Auschwitz, Herbert‘s father disappeared from his life forever. In the extermination camp, the young boy quickly realised how serious the threat to his life was. Fortunately, his health was good and he was able to take part in various menial jobs that may have saved him from the gas chambers. In early 1945, he managed to escape from the death march. He took advantage of the fact that he spoke perfect German and took a train to Prague in disguise, where he hid for a few more months at family friends’ places. After the end of the war, he was happily reunited with his mother and together they emigrated to the USA. He settled on the west coast of California, where he went through several professions, eventually opening a family-owned baby equipment store. He and his wife had three daughters and ten grandchildren. He died on 7 August 2021. RECORDING SOURCE: https://www.ushmm.org/collections/the-museums-collections/about https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn516934