RNDr. Michaela Vidláková roz. Lauscherová

* 1936

  • “I was quite content in the children’s home. My very first memory of it is that I celebrated my sixth birthday there. We boarded the transport on 20 December, and I was six years old on 30 December. So both my parents came to visit me. That was about the only present I got for my sixth birthday. Actually, there was one other one - my parents said they’d take me for at least a bit of a walk. It was late in the afternoon, December. I had a coat, and Mum brought a wooly scarf, which she wrapped around me, and that we’d go for a walk. I said: ‘Hold on, I’m six now, I should wear the star, I’m not going without the star.’ Mum soothed me: ‘Don’t worry about it. Who will know that you’ve just turned six today, it won’t count until tomorrow.’ I said: ‘No, I want the star, I’m six years old, I have a right to it.’ The paradoxical perspective of a child. I was an adult because I was six years old. And really, Mum had to unstitch the star from my blouse and sew it on to the coat, then I went out for a walk with my parents, thrilled and proudly showing everyone that I had a star, too.”

  • “So this saved Dad’s life. When I take it from the start, the first thing that played a role in the matter was that he worked at the carpenter’s shop after they fired him from his post of technical foreman at the fur factory. So he worked at the carpenter’s shop. Then that he made me a toy and that he showed the toy in Terezín, so they assigned him to the carpenters. Then that the wind came in time. If it had come a day sooner or later, it would’ve been for nought. Next, that it ripped the roof off, and finally, that Dad volunteered of his own accord. That saved his life, and the fact that he forbade Mum and me from volunteering, that saved our lives, too. That was the last moment when we were under the protective wings of our guardian angels.”

  • “So they decided that we might try it illegally. And in fact I think it was with the help of the Israeli embassy that they managed to find some sort of agent who was to guide us across. There were more of us - there were the three of us, and then another two or three others. Dad didn’t like how stupidly it was organised, because we travelled in a small local train in the direction of České Velenice. Everyone in the wagon knew each other, and suddenly there are five people there, albeit sitting in different compartments, but complete strangers. So it was clear they had no business being there. But the agent himself was probably an agent for the other side as well, so he took us to a meadow near the borders and said we were getting really close now, that he was just going to have a look up ahead, and he left us. In the meantime the whole meadow lighted up with flares, and we were surrounded by Czech border guards with sub-machine guns. So they caught us, I know that we were completely drenched because it was raining. That was in April 1953.”

  • “I’d like to get back to this Brundibár, because I thought that it was something notoriously known, and so I didn’t speak more about it. But precisely for the children the hope which Brundibár carried was very important. Hofmeister wrote it as a social story, but we could already see it transposed to an entirely different level. The most important moment for us was that there was the evil figure of Brundibár, who symbolized Hitler for us, and that when the animals and children all got together, they found a way to defeat him, to eliminate him. And we had this hope, when in the closing scene they are all together on the stage singing: ´Brundibár’s defeated,´ that Hitler would be defeated as well. The symbolism in Brundibár was thus very important in Terezín, and that’s why children loved it so much and why even today they can all still sing it. And when I heard it again after many years when the museum of the ghetto in Terezín was opened, the play was performed again by children, non-Jewish children. But all the participants in the audience were singing with them and crying and singing and standing and crying.” Interviewer: “And how often was the play performed for you in Terezín?” – “It was played some fifty or fifty-four times, but personally I saw it only twice, because obviously there were many children and it was not always possible to get tickets. Not everybody who came could get a seat.” Interviewer: “And how could one obtain the tickets?” – “I don’t know, I simply got them as a reward for one hundred points in lessons I was attending in that children’s centre. I got one hundred points for some exam, and in exchange for that I received a ticket for Brundibár.”

  • “During the arrival procedure they were asking daddy about his profession. And he replied that in the last years he had been employed in a woodworking workshop. And he showed them my Pluto, this toy, to prove that he knew how to handle wood and that he could make toys and small things from wood. At that time, the wood production in Terezín was being established or expanded and they were looking for skilled people for the woodworking shop there. Thanks to this my dad and our entire family were accepted to Terezín. Terezín was very overcrowded at that time, and transports out of there have already begun. A large part of our transport, when it arrived from Prague, was thus not received in Terezín at all. They were selecting especially those who were somehow important or useful for life in Terezín. They had a large portion of the transport to leave right at the beginning of January – we arrived there at the end of December – and most of the people from the transport with which we arrived from Prague were to be sent off immediately. But since they were looking for skilled workers, they selected dad, and our entire family with him, because it was either a whole family stayed there, or the whole family left. And thus our entire family, dad and mom and me – I was an only child – have remained in Terezín. This Pluto was actually our symbolic ticket to Terezín.”

  • “When we were living in the attic, a choir was going there to rehearse Czech opera, thus I was being lullabied by the music from Brandenburgers in Bohemia, or Blodek’s In the Well. The culture in Terezín is a large theme which shows the will to preserve one’s humanity, human dignity, the illusion of normalness, escape from the evil; in other words there is somewhere to escape – to escape into culture. This is the enormous significance of culture in Terezín. Today, culture in Terezín is being discussed a lot, everyone thinks – oh well, it couldn’t have been so bad if they had all this culture there – but people had to wring this culture out of themselves, and the other people were imbibing it in order to remain humans, in order to escape from this horror to the haven of culture. It is incredible what people achieved to create under those conditions. So much poetry was created there, articles, essays, works of music, so many paintings, drawings... It is unbelievable, but the reason was that this beautification campaign was approaching, and the regime there was thus a little bit more lenient. And at that time there was an explosion of culture. This was the nice part of Terezín, but on the other hand, the committee then arrived. I have some scattered memories about that. Our group was sitting in the theatre from the morning till the evening, because if the inspection committee by any chance wanted to see the theatre they had to find us as if in the middle of watching a play. Other children were ordered, in case the commander was giving out something, to refuse it, saying: ´Onkel Rahm, schon wieder Sardinen.´ – ´Uncle Rahm, sardines again?´ Obviously, we weren’t receiving any sardines, and neither were we allowed to call him uncle Rahm; when we were walking past the commandery, we had to cross to the other side of the street so that the building wall wouldn’t be stained by our breath. It was a Potemkin village, but the committee took it in completely, and then they issued a favourable report, confirming that it was not so bad with the Jews as the rumours were saying.”

  • “I remember very well that when we were leaving with the transport, my grandpa and granny and the other granny (the other grandpa was already dead) had left earlier than us. I had two grandmothers and one grandfather. I remember that it was difficult for me to cope with their leaving in the transport, and when we got summoned as well, I was actually looking forward to meeting granny and grandpa again. And my parents explained it to me as something acceptable, saying that I would have my Jewish friends there again, that there would be only Jews and nobody would be laughing at us or forbidding something to us. Thus I didn’t see our going to Terezín as something tragic. It’s a child’s memory, I remember the last night when parents were packing: they allowed me to draw on the wall so that I wouldn’t disturb them or make them nervous. So I got daddy’s carpenter’s pencil and I was drawing on the walls. My attitude to the transport was thus very different than that of adults and older people. Naturally, today I can imagine how terrible it must have been for the adults when I was alone with mom and grandma, to see their child in danger. But I obviously didn’t see it that way. Then we went to the Radiopalace, which was the assembly place, today there is a memorial plaque there next to the hotel. That’s where the Radiopalace used to be. I don’t know for how long we were there. I only remember that there was a bunch of children, and we immediately got together. And I have bad memories of the never-ending line to the unimaginably smelly latrines or lavatories, I don’t remember what they had there. These are just some bits and pieces of memories. But I remember that in the morning we went to Bubny for the train, you take Veletržní St. to get there. I had my small backpack, because my parents reasonably supposed that even if we lost the large luggage, we would still have the basics in my small backpack at least. I had some tracksuit trousers and a jacket there, and pyjamas and slippers and some spare shoes and a mess tin, a towel, and some toiletries. And I also added one toy. I put a book, colour pencils and a notebook there. And I had a blanket tied around me, this was in case I got lost, or the suitcases got lost, so that I would at least have the most essential things with me.”

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This evil Brundibár symbolized Hitler to us

Michaela, 1948
Michaela, 1948
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Michaela Vidláková, née Laušerová, was born in Prague November 30, 1936. Her parents were Jews and they leaned towards Zionism. Father had lived in Palestine for some time before the war. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia he learnt the woodworking trade. Mother was teaching at a Jewish school in Jáchymova St. in Prague till 1942. In December little Michaela and her parents were deported to the ghetto in Terezín. As a six-year old, she didn‘t think of the transport as a tragic experience; she was looking forward to meeting her granny and grandpa there. At the time of her arrival they were however already on the way to one of the concentration camps in Poland. Thanks to her father‘s experience with woodworking the Laušer family was not deported to the east. They all remained in Terezín. Father was in the male section, mother in the women‘s section and Mrs. Vidláková in a children‘s centre. In spite of the commanders‘ order the local teachers were teaching her reading, writing and maths. After several days Michaela contracted serious diseases: so-called Terezín disease - disentery, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, measles, jaundice and a serious heart condition, and she left hospital only in spring 1944. After that she was living with her mother in one of the attic flats and attending a so-called day-care children centre. On May 5, 1945, the Red Cross took over the administration of the Terezín ghetto and was assisting in putting down the typhoid epidemic. After the liberation the family returned to Prague. Michaela began attending the fourth grade of elementary school. In 1953 she and her parents were arrested at the border when attempting to emigrate to Izrael. Mother and daughter got away with suspended sentences, father was sentenced to two years. In spite of that Michaela was allowed to study university - biology and chemistry. She was working in clinical and experimental medicine. She married and she has a son and a granddaughter.