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You are in: Suffolk > Faith > Features > From Berlin To Auschwitz: Part 1

Auschwitz concentration camp

Auschwitz concentration camp

From Berlin To Auschwitz: Part 1

Frank Bright was born Frank Brichta in Berlin on 7th October 1928. His father Hermann was a Czech Jew who held a Czechoslovakian passport. His mother Toni was born in Berlin.

"We lived in quite a large villa with a large back garden, a large balcony and I remember having a small tricycle and I still have photographs of myself in various uniforms - a policeman, a bus conductor.  That was very nice and pretty and comforting but it didn't last very long for me as the Nazis came to power in 1933.

"We had to leave that place and move to a smaller apartment but it was still quite spacious. Things started to get pretty bad. I remember a newspaper vendor on the corner had cartoons on his stand which were anti-Semitic. The Nazi newspapers showed Jews with big noses either dressed as Russian communists or American capitalists in top hats. Either way you couldn't win, you were a menace."

Frank with his father Hermann, Berlin, 1929

Frank with his father Hermann, Berlin 1929

"My father worked as a secretary at a small private Jewish bank. I remember visiting him there and they'd lock me in the safe, although I always knew I'd be let out again! My mother was also a secretary before she got married, but once she had me she became a housewife.

"The big irony is that my father Hermann served in the Austo-Hungarian Army in the First World War - alongside their German allies.

"We knew we were Jews but we weren't religious. It was only when I was barred from mainstream schools and went to a Jewish school that I learned anything about Judaism. Before that we even had a Christmas tree. The only reason I remember that is because it had real candles and caught fire once, which was very exciting!

"It doesn't mean to say we were religious, we just had a tree. My mother had actually attended a Protestant orphanage."

Frank never suffered personally from anti-Semitism "My father had come from Czechoslovakia, so were were treated differently as foreign citizens. But of course we were an exception. However, you couldn't miss signs saying 'Jews not permitted here', windows being smashed and I particularly remember there being only one bench in the park which we could sit on.

4 year old Frank in police uniform. Berlin, 1932.

4 year old Frank in police uniform. Berlin, 1932.

"You heard about terror activities. I think Dachau concentration camp came into being almost as soon as Hitler was elected and people would disappear and their widows would have to pay for the ashes to be delivered. However, we didn't have to wear Stars of David - that didn't come in until 1940."

As a young boy, Frank wasn't involved in family or political discussions about the situation for Jews "I overheard things I wasn't supposed to and a lot of awkward questions were being asked -  Where shall we go?  Shall we leave the older ones behind?   What will we give up?   What trade can we take abroad?"

The family stayed in Berlin until 1938 before opting to take advantage of their Czech citizenship.

"Our easiest option was to go to Prague, where we'd been on holiday before. We didn't need permission because we had passports.

"A German Jew required an exit visa and that normally cost 20% of their earnings or overall wealth. My mother arranged for the sale of the contents of our flat. However, she didn't get much money because everyone was trying to leave and the bottom had dropped out of the market.

"The Germans got everything cheaply by virtue of chasing everyone out of the country."

The Munich Agreement led to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, so the family went to the wrong country, but didn't really have much choice.

"We had no relatives in other countries. If we had we could have gone to the US, Britain or Palestine, but we only knew people in Berlin and Czechoslovakia. It was easy but history shows we simply went in the wrong direction.

"We arrived in Prague in May 1938 hoping for a new start - father would get a new job, I'd go to a new school and we'd lead a normal life.  Although circumstances wouldn't be as good to start with we were optimistic. We had to be."

The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler in September 1938 to discuss the future of the Sudetenland - the German speaking areas of Czechoslovakia. For the Brichta family their optimism was to be cruelly shattered.

last updated: 18/01/2008 at 16:59
created: 26/01/2006

You are in: Suffolk > Faith > Features > From Berlin To Auschwitz: Part 1

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