Retracing a journey to cheat death

Jan Wiener

In 1939, a 19-year-old Jewish man called Jan Wiener fled Czechoslovakia. He was determined to reach England and join the RAF, to help free his country from the Nazis. His parents were divorced: his mother had been sent to the Terezin concentration camp, his father was living in Yugoslavia. Jan went to Dubrovnik, on the Adriatic coast, where he watched his father and his step-mother take their own lives rather than face deportation to the death camps. His father had told him to run for his life - he did so, hiding above the wheels of a train bound for Italy. In the town of Trieste he was discovered and arrested by the Italian police. He pleaded with his captors not to send him back to Czechoslovakia, where he explained he would face certain death. He was sent to a POW camp, where he spent two and a half years before making his escape, finally reaching England to join the RAF. Jan Wiener retraced his steps of this remarkable journey for a recent TV documentary. Here he recalls revisiting the ruins of the POW camp, sixty years on.