Zdenka Fantlova on her Holocaust experience: "We all have a blueprint"

Zdenka Fantlova

On Tuesday, Jewish communities in the Czech Republic are commemorating Yom ha Shoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day which is observed around the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943. The names of Czech Holocaust victims will be read out during ceremonies in Prague and a former concentration camp in Terezin. Around 80,000 Czech Jews perished in the Holocaust, among them the whole family of Zdenka Fantlova, who was herself imprisoned in several concentration camps: Terezin, Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and Mauthausen until she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen. Here she recalls what followed after the war broke out and that it was sometimes little things that saved people's lives.

Zdenka Fantlova
"I was eighteen at that time. I was in 'gymnasium', or high school. I was evicted and my schoolmates said: 'This is nonsense. You will see they will change their mind.' And well, it was nonsense and they didn't change their minds. And I was out. But because I was young and I didn't want to sit at home and darn my socks, as my mother wanted to, I entered the English Institute here in Prague for a year, at the British Council, simply because I had heard Fred Astaire singing a song from an American musical, a Broadway melody, 'You are My Lucky Star'. And I was so fascinated that I though I'd have to learn this language. I was learning the song word by word and had no idea what I was singing. And that saved my life.

"Little did I know that five years later in Bergen-Belsen I would be able to communicate in English with a member of the British Army who saved my life in the nick of time, the last minute before my death. So, you see there are little things in life which determine... I sort of feel that we have a blueprint, we work on a blueprint. Maybe we think we have free will - maybe we have. But somehow I feel it is like skiing slalom from stick to stick and you decide I'm not going to do this stick. But it doesn't matter. You have the start, you have the finish. And that's fate. And nobody will talk me out of it."

Zdenka Fantlova later moved to Australia and Britain where she lives now. She also wrote a book about her experience entitled "My Lucky Star" after the song by Fred Astaire. You will be able to hear the complete interview with Zdenka Fantlova in one of our future programmes.