A remarkable document showed up in my email inbox today. A distant cousin (distant on the family tree, not in terms of the warmth of the relationship) had written his Holocaust story. As he explains, he and his family survived a journey that took them from their home in Czechoslovakia to the Sered labour camp to Auschwitz. They now live peacefully in New Jersey.
When thinking of the Holocaust, the numbers are too abstract: six million Jews, up to 15,000 homosexuals, 500,000 communists - these victim totals are staggering but don't tell the full tale.
In Judaism, it's said that to save a single life is to save the universe. A single universe is too large to comprehend: trying to think of millions of them is a fool's errand. Each life lost was an individual: a physical body, yes, but also thoughts and hopes and dreams and flaws and everything else that makes up the impossible miracle of the human being.
Carl's story is just one of many, but all of them are reminders of the singular humanity of the victims, so I asked him if I could share this. With his permission, here is his account, unedited.
Let me introduce myself, I am Carl DUBOVY. I and my family of 5 came to this country in 1948,
my family consisted of my father,mother,brother,sister and myself. We are one rare family that
survived the holocaust intact,a very fare occurrence.
I was born in 1933 in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. Czech Republic consists of 2
regions namely Bohemia proper and Moravia. Slovakia became a separate country in 1989
after Czechoslovakia separated.
I was born in a small village called VELKA NAD VELICKOU located near the border of Moravia
and Slovakia.This village had 12 jewish families and we were only family that survived. My
father was born in Slovakia and lived in Moravia after he married my mother .
When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in March of 1939 he separated the country in 2 separate
countries: 1-Protectorat consisting of Bohemia and Moravia under nazi control
2-Slovakia under Slovak Nazi control
When local Gestapo decided to clear our village of the jews,he sent the 11 families to
concentration camp THEREZIENSTADT in 1940.He decided that we were foreign jews since
father was born in Slovakia and he decided to put us under house arrest in our home and we
lived in our home quite well until May 1942.
In May of 1942 he gave us 24 hours ultimatum to pack few items and shipped us to Slovak
border when he turned us over to the Slovak Nazis. They sent us to concentration camp,called
SERED,that was just recently opened. The commandant needed a wooden floor be installed in
his office,so he gathered jewish men,to see who can do this for him. These men were mostly
doctors,lawyers,bankers,businessmen.The only man who raised his hand was my father who
learned to be a carpenter as single man before he married my mother.His family own a wood
pile business. In 1927 when he married mother,he became a businessman and thus did not do
any carpentry for 15 years until now.Mom had a general store in the village. Father did install
good and nice wooden floor for the commandant so he decided to keep my father but was
planning to send mom and us, three siblings to Auschwitz. My father protested and said to him
“You keep me and my family together here to do more carpentry for you or I am going with them
to Auschwitz” The commandant decided to keep the whole family in tact in the camp,SERED
and my father did lots of carpentry and cabinetry for him. We lived in one room in this camp until
Life was not bad considering this was a concentration camp.We had enough food and were
surviving, i was made to clean streets.Other jews came/arrived to camp and soon there after left
on a transport to Auschwitz.
In August,1944 in Slovakia there was an uprising by Slovak Partisans who opposed the Slovak
Nazi.This lasted only 3 weeks,but suddenly our camp guards and the commandant left the
camp,the gates were opened and we were free to go where ever we wanted,.Father decided
that the only chance of our survival would be to hide in the mountains until the end of the
war.There was the general knowledge or impression that the occupation coming to the end.
We attempted to do this with limited money and food. we gathered cheese, salamy and bread
and water was collected from rain.We were hiding in the mountains until we run out of food and
money so father now decided on his next step. If we could travel to the village where he used to
live with his family as a single man about 17 years ago,perhaps some of the christians will
remember him and his family and will agree to hide us in their homes until the end of the war.
It was a general knowledge that the war is coming to the end,but no one knew when this will
We were having with two another people who adopted us from the camp, a man and his
daughter.They wanted to be with us and my father to be their leader.His name was Adolph
Weiss.To travel to our destination,we needed travel documents,now Slovakia being under real
nazi control. Father and Mr Weiss went to the local town office to get these documents,we
adopted false christian names since we did not want to use our true real name which was
DEITELBAUM,Mr Weiss refused to change his name,saying that his name is typical German
and not suspicious of being a jew.Unfortunately,we obtained the documents together at the
same office and on the same day.Nazi inspection took place on the train,they caught Mr.Weiss
and when they enter our wagon,they got very suspicious of our documents. They asked father
to come with them off the train for questioning but left mother with three children free to continue
our travel to our destination. They told mom that you certainly do not belong to this
jew.Unfortunately mother knew she would be a stranger in the village there father was planning
to hide,so we all got off the train with the Nazi patrol and father confessed that he is a Jew.
This was now November 1944, we were brought back to SERED Conc. Camp but now the
camp under direct Nazi control. Father and my older brother now 15 years old were separated
from us and sent to German concentration camps,Sachsenhousen and Buchenwald to work in
munition factories for the german military until the end of the war. Mother and I,now 11 year old
and my sister,8 years old were put on transport with other mothers,children and old people...
about 900 in total,and about 90 in our freight wagon,standing room only..in a typical freight train
bound for Auschwitz. We arrived to Auschwitz on December 23,1944
On our way mother tried to prepare me and my sister for the death that she somehow knew was
awaiting us. She said something like :”this is not our fault ,we are good children,etc only that we
are jewish and this is why they doing this to us.” She also told us that it will be a painless
death,inhaling gas,but she was wrong,the people did experience severe pain while dying since
their muscles shrunk and caused extreme pain. Our wagon was in complete darkness,light
coming only from the two small openings high up on each side for the air to come in from
outside,we had about 90 people,no room to sit,all were standing,several people die on the train
This was one of the worst experience for me and my family.
We arrived and were waiting for unloading us for a long time,perhaps up to 8 hours,and not
really knowing what are next fate will be.We heard nazi men outside talking ,arguing etc...finally
we noticed out transport started to move and kept going. we don't know why this happened but
possible explanation for not unloading us in Auschwitz were
1-Commandant in charge decided that if he gasses us he will not have the prisoners in camp
anymore to help clear the dead bodies from gas chambers and transport them to crematoria
2-he did not want to leave any evidence of this extermination to the Soviet army that was
approaching fast toward Auschwitz.
he decided to ship the complete transport back to Czechoslovakia,but not to Slovakia where
came from but to Czech republic to Therezienstadt Concentration Camp. We arrived there
before the new year 1945,we learned this when they unloaded us.
I was separated from mother, placed with other boys in a separate barrack and made work
outside cleaning streets of garbage etc.
Live in Therezienstadt was tolerable ,we were surviving, i saw mother on rare occasions ,when
she managed to bring me some extra bread.It was not unusual to see an open freight train in
the camp loaded with dead bodies waiting to be disposed off and get rid off.I am not sure if they
were buried or cremated and also did not know where these bodies came from etc.
the plan apparently was to kill us all by massive shooting in the town,s main square before the
liberation.However the Soviet Army approached the camp much faster and sooner than
expected,our Nazi guards one day suddenly disappeared and we were left free. this was on
The Czech red cross came and help us with transportation to where we wanted to go.I and
mother and sister decided to travel to Slovakia in the hope that dad and brother will be there
since they were sent to Germany from Slovak camp,the SERED Camp.we discovered they were
not there,but on our way to Slovakia in our regular passenger train hemet other free survivors
who were going home. Suddenly a man walked into our compartment and he stopped at me
and my mother and said..”I know your father is alive since I met a man after liberation in
Germany who looked exactly like you.” This was our first news that father and most likely my
brother too survived holocaust and he was right.
When we did not locate father and brother in Slovakia we travel from Slovakia back to Moravia
to the village where I was born, VELKA NAD VELICKOU and father and brother were waiting
there for us.
MAY 1945 to May 1948.......we live in this village,trying to bring back our life together. I needed
private tutoring to catch upon the missed schooling from 1939 until now. I did well and was
admitted to gymnasium,a preparatory school for college. We applied for immigration to USA as
soon as we heard from our relatives from NYC,this was in august 1945..had to wait for 3 years
for our visa to come.
MAY 19,1948 with arrived to New York City by boat from Sweden. I learned English very
fast,attended two years of high school,graduated with honors,went to NYC College for Bachelor
of Science degree,being a premed student.Went to medical school in Northern
Ireland,University of Belfast,Faculty of Medicine,graduated in 1960. I specialized in Pediatrics
and the Allergy. I served two years in US Air force as a pediatrician
.Practice my specialty for 30 years and retired since 1995. I am a proud papa to amazing two
grandsons,Max 8 and Alex 6.