Holo­caust sur­vivor re­counts old hor­rors

North Shore Times - - IN BUSINESS - ZIZI SPARKS

Peter Gas­par shouldn’t be alive. He at­tributes his sur­vival to those who hid him and his fam­ily wher­ever they could back in the 1940s.

Gas­par told stu­dents from Al­bany Se­nior High School the story of how he survived the World War II Holo­caust.

Gas­par was born in Cze­choslo­vakia in 1937. In 1942, the Jewish fam­ily went into hid­ing.

‘‘We hid in peo­ple’s at­tics, base­ments, in nearby forests. Wher­ever we could.’’

By late 1944, the fam­ily of three was liv­ing in a hole re­sem­bling a grave, in a field be­hind a farm­house. They took turns to lie down and ate one meal a day.

Even­tu­ally, Gas­par be­came too ill to stay in the hole and the fam­ily had to give them­selves up. Sep­a­rated from his fa­ther, Gas­par and his mother were taken to There­sien­stadt Con­cen­tra­tion Camp in Terezin.

‘‘We didn’t know where we were go­ing, when we would get there, and what would hap­pen.’’

The camp acted as a ‘‘half­way house,’’ a place where Jews were kept be­fore be­ing taken some­where else to be killed.

‘‘There was no ac­tiv­ity at all, so there was more time for fear and bore­dom and lone­li­ness,’’ he said. ‘‘I was not beaten or abused, just bored, scared, lonely, hun­gry and cold.’’

Gas­par and his mother were lib­er­ated in May 1945 and made their way home to see who else would re­turn.

‘‘At the end of June, my dad came back. He was wear­ing striped py­ja­mas and he had been in a slave labour camp.’’

In 1949, the fam­ily moved to Aus­tralia to start a new life.

‘‘We were refugees from the Holo­caust, refugees from the com­mu­nism in Europe and refugees from the con­tin­ued anti-Semitism.’’

Since then, Gas­par has twice returned to meet the many peo­ple who hid him.

A de­scen­dant of one of those who helped Gas­par said his par­ents were grate­ful.

‘‘They were grate­ful to you for giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to prove to them­selves they were the sort of peo­ple they thought they were,’’ he told Gas­par.

In re­tire­ment, Gas­par joined Courage to Care which aims to pre­vent any­thing like the Holo­caust hap­pen­ing again.

‘‘When wrong is be­ing done, we must never ever stay silent,’’ Gas­par said.

Gas­par, lives in Mel­bourne and vis­ited Auck­land as part of the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of New Zealand’s HOPE pro­gramme.

Peter Gas­par survived the Holo­caust, thanks to the kind­ness of those who hid his fam­ily.

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