Holocaust survivor recounts old horrors
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.