Pinner group hears the poignant case of an Auschwitz sur­vivor

The Jewish Chronicle - - Community - BY JAY GRENBY

THE MOV­ING story of a 90-year-old Holo­caust sur­vivor was re­layed to the 450 peo­ple at Pinner Syn­a­gogue’s Yom Hashoah com­mem­o­ra­tion.

Czech-born Zdenka Fant­lova was in­car­cer­ated in Terezin, Auschwitz and fi­nally Ber­gen-belsen, from which she was lib­er­ated. She was the only sur­vivor from her im­me­di­ate fam­ily.

She re­called be­ing ini­tially in­cred­u­lous at the atroc­i­ties she wit­nessed. How­ever, a will to live — a theme of the Pinner evening — was key to her sur­vival.

Some years ago, an ac­quain­tance vis­it­ing Auschwitz spot­ted her suit­case, clearly marked with her name, on top of a pile of lug­gage once be­long­ing to in­mates and now part of a dis­play in the Auschwitz mu­seum. Af­ter con­tact­ing the mu­seum cu­ra­tors and prov­ing that the case had been hers, Ms Fant­lova was sent a photo of the dis­play.

“As soon as I saw it, what came back to me was not so much the hor­ror of it all, but sim­ply the smell of that card­board and im­i­ta­tion snake­skin suit­case,” she re­called.

“The cu­ra­tors asked me if I wanted my prop­erty re­turned. I de­bated this with fel­low mem­bers of Jewish Care’s Holo­caust Sur­vivors’ Cen­tre in Hen­don.

“Half of them said I should claim it back. The other half, in­clud­ing my­self, thought it was bet­ter for the case to stay where it was as a per­ma­nent tes­ti­mony to what hap­pened.”

She to­day lives in the same Bays- water build­ing from which the Bri­tish Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive planned the as­sas­si­na­tion of Rein­hard Hey­drich, known as “The Butcher of Prague” and one of the ar­chi­tects of the Final So­lu­tion.

Pinner mem­bers queued un­til late in the evening to pur­chase copies of her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, The Tin Ring, whose ti­tle was in­spired by a tin ring given to her by her boyfriend as a sym­bol of love and a com­mit­ment to mar­riage if they both sur­vived — which he did not.

Other speak­ers at the com­mem­o­ra­tion in­cluded an­other Czech-born sur­vivor, Vic­tor Green­berg, and for­mer UK am­bas­sador to Is­rael Sir An­drew Burns.

Zdenka Fant­lova and the photo of her suit­case at Auschwitz

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