Newsletter 2/2016

Lisa Miková: her life story

Lisa, 1924 – 1930. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa, 1924 – 1930. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa Miková was born in 1922 into a Prague family of assimilated Jews. According to her own narrative, even though she visited the synagogue with her mother and her family celebrated some Jewish feasts, during the Christmas holiday they decorated a Christmas tree just as the families of Lisa´s friends. In her childhood, Lisa perceived no differences between herself and her non-Jewish pals whatsoever, but that was to change radically in the future.

Lisa’s father built his own business in Prague and her mother helped him out. Lisa spent a happy and harmonious childhood. She learnt to speak several foreign languages including Spanish. At the time when emigration was still possible for the family her father did not want to leave the country. In Prague he used to meet Jews coming from the Sudetenland who urged him to leave Czechoslovakia: You have to go away, you’ve got to flee! You mustn’t stay! But my father was a convinced Czech… and said: Nothing like that can happen in our country,1 Lisa later recollected his words.

Lisa with her parents, 1940. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa with her parents, 1940. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

All hopes for freedom and escape from Czechoslovakia were then dashed by the events following March 15, 1939. For Lisa and her family this particular date spelt the end of all hopes for life in freedom. The borders were closed and just like other Jews in the Protectorate Lisa´s family too came to know the cruel impact of the steadily escalating anti-Jewish measures. Father was forced to pass his business into the Nazi hands and, for a time, he served as an employee of the new owner. At the same time, his access to his own bank accounts was blocked. We wanted to emigrate but nobody wanted to take us,2 says Mrs. Miková.

Lisa, 1939. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa, 1939. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa and her family were deported to Terezín on January 31, 1942, the day of Lisa’s 20th birthday. Thanks to her artistic talents she was given a job of a draftswoman in the Technical Office where she met not only distinguished Terezín painters, whose drawings have preserved an inestimable testimony of the true face of wartime life in Terezín. But, first and foremost, she met there her future husband František Mautner (who changed his name to Mika after the war). He worked there as a technical engineer. He came to Terezín with the very first transport Ak 1, the so-called Aufbaukomando. The men who arrived in this transport enjoyed certain privileges and František believed that he would be protected from further transports. To protect his beloved Lisa he decided to marry her in Terezín. He had her name added to his own prison card as his wife and Lisa could then bear his surname.

Another privilege enabled the newly married couple to live together in a tiny “cubby hole“, built by František himself in the attic premises of one building. Lisa celebrated her wedding still with her parents and her mother-in-law. Their next of kin “baked“ for the bride and bridegroom a wedding cake made of bread, saved from previous meals, and spread with marmalade. That was their first wedding in Terezín.

Lisa with her husband, 1945. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa with her husband, 1945. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Since the number of non-religious weddings in Terezín was mounting, the situation was becoming uncontrollable for the Nazis. That is why they decided that all civilian weddings concluded in Terezín had to be repeated within two months, and specifically at a town hall in the presence of an official of the Jewish Self-administration and two witnesses. By that time Lisa’s parents were no longer in Terezín. In 1943 they were deported by transport to Poland and Lisa has never seen them again.

While Lisa was still working in the Technical Office she did not know that her husband and some other painters were engaged in underground resistance activities. At her husband’s request she herself drew small maps of the Ghetto with some of its objects marked in different colors. Her husband did not want to tell her what these plans really meant and then he began to regard her continued work in the drawing room dangerous. That was why Lisa went to work in the Ghetto’s farming section. She later learnt that the plans had been smuggled out of the Ghetto in preparation of an eventual uprising. In addition to other accomplishments, she and her husband managed to save extant drawings made by Bedřich Fritta, works portraying the genuine living conditions in the Terezín Ghetto.

Later on the Jewish Self-administration appealed to childless Jewish couples to adopt deserted Terezín children. Lisa and her husband decided to adopt 12-year old Ruth Spier from the German town of Paderborn who was then living in a local children’s home. Her father was a German, her mother a Jewess. When her mother died, father sent Ruth to an orphanage from which she was sent to the Terezín Ghetto. After the war Ruth went to live with her aunt in Britain where her father later contacted her. Still later on, she settled down with a Polish family in Israel. Mrs. Miková has been keeping in touch with her up to this day.

Lisa, 1973. Private archiv of Lisa Miková.

Lisa, 1973. Private archiv of Lisa Miková..

The subsequent events in Terezín affected Lisa just like they did thousands of other Ghetto inmates; and one day she too learnt that her husband had received a call for transport. But her love for her husband prevented her to obey the urgent wishes of her own father to stay on in Terezín and in no case voluntarily report for transports to the East. When her husband left on September 28, 1944 the Nazis announced several days later that the wives of these men could voluntarily report for transport. The Nazis claimed that their men were working on building sites and that their wives would get jobs in kitchens, washhouses or do some light construction jobs. Responding to the Nazi call, Lisa reported for the transport and left for Auschwitz. Hardly surprisingly, she didn’t meet her husband in the camp. Three weeks later she was deported to Freiberg, working there in a factory manufacturing aircraft wings. After an air raid on the nearby Dresden, the factory was closed and the women inmates were sent, after some time, to the camp in Flossenbürg. On their way along the borders of the former Czechoslovakia the women spent nearly two weeks without food and drink. As Lisa recollects, their hardships finally ended thanks to a courageous act by the stationmaster at Horní Bříza near Pilsen. The stationmaster did not allow the train to leave the station, claiming to the commanding SS officer that the track ahead had been bombed and was blocked. He insisted on his claims even though the SS-man was aiming his gun at him. Lisa later learned that the local stationmaster feared that if he had let the train leave his station, the inmates would have been taken to Flossenbürg and all shot dead there. Eventually the transport left in the opposite direction via České Budějovice to the Mauthausen concentration camp. The women arrived in wretched conditions. They had nothing to eat and drink for several days. The Czech inmates in Mauthausen gave Lisa and other new arrivals bread from their own reserves and water, having thus saved their lives. All the inmates drew strength and hopes from the fact that the US troops were approaching. Lisa recalls how other inmates kept encouraging them and constantly repeating: You have to persevere, you have to keep up.3 Mauthausen was liberated by the US troops on May 5. But the inmates had to stay on for another two weeks to recover their strength and be able to go home.

Back in Prague, Lisa was reunited with her husband. While arranging new documents for Lisa and her husband local clerks proceeded from the latest information available before their departure for Terezín when both of Lisa and her husband were still single. The wedding documents from Terezín were lost and the clerks told them: we are terribly sorry but if you want to be married, you have to remarry. And so I got married for the third time,4 Mrs. Miková recollected after the war.

Lisa during the meeting at the seminar for teachers „How to teach about the Holocaust?“, 2016, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

Lisa during the meeting at the seminar for teachers „How to teach about the Holocaust?“, 2016, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

Most of her family members did not survive the war. Those who did survive stayed in England after the war. During the first years after the country’s liberation Lisa studied a secondary library school in Leipzig by correspondence and for the rest of her life worked in a bookshops. She has one son named Petr.



[1] Transkript Miková, str. 2.
[3] Transkript Miková, str. 38
[4] Transkript Miková, str. 42.

Seminars for teachers ”How to teach about the Holocaust“

Workshop done by the Museum of the Romani Culture, Brno during the seminar „How to teach about the Holocaust?“, 2016, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

Workshop done by the Museum of the Romani Culture, Brno during the seminar „How to teach about the Holocaust?“, 2016, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

Seminar for elementary and secondary school teachers called How to Teach About the Holocaust was held in Prague´s Jewish Museum and in the Terezín Memorial already for the 16th times. Run in two cycles (between February 19 and 21 and from March 4 to 6), the seminar was attended by more than 100 teachers. Each three-day program covered lectures on the Jewish settlement in Bohemia and Moravia (complete with sightseeing visits to Prague’s Jewish Town), on anti-Semitism, on the psychological aspects of genocide, the Terezín Ghetto and the Romany Holocaust. One of the highlights of the program was a meeting with former Terezín Ghetto inmates (namely Hana Hnátová and Dagmar Lieblová in the first series, Eva Štichová and Lisa Miková in the second one).

Result of teacher's work from workshop of dr. Jana Jebavá, the seminar „How to teach about the Holocaust?“, 2016, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

Result of teacher’s work from workshop of dr. Jana Jebavá, the seminar „How to teach about the Holocaust?“, 2016, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

The program also included three different workshops out of which participants were free to choose one. These included a fine art-cum-dramatic workshop led by Dr. Jana Jebavá, based on the Biblical theme of Judith, a courageous women of the Antiquity whose story in a specific way also presages the topic of the Shoa. Furthermore, the program offered a workshop prepared by employees of the Terezín Memorial’s Department of Education called From a Number to a Name. Employing biographical approach and techniques as well as aesthetic methods, this workshop sought to portray the fate of some of the people who had passed through Terezín. The last workshop was prepared by the Museum of Romany Culture in Brno. In its course, the teachers had an opportunity to get hands-on experience of what the above-mentioned institutions offer to their pupils in their educational seminars.



Seminar for British and Danish educationists 2016

The third seminar for British and Danish educationists, co-organized by institutions in Denmark (Danish Institute for International Studies), Britain (Holocaust Educational Trust), Israel (Yad Vashem) and naturally also in the Czech Republic (Terezín Memorial), took place between February 5 and 8.

This time the seminar was focused more specifically on the topic of the Terezín Ghetto and on the fate of its captive inhabitants. During the three days 28 seminar participants learnt a lot of information during lectures, sightseeing visits and workshops. Natural highlights of the program were debates with Ghetto survivors, namely Mrs. Dagmar Lieblová and Mrs. Doris Grozdanovičová, as well as performance by the Disman Radio Children’s Choir (Czech Radio) featuring the children’s opera Brundibár.

The seminar was highly praised by the attendees themselves; here is one comment from a British participant: I was roused from my zone of comfort, forced to go to the basic principles and reassess my own work…



Josef Čapek exhibition

Josef Čapek: The study of women, the date probably 1941 – 1942, Buchenwald; PT 2798, Památník Terezín.

Josef Čapek: The study of women, the date probably 1941 – 1942, Buchenwald; PT 2798, Památník Terezín.

A festive preview of the exhibition entitled Josef Čapek – Painter, Poet, Writer was held in the lobby of the cinema in Terezín´s Small Fortress on April 7 this year. The opening ceremony was attended by Mrs. Kristýna Váňová, Directress of the Karel Čapek Memorial, and the Czech actress Zdeňka Procházková, who recited several poems from Josef Čapek´s works written in prison.

During the war Čapek himself was imprisoned in the concentration camps Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Bergen-Belsen respectively. He died of typhoid shortly before the end of the war in the last mentioned camp.

Josef Čapek: Spain 1936 (Corrida madrileña), 1936; PT 10603, Památník Terezín.

Josef Čapek: Spain 1936 (Corrida madrileña), 1936; PT 10603, Památník Terezín.

During his incarceration Čapek drafted many sketches, some of which are now found in the collections of the Terezín Memorial. Because of his artistic talents he was often assigned to and employed in painting workshops in the concentration camps, where he was involved, for instance, in creating pedigrees of the local SS-officers. In addition to that, he also wrote poetry and translated English and Spanish verse.

After its successful staging in the Terezín Memorial this touring exhibition closed on May 31, 2016.


”Somewhere There is Still a Sun“

The Book „Somewhere There is Still a Sun“. Source:, 30. 6. 2016, 13:24.

A book called “Somewhere There is Still a Sun” with a subheading “A Memoir of the Holocaust” was published in the United States last year. Its author Michael Gruenbaum (*1930), who was born and grew up in Prague, was deported to the Terezín Ghetto together with his mother and sister in 1942. In his book he describes everyday life in the Terezín Ghetto, recollecting primarily his friendships with boys of approximately his age in the children’s home known as Nesharim, as well as the reversed face of the Terezín Ghetto, full of hardship and diseases.
The book, which is devoted predominantly to children, offers – besides a unique story – also many documents and photos. Since its publication the book has succeeded in winning a number of awards and attracted a great many fans who highly value the book.
It is highly likely that publishers in this country will seek to publish the book in a Czech translation so that Czech readers could also enjoying reading Michael Gruenbaum´s memoirs.


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