The Story of Hana Lustig – Greenfield

The beginnings of cooperation between Hana Greenfield (left) and the education department of the Terezín Memorial, then led by Ms. Ludmila Chládková

The beginnings of cooperation between Hana Greenfield (left) and the education department of the Terezín Memorial, then led by Ms. Ludmila Chládková

She was born in Kolin on 3rd November 1926 and along with her elder sister Irena she grew up in a Czech patriotic family. Neither German occupation nor establishment of anti-Jewish actions made her parents think of emigration.

Then Terezín came. Hana got to the ghetto with her extended family by Kolín transport AAd on 13th June 1942. Assignment to work in the kitchen helped her overcome poor camp conditions, yet situations occurred which made her stay in the ghetto almost desperate. Her grandfather ended his life with a suicide there, beloved friend died after a surgery, her mom left for an unknown place. Hana was separated from her quite unexpectedly after a transport of children from Bialystok arrived in Terezín in August 1943. Nurse Mary Lustig was one of 53 inmates assigned to take care of those children. Selected caregivers stayed with Bialystock children in newly built western barracks beyond the ghetto and were not allowed to contact other Terezín inmates in order to prevent spreading information about the situation in Polish ghettos and camps gained from the children. Yet Hana tried several times to at least see her mother. Her waiting was rewarded as once she could call her mother from a hiding place and talk to her. On 5th October 1943, a transport with twelve hundred of Bialystock children together with their caregivers left Terezín – allegedly to Switzerland. It was not until the end of the war that the truth came out – the transport had ended up in Auschwitz, in the gas. After several years of investigation, Hana discovered in an archive lists with the names of all then present in the special transport  Dn/a. It was a cruel confirmation of her mother’s fate.

Hana Greenfield taking over the honorary citizenship of the Terezín town from the hands of the Mayor of Terezín Růžena Čechová, 2001

Hana Greenfield taking over the honorary citizenship of the Terezín town from the hands of the Mayor of Terezín Růžena Čechová, 2001

The year 1944 came and preparations for receiving a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross culminated in Terezín. Seven and a half thousand prisoners had to leave the overcrowded ghetto, Hana among them. She got to the family camp in Auschwitz- Birkenau by transport Eb in May.  At the beginning of July 1944, there was a selection of all the present, and Hana was sent to work in Germany. Her working group ended up in Freihafen near Hamburg. All winter, until 1945, female prisoners were clearing the wide area of debris after allied bombing. Hana still keeps a memory of unknown people who helped her at that time. When the SS surveillance eased up, she managed to run off a broken street to a house, where she knocked on the door and asked for a little food. She got a soup and invitation to come again. Next time the family gave her, apart from food, boots with new firm soles, which was a precious gift at that time. She would not suffer from the cold so much afterwards. Until now Hana has not forgotten those people.

Bombing of German cities continued and the end of the war was approaching. The rest of Hana’s working group was transferred to the camp in Bergen – Belsen. The local terror and joy in the end cannot be forgotten: thirst, infected water, hunger, piles of dead bodies and then first British tank – it was already 15th April 1945 and the liberation.

Her post-war stay in the hometown of Kolín did not last long, Hana eventually moved to Israel, where she lives with her family until today. She decided to study there and later inform about the Holocaust. She has developed an educational program and trained not only young people, but also survivors of concentration camps so that they could also run presentations and discussions and pass on their experiences.

Again in Terezín

Boots, symbol of new life for Hana

Boots, symbol of new life for Hana

Hana Greenfield offered her assistance to the Terezín Memorial soon after the establishment of its education department. She was ready to pass on her experience and ideas as well as to sponsor a number of new activities. Already in 1994 we listened to her proposal and organized literature and art competitions for school children on the Holocaust subject. The announced literary competition was only of a regional character, yet we learned that certain interest had been raised. Hana set up a fund, from which we could draw financial means for anything related to the competitions: prizes for winning works, catalogues, calendars, etc. Dozens of schools and hundreds of pupils and students from all over the CzechRepublic register for the competitions of the Terezín Memorial every year. Winners have the opportunity to meet Hana personally as she keeps arriving for the final grand ceremony. All of them know her memoir book “From Kolín to Jerusalem“, which we grant to successful contestants. We have been cooperating with Hana for already 19 years. With her support, we have released two calendars (1997 and 2007) and a publication “Man Is Not a Number“, which was later introduced in 1998 at the International Book Fair in Prague. With Hana’s help we have organized two international travelling exhibitions of drawings sent to competitions: “Holocaust through the Eyes of Czech Children“ in Los Angeles in 2000 and “To Stay the Human“ in Jerusalem in 2005.

Right at the beginning of the cooperation Hana Greenfield became a member of the Honorary Board of Directors of the Terezín Memorial. In 2001 the mayor of Terezín granted her the honorary citizenship of the Terezín town for her long-term support and collaboration in education of young people.


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