Holocaust Survivors' Network

Dr. Dagmar Lieblova, a Holocaust survivor from Prague, Czech Republic remembers Terezin and Auschwitz as a Holocaust Survivor

Auschwitz remembered
Survivor urges students not to forget Holocaust

by Erin Morrison
The Leader-Post

May 28, 2005


Dagmar Lieblova described the fire from the chimneys of Auschwitz's crematorium and pulled up her sleeve to show a Grade 7 class at St. Jerome the number tattooed on her forearm -- 70788 -- assigned to her when she arrived at the Nazi death camp in December of 1943.

The class stared, completely silent, as Lieblova described her life when she was their age. She was 13 years old when she was deported from the Terezin work camp where her family had been imprisoned. "Only when we arrived at this place did we see the sign Auschwitz," she said. The students, who have been studying the Holocaust, knew the name.


Dr. Dagmar Lieblova, a Holocaust survivor from Prague, Czech Republic, speaks to Grade 7 students at St. Jerome School Friday. Dr. Lieblova is the Chairperson of Terezin Initiative, an organization of Holocaust survivors.
[Photo Credit: Roy Antal, Leader-Post]

Lieblova is now the chair of the Terezin Initiative, a group based in the Czech Republic. The organization's goal is to remind the world of the horrors of the Holocaust. This week, she is busy reminding Saskatchewan's youth one school at a time, including St. Jerome on Friday.

She's in Canada because her daughter, Rita McLeod, has been living in Saskatoon for nearly two decades, and organized a showing at Regina's Darke Hall of the children's opera Brundibar, an opera which Lieblova herself performed with other prisoners at Terezin.

The opera was written by Hans Krasa, also a Czech Jew, while he was imprisoned in Terezin. It parodies the events of the Second World War in many respects.

The Grade 7 class teacher, Darrell Baumgartner, has been teaching his students about the Holocaust and about the opera. He asked them Friday, not long before heading to the theatre, who the opera's evil organ-grinder is "eerily similar to".

"Adolf Hitler," 27 students called out.

Even though it's not required in the Regina Catholic curriculum, Baumgartner teaches his students about the Holocaust because "history often times repeats itself," he said. "If we don't learn about one of the biggest atrocities in history then it is possible for it to happen again. And has it happened again, Grade 7?" he asked the students.

They all shouted "yes", and called out "Rwanda" and "Sudan".

Lieblova told the class how she had escaped the gas chambers in Aushwitz -- by a small printing error. She and her sister were too young to be transferred to another work camp, and her parents too old. But a mistaken form reported that 70788 was born in 1925, not Lieblova's real birthdate in 1929. Thinking that the 15-year-old was actually 19, she was deported again to a work camp in Hamburg, while her family was sent to die in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

"I hope that the young generation knows of things that happened long ago, so they may be able to prevent some of it from coming again," Lieblova said of her reasons for speaking to the kids.

She said it's not easy to re-live the events of her childhood each time she tells her story. "After 50 years you think you would have forgotten, but I have not." She recalls the smallest detail, describing how "when somebody lost his hope, you could see it in the eyes."

Before she was done speaking to the class she asked them to make her a promise. "I would like to ask you not to forget what I have told you," she said.

Students like Harley Todorovich got the message.

"All of it started because of racism and prejudice ... it's not fair. Everyone's born into a different race, and you can't change that and you should be proud of what race you are."

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2005