Lea Slomovic Naft's
1927 Kolockawa, Czechoslovakia
Sekernice Ghetto; Stutthof Slave Labor Camp; Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Lea Slomovic Naft was born in Kolockawa Czechoslovakia, a small town in Czechoslovakia’s Carpathian Mountains. There were only 50–60 families in her town, mostly Christians.
1938-1939: The German occupation of Czechoslovakia began with the annexation of the Sudetenland, under the pretext of “ethnic Germans” suffering discrimination. After the Anschluss (Annexation or Connection), the invasion and incorporation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938, Hitler sent the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Germany, to annex the remainder of Czechoslovakia.
The Czechs lost control after German occupation, and the Nazis gave Hungary control over parts of Czechoslovakia in order to build relations between the two nations, eventually placing 725,000 Jews under their power. Lea’s life changed with this power transfer. Children at the school called the small group of Jews names. They tried to ignore the taunts and kept to themselves.
September 1: World War II began with the German invasion of Poland.
Jews from Lea’s town and neighboring towns were grouped in homes marked with a Star of David, under house arrest. A Christian neighbor offered Lea’s ill mother a place to stay and recover. Lea, with her sisters and brothers, were left alone and held for five or six days, with selections for transport made, destinations unknown.
Lea’s married sister and her four children were selected and left the city, and they perished. Lea’s brother was also taken, along with his wife and three children, and they were also murdered.
The family received papers ordering their departure to Sekernice Ghetto, and to pack a five-day supply of food and clothing. Everything else was left behind. The majority of the deported Jews walked three days to reach the ghetto, where they remained for six weeks, isolated from the rest of the world.
Selections were made every other day in the ghetto. Lea and her family assumed they were being selected to work until Lea’s grandmother, who was 95, was chosen. Lea and her family were selected and placed on cattle cars and deported to Auschwitz.
Selections at Auschwitz began, and young were separated from old. When Lea ran after her mother, a man grabbed her and slapped her face, saying, “You better run over there.” He saved her life; the older people were murdered at once.
After seven weeks they were taken to another camp: Stutthof Concentration Camp, also in German-occupied Poland. From there, they were taken on trucks to work on an airfield runway and a railroad near Danzig. Those who could not do the work were taken away and never returned.
They suffered under harsh conditions at the camp. Watery soup was the ration; Lea and Sara avoided the pieces of pork to keep kosher. They witnessed beatings and other acts of savagery against the prisoners.
Eventually, Lea and her sister were sent back to Auschwitz.
Lea was sent from Auschwitz on what became known as a “Death March.” They were forced to walk from the camp in the middle of winter, joining others as they were also marched from other camps.
The volunteers were taken back to the Auschwitz to pick up and bury the dead on the streets outside of the camp. Lea witnessed the rest of the women being killed; they were forced to dig their mass graves.
March: Lea was again forced to march, this time to the Baltic Sea. They arrived at an abandoned German army camp, still under guard. The next day, Lea was liberated by the Soviet armed forces. Only 250 were left from the original 800 that started the march.
Very ill, Lea was placed in a house for two weeks, where her sister nursed her back from the brink of death.
Lea and her sister sought out their families and learned of their fates. Lea met her future husband, who was running the community center, and they were invited to join a kibbutz and immigrate to Israel. Given false papers, they began what they hoped was journey to Israel, traveled from Romania to Yugoslavia where Lea married her husband.
From Yugoslavia, they walked to Italy, where they were placed in a Displaced Persons Camp for four years.
Lea wrote to an uncle in Ohio, who replied with an offer of help, and with his assistance they traveled to New York City, and then to Ohio.
Lea’s husband worked in coal mining in Ohio. After a strike, they moved to Nashville, Tennessee.