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Antonín Absolon

Antonín Absolon, original surname Růžička, born 1930 in Mistřín (today Svatobořice-Mistřín), Hodonín district

  • Testimony abstract

    Antonín Absolon was born in 1930 in the village of Mistřín. Before the war he lived with his family in Brno-Slatina in Šmilovský Street, where four other Roma families lived in wooden houses. His father, Václav Růžička (born 1900 in Nový Strašecí), was a drayman at the Roučka factory in Slatina,[1] and his mother, Karolína Růžičková (née Raiminiusová, born 1901 in Moravská Třebová), was a housewife. They had seven children: the eldest was Alois (1922, died 1942 of pneumonia), then Božena (1926), Jana (1928), František (1936), Čeněk nicknamed Maro (1937), and the youngest, Matěj (1942). He also mentions his grandmother Maria Růžičková, who was a widow and lived with Jan Nový in Újezd near Moravské Budějovice.

    • [1] A steel foundry belonging to Erich Roučka. (ed.)

    Absolon remembered hearing at home that the Roma were being imprisoned in Hodonín, but paid no attention. At 5 a.m. on a day in March 1943, German soldiers surrounded the Roma houses in Slatina. Absolon's mother spoke German, and talked to the soldiers; they said they would return home again. The family was taken in police cars to the slaughterhouse in Brno and locked in the stables. Along with the Růžička family, the soldiers took their grandmother Maria and Antonín Nový – who later perished in Auschwitz - and Antonín Absolon's uncles (Václav Růžička's brothers), Antonín, František and Jiří. They met Jan Růžička, Josef Růžička and Jan Korčák and their families at the slaughterhouse. Antonín Absolon's uncle, Čeňek Vrba, was also brought from the prison in Hodonín to Brno, where he had served two months in prison for the sale of a horse, but instead of being released he was also put on a transport.

    The Růžička family spent one night in the slaughterhouse. The parents were interrogated and the family was subsequently released, but everyone else was taken to Auschwitz. Two months later, the Růžičkas were arrested again, and taken to the workhouse in Brno - Královo Pole, i.e. to prison.[1] This time they took clothes, blankets and food with them, and Antonín Absolon noticed that his father had sewn gold into the padding of his jacket, and also put it into the hollow heels of his shoes, as well as into jars of jam. There were families from all over the district in the workhouse, among them Roma from Kostivarna, including their friend Josef Růžička and his family. The following day, a German called “Herzog”[2] and a policeman called Dubový[3] selected who was a “Gypsy” and would go on the transport, and who was not and could return home, on the basis of how they walked. Antonín Absolon’s father, with Božena, Čeněk and two-year-old Matěj, were to leave, while Antonín and his mother and siblings František and Jana could go home. His mother, however, did not want to leave the youngest children behind. The next day she changed her mind and did not want to get into the police vehicle that took the Roma to the railway wagons with the children, but they were no longer allowed to return home. It was a difficult journey, they were thirsty, and the women and children were crying. In Ostrava the Germans took the train over from the gendarmes. Then when the train stopped again and they were forced out, there was confusion everywhere, shouting, crying, beating and barking dogs. They had to walk for a long time until they were counted at a big gate and taken to a building where they had to leave everything. The reception process went on all night; they had numbers tattooed on their arms, and little Matěj on his leg. On the day of the Růžička family's arrival in the camp [Auschwitz], their uncle Čeněk Vrba tried to escape from there with four other prisoners.[4]

    The reception procedure continued the next day. They had to undress (men, women, children - all of them together), then have their hair cut, and then sit in steam. Then they had to go through an ice-cold shower without any possibility of drying themselves. Absolon remembered that his 16-year-old sister, Božena, did not want to strip naked, so the SS men beat her and tore her clothes off.

    Together with Josef Růžička's family, they were assigned to a German block near the toilets, where brutal German Roma were serving as block seniors [Blockälteste] and room seniors [Stubendienst].[5] On the very first evening, the room seniors and the block seniors robbed the prisoners of their food, and those who didn’t like it, including Antonín Absolon’s father, Josef Růžička and his wife, were then beaten for it. The next day, a nurse from the kindergarten came for Matěj. She beat him because he was crying and wanted to go back to his mother, who was protecting him, but she was beaten by a block senior.[6] Antonín Absolon’s mother was upset and did not eat, leaving the food for the children.

    Antonín Absolon had to go to work with his father, carrying earth on primitive pallets. On the fourth or fifth day, when he already had a fever and was working more slowly, the Vorarbeiter, a German Roma, began to beat him, so his father slapped the German. He called over the kapo who beat his father, and on their return to the camp, his father had to stay at the gate; that was the last time Antonín Absolon saw him. He himself ended up in the camp hospital and contracted typhoid and epidemic typhus. He remembered that the men lay there naked and covered themselves with a coarse, dirty blanket. His father's friend Josef Ruzicka was also there, as well as Josef Hauer, the same age as Antonín Absolon; both died. The prisoners fell from their bunks in their fever; most of them injured their heads and did not survive the fall. Antonín Absolon had a recurring dream that he had escaped and was returning home on the bogie of a train. He remembered a nurse, Janka from Katowice, who gave him better food and kept him in the camp hospital; she probably saved his life. When his sister Jana found him there, she told him that his mother, younger brothers, and sister Božena, were no longer alive.

    After they got scabies, they had to pass through two tubs of icy liquid, which in the second case was iridescent blue, and the nurses dried them with a wet cloth. The scabs hardened and fell off, and the liquid burned away the pus. A boy and girl about the same age as Antonín Absolon slipped there and never got up, the fluid apparently getting into their eyes and mouths.

    Antonín Absolon knew Dr. Mengele from the camp hospital. The adults were afraid of him, but the children liked him because he brought them food. He was especially fond of two brothers, German Roma aged 11-12 and 14-15. They sang and tap-danced nicely, but were arrogant and hurt others; Absolon recalled that at the time he and the other boys wanted to kill them. After the liberation, he met the older of the two boys in Brno at the Padowetz Hotel,[7] where he had gone to get his repatriation permit, and Absolon and some other former prisoners beat him up.

    In the spring of 1944, labour transports started leaving the camp, and Antonín Absolon decided to go too. He escaped naked from the camp hospital, and when he saw Mengele and begged him in bad German to be allowed on the transport, he actually did get clothes and went with the others to the Buchenwald camp the very next day. They spent two or three weeks in quarantine, then part of the transport left, but without Antonín Absolon, who had fallen ill again and ended up in the hospital. After his recovery, he went to work at the timber yard, where wood was chopped for the yard and the kitchen. He remembered that the food was a little better in Buchenwald; moreover, the Roma boys used to walk in front of the block where the Czechs were and get leftovers from them; he specifically remembered the prisoner Špacír[8] from Brno. He also remembered how they once called his number at a roll call and took him to the doctor in block 42, where the windows were covered. He was given an injection and lost consciousness. When he came to, his arm was in plaster. He remained at the station until March 1945. He did not know what they did to him, but he had a two-centimetre-wide scar on his wrist, which hurt in the winter. He could not hold anything in that hand and had no feeling in it.

    The evacuation of the camp began in April 1945. First they walked to Weimar, then took the train to Jena, but after an air attack they continued on foot again – first to Flossenbürg and then to Dachau. Among them were Antonín Růžička from Brno, Miloš Růžička and Emil Růžička. In total they walked about 300 kilometres. One German Roma, a former prisoner, gave Antonín Absolon his backpack with food to carry. Antonín Absolon deliberately lost him in the crowd and then he and his friends ate the food. The German Roma found him, but by then they were already at the camp in Dachau and the air raid had begun. He hid in a building by the gate, and after the air raid, a Czech, Vycpálek,[9] appeared in one of the windows and asked after his compatriots, after which Antonín Absolon was fed in the kitchen. The same day, at about 2.00 p.m., the Americans liberated the camp. He remembered how happy they were, and he and Jan Horáček, whom he knew from the gypsy camp[10] started dancing. The Americans photographed them in front of the crematorium ovens. Antonín Horáček and others wanted to go home, harnessing horses to a Mercedes and setting out, but the Americans returned them to the camp, saying that the fighting was still going on. Later they were taken to Pilsen, from where he and Emil Růžička went to Prague, and on to Třebíč on the roof of the train and then to Kožušice to friends. Then they continued to their cousin's house in Stařeč, where they slept soundly and received 500 crowns from a local innkeeper. The next stop was the Padowetz Hotel in Brno, where they received another 500 crowns and a repatriation permit. In Brno-Slatina he visited a well-known merchant by the name of Zelinka,[11] and then walked 35 kilometres to Klobouky [near Brno] to the home of his aunt Vrbová,[12] whose husband Čeněk Vrba had tried unsuccessfully to escape from Auschwitz.

    • [1] The site of the former provincial forced labour office (Lidická 59) would later be occupied by the building of the Snaha shoe cooperative. (ed.)
    • [2] The Criminal Secretary of the German criminal police force Franz Herzig. (ed.)
    • [3] The Criminal Assistant of the plain clothes Protectorate police force Arnošt Dubový took bribes in exchange for a promise of exemption from the transport lists, and in this connection was charged with corruption, but on 7. 12. 1944 the regional court in Brno acquitted him for alleged lack of evidence. (ed.)
    • [4] Čeněk Vrba, born 2 March 1903 in Zálužany, was shot dead trying to escape on 22 May 1943. (ed.)
    • [5] The toilets were between block 12 and 14, and also at the end of the odd-numbered row of blocks. Block 14 housed mostly German prisoners, and the criminal prisoner Fritz Lücker served as the senior. (ed.)
    • [6] The children in the so-called kindergarten were supervised by a German prisoner, Helena Hanemann, with two Polish and several Roma women prisoners. (ed.)
    • [7] Padowetz was the repatriation centre of the Ministry of Social Welfare.
    • [8] First name not given.
    • [9] First name not given.
    • [10] Not specified.
    • [11] František Zelinka who had a general store. (ed.)
    • [12] First name not given.

    After the war, Antonín Absolon was taken in by the aforementioned Aunt Vrbová from Klobouky u Brna, where he grew up with a younger cousin. The horrific experiences from the camp haunted his dreams all his life.

    How to cite abstract

    Abstract of testimony from: NEČAS, Ctibor, ed. Nemůžeme zapomenout = Našťi bisteras : nucená táborová koncentrace ve vyprávěních romských pamětníků. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 1994. ISBN 80-7067-354-0, 59-67. Testimonies of the Roma and Sinti. Project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences), https://www.romatestimonies.com/testimony/antonin-absolon (accessed 5/21/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    A free transcript of Antonín Absolon’s memories was made on 3 March 1974 by Vlasta Kladivová and is preserved in the Archiwum Panstwowego Muzeum w Oswiecimiu-Brzezince, Zespól Oswiadczenia.

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