Emílie Danielová, née Heráková, born 1924 at Pašovice, Uherské Hradiště district
Before the war, Emílie Danielová’s family lived in the village of Pašovice, where they had three small wooden cottages. Her parents lived in one with her youngest brother Žanko, and her brothers Laďa and Ludvík in neighbouring cottages. Her sister Berta married a man called Murka who lived in the village of Bojkovice. Emílie’s father František Herák was a blacksmith. He forged chains for cows, and hoes, and sold his products in the surrounding villages. Before the war Emílie Heráková, still unmarried, lived with a non-Roma man, who worked in the post office in the village of Mysločovice; they did not marry.
In 1942 Emílie Danielová was taken to Brno [to the provincial compulsory labour facility in what is today Lidice Street (ed.)], where they shaved off her hair – including under her arms and elsewhere, as she said herself – and from there to Hodonín, where the prisoners broke up stones for paving highways. They were beaten by the gendarmes, but Emílie Danielová said that those Roma who held some position in the camp treated them worse.
Emílie’s husband Hynek Daniel tried to visit her in Hodonín, but was not allowed in. He left in tears, able only leave a loaf of bread and a piece of salami for her at the gatehouse. They later transported him to Auschwitz and he never returned. Emílie Danielová spent about a year in Hodonín, before she herself was put on a transport to Auschwitz. She never saw her parents again, who had ended up in Auschwitz earlier – only her youngest brother Žanko. He begged her for food and so she gave him a piece of the bread she had from Hodonín.
She described how they were beaten by the SS on arrival, and children were torn from their mothers. She was given wooden clogs and a striped prison uniform, which she wore for the entire two whole years, and a number was tattooed on her forearm. She was allocated to Block no. 25. They lay on bunks three tiers high, where the women on the upper levels often could not control their bodily functions, and the faeces dripped down. All they had to sleep under was a dirty blanket. They suffered from cold, were unable to wash, and were attacked by lice, while the walls swarmed with bed bugs.
They began with roll call [in the early morning] at which the guards counted them and issued orders in German. This was followed by work – they had to carry heavy stones, fifty to sixty kilos according to Emílie Danielová, and anyone who couldn’t lift them was beaten by the SS. Dogs were also set on them, and one of these left a long scar on her right calf.
They suffered from terrible hunger in Auschwitz. Early in the morning they had tea, which made them swell up. Lunch was boiled beetroot – in her words it was no more than water; and supper was bread made with sawdust. They ate grass and dandelions, and some prisoners tried to scrape the remains of food from the barrels in the kitchen. This was how Emílie Danielová’s younger brother Žanek died; he was caught in the act and shot on the spot.
Emílie’s sister Berta was so thin and starved, she could no longer walk. When Berta was put in the infirmary, Emílie came to see her and broke down, saying she could no longer carry on. Berta comforted her, and because she could no longer eat she gave Emílie her own bread shortly before she died.
Emílie Danielová remembered that dead bodies were lying all round them on the ground and people were treading on them. No one cared about anything any longer. They all knew they were being burnt in the huge crematoria but were not allowed to mention it.
Danielová was being moved from Auschwitz to Ravensbrück when two prisoners escaped. The rest of the prisoners were punished to teach them a lesson – they had to stand with their arms raised and went four days without food. From Ravensbrück Emílie Danielová was assigned to in a labour commando in Wittenberg. She worked in a factory and survived there to the end of the war.
Wittenberg was liberated by the Red Army. Emílie Danielová remembered that the Russians stroked them and gave them food. Although they were hungry, it was not possible to eat normally straightaway. Those who could not stop themselves and bolted down the food, died. They had to get used to food gradually and what really did them good was the sugar that the Russians poured into pieces of clothing they held out.
All at once, they were free and could go anywhere they wanted. Emílie Danielová and her four friends put what they had been given them with their clothing into a baby carriage and set off for home on foot. She walked as far as Ostrava and from there found transport to her native Pašovice. She remembered how the neighbours welcomed her with emotion. Of the other members of the family, only her brother Laďa returned home, all the rest perished in the concentration camps.
How to cite abstractAbstract 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, 97-99. 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/emilie-danielova-roz-herakova (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
Emílie Danielová’s narration was recorded on 20 February 1988 by Ctibor Nečas, who also transcribed it.
Where to find this testimony