Leon Růžička, born 1924 in Litoměřice
Leon Růžička was the ninth child born into the family of Alois Růžička, a Romani boilermaker settled in Lom u Most. Leon was six years old when Alois Růžička died. He said he wanted to go to school like his white friends, but they didn't want “gypsies” anywhere, so he was already working at that age, often doing hard work.
When the Germans occupied the Czech borderlands in 1938, fifteen-year-old Leon moved with his mother Anna Růžičková and older brother Franta to Kladno, where he and his brother worked at the blast furnaces in the Poldi steelworks. The older siblings already had their own families and lived with them mostly in Peruc and Slavětín.
Leon Růžička recalled the year 1941 [actually 1943 (ed.)]: when he and his brother were going to work early in the morning on 6 March, the Gestapo arrived and took them and their mother in police van to the Gestapo station. He then met his brother and mother only during joint interrogation, otherwise they were separated. He recalled being brutally beaten during the interrogations and also mentioned the head of the Kladno Gestapo, [Harald] Wiesmann, and how brutally he ruled his “slaves”. Leon Růžička was convicted and deported to [the concentration camp at] Auschwitz.  In the transport he met the families of his siblings, 28 in total including him. Thirteen of them were children; only his mother was missing.
Upon arrival at the camp, SS officers with dogs were waiting for them and the commander gave the order to line up in threes. Not everyone understood German, so the SS beat some of the prisoners. After about half an hour they reached the gate of Auschwitz II - Birkenau, where the SS officers began to separate the children from their mothers. The mothers, of course, resisted. Leon's sister, Fanda, also argued with an SS officer about her children, and she pushed the SS officer. He shot her, and one of the children with her.
In the camp, they were taken to a building where they had to strip naked and then had their hair cut off. One by one they went into cold water showers, first the children, then the women and finally the men, then they were given camp clothes and tattooed with prison numbers on their left forearms. This went on all night, until 4:30 in the morning, but by 5 o'clock it was morning roll call. They were hungry and very thirsty, but right after the roll call each Oberkapo took one to two hundred people to work.
Prisoners were beaten with rubber and steel truncheons while working; some died or had to be taken to the infirmary. At noon they had a half-hour break for lunch, which, according to Růžička, even pigs would not eat; then they worked until 6:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m. there was a roll call (usually two hours long) and only afterwards on the block did they get a pitiful dinner: nettle tea and one loaf of bread between eight men.
Leon Růžička spent a year and a half in Auschwitz, after which he was transferred to [the concentration camp at] Buchenwald, where he worked in a stone quarry for seven months. He was then moved to the Dora camp, where they were building an underground factory in the rock, but it was overcrowded. Therefore he was transferred first to Harzungen, from which the prisoners commuted by freight train to work in the Dora camp, and then to Ellrich. In February 1945 he was transferred to Bergen[-Belsen], where he lived to see the end of the war.
After the war, Leon Růžička returned to his homeland, but he looked for his loved ones in vain. His mother and all his siblings and their families, including the children, perished in the gas chambers or died as a result of abuse.
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, 200-203. 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/leon-ruzicka (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
In 1958 Leon Růžička entered an abridged version of the article entitled "A Gypsy's Memory of the Nazi Camps", in a competition for commemorative, historical and documentary works of what was then the Czech Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters. An edited excerpt of this text was published with the Hvězda svobody [Star of Freedom] competition entries under the title "Bylo nás osmadvacet [There were twenty-eight of us].
-  Prague 1959, pp. 60-62.
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