Vlasta Serynková, born 1922 in Pilsen, died 1990
Vlasta Serynková lived with her mother Anastázie Serynková and her siblings Alois, Karel, Eduard, Anna and Antonie in Pilsen. All the siblings already had children when the war started.
In 1942, the entire family was herded into a school in Pilsen and taken to the concentration camp at Lety u Píseku, where they were registered, photographed and fingerprinted. In the spring they were transported from there to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, but they had no idea where they were – they didn't find out until later. There were up to eighty people, including children, in one wagon; they had only what they were wearing. They had no food or drink for the journey, and the children were crying with thirst and hunger. The transport was escorted by Czech police and then handed over to the Germans; they arrived in Auschwitz at about 11 a.m. The guards drove them out of the wagons and herded them into vehicles, which took them to the camp. From the gate the whole transport went to the quarantine room, where they were given numbers, prison clothes and clogs. The family then spent three weeks in quarantine. They were scared because they did not know what to expect.
She remembered that they were in block 22. There was no heating; the families slept together on three-storey bunk beds. The prisoners had no blankets and suffered from the cold. The wooden toilets were at the end of the block; the windows were small. The staff were both Germans and Czechs, and the kapos were from the ranks of the prisoners. Serynková reported that there were Czech women imprisoned there who were made block kapos and beat them very badly, allegedly more than the Germans. The rollcalls lasted for an hour or two, and only those who were deemed sick by the guards did not have to stand for the rollcalls; women with small children also had to stand there, and bigger children from about ten years of age stood alone for the rollcall. Serynková said that once the guards drove them out into the cold and they had to kneel outside for two hours. They were given coffee and bread to eat, soup (antop) and 3 potatoes after work, and soup in the evening; they usually saved the bread for the evening. Some prisoners received parcels, but it was not usual. Serynková herself did not receive anything, as the whole family was in Auschwitz. The prisoners were hungry and malnourished; Serynková tells how she used to collect potato peelings from the dunghill and then cook them on the fire. Scabies, typhus and tuberculosis were rampant in the camp, and there were no cures for any of them. Prisoners were given injections without knowing what they were for. The bodies of the dead were left on the block for up to three days and rations taken for them, and only then were the deaths reported. If a prisoner tried to escape, the relatives did not report him, lest they too be punished. When an escapee was caught, the guards tortured him. It was said that thefts did not occur because there was nothing to steal, but people quarrelled and fought over food and rations.
Serynková reported that the prisoners knew about the gas chambers and crematoria and that they were afraid of each new day because of this. She said that the worst day came when they called her mother's number and sent her to the gas chamber. Serynkova begged the guards to let her see her mother, but in vain; she never saw her again. The following day she lost her sisters Anna and Antonie and eight nieces and nephews in the same way. One by one she also lost her brothers Karl and Eduard. The latter was beaten to death by the Germans because he could no longer work due to hunger. On the day she lost her sisters, they shaved her and cut her hair again and forced her to bathe with the men; when she refused, the guards beat her.
Serynkova passed through other camps as well; she said they worked 12 hours a day everywhere. In Leipzig she was in an ammunition factory, in “Lazebrik” [Ravensbrück] she worked in a quarry and recalls that when they could no longer work, the Germans sent dogs after them and beat them with bullwhips; in Buchenwald they loaded shells, and in “Litenberg” [Wittenberg] they cut sheet metal for airplanes; there she was due to go to the gas chamber, but was saved at the last moment by the fact that, on Hitler's orders, prisoners who were young and able to work were no longer killed but made to work. She said that the repeated transports saved her life.
She did not remember the exact date of liberation, but remembered that on 3 May 1945 the German commander shouted that things were bad and let them go. She described how they all ran "like mad", the Germans shot at them and some prisoners died on the electrified wires. Many sick prisoners remained in the camp, including children.
-  It is not stated by whom.
-  Transport of May 7, 1943. (ed.)
-  In fact, Block 22 remained vacant at first and later a camp hospital was set up there. The Czech Roma were placed in blocks 21, 23 and 25 on the opposite side of the camp road. (ed.)
-  Serynková was referring to the female prison officials of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. In the Gypsy camp, the women prisoners rarely acted as kapos. (ed.)
-  She was transported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp on 24 May 1944 and from there she was successively assigned to the branches of this camp: in Leipzig-Schönefeld and in Taucha (where she was transferred via the Buchenwald concentration camp) she worked in the HASAG - Munitionswerke Hugo Schneider AG factory, and in Wittenberg in the Lingerwerke factory. (ed.)
Those who survived headed for Berlin, and from there Serynková and others walked to Prague. They walked only at night, but they did not reach Prague; they were stuck in Česká Lípa because there was fighting in Prague. Marie Nedvědová and Alžběta Danielová also returned from the camp. Serynková was ill for a long time after her return and due to the effects of the torture she was completely disabled. From the family, only her brother Alois returned.
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, 204-206. 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/vlasta-serynkova (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
Anna Benešová made a loose transcript of Vlasta Serynková’s reminiscences on 21 September 1987.
Where to find this testimony