Zdena Holomková, born 1924, village of Derfle (today part of the town of Sady, Uherské Hradiště)
Zdena Holomková was one of ten children. She and her parents Martin Holomek and his wife Františka had lived in Derfli [since 1952 Sady].
In 1943, gendarmes came to see the Holomeks and told them that they had been assigned to a transport. All the Roma families from the village had to join the transport. The mayor and the others knew about it, but there was nothing they could do; the mayor said that if there had been a choice, they would have left them at home.
The Roma were assembled in the Sokol Hall in Staré Město [near Uherské Hradiště], where the gendarmes photographed them; then they were forced to take a bath and they were shaved. They were loaded onto cattle trucks, where they were crammed in, given nothing to eat or drink, and had to use a bucket as a toilet. The train stopped in Ostrava, where Germans took charge of the transport from the Czech gendarmes. The Holomeks had food from home, which enabled them to survive the journey.
The transport reached Auschwitz in the evening, when it was already dark. The Germans started banging on the doors of the wagons and forcing people out. They didn't know where they were; the guards beat them with rifle butts to hurry them up. They walked two or three hours from the station to the camp, some of them travelling in vehicles; 18-year-old Zdena Holomková walked.
The entrance to the concentration camp made a terrible impression on her: mud, Jewish and Roma prisoners, electric wires everywhere. In one shed they were registered and tattooed with numbers. They were given no water to drink or to wash with. When it rained, they tried to catch water in bowls, at least for drinking.
They remained in quarantine for about a week, when they were divided into blocks. The Holomek family ended up in block 16. There were ten of the Holomeks in all and they had their own bunk. There were no windows in the barracks, only a door at each end. There were no toilets, only barrels, and they had no place to wash. Later on, a room was added to the barracks with a trough. The block guards were political prisoners, and in their block they were Poles. Later on, some Roma also became block wardens.
For food, every day they were given beet soup with potatoes and a piece of bread, and to drink they had tea made from some kind of leaves, and coffee. There was also a canteen, but only for those prisoners who had money or gold to trade, and of course the Holomeks had none.
They were counted on the Appellplatz every morning before leaving for work and on their return. Sometimes they were kept there for two hours even in the cold and frost when the number of prisoners did not match the count.
In Auschwitz, Zdena Holomková first went to work outside the camp, digging ditches in front of the military buildings. Some kapos treated the prisoners decently, some beat them for no reason. Then she started working in the kitchen, where she was better off. She worked from morning to afternoon, cooking food and then cleaning up. Then she had a day off, but she had to stay in the block.
In Auschwitz they had their hair cut every three months and, she says their clothes were burned. At first the Holomeks wore their own clothes; later they were given striped prison clothes. When they had been in the camp longer, the guards began to have fun at the prisoners' expense - for example, two prisoners had to get down on all fours, a German would stand on top of them, and they had to crawl around on all fours.
Typhus and scabies were rampant in the camp, but Zdena Holomková did not fall ill, nor was she ever in the camp infirmary. Her father died of heart disease, with which he had already had problems at home; other family members perished in the gas chamber. Apart from Zdena, only one sister and one brother survived, as they, like her, were sent to work in other concentration camps. One of her sisters did not want to be separated from her child, so she stayed with it, and they were killed together.
The gas chambers were right next to the barracks, so they saw the Jewish transports arriving and then vehicles coming back from the crematoria with clothes. Zdena Holomková described the flames shooting out of the crematoria. Although the Germans always locked them up in the barracks when the transports arrived, the prisoners knew what was happening to the Jews. When the capacity of the crematoria was not sufficient the guards threw the dead Jews into a large dug-out pit.
When any of them escaped, they were caught and executed – she specifically mentioned a Roma from Strážnice, who was shot, and then his body was displayed to the other prisoners to intimidate them.
A transport of German Roma arrived at the camp Their hair was not cut until the Czech Roma objected, so they their hair was cut as well. The German Roma played music in the block; they must have brought an accordion with them. They even got their hands on tobacco in the canteen. In the canteen they also used to sell what Holomková calls slugs in mustard.
Zdena Holomková described how people became desensitized after a while when they saw so many corpses every day. She stated that she did not think about what would happen to her; she simply expected death any moment.
One night, on the instructions of the camp commander, the guards selected all the prisoners to go to the crematorium because they were supposedly sick. However, one of the doctors argued with the camp commander about the need to select able-bodied people to work elsewhere. Thanks to this, Zdena Holomková was saved. She was included in the transport to [the concentration camp at] Ravensbrück. The guards there were women, who behaved more cruelly than the men. At this camp, Holomková received two parcels from her cousin, but everything was stolen.
From Ravensbrück, Zdenka Holomková was transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where Polish prisoners from Auschwitz were also transported. The Poles told them that those who stayed in Auschwitz had died in the gas chambers. In Mauthausen, Zdena Holomková lived to see the liberation by the American army. The Germans fled as the American army approached and bombed the camp.
-  At the beginning of March 1943 there were only kitchens, dormitory blocks and sanitary huts in the camp, in which there were toilets, and there were supposed to be washrooms (but these were not built until April, and the bath-house not until sometime in the late spring of 1943). (ed.)
-  Presumably pickled snails.
-  Transport of 2 August 1944. (ed.)
-  Two days after the armed uprising of the prisoners on May 5, 1945, the camp was liberated by the American army. (ed.)
From Mauthausen, Zdena Holomková was taken by bus probably to České Budějovice, and then took a train via Prague to Veselí nad Moravou. From there she continued on foot to Sady, where her sister had arrived earlier. The brother was the last to arrive; the other family members had perished.
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, 147-150. 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/zdena-holomkova (accessed 11/25/2023)
Origin of Testimony
The narration was recorded on tape by Jitka Lukešová on 10 July 1987.
Where to find this testimony