Pinner group hears the poignant case of an Auschwitz survivor

By Jay Grenby, April 27, 2012
Zdenka Fantlova

Zdenka Fantlova

The MOVING story of a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor was relayed to the 450 people at Pinner Synagogue's Yom Hashoah commemoration.

Czech-born Zdenka Fantlova was incarcerated in Terezin, Auschwitz and finally Bergen-Belsen, from which she was liberated. She was the only survivor from her immediate family.

She recalled being initially incredulous at the atrocities she witnessed. However, a will to live - a theme of the Pinner evening - was key to her survival.

Some years ago, an acquaintance visiting Auschwitz spotted her suitcase, clearly marked with her name, on top of a pile of luggage once belonging to inmates and now part of a display in the Auschwitz museum. After contacting the museum curators and proving that the case had been hers, Ms Fantlova was sent a photo of the display.

"As soon as I saw it, what came back to me was not so much the horror of it all, but simply the smell of that cardboard and imitation snakeskin suitcase," she recalled.

Suitcase at Auschwitz

Suitcase at Auschwitz

"The curators asked me if I wanted my property returned. I debated this with fellow members of Jewish Care's Holocaust Survivors' Centre in Hendon.

"Half of them said I should claim it back. The other half, including myself, thought it was better for the case to stay where it was as a permanent testimony to what happened."

She today lives in the same Bayswater building from which the British Special Operations Executive planned the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, known as "The Butcher of Prague" and one of the architects of the Final Solution.

Pinner members queued until late in the evening to purchase copies of her autobiography, The Tin Ring, whose title was inspired by a tin ring given to her by her boyfriend as a symbol of love and a commitment to marriage if they both survived - which he did not.

Other speakers at the commemoration included another Czech-born survivor, Victor Greenberg, and former UK ambassador to Israel Sir Andrew Burns.

Last updated: 2:36pm, April 27 2012