CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) – “I always attribute this to luck. You know there are people who say it’s cunning or this and that… It is a matter of luck.”
If it really is all luck, then Holocaust survivor Peter Kubicek has been very, very lucky in his life. You wouldn’t think it though when you hear his story.
As a Jewish child during WWII, he was deported with his mother and grandmother from what was then Czechoslovakia. Separated from them after two weeks – would go on to six different concentration camps. “Life in the concentration camp consisted of surviving to tomorrow,” Kubicek says, pausing. “You couldn’t think beyond that.”
As the war continued, his journey through the camps did as well.
“Every morning, the prisoners were counted, and we’d have to show up on what’s called ‘role call square.’ It took sometimes hours to be counted and that was during the wintertime and it was very cold. And the tally was never correct. So when a tally for the barracks was never correct, they’d send people to check the bunks and sure enough they’d pull out the ones who’d died during the night, or were just too sick to get off the top bunk,” he remembers.
Still, with stories like those, Kubicek says, he was lucky, never ending up at Auschwitz, where he is certain he would’ve been killed.
“The main deportations in Slovakia took place in 1942 and out of a Jewish population at the time close to 90,000, 60,000 were deported between March and November of 1942. Of these 60,000 about 230 survived. Statistically that means that out of each 1,000 4 survived.”
He says the small number who did survive, have difficulty talking about it– something he understands, comparing it to PTSD. But he says he – and others – did it for their children.
“I think many memoir writers out there would second that thought – and many are written for – very definitely for the children,” says Kubicek.
We walked through the museum with him – it was his first visit here, and he said, it’s so important to protect these stories- in places just like this.
“We who are in the history business,” says National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library President & CEO Gail Naughton, “We hold those stories and we need to keep them and we need to share them, we need to learn from them. These stories apply to today, they apply to when they happened 70 plus years go. We think it’s critically important and that’s what we do every day.
Happily, their latest story they add to their collection, ended well. Kubicek was eventually reunited with his mother.
The emotions? “Inexpressible.”
And at 16, he finally was reunited with his father, in America – where he found something he’ll never take for granted.
“The sense of freedom over here was just…it’s a great feeling,” he says.
Kubicek writes “If you want to come a little closer to understanding the holocaust, read my modest book. It is far from the whole truth, which is beyond human understanding. But it is nothing but the truth.”
The NCSML held a presentation and signing Wednesday night for Kubicek’s memoir Memories of Evil: Recalling a World War II Childhood. You can purchase Kubicek’s book at the gift shop at the NCSML or on Amazon.