Biography of Vladimir Feierabend

 

Vladimir age21 1945

 

Vladimir Feierabend

Vladimir Feierabend is born on 7 July , 1924 in Prague, and is the younger son of Karel and Marie Feierabend. He is not yet 15 years old when Nazi Germany occupies Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939, which then becomes the "Protectorate of the Reich of Bohemia and Moravia". Waves of terror, arrests and deportation hit the people.

 

 

 

 

In February 1940, his uncle "Lada", (brother of Marie), Ladislav Feierabend, a politician involved in the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement "political headquarters", manages to escape, cross the Balkans, joins the French before going into exile in London where he becomes Minister of Agriculture in the government of Beneš in exile.

In February 1940, his uncle "Lada", (brother of Marie), Ladislav Feierabend, a politician involved in the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement "political headquarters", manages to escape, cross the Balkans, joins the French before going into exile in London where he becomes Minister of Agriculture in the government of Beneš in exile.


Vladimir’s father is then arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of having helped Ladislav Feierabend to escape. He is imprisoned in Pankrac prison in Prague, and later transferred to Stadelheim prison in Munich. He was released in March very thin. He resumes his life as best as he can and continues his high school education and basketball training.


In May 1942, a murder attempt is made on Reinhard Heydrich. Also Vladimir’s family becomes the victim of the Gestapo’s retaliatory measures against all the families of Czechs fighting abroad against the Nazis. On 1 July 1942 around 3 p.m. the doorbell rings. It is the Gestapo which takes the 81-year-old grandfather with them for questioning. Vladimir, who is doing his homework, stays at home, but an hour later the Gestapo returns and asks him to follow them. The Gestapo also looks for his aunt Hana who is not at home, and drives to pick up his brother Karel from the technical school. When they arrive at the Gestapo headquarters, they find their father and grandfather and the others. In the evening, her aunt also joins them. The same evening they are all taken to Theresienstadt.


There the women are separated from the men. They are found guilty of endangering the existence and safety of the people and the state, and suspected of developing hostile activities and working against the good of the Reich. They are about sixty, are instructed to wear old military uniforms, their hair and beards are shaved and they are put in a cell in the third courtyard of the small fortress. The walls are bare, a single open lavatory and a water tap. They are invaded by fleas and bugs and forced to work. Grandfather peels potatoes in the kitchen, his father sweeps the yards. They get up at 5 a.m. and Vladimir, his brother and his cousin Mirek have to do hard labour outside, on the railroads, wielding a spade, an ax etc. Vladimir also works in a laundry, digs a swimming pool, carries buckets of food to the women's section and carries bags of concrete.


His mother Marie, arrested three days after his family, is also sent to Theresienstadt. With Aunt Hana (wife of the minister in exile), they are then deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

 

As for Vladimir and the other members of his family, they are transferred to the Dachau concentration camp after a very trying trip lasting several days. They arrive on 11 September 1942 and are registered with number 36176 for Vladimir and 36174 for his father Karel Feierabend. Number 36175 is for his grandfather Karel Feierabend (1861-1945) and number 36173 for his brother Karel Feierabend. After being shaved and sprayed with creosol, they take their first shower in two months.


Dressed in blue and white striped uniforms, they are placed in quarantine in Block 15, room 3. There are clean beds, straw mattresses, pillows, blankets. After Theresienstadt and their appalling transport to Dachau, their first impression is positive: "Compared to Theresienstadt, order and cleanliness reigned in Dachau which was self-administered by the prisoners under the command of the SS". "We had to make the beds neatly, without a fold and if it was done badly, we were deprived of breakfast." After three weeks, he is transferred to Block 10, the Czech block. Vladimir first worked at the "Baulager II" labor commando where he digs foundations for a building outside the camp. In December, he and his family are assigned to the clothing warehouse. They are happy that they do no longer work in the cold and damp. In addition, working in this warehouse can help "organize" socks, gloves and other items. At the beginning of 1943 Vladimir is transferred to become a clerk of the documentation at the “Politische Abteilung”. This "political section" is responsible for preparing files for the Munich Gestapo. He knows German and besides has a clear handwriting - two qualities which are an opportunity to survive during these three years.


At first, Vladimir registers the names and personal details of new arrivals for the Gestapo files. In 1943, as the camp begins to be overcrowded, sanitary conditions deteriorate. Lice are abound. “We couldn't change linens or clothes."


Vladimir gets typhoid, has a fever for over a month, but survives. This is the most critical time he spends in camp. He is near to death although he is still young. “But there were already so many young people who died”. His father and brother help and provide him with food and there contributing to his convalescence.


He is again assigned to the "political section" where he is still responsible for registering new arrivals by filling out questionnaires in various languages ​​(Slavic, German, French etc.). He does it by hand but also with a typewriter. The desk he worked on can still be seen in the memorial museum. This function even results in him traveling to the Kaufering outer camp - of course accompanied by SS. He has to register the Jewish women imprisoned in this camp in 1944. The archives of the memorial attest that Vladimir Feierabend was interned in Dachau in Block 20 / I from July 1943 to March 1944 and in Block 4 / IV from August 1944 to February 1945.

Vladimir's father and brother are assigned to work in the Effektenkammer kommando (personal effects warehouse), a chance not to have to work outside in all weather conditions. In the warehouse located in the administration building, this commando sorts clothes and objects confiscated from detainees on their arrival at the camp.

Grandfather only survives thanks to the solidarity of the other deportees from the Revier (medical ward), in particular that of nurse Heinrich Stöhr. In the fourth room the arranges a kind of “asylum for certain famous personalities and prisoners in danger": those suffering from pneumonia, are hidden in the infirmary from 1942 until his release. The solidarity of the nurses and his fellow prisoners prevent him from being selected for transporting invalids to the castle of Artheim and being exterminated there. He will be the oldest inmate to experience the arrival of American troops on 29 April 1945.


The memorial archives also have 13 letters from the Feierabend family addressed to Marie Feierabend, deported to the Ravensbrück camp.
The memorial has photos of Vladimir at liberation with other Czech deportees. On the day of liberation, 29 April 1945, Vladimir works at Barrack No.1. He goes out to the roll call station. “It was like an avalanche and I was in this avalanche. I watched, watched, watched. And I was just happy ". The American liberators and the international inmate committee are taking the necessary initiatives: ensuring order and security, isolating typhus patients, care, vaccinations, disinfection of lice. “We could breathe and were glad we survived. Thanks to the US military ".

In the chaos of liberation, his brother Karel manages to leave the camp and is the of the family to return to Prague. The Americans organize military trucks that transport Czech prisoners to Pilsen. Vladimir Feierabend arrived in Prague on 22 May 1945 and the next day he finds his mother Marie and his aunt Hana evacuated from Ravensbrück on 28 April 1945 who had walked for a month to reach the Czech border, where a bus took them back to Prague.


The next day his father also returns, in an American car. Grandfather, exhausted but alive, is taken to Pilsen hospital by the Americans. Vladimir picks him up and transfer him to Vinohrady Hospital in Prague, where he dies on 6 June, despite receiving treatment, five days after returning to his homeland. But his wish to return home was granted. As Vladimir says: “So after 3 years in Dachau and Ravensbrück, the family came together and was reunited in 3 days. Isn't that amazing?”


After the liberation, his brother studies at the technical university, Vladimir takes his exams, finishes high school , enters university and becomes a doctor. Vladimir gets married and starts a family.


Under the communist regime, he is subjected to reprisals, banished from Prague in 1952, is no longer allowed to practice medicine and forced to work at the mine.


After the fall of the wall in 1989, he forms the Dachau committee in Prague, notably with Miroslav Kubik and Zdeněk Pošusta. He has been its president since 1990. In October 1990, he joins the Board of Directors of the CID in Paris and is unanimously elected member of the Executive Board of the CID by the general assembly of 4 May 1991. On 12 June 1992 Prague hosts the session of the Executive Board and a wreath is laid in Lidice.


Vladimir Feierabend is a member of the reading committee of the CID, maintains a close relationship with Barbara Distel and the “Cahiers de Dachau” (Dachau notebooks). In December 1992, together with Paul Kerstenne and Max Mannheimer, he is part of the CID delegation to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, together with representatives of other international camp committees. In February 1993, this results in the adoption, of a very important document: the “resolution on European and international protection as historic monuments of the sites of Nazi concentration camps”.
In the spring of 1996, the Executive Board meeting is held again in Prague at the invitation of Vladimir Feierabend and on 23 October 1999. On this occasion its members are shown Theresienstadt, the fortress and the ghetto museum. He reveals to his friends from the CID the story of his family which was interned in the small fortress and tell them how he saw, especially in the evenings when he came home from work, the SS torturing the Jews of the Theresienstadt ghetto. .


Vladimir Feierabend has given several interviews - for example at Bavarian Radio in 1999, at the Bavarian History House in April 2000, at the Association for the Promotion of International Youth Meetings (Förderverein) in 2004 or at the Memorial Archives from Dachau camp. He mentions in particular his work at the secretariat of the political section, the solidarity and mutual aid that saved his family, the typhus epidemic, etc.


Vladimir Feierabend is instrumental in the Czech-language edition of the book by his compatriot and friend Stanislav Zámečník. "To bylo Dachau" published by Paseka in 2003. He also contributes to the edition of this book in German and French, acting as mediator between the CID and Stanislav Zámečník when necessary.


Vladimir has always been keen to listen to one another and to maintain unity within the CID. Without ever putting himself forward, his wise advice was appreciated by the members of the international committee. Vladimir Feierabend was particularly attached to the preservation of the international character of the Dachau camp memorial, witness to the diverse origins of political opponents of the Nazi regime.
His wife, who had been ill for a long time, dies on 5 November 2012, which affects him very deeply. His close-knit family surround him. His daughter Alena and grandson Honza accompany him to Munich and Dachau when he attends the meetings of the International Committee.


Vladimir maintained good contacts with schools in Prague, Pilsen and Roudnice. He organized and accompanied several school trips to Dachau with the support of the CID. His precise memories, his kindness and his humour make him a precious and appreciated witness. For Vladimir, it was important that the CID support these trips and the training of teachers and history teachers.


He died on Sunday, 13 September 2020 at the age of 96. Her funeral took place on Monday 21 September in Prague in the presence of his family - daughter Alena and grandchildren Honza and Katerina. The CID was represented by its president General Jean-Michel Thomas and by Zdeněk Pošusta. His former fellow inmate Miroslav Kubik was also present.

In conclusion, let us quote a few extracts from the tribute paid by General Thomas underlining the profound humanity of Vladimir:

"After fighting bravely for the past few years you left us falling asleep quietly in Peace. (…) You have always faithfully participated in our activities, being an example of wisdom and dignity. The members of the CID are moved by your departure and many have expressed their sadness, like your many friends at the Dachau Memorial who hold you in high esteem. I quote their testimonies: gentleman, remarkable man, worthy of respect and admiration. You marked us by your listening skills, your reserve and your discretion, always favouring harmony and unity. As in your life as a doctor, you were attentive to everyone. With kindness and serenity you shared your humanity, your common sense and your simplicity. We are all grateful to you for what you have given us. We have been honoured and fortunate to know you as a fundamentally good man and we will not forget you. Goodbye Vladimir and thank you. ”

 

 

text ; Sylvie Graffard