Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Vera Gissing - April 22, 2006

Life Under German Occupation II

And the other one was, of course uh, when the Germans marched in and um, the commandant of the troops of our town uh, took over the best room in our house for his office. And it was the room which had a separate entrance, and father used it for business entertaining and we used it for special occasions, you know, special family celebrations and get togethers. And the commandant summoned our whole family uh, before him. And I remember standing there, looking at him, and he was sitting like you are, by the table, and he had these shiny, polished boots--leather boots ???. And mother was very good seamstress and she, she had made a couple of lovely rugs and there were his heels sticking into mother's mat, you know. And I found the whole thing terribly offensive. I hated it--hated him ???. And he said to my father, "I hear that you and your family can speak German." And father said, "That's true." And the commandant said, "Well from now on..."

[interruption in interview]

Anyway, he said to my--this um, commandant said to my father, "If your family can speak German I want only German spoken in this house." And father looked at the commandant straight in the eye and he said, "I am the head of this household, and as long as I live, we shall speak Czech, and German only in your presence." At that the commandant stood up and he spat in my father's face. And, you know, I can see ??? I can see the saliva running down his cheek. And I vowed I'd never again speak a word of German again.

You haven't.

I haven't. I, I could not. I think when something like that happens to you as a child, it's imprinted in your memory and you sort of feel almost obliged, you know?

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