Interviewed on 18th August 2015 by A Riffat

Zdenka Husserl was born in 1939, in Prague. In 1942, at three years old Zdenka was deported by the Nazi regime with her mother, Helena, to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. Zdenka’s mother was sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Zdenka remained in Theresienstadt until its liberation in May 1945, by which time she was 6 years old. After liberation Zdenka was brought to England as part of a scheme to aid surviving children liberated from the Nazi camp system. A group of the children, including Zdenka, lived in a house in Surrey and later in Isleworth in what was known as Lingfield House.

Here we explore Zdenka’s feelings and thoughts towards faith after the Holocaust. Zdenka’s section focuses on her experiences when she arrived in Britain after her liberation from Theresienstadt. The interview also shows how survivors held onto their religious objects and what they mean to them today.

Q. So Zdenka, can you tell us about your arrival in to Weir Courtney?

A. 'I arrived at Weir Courtney, in Lingfield, Surrey, December, I can’t remember the date, but it was December nineteen forty- five, the first day of Chanukah. I remember these candles, that all round the windowsill and they had one candle in what we call the Shamash, which lights the candles, but we arrived in the first evening of Chanukah and Alice would play her harmonica, the Chanukah song and that’s I think the most vivid memory I have of, arriving in Lingfield, Surrey’.

Q. Did you practise any religious events at the house or undertake any religious events?

A. ‘When we were in Lingfield house, once a month we had to go to the synagogue, which none of us unfortunately really liked we had to wear our better coats, we had to wear a beret or something on our heads which none of us liked and we put it in our pockets until we were nearly there. We did not come from Isleworth wearing a hat, so just nearby we quickly took this out of our pockets put this on our heads, but what we did not like were the Sunday morning Sunday classes, we none of us liked that’.

Q. Okay, and do you remember any other events that you did in the house.

 A. ‘Yes, we did, we liked the Jewish holidays like Pesach, the Jewish Passover, we liked that we had to help Sophie in the kitchen because that takes a lot of preparation for the traditional food. We also liked the Jewish New Year, Sophie would make an individual little round challah, the Jewish bread for all of us. We were-- I think we were almost twenty-four children then. There was a lot of work but Sophie was a wizard in all that, so nothing was too much for her, Passover, Jewish New Year or in Weir Courtney and even Lingfield House Alice always enjoyed dressing up and I-- that wasn’t what I liked at all, I was dressed up, you see in some of my albums, as a princess. I was not one that liked dressing up, I liked looking after my chickens, wearing, not good clothes, that wasn’t me dressing up as a princess, definitely not’.

Q. So you, you’ve donated a lot of the Lingfield House reports to this museum. Can you tell us a little bit about what the reports are?

A. ‘Oh yes, do you see I’m holding a chicken. The West London Synagogue, I can’t remember how often they made these books. First of all they had to have the accounts, also there were pictures, little pictures of us children, there’s one I remember in one of the magazines, one of the children playing ping-pong. I was good at that as well, and also they had to keep a record of the money that some of the very kind people that belonged to the West London Synagogue supported Lingfield House and that had to be recorded, they had to know where, where is the money going to. I mean, I was the one in charge, something else I was in charge of, to go to the pet shop in Isleworth, Lingfield House, Isleworth, to go and order the pet food. We had dogs, we had a guinea pig, rabbits, my chickens were the biggest animal, dogs and it was me that used to go once a week to order the food for the animals. So, I liked doing that, I went on a bike’.