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Object: Photograph

Physical Description: Digital Copy of Photograph.

Information: This photograph belongs to Peter Briess, it shows Peter's school class in Olomouc. Peter came to England from Czechoslovakia with his parents. The family fled increasing danger from the Nazi regime and persecution of Jewish people. 

Further Information

This photograph belongs to Peter Briess, it shows his school class in Olomouc, in the picture Peter is fifth from the left on the top row. Peter was born in September 1931, to parents Hans and Else, in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia. In 1935 the family moved into a house whose construction had been commissioned by Peter’s father. Peter’s grandparents lived on the first floor while Peter and his parents lived above them. The family were Jewish, and Peter recalls a happy life during his early childhood.

Peter began primary school in 1937, where he enjoyed good grades. However the family faced increasing danger from the rise of Nazism, and persecution of Jewish people. By early 1939 Peter’s father had determined the danger too great and had been planning to move the family out of Czechoslovakia, however troops from Nazi Germany arrived in Olomouc before they had left. By chance the Commandant of the troops desired to have the Briess family home for himself, although at the time complying with the request and surrendering their property was essential, Peter’s father asked that the Commandant provide the family with exit visas in return for them leaving.

This move was very brave as at that time not complying immediately with such a request was very dangerous. It saved the lives of Peter’s immediate family as Peter, his sister, and parents began their journey to England on 29 June 1939. However, many family members remained behind, including Dorli and Paula, Peter’s paternal grandparents who had lived with them and who had to move out of the house to make way for the Commandant.

Although it would have been extremely difficult for them, they moved into the home of their housekeeper, Anezka, who was not Jewish and remained loyal to the family throughout the Holocaust and the Second World War. Anezka risked her own life to look after Peter’s grandparents, and later kept the family’s photographs and letters safe. Dorli died of natural causes in January, 1942. Because she was Jewish, Paula was deported to Theresienstadt in July of the same year and murdered.

Peter has written a book, in which these photographs are featured, which describes Paula and Dorli, and the difficulties they faced under the Nazi regime. The book serves alongside the photographs to preserve the stories of Peter’s family, the challenges and fears that they faced, and their lives before the rise of Nazism.  

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