I hope the history of what I went through in the second world war will never be repeated.

-Zdenka Husserl in “We Remember” (AJR 2011)

Zdenka Husserl was born in 1939 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She doesn’t remember much from her early life, having been just a baby when the war broke out. Her story from her infant years has culminated from a mixture of memory fragments and research in later life.

Zdenka lived in Prague with her mother and father until her father was deported to the Lodz ghetto on one of the very first transports in 1941, where he died. After the death of her father Zdenka and her mother went to live with Zdenka’s grandfather in Zdikov. In November 1942 they were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Zdenka has some of her earliest memories from her time in Theresienstadt. She remembers her hair being shaved due to lice, burning her hand in an oven, and standing in the snow with no shoes. A particular memory that Zdenka has is of the Alsatian dogs that used to guard the camp, to this day she cannot stand to be near one. Zdenka was separated from her mother in the camp and believes this was due to an illness and is the reason she cannot remember her.

In 1942 Zdenka’s mother and grandfather were deported to Auschwitz without her. Zdenka was liberated from Theresienstadt in May 1945 by the Russian army at just 6 years old. Now an orphan, Zdenka was transported from the camp along with many other children to a castle in Prague. From the castle, Zdenka was moved to England in August 1945. She stayed in a children’s home with other orphaned survivors from the camps called Weir Courtney in Lingfield, Surrey. She stayed there until 1948 when she and the others moved to Lingfield House in Isleworth.

The matron at Lingfield house was a woman named Alice Goldberger, a German refugee, and Zdenka and most of the other children thought of her as a mother. Zdenka and Alice remained very close friends for the rest of Alice’s life. There were 24 children at Lingfield house and Zdenka remembers her childhood their fondly. She recalls that the house had plenty of animals, including 24 chickens, dogs, cats, and rabbits.

In 1956 Zdenka got her first job as a dressmaker and ended up working in top fashion houses for 15 years. She lived in Lingfield house until it closed in 1957 and still remains in contact with many others who stayed there.

In 1960 Zdenka finally received a copy of her birth certificate and was able to finally visit Prague again in 1987 after years of reluctance. On Christmas Eve in 1989, Zdenka received a photograph. In the photograph was a young woman and a child, Zdenka recognised herself as the small child and after what had been 50 years of wondering, she was finally confronted with the image of her mother.

Zdenka remains a close friend and supporter of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. Along with a plethora of different objects, documents, and photographs, Zdenka’s testimony has been instrumental in educating people about the Holocaust. The centre endeavours to protect and maintain her legacy for years to come.

The Collection 

The museum houses many documents, objects, and photographs donated by Zdenka. It is our privilege to care for these artefacts and ensure they are available for future generations. The museum's collection provides vital, tangible, evidence of the Holocaust. We are committed to ensuring we have everything we need to continue to tell our speaker's stories into the future. Please find a selection of objects below from the Zdenka Husserl Collection, you can also search our collections for further objects and information.