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31 May 2012 19:30

Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly

The London Jewish Cultural Centre and the Czech Centre will launch the powerful and moving memoir by the late Heda Margolius Kovaly describing her imprisonment by the Nazis during WWII and her persecution by the Communists in the 1950s. Kovaly writes about meeting her husband Rudolf Margolius who along with 13 other government officials was tried and 11 of those hanged in one of the era’s most notorious show trials. The documentary “Hitler, Stalin and I” which complements Kovaly's book will be shown, followed by a discussion with Heda’s son, Ivan Margolius. The book Under a Cruel Star will be available for sale. Admission £5. Book your tickets at http://www.ljcc.org.uk/events

More information and reservations at: http://www.ljcc.org.uk/events/2135-under-a-cruel-star-br-by-heda-margolius-kovaly-br-a-life-in-prague-1941-1968.html

Complimentary Czech beer will be provided * courtesy of Czech Centre London.
* applies to 18+

Heda Margolius Kovály (1919-2010)
Married to her childhood sweetheart, Rudolf Margolius, she was separated from her parents when the Jews were taken out of the ghetto and transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. After arriving at Auschwitz, she was chosen to survive — though her parents were immediately gassed — and to work as a laborer in the Christianstadt labour camp.

When the Eastern Front of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union approached the camp, its prisoners were evacuated. With a few other women in the first months of 1945, it was decided while on this journey to Bergen-Belsen, to escape back to Prague. After arriving in the city, Margolius discovered that most of the people who remained in the city during the war were too frightened by the threat of German punishment to aid an escapee from the camps.

When Soviet forces finally freed Prague from Nazi control the Communist Party began to rise. The experiences of her husband at Auschwitz and Dachau had led him to becoming a Communist. He took a job with the government as Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade at the command of the Communist Party, despite his own and his wife's reservations about the position.

In 1952, her husband was found guilty of conspiracy during the notorious Slansky trial. Having been prevented from seeing her husband for eleven months after his arrest, and after he and the other arrested Jews gave false confessions extracted by torture, Heda later learned that he had been hanged and his body cremated and given to security officials for disposal. In a final indignity, a few miles out of Prague, the officials’ limousine began to skid on the icy road and his ashes were thrown under the wheels to create traction.

Their son, Ivan Margolius, was raised in impoverished conditions. For as long as the Communist Party remained in power, she was kept from good jobs and socially shunned. She did not tell Ivan the truth about what happened to his father until he was sixteen years old.

She re-married in 1955 to Pavel Kovály. Unfortunately, his name was brought down because of his association with her as the widow of the alleged traitor, her first husband, Rudolf Margolius.

Finally in 1968, when once again Soviet Union troops invaded Prague after the Prague Spring and occupation seemed inevitable, Margolius Kovály fled Czechoslovakia to the U.S..

She worked as a librarian in the international-law library at Harvard University in Boston, MA.

Margolius Kovály returned to Prague with her second husband in 1996.


Heda Margolius Kovaly's memoir Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 is available on Amazon.com






London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, 94-96 North End Road, London NW11 7SX


31 May 2012 19:30


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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