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5 Nov 2012

Zdenka Fantlová - The Tin Ring: How I Cheated Death

As survivors of Nazi persecution age and their experiences slip into history, many seem compelled to revisit the places of their youth and to write about the events that ruptured their lives. Zdenka Fantlová was born in Czechoslovakia in 1923 into an assimilated Czech-Jewish family. It was a return visit in the 1980s to the town where she grew up that inspired her to write this memoir and answer the question: how did it happen? Recently published by Northumbria University Press.

Zdenka Fantlova's childhood in pre-war Czechoslovakia was a peaceful though not an uneventful one that revolved around her family, her friends and of course, boys! Her life seemed mapped out when she met Arno, her soul-mate, but the German invasion of her country intervened and Zdenka's life was forced down an horrific and unexpected path. Sent by the Nazis to the ghetto of Terezin outside Prague, Arno presented his girlfriend with a small token of his love, a ring made from tin. Soon his life journey diverged from hers - a journey from which he was destined not to return. Zdenka was transported from Terezin to the extermination camp at Auschwitz and afterwards to hard labour in Kurzbach. The people she met, the horrors she experienced and fight for survival as a young woman of nineteen are movingly described. Her life still revolved around her family, her friends and her longing to be with Arno, whose ring she risked death to keep with her. In January 1945 she was forced to walk nearly 300 miles on a death march to the Gross Rosen camp and then to the infamous Bergen-Belsen. With the war coming to an end the conditions in the camps became more chaotic and deadly. In the last days before liberation Belsen, with no food or water, became hell on earth and, Zdenka, in one last grasp at survival, forced herself into the hospital wing and begged for help from a British army officer. She has never learned the name of the man who saved her life. "The Tin Ring" is dedicated 'to an unknown member of the British Army, who, through his humanity, saved my life in Bergen-Belsen in April 1945' and it is hoped that the UK publication of the book will help trace the officer or his family so that Zdenka can, at long last, personally express her gratitude. Meanwhile, of the man who gave her the mental strength to persevere, her Arno, she still keeps his now very fragile tin ring made of tin close by her side. She does all that she can to ensure that this dark period in twentieth century history is never forgotten and seizes every opportunity to give talks at schools and conventions. She realizes that her voice is one among many but hopes that the publication of her book will bring home to her readers the fact that the camp inmates were human beings with families, friends and lovers.

Northumbria University Press

You can buy the book here




5 Nov 2012


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