The woman who escaped the death march to Bergen-Belsen

the story of Věra Ledererová who survived deportation to concentration and labour camps and hid in Košetice near Pacov after escaping from Germany

Věra Ledererová-Kaufmannová with her husband Egon Kaufmann in 1942

Věra Ledererová (b. October 20, 1920 – 1998), was a daughter of the respected tradesman, Emil Lederer, a long-time chairman of the Jewish community in Pacov and a member of the Municipal Council. Emil Lederer was arrested soon after the occupation of Czechoslovakia in April 1940 and died in the concentration camp of Buchenwald (Bernburg) in 1942.

In the spring of 1942, Věra Ledererová was married to Egon Kaufmann, who was then placed in a labour camp (so-called Umschulungslager) in Lípa, but obtained temporary permission to visit Pacov on the occasion of his wedding. In November  1942, Věra was sent along with her mother Berta, younger sister Zdeňka, who was 18 years of age, and other Jews from Pacov to Terezín (Theresienstadt). There she worked as a nurse in the so-called Dresden barracks where she fell ill with dysentery. She had a severe fever and lost 33 pounds (fifteen kilos) in one week, but thanks to good medical care she recovered. 

Věra and Zdeňka Lederer prior to the war

Her mother and sister were sent to Auschwitz in January 1943, and Věra elected to go with them as she did not know anyone else in Terezín. However, a friend of her husband’s at the transport department did not put her name on the list, and thus he saved her life. She was not deported to Auschwitz until May 1944. A few months later in July 1944, already in Auschwitz, Věra was selected together with five-hundred other Czech girls to work in the Christianstadt Labour Camp in Germany. They cut trees for the manufacturing of timber and the building of roads.  At the beginning of 1945, she was included in a death march to Bergen-Belsen, but after three days she and two of her friends managed to escape. They returned to Bohemia.

Věra first hid in Prague, and later, as Věra Králová, in Košetice near Pacov. She stayed with Karel Jirsa’s family. Věra’s father had saved Karel Jirsa from drowning and had also supported his business. Věra stayed in Košetice for almost eight weeks. Věra’s mother and sister perished in Auschwitz, as well as her uncle Viktor, his wife Elsa and their sons Kamil and Emil.

After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, Věra and her husband, who had also survived the Holocaust, recovered their family business. However, after their business was nationalized by the communist regime in 1948, they decided to move to Prague. They changed their surname to Kolář and had a son born in 1949. Věra worked as a nurse in an eye clinic. In April 1992, her testimony was recorded for the Terezín Memorial.

Věry Lederer’s letter to her father who was then imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp