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Escape from Prague

Dascha Sekeris-Abelman would like to tell the story of her mother, the Holocaust survivor Markéta Ledererová. Her search for clues has meanwhile led the Dutchwoman to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, accompanied by her daughter Jindra Bausewein-Sekeris, her niece Françoise de Gooijer-van Aalsburg and the documentary filmmaker Joshua van’t Hoff. “My mother never talked about the past,” the seventy-one-year-old tells us.

It all began with just a few sheets of paper Markéta Ledererová left behind when she died in 1987. “We meanwhile have an entire binder full of documents. It’s incredible that this information still exists,” adds granddaughter Jindra Bausewein-Sekeris. In the course of their research, the three Dutchwomen have already visited various places that figured in Markéta Ledererová’s life, as well as a number of archives. In several countries, they have also looked for people who witnessed the events first-hand. And even if a number of the details are still hazy, a picture of Ledererová’s biography has gradually taken shape.

Markéta Ledererová was born in Prague on April 25, 1915. When the Germans occupied the “rump of Czechoslovakia” in March 1939 and immediately began discriminating against the Jewish population, she didn’t hesitate for long. Twenty-four years old at the time, she fled and from that point on kept her Jewish background a secret. Her route led her by train from Prague to the Netherlands via Hof and Bentheim in Germany. In her passport, which is still in the family’s possession, the official stamps reveal the dates. Markéta Ledererová reached the Dutch border – and safety – at Oldenzaal on April 2, 1939.

She arrived at the home of “Anna Maria Katan, Sillestr. 196” in The Hague four days later, as the documents in the ITS archive confirm. “The family took her in to work for them as a maid,” Jindra Bausewein-Sekeris explains. “We’re still in contact with the daughter.” In the end, her grandmother was lucky. “After her escape she wasn’t registered as a Jew, and she married a Dutchman.” The wedding took place in Leiden on September 21, 1940, and her marital status protected her, an emigrant, from expulsion.

The ITS archive holds only a few documents pertaining to the fate of the rest of the family in Prague. The Nazis deported Markéta Ledererová’s mother Emilie Klingenbergerova, who was born in Poresice on July 8, 1880, from Prague to the Terezín Ghetto on May 12, 1942. She was sent on a death transport to Auschwitz just a few months later, on October 26, 1942, and killed there. Ledererová’s half-brother, Jindrich Klingenberger, had already died in Prague on February 11, 1941 at the age of thirty-one. “Another child, Rudolf Klingenberger, is thought to have emigrated to Palestine and later to the U.S.,” reports Dascha Sekeris-Abelman. “It must have been very hard for my mother to be on the run, all alone, far away from the family.” Her descendants now want to recount their mother’s and grandmother’s life story, as well as their own research into her origins, in a documentary.