A tale of two Holocaust survivors

By Dan Bloom

Danny Bloom

Danny Bloom

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — Peter Kubicek is an email friend of mine who I have known for about ten years now. He lives in New York and I live in Taiwan but we meet often online to chat about current events and Jewish history, especially the Holocaust.

Kubicek is a Holocaust survivor, 85 years old now, and the author of a memoir he wrote about his experiences as a teenage boy in six slave labor camps in Gemany.

The other day he shot me an early morning email about a recent New York Times article about a Holocaust survivor in Ireland, Tomi Reichental. The article was written by a Times stringer in Ireland and told a story many readers in North America probably had never heard of before.

At the end of the Times article, Reichental said he was in very good health — leading a happy and productive life in his sunset years — and told the reporter: “People tell me I’m the fittest Holocaust survivor alive today.”
Reichental is 80 years old, a retired jeweler in Dublin, and he often gives talk at schools in Ireland about his life in the camps long ago. Recently, a European documentary was made about this life, titled Close to Evil, and that is mostly what the Times article was about.

Kubicek said that Reichental’s story “strangely parallels my own, though I am more than five years older than he. I just looked up his memoir on Amazon, I Was A Boy From Belsen, and  there are really some interesting  similarities between our stories. …  I, too, was born in Slovakia, in a town called Trenčin. I, too, was persecuted as a Jew, when in March, 1939, Slovakia became a quasi-independent Fascist state, firmly allied with Nazi Germany.

“I, too, escaped the deportations of Jews in 1942, most of them to their death in Auschwitz,” Peter added. “I, too, was finally deported in November, 1944, to Bergen-Belsen — in the first transport that was routed to Germany, rather than to camps in Poland.”

“For me, five further concentration camps in Germany followed, while my mother and grandmother remained in Bergen-Belsen,” Peter told me. “My grandmother died there, while my mother survived. My mother and I met after the end of the War on a street in Prague.”

Peter had a few more things to tell me, and good email friend that I am, I was listening.

“I also wrote a memoir about my experiences, titled Memories of Evil — Recalling a World War II Childhood. I find what I know of Tomi Reichental’s book very compelling. While he now lives in Ireland, I live in the U.S., and have given a few speeches about my experiences,” he wrote. “But while Tomi will soon be 80, I have already reached the venerable age of 85. I would only take exception to Tomi’s statement to the Times reporter in Ireland that he is the fittest Holocaust survivor alive today. Tomi, you have not met me — though I wish we could meet.”

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Bloom, based in Taiwan, is an inveterate web surfer.  Your comment may be sent to [email protected] or posted on this website, per the instructions below.

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  1. […] s​truck by the parallels between these strangers’ lives and a desire to bring them together, San Diego Jewish World ran a preliminary story about the two men, based on an earlier New York Times […]


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