Hana's suitcase

On CBC-TV's Doc Zone

Thursday June 23, 2011 at 8 pm

Questions and Answers

Question and Answer with George Brady

  1. How was your life before the war?

    Life before the war was pretty good. We were just like any other kids, we had a lot of friends, in winter we went skiing, we went skating. Sometimes I skied, being pulled by a horse. In summer we had a creek in the garden so we played the navy. We had a lot of different things; we played at home, climbing trees, just doing whatever other kids do.

  2. When did you realize things were changing?

    Well it happened slowly. Hitler came to power in 1933. At that time I was 5 years old so I didn't know that much but slowly, when he started to invade Austria in 1938 it began to get grim.

    When you listen to his speeches and the parents did, they knew that things were not going well but they always thought that Hitler would, in the end, lose, but in the mean time they thought things might get rough but we never realised what actually might happen.

  3. Did your parents realize the bad times were coming?

    My parents realized that the bad times were coming but no one could imagine that things would be as bad as they turned out to be. They thought they would have to survive, maybe in the villages or somewhere and wait until Hitler was removed from power again.

  4. Did your father try to get help from the outside?

    Not really. He just tried to, only after the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, he tried to get a letter that he sent to someone in the States to ask if they were willing to send him a visa affidavit and that he was willing to work any work that he could get and he would like to take the whole family. And if it's not possible to take the whole family at least for him so that he could start and eventually bring us over.

  5. What was it like not to be able to see your friends at school?

    Well it was one of the bitterest, bitterest experience in the beginning because we had many restrictions such as not being able to shop at certain stores and at certain hours and we were not allowed to go to parks and not allowed to have a radio or any musical instruments. Even animals we weren't allowed to have. But to lose your friends and not to be able to go to school was one of the bitterest experiences.

  6. What did you bury in the bottle that you buried?

    Well we were frustrated with so many things and I thought it would relieve it if we just wrote it down and then the best we thought we could do with it was to seal it in a bottle and then bury it.

  7. Did you ever dig up the bottle?

    We didn't ever dig up the bottle because in the meantime there was a bypass around the city, a highway. The department of highways would not have appreciated it if we went and started digging in the middle.

  8. What was it like when your parents got put in jail?

    Well first we lost mother and that was a bitter pill and it was very hard but somehow we were still living reasonably with father. We always had a cook and so life went on. We tried to be in touch with her as much as possible which wasn't much as she was only allowed to write once a month and even that wasn't always allowed and then when they arrested father then it was a really big blow. We didn't know what to do and we were lucky that there was a Christian uncle, the brother in law of my father who came who said right away you come and live with us. He was a brave man and took us in.

  9. Did you like living with him?

    Well whether we liked it or not we certainly liked it because it was the security of living with people that we knew. It wasn't ideal but it was better than any alternative.

  10. When did you find out you had to go to Terezin?

    Well just about March 1942 an order came that we had to be in an assembly place, first in the middle of April and then they changed it to the middle of May. They told us exactly how to get there, which train to take and when to take it. We got there on the 14th of May 1942.

  11. Were you scared to go?

    Well you were certainly apprehensive and scared to go because you know that nothing good is coming out of it but you have no choice so you just do it and I just did it. I had responsibility because I had a little sister who had just turned 11 so I had to look after, not only myself but also after her.

  12. What did you pack?

    Well we knew it was in May but we knew we'd be there for a few months so we took mostly winter clothes, as many clothes as possible. We took a sleeping bag which we'd had made because we always thought that wherever we are we'll have our own sleeping bag. It's like a little bit of a home and we took some food. Not a lot of it. Again we probably brought the wrong food. Somebody had suggested frying sugar and it became caramel and it would give you the most nourishment. It tasted good but I'm not sure it was the right stuff. We certainly enjoyed it in Terezin.

  13. What was Auschwitz like?

    Terezin compared to Auschwitz was like a spa. We thought we had it bad but then we realized when we got to Auschwitz we realized that it was a beautiful place because in Auschwitz most of the people that weren't able to work they killed almost right away and those that were able to work they thought they'd kill them through work.

  14. Did you get a tattoo?

    I did get a tattoo which was lucky because with that tattoo it got me out of Auschwitz and into Ausenkommen Auschwitz which were satellite camps within reach of Auschwitz and I worked in a railway wagon factory.

  15. What is your number?

    My number is b11498.

  16. How did you find out that Hana didn't survive?

    Well I was always hoping that somehow, somewhere she had survived the war but there was no trace and a few months after I walked into a place in Prague and a woman started talking to me and said "are you George Brady", and I said yes and she said "well I was a friend of your sisters we went together to Auschwitz and she went straight to a gas chamber." When I found that it was.. I nearly collapsed, my legs gave out because then I realised that there was no hope.

  17. Do you regret being Jewish?

    No, I was never brought up in the religious way but what I like now about the book Hana’s Suitcase is that it teaches kids tolerance and it doesn't matter if you are Jewish or Christian or whatever and we all should be able to live with each other.

  18. Have you ever thought about getting rid of your tattoo?

    No because it's a very useful tool because whenever I have some problems I look at the number and then the problems disappear and I realise that I am a lucky fellow to be here and have a healthy family and things could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Inside Hana's Suitcase Online was nominated for an International Digital Emmy Award in 2010.

Based on the film "Inside Hana's Suitcase" by Rhombus Media
and inspired by the book "Hana's Suitcase" by Karen Levine