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The Comrades executed Dad and imprisoned Mom — Karel Sling

  • Date: 21 Jul, 2007 at 12:16AM,
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  •  Karel Sling

    My father was a Jew, a Communist, and he worked as a medic during the Spanish Civil War. My mother is English. She was a member of the British Communist Party and she is an Oxford graduate. They met in England during the war.

They arrested dad away from home. The light came on where we slept. The men in leather coats dressed us and put us in a car. I was five, my brother was seven. It was foggy and they lost their way; the car broke down. They fixed it, and we arrived.

It must have been the Ruzyn prison where they tore us away from our mother. They imprisoned our mother. Maybe the worst was when they put us in the children’s institution. The caretakers were terrible. The other kids attacked us. Our mother was released only after dad’s execution. She spent over two years in a solitary confinement.

I didn’t hear the trial on the radio; I was seven then. My brother was nine at the time of the trial. He was forced to listen by the institution director. He was told to write a report about dad’s death sentence. He refused and he was punished by the director.

We didn’t know what was going on. In such a situation one turns against his father and blames him for doing something wrong. The image that he was innocent, that it was all about something else, was unimaginable. There was anger — I have that till this day. Actually, it’s stronger and stronger; at those who did that. We were not even allowed to say good buy to dad.

I think the children of non-communist political prisoners ought to know that our family and theirs had similar fates. They experienced similar discrimination when it came to being forbidden to get higher education. Having parents imprisoned or having a parent executed. So it was similar. True, they came from a different Party. My father was an idealist and a convinced Communist. And my father believed that what he was doing was simply bringing a good life to all. He was mistaken. And that was his greatest fault.

After 8th grade I trained to be a miner. They gave me a choice: miner or a bricklayer. I chose mining because I hate heights.

The trauma was that at school we had yearly health exams. The doctor asked about parents. ‘Dad died’. “How?” ‘What can one say when he is nine or ten? They hanged him? So I always said he had an accident’. “What accident?” ‘Well, doctor, he died’.

32 of our family members perished in the Holocaust.

I know it affected my brother a lot because when they inform a nine year old that his father was a traitor, sentenced to death, and hanged; well what can I say? People ought to know what happened. Dad was Jewish; the Sling family was practically gone. I feel a bit like a Jew but I never believed in any God and never will. No!

But it all ended well. I have a nice family in England; great kids, they are very smart.

Interviewed by Jana Svehlova

©Jana Svehlova