Survivor Profiles: Lisl Bogart
It’s important to me that I’m talking to the new generation about what hatred and prejudice can do. Because we don’t want this ever, ever happening, ever again.
Lisl was born in 1926 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Lisl came from an upper-middle-class Jewish family. Her father was a businessman who owned a wholesale store for floor coverings and automobile upholstery, and her mother was a homemaker. The extended family was also very tight-knit, and they would frequently celebrate Jewish holidays together in the Bogart home.
Early in life, and before the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, Lisl did not experience antisemitism. Lisl only started to become aware of how dangerous the situation was becoming when her family stopped traveling outside of Czechoslovakia out of fear for their safety. By 1938, there was visible unrest in Prague. Lisl watched as children who were part of the Hitler youth marched on the streets and shouted antisemitic slogans.
By the time the Germans had annexed the Sudetenland, the family knew Prague was no longer a safe place. Lisl’s parents tried to find a way out of Czechoslovakia, but all their plans fell through. On March 15, 1939, Prague became officially occupied by the Germans, and Jews were forbidden from traveling. The family was stuck in Prague.
Word soon spread that the Nazis were preparing transports. Lisl and her family, along with the rest of the Jewish people in her neighborhood, packed and prepared what goods they had. In June of 1942, Lisl and her family were transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp.
In the camp, there was little to no food provided. If a slice of bread was handed out, it would have to sustain a person for an 8 to 14-hour workday. Those who were not able to work were taken and shot by the SS. Lisl’s worked multiple jobs while in the camp, including building railroad tracks and farming.
At one point, the Red Cross had visited Theresienstadt to check on the conditions of the camp. Lisl and the other prisoners were forced to act like Theresienstadt was a model village. Fake storefronts, bakeries, and medical clinics were built to make the camp seem like an actual village. The SS had even printed out fake money to further try and make the environment seem normal.
One day, a notice came that 5,000 Czechoslovakian Jews would be sent to Auschwitz. Lisl and her family were ordered onto this transport. However, as Lisl was getting into the cattle cart, Lisl was pushed off the cart ramp. The train doors were then ordered shut. Lisl, not knowing what to do, returned to her barrack alone. Lisl’s parents and brother were taken to Auschwitz, and unfortunately, she would never see them again.
Now alone in the camp, Lisl and other young women were tasked with carrying out the dead bodies of arriving trains. At one point, Lisl also contracted typhoid. When the Russian army finally liberated the camp on May 7, 1945, Lisl was still in the typhoid barrack, unconscious from the disease.
After a few weeks, Lisl regained her strength. She returned to Prague, hoping her family members would also return. However, none of them ever did. With no one in Prague, Lisl decided to immigrate to America, where she had an uncle. The paperwork took over a year, but Lisl eventually made her way to New York. There she met her husband, Henry. The two married in July of 1946 and had two daughters.
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Photo credits: Amanda Berrios