Hugo Meisl-Marom

25.04.2018 | 22:16
Hugo Meisl-Marom

Fate written on the wings
“Coincidence does not help anyone who does not help themselves,” said Sofokles and some intricacies of human fate only prove it. That was the case with Hugo Meisel-Marom, the boy who wanted to fl y. Hugo was born on October 9, 1928 in Brno, as the second-born son of a successful Jewish merchant.

His father, Pavel Meisl, came from the very old Jewish goldsmith family of Meisles (Maisles). The family lived for centuries in Prague, but in the 18th century one part of the family moved to Brno, where they opened a shop. Paul‘s parents, Rudolf (1860–1923) and Regina (1862– 1929) Meisle, had four sons. Valter (* 1900), who was deported from Brno to Terezín (28 January 1942), thence to Auschwitz (28 September 1944) and died in Dachau (3rd March 1945), Paul, Oscar and Hugo. Paul fought as a legionnaire in Russia, and after returning home, he devoted himself to the family business which was located on the main place.
Mother Erna Ernestine Meislová (Arnoštka Meislová) came from the ancient Jewish family of Kubie (Kubět), perhaps from Sušice. She was born in Vienna as one of the four children of Hugo (August 8, 1878 – October 30, 1923) and Berta Kubie. She had been doing sports since her young age, even representing Austria-Hungary in swimming, playing tennis, even at the Olympics. Later she taught tennis and skiing in Brno.
The family lived in Brno, at today‘s address třída Kpt. Jaroše 15 (1867 Alleegasse, 1893 Schmerlingstrasse, 1918 Třída Legionářů, 1939 Legionärenstrasse, 1940 Alleestrasse, 1945 V aleji, 1946 Třída Legionářů, since 1950 třída Kpt. Jaroše 15). Hugo and his younger brother Rudy (February 9, 1930 – December 21, 2010) went to the Czech school, learned Czech songs, read Czech books and were guided by Masaryk‘s ideals. The family was always pre-Czech and the parents always strictly separated nationality and religion. The boys attended elementary school at the address Na náměstí 28 října (1867 Hutterteich, 1890 Winterhollerplatz, 1939 Winterhollerplatz and Am Brückel, 1945 Winterhollerovo náměstí and Na mmůstku, 1946 Na náměstí 28 října).
The older brother Kurt (22 January 1926–26 November 1927) died at the age of less than two years. The boys often heard from their parents about their older brother. Perhaps that‘s why parents decided to adopt another boy. “We are a Jewish family, so our parents fi rst went to a Jewish orphanage. But there was no free kid there. So, they tried at the Catholic Orphanage in Pisárky. And they brought from there a boy whom we called Peter. We did not know his original name, and he did not speak about what was happening in the orphanage. We were terribly happy to play football. Rudy was a goalkeeper, I and Peter in the attack,” Hugo recalled. Tennis courts, where my mother taught tennis, changed to a skating rink in the winter, and the boys went skating here. Together, they went to the summer apartment they shared with Sekal family in the nearby village of Mokré Hory near Brno.
By the end of the 1930s, parents were thinking of emigration. “When we read Mein Kampf, my mom wanted to go, but my dad was against. He said that Hitler is crazy if he wants to chase us off , he would have to chase off entire Brno then. My dad changed his mind when our grandmother came to our door. On the day the Nazis came to Vienna, she packed her suitcase and came to us, “Hugo recalled. After the occupation by Germany and the introduction of anti-Jewish measures on the territory of the Protectorate, parents prepared to go abroad. One day, a clerk with a colleague came to their house and said in German: “We are here for Peter, pack him up.” Mother was crying too much, and when she asked why, they told her that the Christian child did not belong to the Jewish family. Peter was led back to the home Dagmar in Brno, where the Meisl family brought him from. “I could not do anything,” recalled Hugo. “I cried and helped Peter pack the toys and other things into the suitcase. Maximum ten kilos. I did not understand where they were taking him. On that day, I saw Peter for the last time.”
His father learned about the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia (BCRC) thanks to contacts in the Jewish community and among businessmen in Brno and Prague. When the parents received the letter from the committee to come to Prague with the boys, they told the boys that a great trip was waiting for them. The parents‘ decision was painful, extremely brave, with little hope of reunion. On the day of departure, Hugo´s mother said to him, “Now you are the father of Rudy.” Hugo promised his parents to take care of his brother, and he also did. They went to Prague with Daddy, Uncle and Mr. Tomaschoff and his three boys. Mom did not go with them, saying goodbye would be too hard for her. Before their departure, their father showed them all the important places of Czech history, St. Wenceslas, Slavín, Prague Castle …
In December 1938, Martin Blake from the BCRC Committee asked Nicholas Winton to help their offi ce organize children‘s transports in Prague. It was not easy. They had to obtain a visa, a medical certifi cate, an application in England, for each child separately, with a proof that the guarantor would be the child to feed, to dress and send to school. Caution money of 50 pounds had to be paid for a possible return of the child back to a country. Winton was aware of the urgency of the situation, especially when his activities were closely monitored by the Gestapo.
The children‘s journey from the Winton list was 1,200 km long and led through Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Emmerich, Rotterdam to the port of Hoek van Holland, the starting point for a ferry boat trip to English Harwich. And from here through Stratford to London. From March to August 1939, eight transports were organized to save a total of 669 children, mostly Jewish. Transport 14. 3. (20 children) was the first and last by plane, all the following were by train. Transport 19. 4. (36 children), 29. 4. (29), 13. 5. (61), 1. 6. (241), 2. 6. (123), 20. 6. (76) August 8 (68 children, including Hugo and Rudy). 15 children travelled by transfers from Vienna and other places. A transport with 250 children, who had gone off on September 1, 1939, stayed at Wilson Station. That day the Germans invaded Poland, the borders closed, the Second World War started.
Hugo´s daddy arranged two diff erent fosters for the boys but the fi rst one did not arrive at the station because he died of a heart attack that day, and the other from the orthodox Jewish home in London did not pick up the boys. Five boys, brothers Meisle and Tomasz were sitting on their suitcases at the station and waited until the taxi driver took care of them at 11 pm. He took them for food and then to his home. Two days later, he found a place at a 71-foot Shoot-Up Hill hostel in northern London for transported children from Austria and Germany. Hugo did not like it very much. He was fi ghting there and his father said to him in the letter, “Do not fi ght with them! They are also Jews, not Germans!” But for Hugo, they were the Germans. After a few weeks, they had to leave the hostel due to the bombing of London. “At that moment, I was just thinking about giving parents a message to know we were okay.” There was no telephone connection and the letter went through the Red Cross for a month. Most children were evacuated to families outside of London, and Hugo and Rudy were taken by the Chanclers family from Bedford. The school attendance was compulsory till the age of 13 so, Hugo left school at the age of thirteen and went to be trained for a shoemaker. He enjoyed it amazingly, and after a year he passed the exam and opened the door to the scholarship. As a Jew of Czech descent, an ally, he used scholarships at a technical school in Luton, where he began to study at the beginning of 1942. The local Hugo´s teacher, an Austrian architect, introduced the boys to the embassy in 1943. Probably because of the good reputation of his father, he and his brother were admitted to the Czechoslovak State School in Wales, set up by the exile government. On the 16th birthday in 1944, Hugo, along with several Winton train comrades, signed up for a training course for the Air Training Corps (Volunteer and Military Youth Organization with support from the Department of Defense and the Royal Air Force). Eventually, they survived the end of the war and were transported to the homeland of the Prague-Ruzyně Airport, by Liberator bomber which carried children, suitcases and school benches instead of bombs.
Upon arriving in Brno, the boys learned that, in addition to their cousin Renka, who had gone to Australia after the war, no one survived. The parents of the boys were transported on 29 March 1942 from Brno to Terezín by Ae, their father as No. 113, their mother as No. 114 and the Grandma Berta as No. 115. In short, they were sent from the Terezín Ghetto on April 1, 1942 by transporting Ag to Polish Piaski ghetto, my father as No. 841, my mother as No. 840 and my grandmother as No. 842. Mum and grandmother died in the ghetto. His father was transported to Majdanek‘s concentration camp and extermination camp, where he died on July 4, 1942.
The boys went to see a family friend, Antonín Sekal, who served with his father in the legions in Užgorod at artillery. Both families had a common summer apartment in the Mokrá hora before the war. So, Hugo learned that at night, when his father, mother and grandmother went into transport, Mr. Sekal took all the valuables to Mokrá Hora where he hid them in a concreted pit with a small hole in it, where he threw letters that had come from the boys from England and did not fi nd the addressee anymore. Thanks to the hidden values, they had something to begin with. Hugo could buy Rudy‘s ticket to Hamburg in 1946, a boat ticket to New York, and a train ticket to Chicago for relatives. He then completed a real grammar school and graduated (1947). He then continued to study mechanical engineering at the Brno vocational school of industry.
During the fi rst half of the semester, he was addressed by a certain Gad Polak from Israel that they will train pilots for the Jewish organization Hagan in Olomouc. Czechoslovakia was the main training center for Israeli pilots, aviation specialists, tankers and paratroopers. As Hugo was already an Air Cadet in England, he enrolled in pilot training in early 1948. He went through special, accelerated training (1948–1949) and was rated the best pilot. After 14 May 1948, David Ben Gurion declared an independent state of Israel in Tel Aviv, the troops of the surrounding Arab countries attacked it. Czechoslovakia recognized the state of Israel fi ve days later, and for the assistance of Israel under the DI (Confi dential Israel) action, the military airport in Žatec was set aside. The operation BALAK was held here, which aimed to buy weapons and combat aircraft in Czechoslovakia and their transportation to Israel. Hugo and his friend Plaček and Feder had to fl y over to Israel with three Spitfi re fi ghters at the end of 1948. Due to the changing political situation, they did not reach Israel until the end of February 1949. Nevertheless, Hugo joined the Independence War for two weeks as a pilot. Gurion said, “Czechoslovakia saved Israel from defeat and destruction.”
Along with pilots‘ training, Hagan training was also carried out for infantry brigades of volunteers of Jewish origin. At the feast of Jom Kipur, Hugo drove to the synagogue near Velká Střelná, near the barracks of volunteers. In the crowd of girls, he fell in love with one of the girls. The next day, when she came out of the synagogue, he addressed her. They talked all day. When he found out that the girl had birthday that day, he gave her a pendant he had from his mother. When Marta Markovičová, the name of the girl, returned from the concentration camp to the sub-Carpathian town of Veľká Sevľuš, it was on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR. So, she escaped back to Czechoslovakia, and in order not to be found, she accepted the identity of her Slovak cousin who had died in a concentration camp. Hugo‘s encounter with Mary was a fate. At the fi fth meeting, he proposed to her, and in November 1948 they got married. Marta arrived in Israel along with Hugo on February 26, 1949. After the fi ghting, most pilots were trained to fi ghters. Hugo became a pilot instructor and was sent to an instructor school in England. At that time, he came to his surname, Marom. The Israeli decree and the sense of humor of an offi - cial were behind his name. Whoever wanted to represent the state of Israel had to accept the Hebrew name. When a clerk saw that Hugo was a pilot, instead of “Meisl”, she wrote the Hebrew “Marom” which means “heavens” in the Hebrew. In 1952, he became the commander of the pilot school Kfar Sirkin (Sirkin‘s village) on the Sharon Plain. In 1953, he was commissioned to assemble the 110th squadron of night fi ghters and a year later he passed a course of test pilots and tested aircraft for the Israeli army. After returning from England to Israel (1959), he was at the heart of Israel Aircraft Industries. Here he became interested in the design and construction of airports. He left for civilians, founded a company to design and implement airports, which eventually worked not only in Israel, but also in the US, Panama, Guatemala, Paraguay and Switzerland. He was doing business for more than 45 years. In the end, however, the tribute to the family tradition prevailed. In the last years of his life, Hugo decided to learn the original family craft – gold jewellery.
After the war, Hugo was searching for his “adoptive” brother Peter and did not stop even when he lived in Tel Aviv. But he was recently discovered by a journalist and writer Judita Matyášová, who found a boy‘s school certifi cate at a school which the boys Meisl had attended before the war. She found out that Peter was offi cially Josef, with a surname Kamarýt (Meisl family did not adopt him offi cially). He was born in 1929 as an illegitimate son and grew up with his acquaintances. After the border crossing the Germans brought him to the children‘s home in Vranov nad Dyjí and then to the Dagmar home in Brno, where the Meisl family discovered him. Earlier, however, before Hugo and his adoptive brother Peter could meet, Josef died.
Hugo had another great dream, along with his friends who were with him in England, to build a memorial to all the parents who had the courage to send their children away from the occupied country.
“I think that at the last moments of our life, in the gas chamber, they thought and believed that they were doing their best for us. If my parents did not send me away then, it wouldn´t be me, my daughter or my grandchildren. There would be nobody in our family. The monument will be named See you soon – according to the last words of the parents we have heard from them,” Hugo said in an interview with Judith Matyášová.” For me, Winton means that my mother managed to persuade my father to leave. His father did not support it. He did not believe that something could happen to Czech Jews. Especially the family that has been here in Prague and Brno for over a thousand years.” “Winton‘ s Children” unveiled the memorial of their parents‘ courage at the Main Station in Prague. The idea of Hugo Marom became a reality. The memorial is a replica of the authentic door of the train that the children had left, and on the glass of the door the children‘s hands are shown from one side and the adult‘s hands on the other side.
Hugo was awarded the Gratias agit, the prize of Karel Kramář, and was the fi rst member of Czech origin in the Royal Aeronautical Society awarded for the patent used by NASA.
The last fl ight of combat pilot Hugo Marom took place on October 27, 2015 in a two-seat L-159 at the 212th Tactical Squadron in Čáslav. “I have never had such joy in my life as I did when I arrived in Čáslav. I started in Olomouc in 1948 and I have the impression that today I will end my career of a pilot. “Hugo Meisl-Marom died on January 7, 2018 in Tel Aviv at the age of 89. Throughout his life he was ours, not only with his citizenship…


For Památník Terezín Luděk Sládek
Děkuji paní Juditě Matyášové za laskavou pomoc při vzniku této vzpomínky.
foto © rodinný archiv Huga Maroma
 


Hugo with mother and brother Rudy, July 1939 Hugo, Brno, 30s Hugo and Rudolf after his return to Brno n England he graduated from army with his friends.
Hugo the fi rst from the left Hugo Marom post-war papers The only surviving photograph of Hugo, along with his stepbrother
Petr (in the middle), who was being looked for more than 70 years Hugo led the military training of fi ghters who trained for the
emerging Israeli army in 1947, Hagana Wedding with Martha in 1948, 65 years together Hugo and Martha on a honeymoon, shortly before leaving to Israel,
in 1948 Hugo visited Sir Nicholas Winton several times


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