Heda Margolius Kovály (1919–2010) was a renowned Czech writer and translator born to Jewish parents. Her best-selling memoir, Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague, 1941–1968 has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Her crime novel Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street—based on her own experiences living under Stalinist oppression—was named an NPR Best Book in 2015.
In the tradition of Studs Terkel, Hitler, Stalin and I is an oral history of a renowned Czech author, whose optimism and faith in people survived grueling experiences under authoritarian regimes. Based on interviews with award-winning filmmaker Helena Třeštíková, Kovály recounts her family history in Czechoslovakia, the deprivations of Łódź Ghetto, how she miraculously left Auschwitz, fled from a death march, failed to find sanctuary amongst former friends in Prague as a concentration camp escapee, and participated in the liberation of Prague. Later under Communist rule, she suffered extreme social isolation as a pariah after her first husband Rudolf Margolius was unjustly accused in the infamous Slánský Trial and executed for treason. Remarkably, Kovály, exiled in the United States after the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968, only had love for her country and continued to believe in its people. She returned to Prague in 1996.
PRESS AND PRAISE
“Heda Margolius Kovály was a well-known writer and translator who survived the Auschwitz extermination camp and whose first husband, Rudolf Margolius, a deputy minister of foreign trade, was found guilty in the notorious Slánský show trials in what is one of the darkest chapters in Czechoslovak history. Kovály’s oral history should be required reading for anyone learning about the Holocaust and crimes committed by Czechoslovakia’s communist regime. It also offers a glimpse into Czechoslovakia’s First Republic. […] Her descriptions are unforgettable.”
– Jan Velinger, Radio Prague
“Třeštíková’s interview and chilling newsreel footage of atrocities bring Margolius-Kovály’s story to life. Her combination of determination and luck renders her almost matter-of-factly told tale extraordinary. […] In Margolius-Kovály (who penned the 1997 memoir Under a Cruel Star: Life in Prague 1941–1968), she’s found a composed, eloquent yet spunky subject whose quietly upbeat nature is inspirational and infectious.”
– Eddie Cockrell, Variety
MY BOOK REVIEW:
I recently received this eBook for review from DoppelHouse Press in exchange for an honest review.
This type of a historical book is probably the hardest for me to review. Reading about the depths of human deprivations just astounds me. Just when I think I’ve heard and read everything about how horrific the human race can be, I discover more things to feel shame and bafflement over regarding the treatment of Jews at the hands of Nazi Germans.
I requested this book because I strongly believe we must never forget what happened during the era of Hitler and Stalin. I’m just never fully prepared for what I might discover. EVERYONE should read this book.
“Nazism and Communism, the two totalitarian regimes that pass through Central Europe in the twentieth century, affected Heda’s life directly with maximum intensity.” Wrote Helena Trestikova, the terror alone that this woman survived can be called nothing short of a miracle.
This book clearly describes, in Heda’s own words, the life she endured beginning with her youth in prewar Czechoslovakia, then during the Munich crisis. The horrors of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Third Reich and followed by the transports of the Jewish people from Prague will wrap around your heart and squeeze tightly. Then, you’ll learn the things that happened to her while surviving the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz, Chistiansladt and other camps.
Remain riveted to your chair as she goes into detail about her participating in the death march that led thousands to their demise, and where she found the courage to escape, hide and find refuge, when so many others tried and failed. Heda was right in the middle of the uprising that preceded the end of the war. You’ll sing for joy at the reunion with her husband and the beginning of their lives together.
If that wasn’t enough, your heart will break over the section of the rise of communism and how their lives became confined and limited under its rule followed by Rudolph’s (her husband)’s sudden arrest, the lies surrounding the trial and his eventual execution. Later when proof of his innocence is brought forward, Heda will face a country in denial and receive no apologies for what happened to her innocent husband.
This is just a glimpse into what to expect from this non fiction book. You will feel the complete spectrum of emotions available to you, in this factual, hard-hitting interview of one of the few holocaust survivors. The writing is excellent, well-paced and sincere. There are black and white photos included that sometimes say more than any words could possibly attempt to. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
I give this book: