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My reminiscences from the day-care centres of the Prague religious community in 1942-1944

In Prague there were 4 large day care centres where young people aged 6-14 were employed during the day. Since the working hours for Jews were set at 10 hours a day (from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.), the children were mostly dependent on the help of youth welfare all day long. The Jewish school was banned along with all private lessons on July 24, 1942. The activities suggested by the youth department were as follows: games, handicrafts, work education and general education. The responsible Gestapo officer remarked: If they’re being taught, heads will roll; just leave them nice and dumb.

The management of the JKG feels obliged to communicate this comment verbatim to the youth department, with the appropriate warning. In practice, it turned out that the youth department was not able (or willing) to prevent the lessons, because the instructors were adept at circumventing the order. For example, geography was hidden behind the game Town Councils, history behind the game Famous People. Arithmetic games replaced mathematics, general studies replaced physics, chemistry, etc. Reading aloud was allowed: we let the children read themselves and thus circumvented another ban. In the handicraft lesson, the main focus was on drawing, but also on natural history, in that flowers and animals were drawn. You had to be extremely careful, because there were spies among the children’s parents who gave the children orders themselves.

A noticeable obstacle to the possibility of consolidation, which was certainly a given, was of course repeated transports, which tore up newly formed friendships and repeatedly changed the image of the home in question. During transport days the home was closed to the youth welfare service.

It happened in some specific cases that smaller children without prior instruction answered questions skilfully and well at controls by the German authorities. For example, a 7-year-old girl, who knew the whole 1x1 by heart and was extremely talented, answered the question how much 3-10 is: What does the Lord actually want? Or to the question, what are you doing there, the children answered playing. It must be emphasized again that we did not instruct the children at all, if only for fear that they would reveal it if it came down to it, on the contrary, we let them believe that what they were doing was absolutely authorized and legal. When asked if the home was boring or interesting, the biggest crook in the class replied: It’s not boring here at all, I'm glad I don’t have to go to school. You had to learn there.

The day-care centres remained after the liquidation of the majority of Prague Jews and were then mostly attended by children from mixed marriages.