Oral History Interview with Hanna Seckel

Hanna Seckel , nee Dubová, born July 22, 1925 in Kolin Czechoslovakia, grew up in Prague in a middle-class, secular family. Her father was a doctor. Hanna describes her early childhood education, getting involved in a Zionist Youth Movement, and the German occupation of Sudetenland including school closings and restrictions imposed on Jews.

In October 1939, when she was 14 years old, she was sent to Denmark as part of a transport of children from Hashomer Hatzair sponsored by the Danish League of Peace and Freedom. Hanna describes her life and work in Denmark in great detail. She worked at two farms under harsh conditions. One was near Gørløse, the other near Næstved where she had contact with other children from the transport. Through letters from her family she learned about worsening conditions of Jews in Prague. In 1942 her parents wrote that they would be deported to Auschwitz and she attempted suicide. She briefly mentions the Danish underground.
Hanna recalls working as a chambermaid at a Danish boarding school in exchange for her tuition there and also for a family in Næstved after she quit school in 1943. She details her feelings of being an outsider and her financial difficulties. She discusses the fates of some of the other refugee children—some reached Palestine, some were caught, some were sent back to their original countries by Denmark and sent to concentration camps. She also describes her rescue by the Danish underground and the harrowing journey to Sweden hidden in a fishing boat. The Chief Rabbi of Copenhagen, Rabbi Melchior, was part of the group. She details the warm reception by the Swedes and aid from the Red Cross.
Hanna describes her life in Sweden working as a maid for room and board at two different nursing schools in Norrköping and Södertälje, losing touch with her former friends, receiving ng her nursing certificate and working in an insane asylum.
Hanna returned to Denmark in 1945 because she heard that she was entitled to Danish citizenship which was not true. In Copenhagen she worked in a restitution office for Danish Jews. She returned to Prague in 1946 and lived with relatives while earning a degree from Charles University, then returned to Denmark on a Nansen Pass in 1947. After a lengthy illness, she went to Sweden and worked in a factory owned by the Nobel family, as a translator. In 1950, she emigrated to the United States under the Czech quota.

Date: 03/26/1982
Interviewer: Nora Levin
Interviewee: Hanna Seckel
Language: English
Subject: Boarding schools--Denmark.
Jewish women in the Holocaust.
Jewish youth--Europe--Societies and clubs.
Jews, Czech--Denmark.
Jews--Czech Republic--Prague.
Suicidal behavior.
World War, 1939-1945--Children--Denmark.
World War, 1939-1945--Jews--Rescue--Denmark.
World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Denmark.
Women--Personal narratives.
Location: Kolín, Czechia
Prague, Czechia
Gørløse, Denmark
Næstved, Denmark
Sorø, Denmark
Norrköping, Sweden
Södertälje, Sweden
Uppsala, Sweden
Copenhagen, Denmark
Permalink: https://hoha.digitalcollections.gratzcollege.edu/item/oral-history-interview-with-hanna-seckel/