Charles (Karel) Bruml
Born: October 5, 1912
Charles was born to a Jewish family in Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia. His father owned several shoe factories there. Prague's Jewish minority enjoyed a great deal of cultural freedom because of the new democratic Republic. Though antisemitism still existed in Czechoslovakia, Prague was a relatively tolerant city.
1933-39: Charles' father's business thrived in Prague, and they lived well. Charles enjoyed painting as a child and decided to study at an art school in the city. On the morning of March 15, 1939, the Germans occupied Prague. From his window he watched German troops march through the streets. The Germans forbad Jews and dogs to use public parks. There was a nightly curfew, and Jews could only shop during certain late hours--by that time the shelves were bare.
1940-44: In 1941 Charles was deported to Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz. On the train, their toilet was a barrel. An old man sitting in front of him died. When the train stopped, someone asked a guard where they were. "Honolulu," he answered. There was pandemonium on the platform; no one knew what was happening. It was like the end of the world. As the Allies approached three years later, Charles and the others were force-marched to Gleiwitz and put on open coal wagons for Dora-Nordhausen; they finally arrived at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Charles was liberated by the British army in the spring of 1945. He immigrated to the United States in 1946.