02/04/2022 Blog

We mourn the death of Dr Hans Gaertner

We have received the sad news that Holocaust survivor Dr Hans Gaertner passed away in Prague on 1 February 2022.

Hans Gaertner was born in Hamburg in 1926. Fleeing Nazi persecution, the Jewish-Czechoslovak family emigrated to Czechoslovakia, which, however, was occupied by the German Reich the very next year. After Hans Gaertner's father was deported to the Minsk ghetto in 1941 and murdered there, his mother and brother managed to escape to Switzerland. Hans Gaertner himself was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942 at the age of 16, from where he was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in December 1943. 
There Hans Gaertner suffered degrading and exhausting forced labour. From the Schwarzheide camp, a subcamp of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, to which Hans Gaertner had been transferred in the meantime, he was sent on a 17-day death march in April 1945 and experienced liberation on 8 May 1945.

As a free citizen, Hans Gaertner returned to Prague, where he graduated with a doctorate in law in 1950. In the following decades he settled in Switzerland and Germany before returning to Prague in 1989 in the wake of the "velvet revolution".

Hans (then Hanuš) Gaertner worked as a journalist and translator of Czech literature into German. He was committed to the commemoration of Nazi crimes and was chairman of the Association of Former Prisoners of the Schwarzheide Concentration Camp. In 2017, Hans Gaertner took part in the opening of the Hannoverscher Bahnhof memorial here in Hamburg. In addition, he worked on the documentary film "Resilienz. Scenes from the Life of Hans Gaertner" by filmmaker Jorge Sanchez Calderon, which impressively tells of Hans Gaertner's experiences during the Holocaust and their impact on the following generations of his family. For the film, he travelled to the places of his suffering. From conversations between grandfather, father, daughter and grandchildren, the picture emerged of a family history that was shaped by the experiences under National Socialism.

In 2016, Hans Gaertner was a guest at the study centre of the Neuengamme concentration camp memorial and told his story in a contemporary witness talk. We are grateful that he shared his experiences with us and for posterity.

Our deepest sympathy goes to Hans Gaertner's relatives.

Contemporary witness talk (video; Czech with English translation)