Františka Kordeová 1865-1942

Josef Korde
Edita Gellnerová
Marie Kordeová
Alice Kettnerová
Helena Waňková

Františka, her husband, Otto, and daughters, Edita, Marie, Alice and Helena are the last family of the Salomon Langweil’s descent. They lived in the Lumpe’s Villa (today a building of headquarters of the Zoological Garden in Ústí nad Labem). In the obituary, Otto Korde was introduced as a chief financial counsellor of the technical supervision. Only two condolences to Františka have been preserved, one by Alfréd Huttig and another one by Fritz Wolfrum.

Korde’s daughter, Marie, was a clerk at a branch of Anglo-Czechoslovak Bank, and later on she moved on to the Prague headquarters. She enjoyed that position for only a short time. Following the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the first anti-Semitic measures were introduced and Marie received notice. She unsuccessfully tried to immigrate to Shanghai. Her mother, Františka, was the first one to be deported to Theresienstadt. After three months she was transported to the concentration camp Treblinka. In less than a week after her departure, her daughter Marie arrived to Theresienstadt only to be sent almost immediately to Auschwitz.

Františka’s other three daughters all married and started a family. The first one, Edita, married an articled clerk named Bedřich Gellner who later became a director of the Anglo-Czechoslovak Bank. They had three children, Alžběta, Mariana, and Otto. In 1936, Edita died of cancer and Bedřich and their children successfully escaped to England. Alžběta worked as a nurse during the war and her husband, Harald, as a member of the allied forces taking part in the liberation of Czechoslovakia. Mariana was an operator during the war and while there, she most likely met her life love, an RAF pilot. He was killed in the war and Mariana never married. After the war she worked in a control commission in the English occupation zone of divided Germany. After the war, Bedřich took advantage of his law education and got a job at the Hague Tribunal. Otto finished his studies of medicine and became a physician. He became sick with polio at his work and later died of it. Currently, Jane, Alžběta’s daughter, her husband, and their two daughters with their families live in England. Thus, Edita’s lineage continues.

Alice, nicknamed Lilli, married Karel Eduard Seharsch, “Aryan”. During their marriage, which only lasted five years, their son Jan was born. Her second husband was a chief clerk named Vítězslav Kettner. Alice and Vítězslav were transported to Theresienstadt on Christmas in 1942. Vítězslav died in Theresienstadt after 10 months. Alice was sent to Auschwitz in December 1943. This transport was one of six which reached Auschwitz between September 1943 and May 1944 and amounted to over seventeen thousand people. These people did not go through selection but they were placed into the BIIb section, now known as the Theresienstadt Family Camp. In their documents, prisoners had two letters SB (Sonderbehandlung = special treatment). The SB symbol concealed a half-year quarantine and then gasification. Alice lived there with the number 71 213. Prisoners were allowed to send two letters during that time. Alice addressed one of them to her sister Helena. Alice perished in the gas chambers between July 10th and 12th, 1944.

Alice’s son Jan was considered to be the black sheep of the family, possibly because his school report teemed with bad grades. He found a liking for carpentry. In September 1944, he was transported to Benešov nad Bystřicí to the work camp for people of mixed Jewish descent. He survived in the work camp, and was there until the liberation. In 1948,he fled to Hamburg. He was said to dig into a heap of coal at the ship sailing for Brazil. There, he married and had two boys. We have tried to search for Jan and his family but so far in vain. We are not losing up hope that one day we will be able to listen to the story of that “black sheep” of the family.

Last lines from Auschwitz
Dear Helenka! Thank you for remembering me. I am thinking of you and the others all the time. Take care and think of me some time. Thousand affectionate kisses from your Lilli (April 15, 1944)

Helena Waňková 1901–1953

RNDr. Walter Waněk
Eva Šebová

The last story talks about Helena. As the only of the sisters she did not move to Prague and stayed in Ústí nad Labem. She married Josef Waněk, “Aryan”, a clerk in the Schicht´s Works. In 1927, they gave birth to twins: Walter and Eva. They were outstanding students and they both studied at grammar schools. We have found the whole family on the list of people of mixed descent who were not forced to wear a star. However, they were not spared of other anti-Semitic measures, which started to limit Helena, her children and even Josef. Josef experienced immense pressure to divorce his wife. He did not compromise and thus he saved Helena and their children from transports. It did not take a long time until some of employees of the Schicht company denunciated him at the Gestapo. They interrogated Josef and then went after him because Josef demonstrated anti-Nazi opinions and was in contact with prisoners working at Schicht.

In 1943–1944, the whole family cooperated in forwarding parcels to Theresienstadt. Parcels to the Ghetto could only arrive with a glue-on enable stamp, which Ghetto prisoners received in a limited number. This measure did not apply to parcels coming from abroad. Since at that time Ústí was a part of the German Reich it was possible to receive, re-pack, and send a parcel to unknown people in Theresienstadt. Thus, the Waněks were sending parcels to anonymous people. They took parcels to various post offices in the surroundings not to attract attention. Naturally, this activity was forbidden and therefore huge punishment loomed over the family.

In September 1942, Walter and Eva were not allowed to start studies of their 5thyear at the grammar school. For some time, Eva worked as a domestic help and Walter as a day-laborer in the Ústí chemical factory. Josef became a forced laborer in the Schering company, producing chemical-pharmaceutical products.The factory was a place gathering politically unreliablepeople. In November 1944, Walter and Eva (only seventeen at that time) were sent to that factory as well. In February 1945, Helena was scheduled to be transported to Theresienstadt. Josef collapsed and thus Helena got a temporary deferral because of a necessary care for her husband. Fortunately, with the approaching end of the war, no other transports took place and the children were spared of them.

All four family members lived to see the end of the war but for them it was not the end of all their troubles. Being Germans, they became an easy target of vengeful people, and many times those people were not able to face the evil themselves. Fortunately, there were many Czechs who acknowledged their anti-Nazi activity and signed an affidavit about their activities during the war. They were exempt from a displacement of inhabitants of the German nationality and in 1949, they were bestowed a Czechoslovak citizenship. In 1953, Helena died of cancer at the age of 51. Josef outlived her by three years.

Look at Helena’s eyes
The story of Helena and Josef gave us a lesson that victims were not only those who died. This provides a look into Helena’s eyes on the picture from the application for naturalization. Helena was born in the region, lived honestly, gave into the world two children whom she brought up well.During the war, she suffered from fear for her relatives and grieved about their loss. She helped whenever she could and risked her life and lives of her family. Despite that, in1945 she had to apply for the permission to live here further on. Josef was German but his shield stayed taintless.