Shelter for a Little Girl

Milena Herbenova

Czech Republic

Milena Herbenova with Eva NovotnaMilena Herbenova with Eva Novotna
Eva Novotna, the survivor, with Milan, Herbenova’s sonEva Novotna, the survivor, with Milan, Herbenova’s son

Eva Novotna was born in December 1938 in Prague. When she was three months old, the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia. Since her father was Jewish, the little baby was also registered as Jewish.

Eva's parents, Vlasta and Kurt Beer, were stanch communists, and after the occupation became active in the underground. In March 1941 both parents were arrested. The father committed suicide, and the mother was released, but only for a short while. In the summer of 1942 she was arrested again and sent to Auschwitz. Four-year-old Eva, who was now without parents, was moved from one place to another until Milena Herbenova proposed to take care of her. Eva stayed with Milena until liberation, when her mother returned from the camp.

Under occupation the whereabouts of every Jew, including small children, had to be registered. Sheltering a Jewish child without notifying the authorities was extremely dangerous. Milena’s husband too had been arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Being the wife of a political enemy put Milena and her son, Milan, in a hazardous situation and enhanced the danger for their being caught with a Jewish child in their care. In addition, due to Eva's illegal status, no ration cards were issued for her. Despite the hardship and risks to her and to her son Milan, Milena Herbenova took loving care of her little protégé. Since Eva could not go to school, Herbenova engaged private tutors to teach the child at home.

When Eva's mother returned, she found a healthy and happy child. The close connection with the rescuer was maintained until Herbenova emigrated to the USA in 1948.

On 7 December 2003 Milena Herbenova was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

 

This online story was made possible with the support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.