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Business and the Holocaust
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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II
PART VI: THE RESISTANCE

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / August 26, 2001

Page 11 of 11

Continued from page 10

This is just about how Vera Laska got her start in the Czech resistance. At age 15. "I was pretty good in sports at the time, and we were hiking and skiing in the winter and summer, and we knew all sorts of little trails in the area," she says.

She lived in southern Slovakia, in an area that had been claimed by Hungary. "Some people asked us, `Hey, you kids know that area. Would you like to take some people?' We were ideal. Young kids. We took French POWs who fled from Poland from various prisoner-of-war camps. When they started persecuting Jews, we took Jews across the border."

Laska described it as an underground railroad. "We only knew one person in the chain before us and the one person in the chain after us."

What began as a lark became a dangerous vocation. Laska worked for the OSS, and eventually she got caught and sent to Auschwitz. A political prisoner, she survived a place that few Jews ever left.

The young man she would eventually marry also worked in the resistance, along with his father and brother. One evening, the three visited a friend, who was entertaining two strangers.

"We need raincoats for these boys," the friend said, referring to the strangers.

"My father-in-law said, 'Boys, take off your raincoats,' " says Laska, referring to the brothers.

A few days later, the two men who needed raincoats ambushed, shot, and threw a grenade at a man in a jeep: Reinhard Heydrich, the SS officer in charge of Czechoslovakia. Reprisals were carried out not just in Lidice, but from Prague to Berlin.

"Opinions are tremendously divided on whether it was worth the loss of life or not," says Laska, author of the book "Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust."

"From a psychological point of view, it was important. From a personal point of view, it was a time of pure terror."

At a time when the Allies were incinerating faceless masses of noncombatants in bombing runs over Asia and Europe, reprisals by a savage foe were the price, to some, of freedom.

"They should have bombed the hell out of Auschwitz," says Laska.

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