Jewish Witness to a European Century
Journeys through an
oral history archive
About Centropa Stories
Where podcasting meets 20th century history and audio theatre.
Between 2000 and 2009, Centropa interviewed 1,230 elderly Jews still living between the Baltic and the Aegean Seas. They shared their life stories and 25,000 family pictures with us, all of which you can find at www.centropa.org.
This archive of Jewish memory has enabled us to produce award winning films, educational programs, illustrated books, walking tour apps and exhibitions. And now CENTROPA STORIES is producing an ongoing series of podcasts—all based on the life stories of those we interviewed.
Each quarter, we will present a thematic set of stories read by first rate actors in London, Vienna, Kyiv, Belgrade and Warsaw, so be sure to subscribe to CENTROPA STORIES. You’ll find us wherever you get your podcasts.
Our Podcast Seasons
22 June, 1941, Operation Barbarossa
The date when the German Army, along with its Finnish, Hungarian, Slovak, Italian and Romanian allies all surged across the borders of the Baltic states, eastern Poland and the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler’s goal: to destroy the Soviet Union.Aside from the horrors about to be inflicted on everyone, it was the Jewish population that would suffer the most.By the time Stalin’s army had regrouped, rearmed and retook their land in 1943 and 1944, every Jew who had not fled--or been spirited away in organized evacuations--would find themselves in ghettos, marched into forests or to the edge of ravines--and murdered.First it was tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and eventually millions.The Germans and their allies did not act alone. Far too many locals in these lands lent a willing hand-- although in every country, there were a few brave souls who hid a friend, a neighbor, or a complete stranger.In this first season of CENTROPA STORIES, we’re going to hear from three Centropa interviewees—all of whom remember the 22nd of June—when they were just children.
9th November, 1938
Picture this: you’re a child, between the ages of 9 and 14. You’re living in Vienna You’re Jewish.So far, so good.But its March, 1938, when German troops are marching over the Austrian border—unopposed. More than 175,000 Jews are living in Vienna and every one of them is suddenly desperate to get out of the country. Your parents included.Then comes 9 November, 1938: Reichspogromnacht. Scores of synagogues are put to the torch, hundreds of Jewish businesses are ransacked, thousands of Jewish men are beaten on the streets and a great many are shipped off to concentration camps.In Season Two of CENTROPA STORIES, you will meet three of our interviewees whose parents took them to Vienna’s train stations and put them on Kindertransports to England, then went home to wait for the knock on the door they knew would come.You’re also going to meet three people who fled with their entire families—and ended up hiding in Budapest, sent to a prison camp in Kazakhstan, and even to a British army prison—in the Indian Ocean.
A Ukrainian Jewish Century
13 episodes that will take you on a journey through the 20th century.With stories read by some of Britain’s finest character actors, you will hear excerpts from Sholem Aleichem, as well as personal stories of those who grew up in shtetls, fled from the Germans in 1941, and even fought them at Stalingrad. Then you’ll listen to stories of what it was like to start life over in the postwar decades.
The destruction of a Sephardic Jewish community
A walk through Belgrade’s Jewish quarter, Personal stories, Historical lectures, Readings from Serbian fiction, Sephardic music
Anna Lanota: A Jewish partisan in Poland
She escaped the Warsaw Ghetto, and with a false ID, took to the forests and city streets to kill Germans. Read by Sara Kestelman in London, who has played in the Royal Shakespeare Company and in Star Wars.
Escape from/hiding in Thessaloniki
When the German army marched into Thessaloniki in April, 1941, around 50,000 Jews—20% of its population—lived there. Deportations began in March, 1943; over 90% of the city’s Jews were sent to their deaths.Three of our Thessaloniki-born interviewees describe their lives before the war, how they survived by fleeing or hiding, and how they started over after the war.This season of Centropa Stories was made possible in part by CERV--Citizens Equality, Rights and Values of the European Commission’s Education and Culture Executive Agency
Five eyewitnesses in hell. The Auschwitz stories.
Auschwitz-Birkenau. the ultimate symbol of the Holocaust, where more than a million Jews were murdered.Of the 1,230 elderly Jews we interviewed between 2000 and 2009, nearly 100 managed to survive this hell on Earth—some to be sent on to even worse places.We present excerpts from five of those interviews, one each from Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Poland
Shtetl Stories from Romania.
In 2005, our interviewer Emoke Salzman traveled to what were then the last of Romania’s shtetls to interview 20 elderly Jews.In this season of Centropa Stories, we highlight three of their stories, and they are truly among the last genuine Yiddish storytellers (but are read for you in English).
Four stories of survival in Terezin.
They were born between 1920 and 1928. They were enrolled in school or had just started jobs. Until the Germans occupied and dismembered Czechoslovakia in March, 1939. Soon the deportation notices arrived and their descent into hell began.In this season of Centropa Stories, four Czech Jews will describe their imprisonment in Terezin (Theresienstadt) and what life was like in what the Nazis called “a model ghetto.”
The Kindertransport Stories
Saving 10,000 Jewish children from the fate the Nazis had planned for them