Our guest this year was Renata (nee Polgar) Laxova. She was born on July 15th 1931 in Brno, in what was then Czechoslovakia. She was an only child in an average middle class Jewish family, raised to speak both Czech and German. Her father was an accountant, her mother stayed at home with her. She had a peaceful, happy, secure childhood and enjoyed swimming, ice-skating, gymnastics. When I was in second grade, in March 1939, Hitler marched into my country which became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Slovakia became an independent republic and a client state of Nazi Germany. Toward the end of my second grade, Jewish children were no longer allowed to participate in the school or community activities. Jewish children were no longer welcome at schools. Through Renata’s parents’ initiative, she was included in one of Sir Nicholas Winton’s Kindertransports.
On July 31,1939, she was taken to the Prague railway station and left – on the fifth Kindertransport from Czechoslovakia – for England. The war began on September 1, 1939. She spent 7 years, cared for by a Lancashire Quaker family, a father (a conscientious objector) mother, with their 5 ½ year old little boy.
Her parents survived the war. In 1941, they were accused by the Gestapo of being part of an international spy network and were expelled from Brno to Slovakia, her father’s birthplace. Her mother assumed a stranger’s identity and documents and survived as an unmarried nurse in Slovakia. Her father was sent to several labor and concentration camps. Her parents were reunited after Czechoslovakia was liberated in 1945.
Renata returned to Brno in 1946, completed High School and attended medical school. In 1948, the Communists took over the government of Czechoslovakia for the next 40 years.
She married Tibor Lax in 1951, who was also a Holocaust survivor, a veterinarian. They had two daughters. In August of 1968, the period called “Prague Spring” ended when the Russians and other Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia she fled once again to England with her daughters and husband. They came to the United States in 1975 where Renata worked as a pediatric geneticist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Medical School. Tibor worked as a veterinarian until his death in 1997.
On Sunday, April 23 at Samuel Lutheran Church, Dr. Laxova address an assembly of 90-100 persons during the twenty-second annual Shoah Commemoration Service. Also joining the assembly was Diet Emans.
After the lighting of memorial candles for the murdered millions and the Kaddish, Renata shared her witness with the assembly.
Monday, April 24, 35-40 students from Muskegon County high schools gathered at Muskegon Community College where they heard Renata speak and were able to ask questions. Mr. David Klemm (Sociasl Studies MAISD) and Ms. Sarah Woycehoski (Fruitport High School) led the students more deeply into discussions on issues surround the Holocaust.
Later that evening at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Muskegon, a gathering of 45-50 people heard Renata speak and could ask questions.
On Tuesday, Renata headed north to Ludington to speak at West Shore Community College. A gathering of 350 -360 persons gathered in the theater where Renata spoke. Many came from high schools in Mason and Manistee Counties.