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Holocaust letters of US ambassadors’ family issued in Czech

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Prague, April 19 (CTK) – Former U.S. ambassador Andrew Schapiro took part in Wednesday’s presentation of a book of letters written by his ancestors in Prague in 1939-41 and showing the introduction of more and more bans aimed against Jews.

The letters were edited by Schapiro’s mother, Raya Czerner Schapiro, and her sister Helga Czerner Weinberg. The Czech edition was prepared by historian Katerina Capkova.

Schapiro’s grandparents wanted to flee the Nazis with their three children, but they obtained exit permissions for only three people. As a result, they left for the United States with their youngest child, while Raya and Helga, then aged five and seven, had to stay with their aunt and uncle in Prague.

The two girls were to follow their parents soon afterwards, but the U.S. quota for Czech immigrants was filled. Finally, both sisters could leave within the immigrant quota for Russian applicants.

After their mother died in the USA 1990, Raya and Helga revealed a box with 77 letters that their own grandparents sent from Prague during the war. The letters describe the regulations and bans concerning Jews that the Nazis introduced in the occupied Czech territory. The letters of grandparents became more and more desperate. To cope with censorship, they used the code name “Tante Steffi” (Aunt Steffi) for the Nazis. In 1941, they wrote the last letter before they were forced to go to concentration camps where they died in the gas chamber.

Andrew Schapiro was ambassador in Prague from September 2014 to January 2017.

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