Holocaust survivor sees play she inspired

Jane Arnfield with Zdenka Fantlova. Picture: Complimentary
Jane Arnfield with Zdenka Fantlova. Picture: Complimentary
Have your say

ONE OF the few living survivors of the Holocaust has been in Edinburgh to see the play inspired by the story of her survival.

Zdenka Fantlova wrote a book about her ordeal in three concentration camps around half a century after the start of the Second World War, when the Nazis invaded her country and rounded up the Jewsish population.

The 91-year-old visited Summerhall arts centre to see the adaptation of The Tin Ring and speak about her harrowing wartime experiences, in which she lost her entire Czechoslovakian family.

Ms Fantlova survived after being eventually rescued by a British soldier from the notorious Belsen camp, whom she was never able to track down, when it was liberated in 1945.

The story of the play, largely based on Ms Fantlova’s book of the same name, is inspired by the ring she was given as a teenager by her first love on the last occasion she saw him at Terezin concentration camp in 1942.

Actress Jane Arnfield, the star of the one-woman show about the true-life story, appeared alongside Ms Fantlova at Summerhall to provide an insight into the publishing of the book and development of the play. The pair spoke of their hopes of eventually taking the production to the Czech Republic.

Ms Fantlova said of her memoirs: “It was a very special occasion, 50 years after the Second World War. I’d moved to Australia after the war and then to England, in 1969.

“At that time my home country was still under a communist regime, and although I was longing to go there and visit I was afraid that I would not get back in or get back out, so I waited until 1989 when it was free of communism.

“I decided to go back to my home town to be confronted with my past. I wanted to go alone to experience how I felt going back and remembering. I didn’t want to go with my family or be a tour guide. Everything was different than what I expected. It made me feel as if I had come from the afterlife.

“I was being why I was the only one to survive in my town or family to survive the Holocaust for four years. I knew there was no simple answer to that.

“I decided to go home and write my memories from that time, not just for myself, but also as a document for those that didn’t make it.

“I didn’t find it painful at all, because in my nature I didn’t feel that I had suffered, I felt I could take it. The whole mechanism of surviving is very complex.

“It depended on what period of life you were in when you were taken in. It was better to be young than old, healthy rather ill and single rather than married with a family. I was 18, young, healthy and also in love. I had the power of hope and I was very stubborn.”

Ms Arnfield said: “I was given her book to read, went to bed one evening around 9pm and didn’t put it down until I finished it. I just wondered as a performer if she would allow it be adapted for the theatre. She said ‘I don’t know how you will do it, but why don’t you give it a go’?”

The Tin Ring is at Summmerhall until 25 August.