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Mar 15, 2011 7:00 PM - 8:45 PM

Hitler, Stalin and I

FILM CLUB. Hitler, Stalin and I (Hitler, Stalin a já). Documentary Film, Directed by Helena Třeštíková, 2001, 56 min. Admission Free

Heda Margoliová-Kovalyová's lifestory.

The true story of Heda Margolious, who was born in Czechoslovakia in the well off family. Just married, she and her husband were forced to go through Nazi concentration camps. They survived and he became Secretary of Trade but was executed during the communist purges in the 1950s.

Helena Třeštíková. Born in Prague, she studied documentary directing at the FAMU, graduating in 1974. Since 1972, when she began her professional career, she has made about 30 documentaries, all focusing on human relationships, social problems and women’s issues. She developed the method of time-lapse shooting (the observation of human life over an extended period of time). Her main long-term projects are Manželské etudy (started in 1987), for which she followed seven couples through six years of marriage, and Řekni mi něco o sobě (started in 1992), tracking the lives of juvenile delinquents. Since 2002, she has been teaching at FAMU and between 2006 and 2007, she was the Minister of Culture for the Czech Republic. With René (2008) she won the European Film Academy Award - Prix.

Heda Margolius Kovály (1919-2010)
Married to her childhood sweetheart, Rudolf Margolius, she was separated from her parents when the Jews were taken out of the ghetto and transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. After arriving at Auschwitz, she was chosen to survive — though her parents were immediately gassed — and to work as a laborer in the Christianstadt labour camp.

When the Eastern Front of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union approached the camp, its prisoners were evacuated. With a few other women in the first months of 1945, it was decided while on this journey to Bergen-Belsen, to escape back to Prague. After arriving in the city, Margolius discovered that most of the people who remained in the city during the war were too frightened by the threat of German punishment to aid an escapee from the camps.

When Soviet forces finally freed Prague from Nazi control the Communist Party began to rise. The experiences of her husband at Auschwitz and Dachau had led him to becoming a Communist. He took a job with the government as Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade at the command of the Communist Party, despite his own and his wife's reservations about the position.

In 1952, her husband was found guilty of conspiracy during the notorious Slanskz trial. Having been prevented from seeing her husband for eleven months after his arrest, and after he and the other arrested Jews gave false confessions extracted by torture, Heda later learned that he had been hanged and his body cremated and given to security officials for disposal. In a final indignity, a few miles out of Prague, the officials’ limousine began to skid on the icy road and his ashes were thrown under the wheels to create traction.

Their son, Ivan Margolius, was raised in impoverished conditions. For as long as the Communist Party remained in power, she was kept from good jobs and socially shunned. She did not tell Ivan the truth about what happened to his father until he was sixteen years old.

She re-married in 1955 to Pavel Kovály. Unfortunately, his name was brought down because of his association with her as the widow of the alleged traitor, her first husband, Rudolf Margolius.

Finally in 1968, when once again Soviet Union troops invaded Prague after the Prague Spring and occupation seemed inevitable, Margolius Kovály fled Czechoslovakia to the U.S..

She worked as a librarian in the international-law library at Harvard University in Boston, MA.

Margolius Kovály returned to Prague with her second husband in 1996.


Heda Margolius Kovaly's memoir Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 is available on Amazon.com


No resevations. First come, first served.


Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


Mar 15, 2011 7:00 PM - 8:45 PM


Czech Centre

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