Anna and Jerry Chlup are remembered for their courage and heroism in saving the life of a Jewish concentration camp prisoner, Herman (Paul) Leder. Anna was born in the Sudetenland, a region of Czechoslovakia near the border of Germany.
She married Jerry Chlup in 1938. When the German army occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, the couple experienced many hardships. Anna’s nephew was sent to a forced labor camp in 1942, and died shortly after the war ended at the age of 24, suffering in deplorable conditions. Unbeknownst to Anna, Jerry joined a guerilla resistance movement in 1942, the year that the occupying German army began forced deportations. Jerry remained with the resistance until the end of the war. One of the operations that Jerry helped to carry out involved the destruction of a railroad bridge that stopped a train carrying prisoners to the Bergen-Belsen death camp in Germany. The train was forced to return to Czechoslovakia. While the train sat in waiting, approximately 45 prisoners escaped, one of was Herman (Paul) Leder.
Herman was found in the forest by a gravedigger who gave him temporary shelter in his home. Jerry first met Herman at the gravedigger’s home in terrible conditions. Herman was still in his striped prison uniform with his identification number sewn into the uniform and tattooed on his arm. Since the gravedigger was unable to care for Herman, Jerry brought Herman to his home, concealed in a wheelbarrow filled with straw. Herman was Polish, and he was unable to communicate with the Chlups so the Chlups decided to name him Pavel (Paul). In their home, Anna and Jerry clothed and fed him. The Gestapo came to the Chlup’s town searching for all the prisoners who had escaped from the train (many of whom had already perished from hunger and dehydration in the nearby forest). Paul was able to narrowly escape recapture after Jerry took him to a hiding area in the forest. Despite Anna and Jerry’s compassionate care, Paul’s condition deteriorated and he developed high fevers from typhus. After unsuccessful home remedies, the Chlups decided to take Paul to a hospital in a nearby town, greatly risking the chance that harboring a concentration camp prisoner would inevitably send them to prison at the hands of the Gestapo. At the hospital, Paul received the necessary intravenous medications to treat his fever and eventually recovered.
Paul (Herman) convalesced in the Chlup’s home after returning from the hospital. At the end of the war, he attempted to return to his home in Poland. He learned that all of his relatives (over 180 people), including his wife and 2-year-old son had perished. Seeing no future in Poland, he immigrated to Los Angeles where he settled and eventually remarried. The Chlup’s were also forced to leave Czechoslovakia after Jerry was placed under arrest and his business confiscated by authorities for making derogatory remarks towards the Communist party. They eventually immigrated to the United States and settled in San Francisco. They remained in close contact with Herman, having weekly conversations every Sunday morning for over 30 years. Herman always credited Anna and Jerry for saving his life. Their weekly conversations continued until 1988, the year of Jerry’s death at age 77. Herman and Anna continued the weekly tradition until 1992, the year of Herman’s death at the age of 87. Having lived under such trying conditions for so long, first with the Germans and then with the Communists, Anna and Jerry never managed to have children.
Their selfless heroism in saving a life will serve as their legacy.
Edited by Adriana Karagozian