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Holocaust speaker Renata Laxova to share World War II era experiences

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2015-04-01 13:34:34 - General

Renata Laxova
Renata Laxova

Holocaust speaker Renata Laxova will discuss her World War II era experiences at Coe College on Monday, April 13, beginning at 1 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium. This event is part of the David and Joan Thaler Holocaust Remembrance series. It is open to the public at no charge.

Renata Laxova was born to Jewish parents in the Moravian city of Brno (now part of the Czech Republic) in 1931, less than two years before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and launched his murderous onslaught across Europe. The Czech regions bordering Germany were Hitler's first targets for conquest.

By the time Renata was seven, the Nazis had taken control of Brno, and her family was in danger. After the occupation began, Renata's mother attended a lecture by an English politician, George Lansbury, who encouraged Czechoslovakian Jews to flee the imminent danger facing them from the Nazis. Renata's mother wrote to Lansbury, hoping to secure a place for her child on one of the now famous "Kindertransport" trains that took thousands of Jewish children from Nazi-held territory to safety in England and Sweden.

Sir Nicholas Winton, at the time a 29-year-old London stockbroker, was in charge of the Kindertransports in Czechoslovakia. Winton's agency, which he called the "British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Children's Section," contacted several nations in search of homes for Jewish children. Only his native England and Sweden opened their doors.

Winton was able to procure eight transports to carry 669 Jewish children to safety in foster homes in England. Eight year-old Renata was fortunate enough to be on the on the last train to arrive safely in England on Aug. 2, 1939. Her parents promised the heartbroken little girl that they would try to get to England to join her. It was one month before Hitler's invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II.

Renata spent seven years safely out of reach of the Nazi atrocities with the Daniels family in a suburb of Manchester, England. Her parents were not able to escape to England, but they survived the war to be reunited as a family. Renata's mother was the first civilian to be allowed to fly out of Prague to England after the war, where mother and daughter were reunited. They returned to Czechoslovakia in 1946, where she finished school and began her university studies.

Renata later earned a Ph.D. in medical genetics at Masaryk University in Brno and graduated from medical school in 1956. She married a veterinarian named Dr. Tibor Lax, and they had two children.

Sadly, Renata and her family were forced to flee from her homeland again in 1968, when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia.  She worked at the Kennedy-Galton Centre for Medical and Community Genetics in London. In 1975, Renata was appointed to the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked at the Waisman Center, a research center for human developmental disabilities. She is the discoverer of the Neu-Laxová syndrome, a rare congenital abnormality involving multiple organs.

For more information, call 399-8581.