The Second World War began for Czechoslovakia when the German army invaded the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, violating the 1938 Munich Agreement.
After the occupation, Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš fled to Paris where he formed the Czechoslovak National Liberation Committee. Following British diplomatic recognition, this became the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, which operated in London throughout the war.
Conditions in wartime Czechoslovakia were bleak. The occupying Nazi government conducted mass-deportations of Jews living in the Bohemia and Moravia regions to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Read more about the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia here. A Czech movement resisting German occupation emerged, and participation was punished harshly by the occupying Germans. Following the assassination of brutal Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, the town of Lidice was completely destroyed in retalliation.
The deportation of Jews commenced from 1941, after the establishment of the "camp-ghetto" at Theresienstadt. From there, many were sent to death camps in the Baltic States, or to concentration camps in occupied Poland. Read more about the Holocaust in Bohemia and Moravia here.
Dagmar and her family were deported to Theresienstadt, also called Terezin, in 1942. To counter reports of the appalling conditions and deny the existence of death camps, Terezin was presented to the International Red Cross as a "model camp". Prisoners were tasked with beautifying the camp and were engaged in cultural programs. Dagmar recalls participating in a production of the children’s opera, Brundibar. The staging of this opera was also a part of the Nazi deception of the Red Cross. Brundibar was composed by Czech composer Hans Krasa who was interned in Terezin and later killed at Auschwitz. Propaganda film Theresienstadt: The Führer gives the Jews a City was also produced at Terezin, directed by popular actor and director Kurt Gerron. After the film was completed, he and the other participants were killed at Auschwitz. Read more about Theresienstadt in Nazi propaganda here.
In June 1944, Dagmar and fer family were subject to their first selection. This process determined which prisoners were fit for work. Those who were not selected for labour were killed. Being the only one of her family who was selected, Dagmar was sent to Dessauer Ufer, a sub-camp of Neuengamme. Part of Dagmar's labour at Dessauer Ufer was to clear rubble from the 1943 Hamburg bombings. Carried out by British and American forces, the bombings, codename Operation Gamorrah, killed 30,000 people and destroyed much of the city.
Dagmar was later moved to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. British forces liberated the camp on the 15th April 1945, and finding it so filled with disease, once the camp had been evaucated they burned it down to avoid the spead of typhus.
On the 5th May 1945, the Czech resistance staged an uprising in Prague in an attempt to throw off German control. Fighting lasted until the 8th of May, the uprising ending the day before Soviet forces arrived to liberate the country. Over 3,000 people died in the uprising.