Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968

Author(s): Heda Margolius Kovaly

Biography & Memoir

A classic account of life under Nazism and Stalinism that will appeal to fans of Alone in Berlin and Stasiland.

Heda Kovaly's memoir is a brave, intimate and penetrating account of some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Born Heda Bloch in Prague in 1919, when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia Heda was taken first to the Lodz ghetto in Poland, then to Auschwitz where her parents were murdered in the gas chambers, and finally on to a Labour camp, from which she escaped in 1945. On her return to Prague she was reunited with her husband Rudolf Margolius, a survivor of both Auschwitz and Dachau. Together the couple rebuilt their lives, and Rudolf joined the Communist government. In 1953, along with 13 other government officials - 11 of them, Jewish - he was arrested, tortured, imprisoned and finally hanged following one of the era's most notorious show trials. Heda never stopped fighting to clear his name. Denied employment and thrown out of their apartment, Heda and her son became pariahs. In 1955 she married Pavel Kovaly, and together the couple fled to America, not returning to Czechoslovakia until 1996. Despite the overwhelming losses that she experiences, Kovaly chronicles not only the horrors she has seen, but also the moments of beauty. Written in terse, luminous prose, Under A Cruel Star is the definitive account of the ills brought about under communism; a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in 20th century history.


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Heda Kovaly was born Heda Bloch in Prague in 1919, the daughter of a prosperous Jewish couple. She survived imprisonment and forced labour under the Nazi regime, during which time both her parents were killed. She escaped from a labour camp in 1945 and returned to her native Prague, where she was re-united with her husband, Rudolf Margolius, who was later executed in a communist show-trial. Heda left Prague for America, where she worked as a translator and later as a librarian at Harvard University. She returned to Prague in 1996 where she later passed away, aged 91, in 2010.

General Fields

  • : 9781847084767
  • : Granta Books
  • : Granta Books
  • : December 2011
  • : 216mm X 135mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : February 2012
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 192
  • : 943.712042092
  • : Paperback
  • : Heda Margolius Kovaly