Erika Bednářová

* 1930  

  • “It depends... Some of them beat people, terribly. There was one Smetana in our camp, and he beat people terribly. One time they locked up a doctor and a pharmacist there, they were Czechs, but [it was because] they had tended to some German soldiers, so they locked them up there. They tied the doctor to the table and beat him till he bled. When he fell unconscious, they splashed [water] on him and continued to beat him, until he died. When we came back from work, the corridors were full of blood and water, and we had to clean it up.”

  • “No more war, no conflicts, let everyone live their life. Today, we have super wars because of religion, but that should finally come to and end. People should let other people live, regardless of their religion. It’s awful that so many people die because of religion these days. I don’t know how it’ll end. I’m quite old, and it saddens me that people don’t learn how things were, and now there are those religious problems to boot. There starting with the swastika again in Germany. What I say is everyone should try spending some time in the concentration camps that existed during the war. Then they’d know who Hitler was. But they’ve forgotten all of that. I don’t like what’s been happening in our world.”

  • “The toilet that was attached to the cottage remained there. The boys made a ladder for me to get down when the flood was over and I could go over the stones up to the toilet. So we lived here.“ Interviewer: „You were alone during the floods? You must have felt quite frightened.“ „I don't know. I accepted the fact I was going to die. You know, it was in June, and my brother had died in May. He had been a miner and his lungs were damaged by dust and then his gastric ulcer became perforated. He was being operated on when he died, his lung couldn't cope with the narcosis. I just wanted to be with him – so I didn't mind the floods so much; I felt pain for my brother.“ Interviewer: „And how were you rescued?“ „When my son saw it was not possible to get here, he tried going through the factory. The fences were gone. I could hear the noise – stones were hitting the house. Oh, God. So I went to open the door and I saw some figures there. He said, ´It will be a terrible night. They are going to open the dam lake – it will be the worst of all. You must go to Kouty.´ So I took some money, documents and clothes and set off. They were leading me across the water. The current was strong so they were holding me. I stayed with them for fourteen days. And then the garage was destroyed but there was a ladder – the water had brought it. So I said,´It is OK, we will need it because we are going to build.´ But when I was in Kouty somebody stole it."

  • “Why did they torture us and punish us when we were against Hitler? We weren’t even in the Hitler Youth... We suffered a lot, and it was so unfair, I can’t forgive the Czechs for what they did.”

  • Interviewer: „The forests here belonged to the Kleins, didn't they? Did you have to have a permit to pick up wood in the forests?“ „Oh, yes. We got so-called 'Zeichen'. It was a piece of wood with a hole in it and we had to wear it. We had to pay for it in the castle. We got similar ones for raspberries and bilberries. You could get it when there were enough raspberries. It was not possible to go to the forest when it was still green: People would have damaged the forest too much. And when the bilberries were ripe, we could go there too.“

  • „And there was the prison camp, over the river. There was a married couple there, but they weren't allowed to see each other. But at night they could meet because one of the guards was a good man. She was pregnant – What to do now? She worked very hard but she couldn't get rid of the baby. So German anti-fascists brought her some loose clothes. Nobody knew about it. And the she gave birth to the baby. They took it at night and brought it to the Lindners, who looked after the baby. However, there were three more families living in that house. So when the baby started to cry, they took it to the cellar. It was dangerous because if it had been disclosed, they would have had to go to a concentration camp together with the baby. My mother went to Přemyslov where they had cows and they didn't have to surrender milk, just butter. So she went for the milk and brought it to the Lindners for the baby. She always sacrificed herself for the others. In 1945 the Lindners came to stay with us and they protected us.“

  • „My mother was a member of an anti-fascist organization. It was a kind of club that met in the building of today's cinema. It was called ´Labourers' House.´ We used to meet there – women did some handiwork and men played cards. We played some games – it was pleasant there. However, my mother was arrested and we were sent away because it was against Hitler. First, my brother was in Králíky and then in Waltersdorf, which is a village near Hanušovice (today Žleb). There was a German farmer there who wanted child-laborers because his helper had to join the army. So, he got two Germans from Volhynia and my brother. They had to work in the field – for Germans! They had to move dung with their hands. I do not have good memories about the Germans. They had just straw in the beds and the pillows were nothing more than sacks stuffed with straw. I was quite OK – I was staying with my Mom's brother. But my aunt was terribly strict and she beat me very often. So I wrote a letter to my mother and threatened to do something bad to myself if she didn't come get us. I wanted to go home. She was scared,´God, they will take you from me again!´ But she finally arrived. So I was at home by 1944. She had been forbidden to see her children. And so she sent me to Waltersdorf and I saw that all. I spent two days there.“

  • “When my mother was alone (she had a large flat) she had to accommodate injured soldiers who had been excused from further military service. They worked in the forest cutting trees for the production of wood gas. She housed two injured soldiers – the 18-year-old was from Leipzig and the other one, who was 30 years old – I don't know where he was from. In April they had to enlist in the army in Bruntál. My mother told them, ´Go there, get registered, and return as soon as possible.´ She explained the way to them. ´I will hide you here. Why should you go to war – it is the end, anyway.´ And really – the younger one returned; his name was Waldemar. His feet were covered in blood – as he had been walking in the forest. And now my mother had to hide him, because if the Germans had found him, they would have shot him dead as he was a deserter. She gave him food although we had very few meal tickets. This was in 1945, so we all were at home and were a bit jealous of him. He called her ´Mutter´(mother) and she gave him better food which made us furious. We teased him because of this. His knee had been perforated by a bullet and when we were in the forest we made him pull a cart with us. We were quite nasty. And then we asked some Czech friends to hide him. He was an aristocrat from Leipzig. And then he was sent somewhere in Loučná. Our mother sent us there to bring food to him, but we ate most of it on the way. He complained,´Mutter gave me so little ...´ Our friends told us to take him back because the Germans carried out raids to find hiding soldiers. They arrived again and warned us, ´There will be a raid and they will take all the soldiers.´ So my mother said,´You have to go home!´ She took him and they walked all the way to the German border – just at night, of course. Sometimes somebody gave them a lift – it took three weeks to get there and then she had to go back. We thought she was dead.“

  • “Mother was arrested every now and then. My eldest sister served in the family of one Gestapo man; they had two children. She took care of the household, did the cooking and cleaning and looked after the children. One day a guy came and told her,´If you want to see your mother alive, follow me.´And so she went and saw our mother lying in the corner of the cell covered in blood. They had beaten her badly again. My sister said, ´She must go to hospital or I won't serve here again. She can do the work herself.´ Then the husband, the Gestapo officer, arrived and said,´What is happening? What's up? My wife has called me that the kids are hungry because you are not cooking.´ But she replied,´I'm not going to cook any more. You can beat me the same way as my mother. But I'm not going to leave until my mother is in hospital.´ And really, they took her to the hospital – he arranged it – and my sister returned to work in the house."

  • „So we went to Olomouc, and it was such a mess. Just one of us was a member of the Henlein's Movement – but the others were anti-fascist! It was not fair. I was there for tree months, sleeping on the ground. There were forty-eight people in that room and it was rather cruel. You have heard of Hodolany? Haven't you? Well, nobody speaks about that concentration camp. We were afraid to go to the toilet at night because every night they hanged a German soldier – it was their entertainment. Or they beat them: There was a table in the corridor and they tied them up there and beat them until they were unconscious and even after that. When we returned from work blood was everywhere and we had to clean it up. I was there for three months – I should have gone to pick hops but they put us there. We had to clean an army building and a school that had been painted. And then we worked for the Zora company for a while. And hunger – in the morning we got a cup of bitter cereal- drink and a piece of hard bread. And in the evening we got soup. When I first saw the soup – it was made of old peas and beans and there were a lot of worms in it – I said,´I'll never eat it.´ But there was a lady sitting next to me and she said,´Shut up and eat. Close your eyes – you mustn't watch what you are eating. If you want to survive, you must eat it.´ So on the first day I vomited but then I was able to eat it.“

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We were not anti-fascist after the war – we were just “Germans”

Erika Bednářová (Rotterová) in 1955
Erika Bednářová (Rotterová) in 1955
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Erika Bednářová, née Rotterová, was born in the village of Pekařov in 1930. Both of her parents had German nationality. Her mother, Sophie, was a fierce anti-fascist and when the border regions of Czechoslovakia were occupied in 1938, she was immediately arrested by the Gestapo. She helped several people of various nationalities during the war. She was arrested again in 1940 and her children were taken away from her - Anna was sent to a children‘s home in Čelákovice, Erich went to work for a farmer in Waltersdorf (today Žleb) and little Erika went to her aunt and uncle, the Engelberts, to Svitavy. Her mother was then arrested, interrogated and even tortured a few times. Nevertheless, she was still helping people nearby. For example, in May, 1945 she saved a German soldier by taking him to the border during the night; a border which was several hundred kilometers away. After the war, however, she was persecuted as a German because of „collective guilt“. Erika was sent to an internment camp in Olomouc-Hodolany where she had to spend three months in appalling conditions. In spring 1948 she and her mother were sent to the region of Uničov where they worked for no salary, only for food and accommodation. At that time Erika had just married and had a new-born baby. Her husband, Oldřich, had been drafted for military service and did not know about it. She was able to leave Uničov with help from Oldřich‘s parents. However, her mother had to work there for three years until anti-fascists from Rapotín managed to help her. Erika and her husband then lived in Loučná nad Desnou where she could not find a good job. She ended up working in the forest and, since 1968, in the factory for Velamos. She experienced the great floods in 1997 - standing in the kitchen she watched the water demolishing her house - finally, her son, Oldřich, saved her. Today she lives in her rebuilt house in Loučná nad Desnou-Rejhotice.