Karel Chlebik

* 1925  

  • “I was deployed at the Cassino section, which was a difficult one, there was lack of water, in one valley we found a …bombenrichter…how do you call it in Czech….a crater made by a bomb, and it was full of rusty water, but to us it tasted great.” (Interviewer: “When did the greatest turmoil begin?”) “It was almost every day. And the English began their attack, I remember that precisely, on May 11th 1944. As an ordinary soldier, from my perspective I did not believe I would survive another minute. Everyone probably feels fear, I did not see any heroes, any such acting. Each of us tried to say some prayer, because I saw the end as clearly as I now see you. During the day we were sitting in such a hole and we did not dare to stick but one finger out, because they were constantly watching us. So the conditions there were such, that we were receiving our food only at nights. And the tins, which we were to heat over a spirit stove…we did not throw them away. We used them afterwards, if we needed to pee, we would do it in those tins and then throw them away. And the lack of water...only later we discovered that crater filled with rusty water, so we took the containers from gas masks and went to fetch some water with it. The front stood for almost half a year at one spot. One time it was them who attacked, one time us. But it was still in one place, it only began to take a turn in May.”

  • “As a kid I went to school, to a Polish elementary, and in the countryside it was common for children to work. That means that after school I watched over the cows on the pasture and had to work. I remember the first of September very well. I was out with the cows and the German Stuka airplanes were flying over me, this was a unique plane then, and when I saw the planes, I waved at them.”

  • “In 1943 my mother, a widow, married a Volksdeutsche (a person claiming German nationality), because there was the danger that we might be displaced. And that I was young and therefore I would not be drafted in the army. It was not so, as a Volksdeutsche I was drafted in 1943 to the German army, I was sent to France, went through training there... People today cannot even imagine. Our leaders were Germans, we were a mixture of Volksdeutsche and Reichsdeutsche together...You cannot imagine the training, not even the paratroopers have something so tough like getting up five time a night, dress and run to the basement, because fliegeralarm (air ride alarm) was sounded. And you had to be dressed, and when it was over, you had to undress again. And another thing was food. It was very bad. People today would not eat it. Eintopf and a loaf of army bread for three men. I ate it in the evening and in the morning I was hungry again!”

  • “The English eventually took me captive…” (Interviewer: “With the English, did anything surprise you?”) “It did, that’s right. They had us walk for several kilometers and as we marched I saw the ammunition stores, and places where they stored food supplies and petrol, I could not understand how they could have so much of it.”

  • “As you asked, there were Czechs, Poles and German, no one asked who was who. And whether I had a good friend there? The guy who was next to me was my friend.” (Interviewer: “Was he Polish or Czech?”) “He was a German. But he prayed the same way I did. Before I was captured, the day before we launched a counterattack, and from our team, out of ten men, only three of us remained. My friend from Upper Silesia, speaking the same dialect… we lay there, and he got shot…He only whispered: ´Moja mama, moja mama...(My mom, my mom...)”

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    Horní Suchá, 10.09.2008

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„I go to church, but God is a term I do not understand...“

Karel Chlebik was born in Albrechtice between Ostrava and Český Těšín in 1925 in a Polish family. His father was a miner and his mother a housewife. He had three siblings - two sisters and one brother. He did not finish elementary school because the war broke out in the last year of his studies; and, because of his Polish nationality, he was not allowed to continue with his education. Instead, he was sent to forced labour camp to mine. After the death of his father his mother remarried, she married a man who applied for the Volksliste. As a so-called Volksdeutsche, Karel Chlebik was drafted in the German army in 1943. After his training in France he was sent to the western front in Italy. He spent half a year in the trenches at Monte Cassino. During the English offensive of May 11, 1944 he was captured. A draft to the Allied army was carried out among the captives. Karel Chlebik joined the 2nd army corps of general Anders, which advanced northward. He went through a sappers´ training and received a driver´s licence. As a soldier working within the staff unit, he did not take part in direct combat anymore. He returned home in 1946. Then he worked in the Vítkovice Steelworks, where he was employed until his retirement in 1985.