Alois Frank

* 1925  

  • “I underwent further interrogation at Koníčky, but I was lucky - I contracted scabies. They put me in the isolation ward, where they painted yellow sulphur ointment all over me to treat the scabies, I was naked and I was wrapped only in a bed sheet, and that’s what I had on when I was interrogated. The Gestapo officer would sit on the one side, I’d sit on the other in my white bed sheet, with my skin all yellow. Whenever he jumped up wanting to hit me, he always stopped himself - he knew I was infectious, but he didn’t know in what way. So I went through those interrogations practically unscathed. Which was another stroke of luck. That lasted until December 1944, and then they took us all to Breslau.”

  • “The next morning everyone gushed out of those prisons, and chaos broke out. You can imagine what Waldheim, what that town looked like. All the inhabitants fled, the houses were open, there was looting, pillaging, it was dreadful. We Czechs from our prison, we had the larders and the kitchen there. The crowd came upon us. I myself rushed into the larders, we were all hungry. I entered one room, I can still see how there were several prisoners in front of me, they just wanted to satiate their hunger. I know only that I lunged my hand into a crate of lard, I scooped up a handful of lard and stuffed it into my mouth. After a few hours we went out into the town to see what was going on, it was dreadful. The next day we, the Czech group, I don’t even know how it’s possible that we got together, we manned the gates, we were afraid they’d rush us from the other prisons and start looting the larders. So we reckoned that at least before we leave, we have to defend as much as we can. We closed off some two gates, manned them with Czechs, and started organising our departure.”

  • "From Breslau to Zwickau. Overnight and in the frost. So they left us standing overnight and in the frost. They left us out there naked. We had strip all our clothes off, wrap them in a sheet and turn them in for sterilisation. Only then did they let us into the prison. They returned them to us some four hours later. And we put on the wet clothes and the wet underwear and went to our separate rooms. Those were awful times. And the hunger. Well, like in prison. The most hunger what I felt was afterwards in Waldheim. That was in the beginning of 1945; I was so hungry I chewed the willow shoots that we used to weave baskets for the German mines. And when we went to the toilets to pour out the slops and I found some potato peels there, I ate even those potato peels."

  • “We had to decide whether to join the Kuratorium or not. The Kuratorium was an organisation established by the Germans, they wanted to exert influence on young people, it was a sports organisation with political leadership. When the local kuratorium was to be established, our headmaster summoned all the students to the assembly hall and said: ‘We’ll be founding an educational kuratorium, the Germans want it, and they told us directly that if the students don’t join the kuratorium, they’ll close up the school.’ We discussed whether to join or not, everyone had to apply of their own volition. In the end we decided, quite reasonably I think, that we can use the kuratorium, that if it’s controlled by our people, we can manage it in a patriotic way, and that’s how it was. We had access to the kuratorium’s office. It had phones, typewriters, copying machines, and we made full use of it, perhaps more than we should have. We printed on carbon paper... during that time Luboš Halekal and I printed I guess about ten thousand leaflets.”

  • "In time, the organisation grew to such a degree, that the central Litovel organisation had some one hundred members by the end of 1943. It really was an organisation of youths, especially of students. But we had our cells in every village. It was a strictly conspiratorial organisation. So when it happened that during one gunfight, the commander of Section Three, Jarek Zapletal, was injured, Section Three was put into isolation and nothing happened to anyone. And that lasted quite a while. It wasn't until they planted an undercover agent into Jaroslav Zapletal's prison cell that the information leaked that František Vašek was the district commander; and it took even longer until they clamped down on Luboš Halekal, the Section One commander, and me as the head of Section Two Litovel. I was the last of our organisation to be arrested. Well. I did time in the garňák [a military prison in Olomouc - transl.] in Olomouc. From there they took me to Kouničky in Brno, and to Breslau in November. That was the infamous Kletschkaustrasse Prison. Well, and then when the Eastern Front started closing in on us, they transferred us to Zwickau, and from Zwickau to the court in Waldheim. In Waldheim, we were put on trial. Several of us got the death penalty even. Me, as I was the youngest of them, as I had been only seventeen when the deed was done - so I was a juvenile, and because I denied pretty much everything, only admitting to having given two quarter chunks of butter and about twenty crowns in support of the families of those in prison - so they sentenced me to five years in a high-security prison. But seeing as the Eastern Front was closing down on us very quickly, they didn't execute any of our group, though they didn't make it easy for anyone."

  • "I probably had my worst experiences in Breslau. That's Wroclaw now; where I had a cell, the room, solitary confinement, I think it was number 194. That cell was adjacent to a large room where all the prisoners were gathered before their execution. And I would cross the corridor to weave the baskets with one older prisoner. And there were always executions twice a week, those days they sent us to our rooms a bit sooner, at about eleven. And then into the cell, into the large room, they gathered all those that were to be executed. They wore clogs, and according to how the clogs clapped across the floor - because in the room there was this kind of stage, and on the stage stood a table where they were served a first-rate lunch and where they got a pen and paper to write their last letters to their relatives. And according to how much of the clapping I heard, I would count how many were to be executed. And I know that when they gathered them into the room, some of the prisoners knew where they were heading. Those were terrible moments. A French woman would scream, calling to her children. Or Czechs would sing the hymn and shout out various slogans. Each time was horrible. They were in chains, they were shackled in chains."

  • "That seventeenth of November was, I think, a Friday. I know that on Sunday afternoon the doorbell rang and Doctor Macek stopped by, an acquaintance from the film club. He came up to me and said: 'Doctor Frank, would you consider joining the Civic Forum for the Catholics?' I said: 'I would gladly, but not for the Catholics. No Catholics authorised me to do that.' - 'Okay, but you do want to?' I said: 'Yes.' And that's how it began. Straight after that there was a great big demonstration in the square. The square was full. By the fountain where we used to meet. That's how the Civic Forum was started in Zábřeh. Here in this dining room is where we met at our round table, where everything happened. The whole Civic Forum in Zábřeh. And it ended up that the member of parliament for the Olomouc Region was the Vicar General of the Olomouc Region, Father Vymětal. An old man in his seventies and so on. And we decided that seeing as the parliament was being co-opted, that the People's Party didn't have to be represented by him, and that we could put one of ourselves in his stead. And there were three of us. Doctor Macek, me, and Pepík [a nickname for Joseph - transl.]. He's the deacon here. And I went into the kitchen and asked: 'Mum, who of us three should be co-opted as MP?' And she said: 'Propose Doctor Macek. He's a good speaker, well-educated, cultured, he's got all the qualifications, and he can talk.' So I went back into the dining room, and as we were discussing what to do, I said: 'Mirek, I suggest that we propose Doctor Macek for member of parliament.' "

  • "In the year 1937 and 1938 those Henleinites, I remember, how they had Czech and German First of May parades. I remember one little moment like that. That when the German parade passed by, the Henleinite boys with their white stockings, and the Czech boys rushed up to them with axle grease and painted their calves with it. That was quite a problem. Things were obviously getting pretty hectic by then."

  • "The war was coming to an end. We already knew the Russians were getting close. They were already almost in Germany. But what will happen to us? No one knew how and where we'd end up. When they evacuated us from Breslau, that was January 24th, we went to the station in the night and we met up with a transport of prisoners. Those were thousands of people. The women shaved, not a hair on their heads - prisoners. Broken tanks blocked the bridges, deserted cannons, basically Breslau was in chaos that January. That was the end of the month. February, March, and the war was over. As the German army retreated, then whatever stopped, whatever ran out of petrol, they just left it standing there and fled to the west."

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The keys to freedom

MVDr. Alois Frank was born in 1925 in Svébohov. He studied grammar school in Zábřeh na Moravě. However, that was shut down after the border regions were annexed, and so he fled to Litovel to continue his studies. There he also joined the Czechoslovak Youths Union resistance group and became commander of Section II Litovel. Members of the group trained in combat, actively helped the families of those arrested and executed, and they also distributed thousands of pamphlets opposing the Nazi regime. Alois Frank was arrested in August 1944 and taken to the „garňák“, a military prison in Olomouc. He went through several prisons: the Kounice Dorm in Brno, and then Breslau and Zwickau, the end of the war found him in Waldheim. After the war he started studies at the Veterinary University in Brno. A year before graduation, after February 1948, he was expelled from all universities in Czechoslovakia. He worked as a manual labourer for several years, until he managed to get back into school with the help of a friend. In 1968 he was co-opted into the Jeseník town council, which meant more employment problems during the subsequent normalisation. He finally found himself a place as district vet in the Štítec region. Following November 1989, he was one of the founding members of the Civic Forum in Zábřeh na Moravě, and he was a member of the town council for four years. He now lives with his wife Zdena in Zábřeh na Moravě.