Peter Heidler

* 1946

  • “It didn´t bother me, as everyone else was in the same situation, and the only time you could compare was when you visited your schoolmates at their homes. My friends, the kids I had been playing most often and grew up with them, lived the same way as we did. We were the kids from the barracks. ´Barackler´, as some locals would call us to mock us. On the one hand it insulted me, but on the other hand, it gave me motivation: I wanted to prove the people who were mocking me that I could do something with my life.”

  • "Just being German in Czechoslovakia after 1945 was very difficult. You had no rights, no property, even speaking German was being shunned upon, somewhere even forbidden. The German element was completely suppressed. My brother couldn't go to a German school, as after 1945 there were just Czech schools. One day my mother was passing by the school and heard that they were learning only in the Czech language. She was quite unhappy about it, she came home with tears in her eyes. What would you do in this 'not-quite-your-homeland' of sorts, when your homeland was no longer your home? As your own identity has been taken away? And also your language and everything German was something unpleasant that shouldn't be seen in broad daylight? As your neighbors, even if they had had different opinion on politics [than the Regime] had to leave, and sometimes quite ugly things had been happening when they did? What would you do in a country where one had become a stranger, a second-class citizen? All those who had been expelled had lost their roots, all of a sudden, everything they used to be just vanished in the air.

  • "They did sports together, they performed theatre plays, skied in the winter or went hiking in the countryside, and they did it as a collective and it had a profound impact on them. They didn't care that much about politics, they were mostly workers who kept studying on their own. Wenzel Jaksch, one of the chairmen, was just an ordinary bricklayer by profession, he was self-taught and yet he was quite an educated man. The emphasis on further education, on the development of the people in general, this was an important part of the DSAP programme that the party was pursuing.”

  • “He would tell some war stories from time to time, but kept silent about his stay in Dachau. So I learned about it mainly from my mother. Later, my father did share some stories, but they had been so brainwashed to not to talk about it, they just kept silent. He did talk about the World War II, but more about his experiences with other soldiers, his friends, he didn't talk about the actual fighting. Not that he had been boasting about some heroic deeds, he certainly wasn't. He had a stamp in his military book deeming him unreliable, an opponent of Hitler, so he was just a private first class all the time. He just had to go to fight this war. There was no choice, no will to decide. All his friends were Germans, so he kept living this contradiction: on the one hand, he was against the regime, against the mass murder, against that clown from Branau, but he had to be there as well, to save his own life. So all the time, he kept living this contradiction. Er hat diesen zweiten Weltkrieg, er musste mitmachen. Von Freiwilligkeit kann keine Rede sein. Seine Kameraden waren Deutsche gewesen, er lebte immer in diesem Zwiespalt, eigentlich bin ich ein Regimegegner, ich bin gegen diesen Massenmörder, dem Emporkömmling aus Braunau, und muss einfach mitspielen, um mein eigenes Leben nicht zu gefährden. Er war immer in diesem Zwiespalt."

  • "My brother Karl was born in Karlovy Vary. It was quite an amusing situation, as his surname wasn't Heidler, he had been given the family name of his paternal grandmother. At the time he was born, his father had been in a concentration camp, in Dachau. My mother was terrified by the political situation at the time, because in 1938, after the Munich Agreement, they welcomed him [Hitler] in the Sudetenland quite enthusiastically. Part of my family was against Hitler, my father was in a concentration camp because he had been denounced by his own relatives. A rift ran through the family, dividing its members as either supporters of Hitler, or Henlein. So either you were a Heil, a Henlein supporter, or you were a Sozi, a Social Democrat."

  • „When we went to visit Czechoslovakia, it wasn’t about politics at all. We did not lead political talks at all. There was just no conversation about politics to speak of. We went over there simply to see our homeland, the country we came from, our relatives and so on. The most important thing for us was to establish personal contact with the people there and it was, all in all, a very positive emotional experience. I had of course, expectations as to the place where I was born, where I originated. So we went to my birth house to see where my grandparents had lived. They had a small farmstead there and a few fields. My dad showed it to me and he showed me where this and that had been and where my mom went to work in Carlsbad. And what was really striking for me was this, this dialect there, the Egerländisches that the people still spoke over there. My parents still spoke Egerländisch at home. All of this made me feel right at home there. It was unbelievable this rediscovering of a country that had once been my fatherland, a land where I originated. This contact with our relatives was very touching.”

  • „This had a really huge impact on me. It was actually my brother, who wanted to date this girl, and she simply shouted at him: ‘what do you want you Barackler?’ This hit me in the innermost way. However, in the end, I have to say that maybe this incident proved to be favorable for me. I should probably have thanked her for that. Because it became the motivation for me to show them that we were more than just ‘Baracklers’. To show them that we had a sense of honor. As a youngster, I had a very deep sense of honor. As my brothers were at that time already quite intensely involved on a musical plane – they gave often concerts – we were very much in touch with the population since music transcends the barriers between countries, nations and cultures. It is a very important bond and thus they quickly became integrated into society. Like football, music also integrates and thus we were quickly received by the society. So music proved to be very helpful for us in this respect.”

  • “Even though it was a really hard time for us at that point, my parents managed to scrape together the money needed and afforded us a musical education. They hired a music teacher, Mr. Salzmann, and all of us, the three brothers, were granted a musical education. My oldest brother played the violin, the clarinet and the accordion. My other brother played the accordion and later the trumpet and I played the accordion. Later, I got drums. This had been my dream. It was indeed something very precious at that time. I mean, today, you get drums at Aldi but back then, it was a rarity. I was about ten years old then and I got my drums for Christmas. I jumped up for about half a meter with joy. On New Year’s Eve, I already played in a trio with my brother Erich – the second born brother – and a guitar player and I was the drummer. Right at New Year’s Eve.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Hof, 27.08.2014

    délka: 02:08:54
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Not to disappear from history
  • 2

    Rehau, 13.09.2019

    délka: 02:04:02
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of the expelled Germans born in the Karlovy Vary region
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

...not forgetting one‘s roots.

Peter Heidler as a young man
Peter Heidler as a young man
zdroj: privat

Peter Heidler did not have to witness the war anymore. He was born on June 28, 1946, the last of three sons in Grünlas, district of Elbogen. Although they were a recognized anti-fascist family and his father had spent half a year in a concentration camp, the family left Czechoslovakia in October 1946 to the Federal Republic of Germany. Peter’s childhood began in the refugee camp in Hof. His father, a mason by training, became the camp commander. In spite of the precarious conditions, the parents provided their three children with a musical education. Peter learned to play the accordion and at the age of 10, he even got drums for a present. The brothers thus made some extra money with music. After completing secondary school, Peter accomplished an apprenticeship for a machine locksmith. At the same time, his father began with the construction of a family house in Hof. After he completed the apprenticeship, Peter served alternative civilian service in a home for the elderly in Selb, where he met his future wife. Afterwards, he took up studies for a teacher, which he successfully completed. He found an occupation in Hof that he pursued until his retirement. Already since his youth, Heidler has known the life in a social-democratic community. His father was a member of the Working Community of the Social Democrats and later of the Seliger Community in Hof. In 1978, Heidler was himself elected chair of the Community. For 2009 he has been regional chairman of the Seliger Community.