Colonel (ret.) Josef Holec

* 1918  †︎ 2018

  • “I was hit by a shrapnel in the head. It got stuck in my head, you can see it here. The right side of my body got paralyzed, even my tongue so I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t make a noise. Everything was blocked. The stretcher bearers carried me into a barn in Vyšný Komárník. Our field hospital was located there and the nurse who was a member of the armed forces as well gave me a tetanus shot and wrapped me up with some bandage. I was covered with blood and didn’t say a word, so she thought I was deaf and told the guys: ‘this one is finished, too’. But I heard it…”

  • “Germany attacked the Soviet Union by the time when I had already served in the army for nine months and had been fully trained. Therefore we were the first ones to get out on the battlefields. I served in Kirovohrad in the Ukraine and then they relocated us to Záporoží. Our last duty station in May was Nikopole, a small town about 120 km away from Záporoží. But we had our armaments stockpile in Záporoží. So when the German planes began to bomb the Soviet Union on that June 22, we immediately handed in all unnecessary stuff like linen and the like and were handed out ammunition for our guns. We had the same cannons as we had for training. We went to war with these cannons.”

  • “Because I was employed as a secretary at the municipal office and because I was a conscientious civil servant, they rewarded me by conscripting me to the Red Army and placing me in an officer cadet school. I ended up with the artillery. It was actually an infantry regiment but it had an artillery battalion where I served.”

  • “They arrested quite a high number of members – they had altogether 65 people arrested but they couldn’t prove 20 of them guilty so they had to let them go. These were people that had nothing to do with the organization. Their names were just mentioned accidentally and they were arrested with the others. For instance, one person would give somebody a couple of liters of gasoline for his motorbike and that guy would ride off to some meeting. At the interrogation he would then say that this guy gave him the gasoline. The donor had no idea about what’s going on but was arrested anyway. So they had to let them go after seven months of pre-trial custody. They kept the remaining 43 of us and put us before court. A lot of us brought trophies from the war – weapons. For instance, I had a nine millimeter pistol that I brought back from the battlefield. It belonged to a dead German. They found that gun and that further aggravated the charge against me.”

  • “My name is Josef Holec, I was born on November 28, 1918, in Volhynia in Český Straklov. I lived in that place till I reached the age of five. Then we moved to a different village, Český Závidov. From there I was attending the elementary school in Mirotín. After ten years, my parents moved to the village of České Noviny, where my dad bought a mill. It was a wooden mill powered by wood gas and it was very modern for its time. So we were milling wheat and rye flour and making grout.”

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I fought in three armies and in two resistance organizations

Josef Holec, 1945
Josef Holec, 1945
zdroj: archiv Naděždy Brůhové a Josefa Holce

Josef Holec, a retired Colonel, was born on November 29, 1918, in the village of Český Straklov in Volhynia. After elementary school, he worked on the farm of his parents but the beginning of the war changed his life. He was drafted into the Polish army already in the spring of 1939. However, he wasn‘t mobilized on September 1, 1939, but instead he was transferred to the Soviet army after the fourth partitioning of Poland in 1940. After the German attack on the Soviet Union, he faced the German armies as an artilleryman. He fought for a couple of months near the cities Záporoží and Kirovohrad before he eventually ended up in German captivity. Because he became a prisoner of war, he was allowed to serve in the field kitchen of the Wehrmacht. He became a cook. Ultimately, he was imprisoned in Kiev and then released. In Kiev, he met a Czech „Volksdeutsche“, who had been drafted to the Wehrmacht and who obtained a leave permit for him, even though this entailed great risks for him. With that pass, Josef Holec was able to return home to his family. In the years 1941-1944, he was the leader of a local resistance movement called „Blaník“, that was a resistance group composed of Volhynian Czechs. After the re-entry of Soviet troops into Volhynia, he volunteered for the newly formed 1st Czechoslovak army corps. He became a sapper. In this formation, he witnessed the battle at Krosno and he survived the Machnówka massacre. However, he wasn‘t that lucky anymore in the great battle for the Dukla pass, where he was hit in the head by a shrapnel. That happened on November 17, 1944. He was paralyzed, couldn‘t speak and lost a lot of blood. The receiving nurse in the field hospital considered him a hopeless case and said: ‘this one is finished, too‘. Luckily, the paralysis wasn‘t permanent and he recovered in a Soviet hospital. After he recovered, he joined the army again in Liptovský Hrádek on February 9, 1945. He was named the commander of the 3rd sapper battalion and remained in this rank until the end of the war. After the war, he settled in the village Tvršice in the Žatecký region. He then joined an anti-Communist resistance group. However, they were all arrested on November 18, 1948, and Josef Holec was sentenced to 18 months in prison. His new home became the Jáchymov prison. After he was released from prison in 1950, he worked as a delivery man, a wage officer and an accountant. He lived in Žatec. Josef Holec passed away on March, the 18th, 2018