Ondřej Klement

* 1924  

  • “....as for me, I liked it quite a lot. We went to see various places; we marched and hiked... something similar to what they did in the Pioneer youth movement. As soon as the war broke out, the Hitlerjugend leader came to me and told me: “I signed you up, you are signed up, too.´ All the Germans from the village joined. We would go to Jihlava for instance. And I have never been that far in my entire life. Before, I only walked as far as from Dlouhá Ves to Přibyslav, and that is not a long way at all.”

  • “The Italians also turned against the Germans, so we went there to disarm them. In the evening they brought us into some barn, and our commander told us to go to sleep in our uniforms, that there would be an alarm during the night. At 3 a.m. a whistle sounded, and the commander gave us instructions: ´You will march long this path, reach a road, and a tank will already be waiting for you there.´ So we started, and when we reached that point, the tank was ready, so we jumped in and headed towards the barracks. These were some old barracks. So we arrived there, knocked on the gate and nothing happened; we kept shouting ´Surrender! Surrender!´.... But there was no sound from within, so the tank driver tells us: ´Boys, get behind the tank, I will send a blast there.´ So he did and the Italians ran away...”

  • “I was also transported there and I believed that I would remain with the Americans. And there was another guy from Bartošov, a nearby village... So we thought we would go together to America, we were scheduled to go to Washington, but suddenly some Frenchmen came and claimed that they were also eligible to some quota of captives. They needed us for labour. And they gave us our personal numbers, I got number 79 641, I still remember it. And the French loaded us onto a train, it was in Oran, or someplace like that, and they closed the wagon, those small shutters, and they packed the wagons with as many prisoners as possible.”

  • “I really grew up in the poorest family in the whole village. My parents liked Masaryk, but we were terribly poor, you can’t even imagine it. My mother was a German. My father – I don’t think I ever understood it properly – I think he claimed to be a Czech, he did not socialize with the Germans, he went with the Czechs. When he went to a pub, he would always go to a Czech pub.”

  • “Then they led us into some farm, and there was a row of pens and we had to sit down in groups of three into these pens. And there they were beating us... As they were leading me in, one of them hit me so hard that I would have tumbled over, but in a situation like this, you need to hold till the very last breath, because once you fall on the ground and stay there, he will pull out a pistol and shoot you. Without any consideration, no one is going to bother with you... There [later, near Neapol] there was a large meadow, I remember it still very vividly, and there they already treated us well, in a humane way. We got tents, such longish tents, and four of us would occupy one tent.”

  • “We were already considering surrender, but they were still firing at us, and there was an officer who himself said: ´This is hopeless now,´ and he ran away. And I thought: ´Why the hell did I not flee with him?´ We waited a little longer because the shooting was still going on, and then we ran away too. The enemy kept firing at us. I said: ´It’s still dangerous to get out.´ We heard the tanks passing by on a road below us, and then the three of us got out and started to run. And this officer, who was the first one to run away, was already lying there dead. He started too early, when the shooting was still going on. He was lying there in a ditch in a puddle of blood.”

  • “[The Arabs], they would have breathed for us. And [they always said] that Arabs and Germans stick together. You just had to make this gesture: kif, kif (a sign of friendship, rubbing your index fingers, ed.´s note), and the Arabs would be hiding round the corner, and they would show us the same gesture, so that the French would not see it. But we already knew what it meant – that we stick together.”

  • “The Czech and German population in the village was about half and half, so both of the languages were being used. I could speak Czech as well as German. What was spoken was a ´Dlouhá ves´ dialect; it was neither Czech nor German. It was a language that a true German person would not understand, and a Czech person neither. It was such a ragbag.”

  • „I was drafted in 1942. The draft examination… He - I don’t even know whether he was a doctor or not - just looked at you and said OK. They made you join the army, and only once you were already there, they looked you over a little bit, but when you reached the drafting age, they simply drafted everybody. According to the draft commission, everybody was fit to join the army, well, maybe only if you came to the commission one-legged, they would let you be...”

  • “So we crossed the road, there was a road on which tanks were passing, but down below it there was a path leading to some glen. This was where we found our hiding place. Later we discovered a small bunker there, and we got in. We knew we were retreating, so we thought we would try to reach our army at night, that we would cross the front during the night. All three of us were in this bunker, and we were so tired, you can’t even describe it, that we overslept. We were totally exhausted. In the morning we woke up, and there was a black soldier towering above us. We just looked out of that hole, and the American soldier was standing in front of us. He noticed us and immediately approached us, he had a rifle. We had to put our hands up and he searched us.”

  • “In that poorhouse, the old biddies that lived there would go begging and take me, a small brat, with them, and my Mom was glad that I did. Those old women used to say that when they had a small child with them, the peasants would give them more money. So we went begging to these peasants´ houses. They would give us a piece of bread or some soup.”

  • “There was constant fear even to say something against the government or to say that ´Hitler is an idiot.´ If I had said that he was a bad guy, they would have imprisoned me. Whatever was ordered was also the correct thing for us to do. That was it and you had to shut up. This is the way it was – whatever was commanded had to be carried out. Today it may no longer be so, but back then human life had no value.”

  • “Then they led us into some farm, and there was a row of pens and we had to sit down in groups of three into these pens. And there they were beating us... As they were leading me in, one of them hit me so hard that I would have tumbled over, but in a situation like this, you need to hold till the very last breath, because once you fall on the ground and stay there, he will pull out a pistol and shoot you. Without any consideration, no one is going to bother with you... There [later, near Neapol] there was a large meadow, I remember it still very vividly, and there they already treated us well, in a humane way. We got tents, such longish tents, and four of us would occupy one tent.”

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    Havlíčkův Brod, 05.09.2007

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Back then, human life had no value

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Ondřej Klement

Ondřej Klement was born October 4th, 1924 in Dlouhá Ves near Havlíčkův Brod. His family was one of the poorest in the village - together with another family and a couple of elderly people they lived in a local poorhouse. His father Ondřej was a Czech, his mother Kateřina a German. When he was eighteen, he had to join the wehrmacht. He went through a military training in Poland and later fought in several places in Europe. The last battle scene where he fought before he was captured was Monte Cassino. There he was taken prisoner by the American army, later passed on to the French and imprisoned in POW camps in the French north Africa, which is the territory of the present-day Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. He worked there, among other, as a fruit-picker and a railway worker. He returned home to Czechoslovakia as late as 1947.