Oldřich Komenda

* 1924

  • “The three of us were placed in the Schutzhaft, the labour camp prison. The only thing there was a tilted board, that’s what we slept on. They only let us out in the night, when they chased us around the courtyard with [whips or batons]. [The guards] were such wimps that if you’d gave them one, they’d be gonners. Boys, youngsters, but they had weapons, SS uniforms, so they were very daring. Even towards old people. One time, when we were to get a jacket potato, I took my cap and went to get it. I dropped two potatoes, and straight off I had my eye done in with a rubber truncheon.”

  • “We were a tramp settlement, and we’d meet up at Ivan Prokeš’s, we made ourselves a club room in his cellar. When the occupation came, we reckoned we had to do something. We decided that we’d all sabotage things at our workplaces, which we did. One time, we were celebrating Ivan Prokeš’s birthday, we had lots of food and drink in the club room, and suddenly we noticed that some cars had stopped on either side of the house. It was the Gestapo, which charged in. When they saw we were just celebrating, they just rummaged through the place. They didn’t find anything, of course, because we weren’t that stupid, so they left again.”

  • “The worst thing [about life in the camp] was the crematorium and the Jewish transports. When a transport of Jews arrived, they stripped them all naked and even checked their mouths. The ones without gold teeth were sent to one side, the ones with them were sent to the other. Those who had gold teeth, they executed straight away. Then they sent one transport to Buchenwald, but it didn’t reach its destination, because it was attacked by planes and none of them [the Jews] survived.”

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Nothing worked on them, only execution

Oldřich Komenda
Oldřich Komenda
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Oldřich Komenda was born on 3 December 1924 in Břeclav. He attended a Czech school, and he was a member of the local Scout troop. He and another eleven boys also established the so-called tramp settlement of Koráb (The Ship; „tramping“ is a Czech hiking and camping movement with an American Wild West style - trans.). The met regularly in their club room, and they spent every summer at a cottage in the village of Dobrá Voda in the Little Carpathians in Slovakia. Following the Munich Agreement, Břeclav was occupied by Nazi Germany. The tramping boys did not want to sit idle, and so they joined the resistance. However, they were found by the Gestapo, and Oldřich Komenda spent nearly two years in the Flossenbürg concentration camp. He remembers the constant hunger, beatings, executions, suicides, the dead bodies lying everywhere and the unbearable stench of burnt cadavers. In April 1945 he was sent on a death march to the Dachau concentration camp - only about half of the prisoners survived the journey. When he came home, he spent a year recovering from tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Paseka. After the war he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and became a member of the People‘s Militias. At first he worked at the waterworks warehouse in Břeclav, then he was the director of the District House of Pioneers and Youth, and then until his retirement he was posted in the Defence Department of the ceramics factory in Poštorná. In 2016 he still lived with his wife in Břeclav.