Colonel (ret.) Bedřich Kopold

* 1921  †︎ 2007

  • "Like this one: While we were lying somewhere in the docks in Stalingrad, waiting for our steamer, then during the night one of my friends, he fell at Sokolov later on, a handsome boy, he had a rucksack under his head, in the rucksack were all our provisions, our food. We were so tired, we didn't notice the thief creep up and snatch the lot. So we were stripped bare so to say, and it was pretty tense, because when we boarded the boat in Astrakhan, that's a big port, we didn't actually have any provisions left. But we were assured that it would only take a day to cross the Caspian Lake, the Caspian Sea, and reach land - and provisions. But the devil had it that we were caught up in a storm and spent six days on the Caspian. So we were well and truly starved when we reached land. And I, being rather foolish in this aspect, I rushed to the first food stall I saw, where they were selling these salty curds, and lobsters. I gobbled it up, claws and all. Of course I was sick, while as the other or older ones took it slow and just ate a light soup, so they... Such were the first days. Our train passed close by Bukhara, Nineveh, which brought back all those images of the Babylonian Empire, and then we arrived in Tashkent."

  • "When we were telling the soldiers to be courageous, we couldn't just talk about it and sit somewhere at the back. So the political officer had to be with the soldiers. So for instance at Dukla, on a daily basis, I would take an armoured car, the newest edition, the freshest news, and drive off to the rank-and-file. It wasn't really possible to hold lectures in phase of the fighting, but we did have debates where one would climb into a dugout and talk with the soldiers. It had one advantage apart from acquainting them with the current situation - they could also speak of their problems - that they weren't getting warm meals, or say that they didn't have gloves. And the political officer - because you can't uphold morale with words, but with actions - informed his superiors of what was lacking, where there were shortages, and he tried to fix the problem."

  • "My first combat assignment was at Sokolov. We kind of along the road where the train ended, it ended... the tracks didn't go any further - they were simply torn out, ripped out, so we had to start marching. The march took ten to twelve days. Every day some thirty to thirty-five kilometres, overnight. We didn't march during the day, because we were supposed to not let the enemy know a thousand soldiers were trudging along - it makes for a pretty long column. So we moved during the night, and that's when I found out what it's like to march in one's sleep. You walk subconsciously, completely subdued, staring at the soldier in front of you, sometimes they would have a towel on their back to make them more visible, so as to retain contact. Well, and just before dawn we would arrive at a village of some sort, split up into the cottages, and rest. I must note that the country really was devastated, pillaged, the inhabitants didn't have anything to eat, and the last of what they had - the Ukrainians were very generous and as is always the case with people who have very little, they had understanding for those with even less - they shared even their last potato with us. And contrarily we, when we received ration tins, we shared those with them."

  • "I'd like to say a few words on the importance of enlightenment, because lately there has been some debate on the matter, it's being shown as a Communist tool. What was it actually, this enlightenment? Our unit was a mix of people - Czechs, Slovaks, Carpathian Ukrainians, Jews, in other words all sorts of people, with all sorts of lives. Some had been through labour camps, some had defected to the Red Army, some had lived in all sorts of places of the Soviet Union. In other words it was a very diverse conglomerate. And now meld these together and show them the point of the war, the liberating role of our foreign army - someone had to do this. So out of those who fulfilled their task in the first battles, many of those - later, when new units were formed and the battalion became a brigade, a thousand-man unit became a brigade three-and-a-half thousand strong - so many more of those people were necessary. We had print, we got a Czech printing press, we started publishing the Naše vojsko [Our Army - transl.] magazine in the USSR, which was very much in demand, as the soldiers could then see what was happening on the other places along the battlefront, how the fighting was going on in the West, how it was going on on the Soviet side - which was, I think, something of a presumption as to what was happening, what was the situation, and it also gave them a goal, something to fight for. So one of our main, most important sources were newspapers, the news from the front which later expanded when we formed a corps, so that each brigade had its newspaper. Apart from that we had the Russian papers, anyone who wanted to could read the military magazine. And also, which was greatly appreciated and sought after, the Československé listy [Czechoslovak Post - transl.] from Moscow. That was a magazine published by our government in exile, with articles by Eduard Beneš. And others - London ministers, prime minister Šrámek, Ingr, the defence minister, frequently ambassador Fierlinger who was a member of the editorial board. And this Czechoslovak Post acted as the foundation which allowed one to explain many political problems - from who had caused Munich [the Munich Agreement - transl.], the whole situation in September 1938, up to how we could avoid such unfortunate moments in the history of our nation, and what lesson to learn from those past occurrences."

  • "And at that time, and that was fateful, Eichmann started to work in Ostrava, the man who later became the killer of thousands of Jews, and he organised the first transports into no-man's land. That was just after Poland was occupied - one part was taken by the Germans, and the Soviets took the other part per agreement. There was an enclave at the place were the armies stopped away from each other, an area about sixty kilometres wide, and that's where we ended up, sitting on bare ground so to speak. The original intention was to create some sort of a Jewish state. But the army didn't like that apparently, as they were already preparing to attack the Soviet Union, and they didn't want to have a group like that behind their backs. So after a few, some after a few months, me after a few days, we fled from the camp we were supposed to build and escaped to the Soviet Union. We had gotten into the camp in a transport in October 1939. There were two transports, one from Ostrava and one from Silesia, plus one more from Vienna later on. Like I said, in the camp which we were supposed to be building, and which was supposed to be something of a basis for future concentrating there, we built bakeries, a bakery, garages and so on. Me and several other people left after just a few days. I must note that the Germans were benevolent in this. It was 1939 and the horrors hadn't yet grown to such an extent. So our escape to the Soviet Union wasn't, at least not for us, all that big an adventure. There were those who had a worse time, there were even cases where people died crossing the river San."

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    Praha ?, 15.02.2001

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„We couldn‘t tell the soldiers to be courageous, and then sit at the back.“

Bedřich Kopold
Bedřich Kopold

Bedřich Kopold was born on the 10th of January 1921 into a Jewish family in Moravská Ostrava. He was among a group of Jews deported to the no-man‘s land between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in Poland. He made use of the as yet benevolent attitude of the Germans and fled to the USSR. He worked in the Donets Basin and in Central Asia. When the Czechoslovak unit was formed, he left for Buzuluk. On the 24th of February 1942 he was signed up to the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion. He took part in the fighting at Sokolov. He then served as a political officer of the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Brigade. After the war he worked together with Bedřich Reicin. In the ‘50s, he was sentenced to 18 years of jail, his wife Jiřina and their two children were imprisoned for two years. After his release he worked for ČVUT (Czech Technical University) in Prague. He was rehabilitated in 1956 (1958). He died on the 7th of March 2007. He wrote articles about the Czechoslovak foreign resistance in the East during World War II and about the Holocaust. He also wrote biographical profiles.