Václav Mach

* 1933  

  • “At that time, the inmates at Camp Equality talked about nothing else but the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Witnesses refused to mine iron ore because it was used for military purposes. The infamous commander of the camp, Paleček, who was an awful brute, would send them to the firing range in extreme weather conditions when it was frosty. Some of the inmates who were compassionate would send them hot coffee to minimize their frost bites. They would allegedly even put strong sleeping pills into that coffee in order to make them fall to the ground, because if they fell on the ground, they would take them to the infirmary.”

  • “I was most afraid of the possibility that I would end up in a cell with a madman. Therefore, my first question to a new inmate on the cell usually was what he was there for. He told me that he was there for the Bible. This sent a shiver down my spine. I said to myself that he had to be mad. To go to jail for the Bible seemed completely inconceivable to me. Besides that, I didn’t know anything about the Bible at that point although I was a Catholic.”

  • “Once I went to the kitchen for a low-fat meal. We met and he wanted to pass on a secret note through me. So he handed me that secret note. There was nobody on the courtyard but a warden was standing behind the door and he saw it. So he stormed at me and took that secret note from me. I was sent to the camp commander who demanded me to tell him the name of the person who had given me the note. I said ‘no’ and thus I was sent to the correction.”

  • „It was such a tiny little man. In my eyes – the eyes of a 19-year-old – he was at least 70 years old, simply a grandpa. He had spent 6 years in a German concentration camp and in 1952, the communists arrested him again. He was a German who had lived in the borderlands so there really wasn’t much we could talk about. I remember that this 70-year-old grandpa washed himself with cold water every morning and that he did physical exercises on a regular basis. There was a man by the name of Neubauer who had been a supporter of Henlein. He had been imprisoned in the course of the anti-German retributions and he was summoned to the prison from a labor camp for some complementary investigation procedure. The two of them went along with each other very well because they spoke a common language, despite the fact that one of them was a former Nazi and the other one a Jehovah's Witness. They spoke together constantly. I didn’t understand their conversation except for the occasional word, like Jehova or Armageddon. I can only imagine what kind of things the Jehovah's Witness must have told that Henlein adherent! The wheel of history is turning and it trickles through to absurdities like this.”

  • “Mr. Mach is citing an excerpt from his indictment: ‘the defendant Václav Mach became a member of the Church of the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1960. He developed an interest for this creed in 1952. He’s been an active member of this church in Chrudim, regularly attending services. The defendant Mach has been very actively involved in the activities of the church and has been conducting evangelistic and preaching activities, interpreting the Bible, the Watchtower and other religious literature. This literature was found at his place during the searches. It has been evidenced that the defendant is one of the most active members, even though he was aware of the wrongness of his behavior and was aware that he’s been committing a crime. Despite this fact, he carried on in his activities. At the same time, based on his testimony at the main hearing there is concern that not even the hearings on this matter have contributed to his understanding that through his conduct he’s engaging in criminal activity’.”

  • “I was most impressed by his attitude towards me. He was about seven years older than I and he became my pillar in the hell we were in. He really managed to fill me with optimism in the darkest times. At times, he made me laugh so much that the prison warden – a Slovak devil in the disguise of a man – stormed into our cell and started yelling at us: ‘So you even dare to laugh here? And wouldn’t you like some women and wine?’ He screamed at us like a madman. So I liked him very much because of his friendly attitude towards me. Another thing that was astonishing about him and that I haven’t experienced with anybody else was that he was ready and willing to share his food rations with me, even though it was very little what he had. He saw a young boy who was starving and he helped me. This very much appealed to me. I was greatly impressed by him. He gave me new hope to solve all the troubles around us. In an environment like this, you start to think really hard about these matters. You really want to know what the truth is.”

  • “The stay in the communist labor camps was much harder for him because these were our people and not the Germans, speaking a different language and wearing hostile uniforms. These were our own people who spoke Czech. It was an assault on the human psyche, an attempt to destroy and morally discredit a man. It was much tougher in the respect that it was perpetrated by our own people. The communists presumed that when these prisoners were able to rise up against the Germans, they would take a stand against them as well.”

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    Chrudim, 02.05.2007

    (audio)
    délka: 01:38:30
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Memory and the History of Totalitarian Regimes
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At that time, it was inconceivable for me that somebody would go to jail for the Bible

dobove_foto_mach.jpg (historic)
Václav Mach
zdroj: archiv pamětníka a A.Hradílek

Václav Mach was born in April 1933 in Leškovice. Since his youth, he’s been in strong disagreement with the communist ideology and immediately after his graduation, together with his life-long friend Ladislav Šmejkal, they joined an anti-Communist group in the Semilsko region and got involved in sticking up posters and disseminating flyers. They were arrested along with the other members of the group in July 1952 and after an extensive and exhaustive pre-trial custody which lasted for 10 months, Václav Mach was sentenced to 14 years in prison for high treason. In April 1953, he was posted to the Equality (“Rovnost” in Czech) labor camp in Jáchymov and after two months he was transferred to the Bytíz labor camp in Příbram. Due to the shortage of adequate food, exhausting labor and inhumane living conditions, he suffered from significant health problems in both camps. Already in custody, he met for the first time a member of the Jehovah‘s Witnesses and he would entertain contacts with members of this faith in the years to come. Because of his persistent health problems, he was transferred to the stone prison in Leopold in 1956. Compared to the murderous conditions in the labor camps, the working conditions in the prison brought some physical relief for Mr. Mach. Nevertheless, the labor quotas in the prison were ridiculously high. In 1960, Václav Mach was paroled. A friend from Jehovah‘s Witnesses helped him in a difficult situation and Václav Mach got a job in the Transport Chrudim, where he worked as a crane slinger. Already in 1960, he joined the Church of the Jehovah‘s Witnesses which was at that time prohibited by law. In 1984, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison in the wake of a large-scale swoop against the Chrudim community. He spent his prison term in the Bory prison. However, he remained with the Jehovah‘s Witnesses until today.