Josef Mašín

* 1932

  • Talking of being hunted by East German armed forces in the forests of East Germany.

  • Talking of the three refugees hiding under a pile of old branches on a forest clearing in Germany.

  • “We had weapons. We had inherited some from our father from WWII, and we had some which had been left by Germans. But we needed more weapons for our actions, because we had planned several actions – to kill the Minister of Defense, Čepička; to attack a bus… There was a school for the Secret Police, and they were regularly going from Kolín to Milovice, always on the same day of the week, and we wanted to attack their bus. But the weapons – we had some submachine guns, German Schmeiser from WWII, which were nothing special, and we needed… The State Police was equipped with brand new weapons at that time and we needed something new. Since all police stations had been issued with new automatic weapons, our objective was to burglarize the police station in Chlumec. In our plan we didn’t want to kill the policeman. My brother was supposed to strike him on the head, but if you want to hit somebody’s head with a piece of iron, you won’t put him to sleep. It’s better to use some oil pipe, or a stocking filled with sand, it works better than some hard object. That’s what we discovered when we were there.” Interviewer: “You mean you were testing it there?” J. M.: “No, we didn’t, but he was not lucky. Radek probably didn’t hit him hard enough. And, when the cop realized that we were after him, he began to pull out his gun, and at that moment – because we thought that in Chlumec there were other policemen upstairs on the first floor, it was at night, and we were afraid they would descend upon us, and so I fired at him twice, at that policeman, and I shot him to death. We left the police station without the weapons.”

  • “The affair with the cash-keeper took place at a time when we wanted to get Radek out of prison. We were considering several actions like that. For instance, we wanted to attack a train transporting uranium ore from Jáchymov. Or with the minister Čepička. I often read – you should have done this or that. It’s easy to talk about it today. But it’s not easy to keep running in front of a spa hotel with a submachine gun, waiting for the minister Čepička to arrive. We didn’t have any intelligence organization like that. This costs money. I used our family money, what we had or what I had earned. At that time, I was working as a driver in Jeseník, transporting wood from forests, I was earning quite a lot, and I was thus financing our actions. But because of these, I was absent from work a lot, and then I didn’t have money either. These actions needed funding. Money was also needed for the people we had left behind, like Vašek Švéda’s wife and his family, who got kicked out of their farm in Lošany after we had left the country. We were criticized for Švéda buying a couch for himself. But they had been kicked out of their estate, and they had nothing, no furniture, and in Pivín, where his family lived, they had to sleep on the floor in a small house, and so we were thinking, if Vašek goes with us – he had two little children – who will then care for his wife and the people who stay behind? The money was intended for things like that. We knew people in Jáchymov who we wanted to bribe to find out where Radek was in order to get him out of there. At that time it was nearly impossible to travel by train. If you went by train, you were exposed to searches. These checks were quite common. If we wanted to go on the road, we had no means of transport, and we needed a vehicle. We therefore used the money to buy two motorcycles as well. These were not to be ridden on weekends for fun!”

  • “When we were running away from the village, the police were already behind us. They were chasing us with cars and motorcycles, shooting at us and we were shooting at them. We crossed one road and a field, and there were buses and trucks full of policemen coming. They encircled us, it was near the village of Waldow, they encircled us in a small wooded area, and there were one thousand two hundred policemen there. The area of the woods was just some two hectares and it was quite dense. That’s where they shot Vašek Švéda. They were shooting at us, although they didn’t know where we were. They were shooting at random, and during this random shooting they injured Vašek. The bullet passed through his arm and came out on the other side, he was not able to walk, he was bleeding profusely, and so he was lying there for some two hours without help. At that time, they also sent their dogs out there, their cordon... My brother was lucky that he hit two cops, he shot two cops and they didn’t even know where the shots came from. The volkspolicemen revolted, they received orders to keep advancing, they were sending dogs there and shooting like crazy. But when they saw those two shot policemen, they refused to obey. They said: ´Fuck off.´ The officer ordered them: ´Advance there.´ And they replied: ´Go there yourself.´ This was insubordination, and they eventually made them retreat and that has saved us.”

  • “There were no maps in Czechoslovakia at that time. The only map we had was from our friend Roušar, which was a general map that I had found when I went to see him in Hora Svaté Kateřiny. It was the only map, and it covered only two or three kilometers within the East German border. We had absolutely no map for the area north of there. The only map we had was torn earlier from a magazine. It was a general map showing the layout of highways and roads which lead northward to Berlin.” Interviewer. “You certainly must have lost your way. Or what did you use for orientation?” J. M.: “Well, Vašek Švéda was a hunter, and we had practiced things like this before, and so we knew the ways of navigation. Today you have GPS, but back then we used celestial navigation, by stars. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t allow us to see stars all the time, and so we had to use our ears for orientation. We knew that there were parallel railroad lines, one from Dresden, and the other one leading westward to Berlin. We listened for the movement of traffic and used it for our orientation.” Interviewer: “You mean you were keeping a certain distance from the railroad track as you were walking?” J. M.: “We listened for the sound of trains. But this depended on the weather. The transfer of sound is different in a cold weather or in a rainy weather. You can imagine that we were zigzagging.”

  • “We walked to Elsterwerda and two days later we got on a train there. When we arrived later in Uckro, they were already waiting for us; the woman who had sold us the train tickets noticed us. At that time, all people in Germany were wearing these typical German hats, the same as the wehrmacht unit of mountain riflemen during WWII. They had peaked hats with flaps on the side and all Germans were wearing them, whereas we had berets. We also had our own clothing. It was completely different, because men in Germany had nothing to wear. They wore re-dyed German uniforms, either the jackets or trousers, and we didn’t fit in at all. She noticed us and she reported it, and so they were already waiting for us in Uckro. Volkspolizei. They stopped us when they were checking people. We had planned everything, but we didn’t think there would be so many of them. They jumped at us and pushed us into a closed corridor. They had blocked one exit from that corridor and they attacked us with guns. Radek and I pulled out our guns and we won the gunfight. Three of them dropped to the ground, but I think only one of them died. That’s where we lost Zbyněk Janata. During the commotion,which only took a few seconds, Zbyněk ran from the station building and took another direction. The four of us, except Zbyněk, met again a few hundred metres from the station and continued eastwards. We were listening for the sound of trains for orientation.”

  • Video sequence about the assault on the vehicle carrying wages for the Kovolis workers, the gunfight and another victim.

  • "Us, we didn't know what we were going to do. After they pulled them away, we heard Vašek saying that he was hurt. We couldn't go to him because they were still so close that from the clearing where they were collecting their dead, they could see every movement. We could not go to Vašek, and he laid there until it was dark and he was bleeding. His right arm was shot through from his forearm to his shoulder. He had several bullet holes. I was still wearing my tie at the time. I had my tie and jacket, so I took the tie, and Milan pulled Vašek to me. We tied his hand with the tie, we bandaged his hand, but Vašek had lost so much blood by that time that he was not mobile. He couldn't stand when he wanted to walk a bit, he was unable to stand. Vašek was lying on the ground, it was a difficult situation for us because we saw them withdrawing. More men were coming, buses and trucks were arriving. We saw them pulling out the Opel Blitz trucks they were using back then. They withdrew them and deployed them across the open space between the two forests. That space is a hundred metres wide. In the middle of that space, they put a chain of cars, and when it started to get dark, they turned on the lights so that one car illuminated the car in front of it. The cordon of lights was all around the woods. In the meantime, they had brought in machine guns and mounted them on three legs, just like they build anti-aircraft guns, so they mounted those machine guns on the cargo areas of the cars. They had moving searchlights and they brought loudspeakers. Behind that row of trucks, they mounted the communications radios, they stood there, and we could hear them talking on the radios. You could hear everything very well that night, everything. Hearing depends a lot on the weather and how it amplifies the sound. You could hear them communicating on the radios. Later, we saw the field kitchen come in, which was on the road between the grove and the village. I know it was called Waldow, we didn't know that back then. So there was a field kitchen there, they were delivering coffee, we could smell it, we knew what they were eating, it smelled good and we were hungry."

  • "I opened the door, and they were standing behind me with loaded machine guns waiting to open fire if there was someone there. But nobody was there, so they took the suitcase and ran up the stairs. Only my uncle and I stayed there. My uncle said, 'I'm going to open the door for them.' When they kicked the door, they wanted it to open. We turned on the hall light, and my uncle went down to open it for them. They rushed up the stairs very quickly, they ran up quickly. I was standing in the doorway, and I was unarmed. I thought all the guns were upstairs under the roof with the boys. And we had agreed if they went upstairs, they would open fire, defend themselves and try to free us by superiority. But they didn't go up. They told me to put my hands up, so I put my hands up. They drove me and my uncle with our hands up through our apartment into all the rooms. Before they opened the door, they pushed me in front of them, standing behind me with a gun. When they had gone through all the rooms and everything, they closed the apartment. They handcuffed me. They put handcuffs on my uncle, too, and took us to the SNB (National Security Corps - transl.) station, which was in Poděbrady near Rieger Square. It was a street parallel to Rieger Square, which led to the post office."

  • "For the first time, I started to feel actually good because I found out they didn't know anything. They said to me, 'Tell us everything you know! We know everything, but we want to hear it from you.' Then, there was a good cop and a bad cop. They're good to you and very bad to you, and they interchange depending on how tired they are. One time, they hit me with: 'It's a question of whether you get five years or fifteen years!' The moment I heard that, I was like, 'Great, they don't know anything.' And I suddenly found I could play their game, too. Then, when they brought pictures of the hand grenades and parachute cords that we used to tie up Šulc with, I told them, 'I have nothing to do with that.' They showed it to me over and over again in subsequent interrogations, and I kept telling them that if they found it, they put it there themselves. In the end, they believed that they had planted it there themselves because that was probably their modus operandi. Radek, independently of me, told them the same thing. It was great luck. During one of the interrogations, there was an officer who claimed he knew our father and had once served in the First Artillery Regiment, and tried to play the good cop."

  • "We first said goodbye to Václav during the siege at the grove, when he was hit by an accidental shot. His forearm was shot through, and the bullet came out in the area of the shoulder blade. Before we could approach him, he lay there for about one and a half or two hours, bleeding profusely. We didn't get near him until it was dark. I bandaged his arm with my tie. At that moment, the edge of the forest was being searched with headlights, and the horns mounted on the trucks urged us to surrender. Meanwhile, we pondered what our next action would be. We knew what awaited us if we surrendered. Radek said, 'I have just returned from Jáchymov, and I am aware of how it looks there. I agreed, 'The same goes for me. n Bohemia, we're going to get hanged.' Then Radek suggested that we shoot our way out of the encircled area. We had to find out where the Volkspolizei were. We saw when and where they walked, where they smoked and how their food was delivered. This was very exciting for us, because we could smell everything they were eating. After a while, we got an accurate picture of where they were. We divided up the sections so that we could try to run through the cordon. But the question was what to do with Václav Švéda. After the blood loss, he was so weak that when he wanted to go pee, he couldn't take care of himself. Milan and I had to support him. So Vašek lay on the ground between us and decided to stay there. It was clear to all of us that he couldn't go any further with us. He begged us to take care of his family if we got to Berlin. We asked him whether he wanted us to shoot him or whether he would do it himself. It was the first time he refused, and later, he did it again. Finally, we said goodbye to him. It was very sad. Then, we took up positions on the edge of the forest that we had previously determined. We waited for the cone of the searchlight to pass over our position. Radek said: 'Now!' And that was the moment we set off."

  • "Milan didn't know he was hurt at first. It was only after a few minutes, when we were running along the railway, that we asked him if he had been shot, and he said he thought he had. Radek asked him where, and he replied that he felt something like a hit in the stomach, not a gunshot. Radek felt his abdomen, found a hole and even stuck his finger in it. Milan started thinking about the worst and said, 'I know it's my turn,' and didn't want to go any further. He even said he couldn't run any further. When he finally did run, we could hear his blood moving in his stomach. There were greenhouses on the other side of the track, and Milan said he couldn't go any further. He planned to crawl into them and wait until the next day. We coaxed him and scolded him. We tried to encourage him in any way we could to persuade him. We found out that every quarter of an hour there was a motor train going to Berlin. We knew it was the S Bahn and arranged to lie down on the brake bars or get on the bumpers and ride northward. By this time, we could see convoys of military cars on both sides, moving parallel to us, and rockets were being fired everywhere."

  • "And when they got there, they pointed machine guns at us. And this Grumini, their boss, had his gun out, and they were shouting at us to put our hands up. Some of them were laughing, they thought it was going to be a lot of fun. I saw that Radek had his hand in his pocket. I knew he had a P38 pistol there, and it was heavy. All the way from Bohemia to Berlin, he had to keep the P38 in his pocket, because it was heavy and big enough not to pull down his trousers or put a hole in his pocket. I knew that Radek was holding a pistol, and I had mine in my left breast pocket. I saw Radek pull out the gun. I put my hands up. Even as I was opening the door, I pulled the safety off. I had my gun loaded in my pocket. I pretended to put my hands up while I quickly halfway pulled out my pistol and shot a Volkspolizei who was closest to me. His name was Strempel. We didn't find out their names until later. This Strempel was the commander of the raiding party that had arrived there and was waiting for us. This Grumini was the local police chief in Uckro, and he called the raiding party to wait for us. Radek also pulled out a pistol and wanted to shoot Grumini, but his pistol, Radek's, failed. As I said, we'd been on the road for days, the gun was probably dirty. Radek had to reload it, but when Radek's shot failed, Grumini knocked Radek to the ground. Radek was on my right side, Grumini was kneeling on top of him. Radek had to reload it, trying to get his gun out. So, I fired twice at Strempel. Everything happened in just a few seconds. There were shots, there was smoke from gunpowder. You could see the bullets hitting the wall, the plaster dust flying, the bullets hitting the wall, it was very interesting. That's where the shooting took place. In the meantime, the rest of the Volkspolizei had fled. We don't know to this day whether they were the ones who fired or not because in the end, according to the reports and records of the Volkspolizei, when they did the investigation, Strempel had six bullet holes in him. But Radek and I only fired five shots. There was Grumini, Strempel and one other on the ground. And his name was Witkowski, I think. Three were on the ground, and the rest ran away. I fired one more shot, then, as I was running through the door, Radek was struggling with Grumini on the ground. I fired two shots at Strempel and once at Grumini as he was kneeling on top of Radek."

  • "Well, it was the housekeeper's job - there was also a younger woman - to come in the morning and feed the cows and pigs. They went to the straw first and then up the hayloft ladder. They didn't go all the way up to the hayloft. They raked from underneath for the hay at the edge of the hayloft and let it fall further down to the cows and pigs. We were there for about five or six days. Every day, they were getting closer and closer, and there was less and less hay. We had to keep backing up in the hay. We were so weak and wanted to sleep all the time from weakness. We divided the duty and the patrols, so we wouldn't be surprised. One morning, they came again. Radek and I were sleeping in the morning. Milan was on watch but fell asleep. And as the women went to get the hay with the rake, they dragged the hay away, and Milan was behind it. They started screaming and running down the ladder. We were ready for what we were going to do, Radek and I. Milan stayed in the stable, and Radek and I ran. Radek to the apartment house and I to the study. The whole family was in the study, screaming, terrified. I came into the study with my gun out. I said, 'We're those people, and you know our reputation. If any of you went to report us to the police, that's the last thing you did. We're going to be reckless, we're going to set fire, we're going to shoot you all, we're going to burn the house down.' They started swearing that nobody had gone to the police yet, and to leave as quickly as possible, that the police could come at any moment. Every morning, they would ride there on motorcycles and ask if they had seen anyone. We understood that. The boss of the house, the older gentleman, we found out later that the grandfather, the boss of the clan, said, 'Go back to the barn, we won't say anything.' Radek also came, so we decided to take an older lady, a younger woman and a little child as hostages, a three-and-a-half or three-year-old boy, with us to the barn. We are best friends with him now. We talk on the phone every week. He has visited us in St. Barbara several times, and whenever I am in Berlin, I visit them in the same house. Where the hayloft used to be - the house is converted now - they have a bedroom. They empty it, and I have to sleep in the same place I slept back then. The relationship between us is very good, it was good then too. We became friends, we got along very well because, like some other Germans we met in East Germany, we had a common enemy and a common approach to it. They understood our situation and helped us."

  • "They knew that on the platform, they also counted on the fact that we might be civilians cutting our journey short, that we had jumped out of the last door of the wagon. But they still shouted at us to stop. We didn't stop and kept going. They were telling us to put our hands up and started shooting at us. Of course, shortly before they opened fire on us, we started to run. In front of us, there in Mahlow, there was a marshalling yard with four or five parallel tracks. At the farthest track from the train was a loading area where trucks could stop and could be unloaded directly from the cars. On the other side was a wider road that was paved. There were wooden barracks, the kind the Germans had built during World War II, hastily constructed barracks, pre-built wooden buildings made of wooden components. These were Russian barracks. There was a wire fence overgrown with creeping plants. There was a gate, and in the gate stood a Russian soldier with a furry cap and an AK 47 submachine gun. He was wearing boots and holding the machine gun in front of his chest, and although there was shooting and soldiers running after us, shooting at us, he didn't say anything. He stood there at attention, without a single movement. There were two trucks, American Studebakers. The Russians didn't have enough cars, so the Americans supplied them to the Red Army during the war. The Russians were still using them at that time, and the soldiers in shrouds were unloading potatoes from the wagons into the trucks with pitchforks. There might have been as many as six of these Russians standing on the railroad cars unloading potatoes. They didn't pay any attention to us either, they just kept on working, just like the boy in the gate. We ran one and a half meters two meters away from the soldier who stood at the gate, further north along the barracks fence. When we had run a few dozen meters near the fence, I helped Milan. Holding my hands together so that Milan could stand on them, I threw him over the wire fence into the barracks. We ran through the barracks next to the wooden barracks to the other side of the building, where we crossed the - not wall, in German it's called Zaun, not wall - in the same way. We crossed the wire fence, we ran further north."

  • "I had my first interrogation a few days after I got there. You have to be aware of the situation in Bartolomějská Street. For several days, I didn't know where I was. Nobody called me by my name, I think they just gave me a number. Every night, you could hear how they interrogated people, and how people screamed in terror when they were being abused. That was our music every night. You could hear the whole time I was in Bartolomějská Street, in the corridor, you could hear them open up- And the corridor, where the cells were, was separated from the other wing of the prison by bars. And there was a door there, and you could hear the door open. All the State Security officers and the guards only wore slippers so that one wouldn't hear them when they walked down the corridor when they came and looked into the cell through the peephole or not. They only wore slippers. When they opened the cell, you could hear them opening the cell and leading somebody out. For two days, the person would not come back. And when he comes back, he isn't walking. You hear them dragging him back across the floor, dragging him back and throwing him back in the dungeon, throwing him back in the dungeon tortured. You can imagine the state he's in - the psychological effect it has on a person when he's alone in a cell. And they say, 'We know everything.' You say, 'What do you know?' Only you know everything that you know. You imagine it, and you say to yourself, 'This is the end, it can't go any further.' When you're alone and when you're there for days and you hear screaming and abuse, it has a psychological effect. And you know - this has happened, and if they know everything, the only answer to knowing everything is a noose! That's clear. I've gotten to experience everything personally. And I've never felt so free and liberated as I did at that time. I was counting on never leaving that place again. I knew it was the end of me."

  • "Certainly, in Czechoslovakia and later in the Czech Republic, we didn't get to the documents until years later because our case was still active for years after 1989. As is well known, our collaborators were not only executed, but after 1989, they received residual sentences within the so-called free Czechoslovakia. I think that Radek also still has that residual sentence because I think that everyone who wanted to have their residual sentence remitted had to ask for it to be cancelled. There was a prosecutor in Bohemia, I don't know exactly what his position was, but he had something to do with the indictments in Prague. His name was Kretba, and back in 2000, he made a statement about how if we came to the Czech Republic, he would arrest us without a question."-"What did it mean to you when the new system created after 1989 behaved like that?"-"It went and happened how I expected it to happen because it was not a coup in 1989. The misfortune is that communism attacked the battlefield. Nobody was punished, nobody went to court. Vašek Havel made a deal with the communists, they made him president, and they decided to keep the laws. The laws that were made under the communists, and we were guilty according to them, and at that time, we could have been punished, as Mr Kretba, probably rightly at that time, commented on it."-"So you were afraid to come to Czechoslovakia or to stay here longer?"-"Whether I would be afraid to go to Czechoslovakia or Bohemia is not a question for me. The reasons why Radek and I didn't want to come here were elsewhere. They are moral reasons and our convictions. Czechoslovakia, as I imagined it, does not exist today. In the Czech Republic, there is a continuity of laws and so on. It's not a country I want to go back to." - "So you haven't given it a second thought since 1989?"-"Maybe I expressed myself incorrectly. I would like to return, but the Czech Republic would have to change substantially."

  • "And Radek had a rod, part of a belt from a Russian T-34 tank, it was the right length. It fit in his sleeve. He punched him, but he wasn't stunned. He turned to the right while going for the pistol he had in a holster on his right side. And he pulled out the pistol and had it half drawn when I shot him." - "Where did you shoot him?" - "I shot him in the rib area, in the chest, I don't remember exactly, but in his body about at heart level." - "Twice then?" - "Twice, that's the way to do it, to shoot twice. The first time to go clear, for it to have an effect." - "You said you also started to search the service station?" - "We didn't have time for that after the two shots went off. We had everything ready. We had discussed all the options on how to act. We took into account that somebody might be upstairs, in the house, and after the shots went off, and if somebody was sleeping there, they would be awakened, it would be dangerous. We had to leave as quickly as possible."-"So you wanted to avoid that conflict. How long did the whole thing last?" - "It lasted a few seconds, the whole case a minute or two at most." - "It took place in the afternoon?" - "It took place in the evening. It was dark." - "Did you ever think about this Mr Kašík? Who kind of guy he was?" - "No, I don't worry about these things. I haven't thought about Kašík. Back then, everyone who was part of StB (State Security - transl.) or SNB (National Security Corps - transl.) had to be a member of the Communist Party. They were the armed forces of the Communist Party. These were our opponents. Everybody who was in the SNB or StB had to be in the Communist Party. Everybody who was shot or killed by us was armed and was a member of the Communist Party." - "Was that the first time you shot somebody in your life?" - "That was the first moment." - "Do you think it changed you in any way?" - "No, I'm the same as I've always been."

  • "Because we kept reminding them [the CIC people] that we wanted to go for Vašek. But at that time, it was uncertain whether Vašek would be there [at the hospital in Chotěbuz]. But it happened every time they visited us there. t was one of our first questions. What are we gonna do? Where is Vašek? And if they have any news. We thought at the time that they were omniscient, that they had all this news, and we wanted them to find out where Vašek was, and we would try to go there to get him." - "From what you're telling me, I get the feeling that the CIC was a little apathetic about it, that the Americans didn't care. Or not didn't care, but they didn't want to help you much with this?"-"They didn't know. When we were pushing them to something like this and wanted something like this, they thought, and I think so today as well, that there must have been something wrong with us. Because something like that after such an anabasis, that we still wanted to do something like that, they didn't think that was normal. That's how it was, you have to imagine. All these guys here are from Nebraska somewhere. What's in Nebraska? And now they're put in a cold war situation like that. What was going on in East Germany because of us was pretty extraordinary, even by the standards of the time. They had the task of finding out what we had, what we knew, and what we could advise them with. They don't decide whether there will be a war. It was not until 1956, when the Russians marched into Hungary, that General Eisenhower decided that there would be no war. That's how it was."

  • "They said: 'Du blöde Tscheche, komm raus! You stupid Czech, come out! You'll get slapped!' That was probably a Sudeten who spoke a little Czech. He thought he was saying something funny. They asked the commanders what they should do, whether they should shoot at the piles of brushwood. The commander said, 'No, don't shoot, we're going to the brushwood, we'll search the brushwood!' Between us, we heard everything, all their debates, their orders, what their plans were, and there was a question of what to do. We only had pistols, and there was no comparison against the StG 44, it was very dangerous to shoot at that distance. Radek wanted to shoot at that moment, to open fire on them. Also, when they were approaching the heaps, there was a very excited silent discussion between us about how to go about it. I was in favour of not shooting until we were discovered. When they approached the brushwood piles, the commander ordered them to lift the twig piles. The distance from us was about a meter and a half from them. We were under the grating, we could see them, their uniforms from under the twigs. Several of them stood around the various piles. When they came to our pile, they were lifting it. They lifted it to a certain height, about fifteen or twenty centimetres from the ground. Through that space, we could see their boots, about one and a half meters away from our heads, from our eyes. That seemed too heavy for them, so they let it fall back down on us, the twigs, down again. The commander ordered them to get up on the piles of twigs and jump on them. One or two of them jumped on the pile, they were jumping over our heads. We could see their soles centimetres from us. When I think about it today, I think, 'That's impossible, that couldn't have happened.' But that's the way it was, that's the way it happened."

  • "It was very cold the night before we hid ourselves under those piles. And I - which was a situation that didn't happen many times during the whole trip because we had nothing to eat anyway - I had to do 'number two'. I relieved myself in the tree nursery among the trees and used my bus pass, which I still had from Jeseník, to clean myself up. Then I buried it in the sand. When we were under those piles, they had dogs there, too. Apparently, one of them discovered it. We didn't see it, they were under the trees. We heard this discovery as they called out that they had found something. We knew right away what they had found. I heard them say, 'Junge, Junge... Boy, you're never going to ride that bus again.' Because they saw my bus ticket, and the guy who probably knew Czech translated it for them that it was a bus ticket. This discovery put them off the idea of lifting that pile of brushwood. I would also like to say that earlier that night before this happened, it was so cold that as we breathed, the steam from our breath froze in front of our faces on the twigs of dry brushwood. It was white ice, settled on those twigs, and in the morning, when the sun went up slowly, it melted in the sun and dripped onto our faces. We didn't even have a chance to move and wipe the drops off our faces. It was like Chinese torture."

  • "Immediately after the Germans arrived in Prague, after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Gestapo started visiting us. They tried to interrogate even us children, and every time they came, they took something with them. They completely ransacked our apartment, what we had there, food supplies. They took our car, expelled us from the officers' house, and we moved to Poděbrady. With the help of our friends, my mother managed to find a place to live in Poděbrady Na Chmelnici, a small house. Sometimes, they came in SS uniforms. Once, when the looting was at its worst, they came with a van driven by uniformed SS men in black uniforms. The Gestapo themselves were in civilian clothes. Of course, during the search, they took everything that was edible and so on. They were already in short supply in Germany at that time, so they stole what they could. I know there were several of them in plain clothes. They talked mainly to our mother and our housekeeper, Máňa. Our mother spoke fluent German, and of course, Máňa spoke German, too. Máňa, I remember, she tried to speak Czech with them once. She explained to them that she was Czech, not German. I wouldn't say we were afraid of them. They were enemies to us, but I don't remember feeling any fear. Our mother never gave the impression she was trembling with fear. She wasn't like that."

  • "America today is not the America it was in the 1950s and before. Today, I don't know if America would be the kind of support that one could lean on. The situation that existed in the fifties is not going to happen again, it's all very hypothetical. But if there was a situation like in the fifties and I were in the same situation that I was in, I would do the same thing I did then."-"So, leaving aside the silly question of whether you were a hero or a murderer, what were you back then? Were you a kid who wanted to fight against communist totalitarianism, or could that be defined differently?" - "Back then, our only motive was to fight communist totalitarianism. Totalitarianism was, some people didn't accept it that way then, because most people lived like animals - eating, and there are three such things - I don't want to say it now - that you need to live. But that was them. We thought until 1989 that there were more of those who really fought, wanted to fight. Because that's the way it was told by the communists that there were resistance groups, and they fought, and saboteurs and so on. When I see it today, I see that there was nobody, there were a few people, and they could be counted on a few fingers. Most of those people - steal a brick, put it in their briefcase, build a cottage, and chatter in the pub. That was most of them, unfortunately. There were a few good ones like Rajchl, Ota Rambousek. There were a few good ones, but not many."

  • "We already had the axe with us because, at that time, there was nothing to heat with. The children used to go to the tracks, where there was a traffic light. During the air raids, it was red, and the trains were stopped. The Czech stokers of the locomotives had big lumps of brown coal on them which they had to smash before throwing them into the boiler. Underneath them, twenty or thirty children waited with buckets for some coal to be dumped so that they would have something to heat their homes with. So we also carried small and sturdy axes, which we used to smash the coal. Sometimes, when a military transport stopped instead of the train, Radek and I would jump on it. It was a perfectly obvious decision. We jumped on the cars and smashed all we could. When there were parked locomotives at the station, we also went there and smashed them. The easiest thing was to cut the copper pipes that led to the pistons. It was certainly laborious to fix, and we did it sort of automatically."

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Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

He used to kill communist pawns. ‚Memories don‘t trouble me. I would do it again‘

Josef Mašín, 1950
Josef Mašín, 1950
zdroj: archiv Zdeny Mašínové

Josef Mašín was born on 8 March 1932 in Prague as the second son of a legionary and hero of the Second Resistance Josef Mašín. He was brought up in the spirit of tradition and patriotism. After the communist coup in February 1948, the Mašín brothers decided to fight the new totalitarian regime and formed a resistance group to join the expected anti-communist uprising. The group soon proceeded to sabotage activities aimed at disrupting the communist dictatorship and shattering the morale of its members. Its members obtained weapons and explosives from various sources, some of which they even made themselves. However, three people fell victim to several ambushes in which they attempted to obtain weapons or money. Josef himself shot and killed an SNB (National Security Corps - transl.) officer and the treasurer of the Kovolis company. In October 1951, on the eve of their first planned escape, both brothers and their uncle, Ctibor Novák, were arrested, and Josef spent several weeks in detention. In 1953, Josef Mašín, his brother Ctirad, Milan Paumer, Václav Švéda and Zbyněk Janata decided to escape from totalitarian Czechoslovakia. In the West, they wanted to join the US army and fight communism armed with weapons. In October, they crossed the East German border, and after 29 days of pursuit by the East German army and police, Josef Mašín, his brother Ctirad and Milan Paumer reached the American free zone in West Berlin. Václav Švéda and Zbyněk Janata did not get through and were caught by the East German Volkspolizei. In 1955, the communist justice system sentenced them and Ctibor Novák to death. After escaping to West Berlin, Josef Mašín served for five years in the US Army and lived for some time in Cologne. He got married, and he and his wife welcomed two daughters into the world. In 1980, the family moved to Santa Barbara, California. In 2021, he was still living in Santa Barbara.