Private First Class (ret.) Otto Pick

* 1925  †︎ 2016

  • “The unit was formed of relatively younger soldiers who had to be chosen from other groups. An infantry platoon was created. We were directed into the attack. There was a goal to achieve and we did it. We were, in fact, the only Czechoslovak unit which achieved its objective.”

  • “While we occupied that place the tanks withdrew and we were exposed to direct bombardment and mortar fire. It was really bad and we lost almost immediately three or four of our friends. The commander of the infantry regiment was Rostislav Černý. His legs were severely injured. We hid below in the bomb shelter and he said: ´We have to call back the Sherman tanks to save us from here. How do we get them’? So he told me: ´Go and call them on the radio. There must be some working frequency. If not – find it by searching’. I crawled out of the bomb shelter because there was no reception inside. I found the tanks and suddenly one shrapnel hit me in the head. I was bleeding terribly.”

  • “We arrived in Western Bohemia and the brigade headquarters was set up in Klatovy. They sent the artillery division to Železná Ruda and I was sent as a member of the group to Špičák. This beautiful place was very calm and I could go anywhere for a walk. One small and elegant hotel called Hrnčíř was placed under a mountain called Pancíř. German diplomats were interned there. For example the German ambassador to Albania got stuck there after he fled with his family and other officials. We had to protect him. His daughter cooked very well.”

  • “I went to the ball of the Automobile Association in Opletalova Street in Prague. This place is very elegant, sophisticated and perfect for organizing balls. After some dancing I passed by a room with Prague notables inside. They surrounded one man - Petr Zenkl. I stood in the door and listened to these smart people talking. Petr Zenkl said: ´Look, gentlemen, the elections are in May and it´s more than clear that the Communists will lose. Everything will be just fine. Don´t worry about that’. As I stood in the door I told him: ´Mr. chairman, why do you think the Communists will allow these elections? If they know in advance that you´ll win’? He looked at me and said something I would never forget: ´Young man, don’t meddle in things you don’t understand’.”

  • “The Germans had some success so the Czechoslovak leadership decided we had to get those positions back. General Liška commanded all the allied units. In my opinion there were no strategic reasons for it at all. It was more about prestige. On April 15 the attack on Dunkirk became a reality. The first attack in October was carried out with air support. But this one took place without any support from the air. The soldiers asked everyone why there was no air support. The reason was probably the fact that the French were afraid of having the city destroyed. The last Atlantic port that had remained unharmed… My colleagues from the Institute of Contemporary History later told me it was actually not the true reason. In fact, there was simply no one who was able to order air support within a week.“

  • “Then they said: ´Go to Strakonice on a certain day at a certain time and sit in front of the city hall’. There was one wine cellar, it was more like a pub. ´One man will come to you and take you across the border’. So we went to Strakonice, we were sitting there for some time and nobody ever came. The warrants were read out on the radio and I suddenly heard my name. The man who should have come for us was already in prison. So we paid for our bill, left the pub, got into a car and headed to Prague. As we approached the city of Prague, in Jiloviště I said to the others: ´I just can´t go to Prague anymore’.“

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Petr Zenkl looked at me and said something I would never forget: Young man, don’t meddle in things you don’t understand!

Otto Pick, 4.1.2012
Otto Pick, 4.1.2012
zdroj: Luděk Jirka

Retired lance corporal Prof. PhDr. Otto Pick, Ph.D, was born on March 4, 1925 in Prague into a mixed Czech-Jewish family. Young Otto grew up in Prague. He went to a primary school and later attended an English high school. He was assigned to Winton´s transport after the creation of the Protectorate on March 15, 1939. Then he headed to London through Hoek van Holland and Harwich. In England he graduated from school and gained a scholarship at Oxford University. He joined the Czechoslovak army units on March 10, 1943. The unit was reorganized into a Czechoslovak independent armored brigade in 1944. He passed a course to become a signalman. After the landing in France he participated in the siege of Dunkirk in an artillery division as a signalman and a radio operator in the 3rd battery. He suffered a light injury during the attack on Dunkirk on April 15, 1945. The whole brigade went back to Czechoslovakia after the war. Thereafter, Otto Pick served briefly in Železná Ruda before going to Kiev to train Soviet soldiers. And After he came back from Kiev he was demobilized. His plan was to attend the Faculty of Law in Prague. He started studying at the faculty and in 1948, he took part in student demonstrations. At that time he already knew he had to emigrate somewhere abroad because of his status of a foreign soldier who had served in England. Otto Pick decided to escape to England because of the scholarship he had been granted at Oxford University. He studied history at Oxford and later earned a Ph.D. at the London School of Economics. An academic career followed. In the beginning he worked as a specialized assistant at the London School of Economics. The next step was a move to the newly established university in Guildford where he became a dean and a vice-chancellor. The height of his career was a professorship in Bologna and Munich. From 1983 he worked as the director of the Czechoslovak Broadcasting Service of Radio Free Europe. In 1991 he decided to return to Prague. His attempt to establish political sciences as a field of study at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Charles University was successful. Later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic offered him the post of deputy minister. He still works as an advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and teaches at the Diplomatic Academy and at Charles University. Mr. Otto Pick died on March the 20th 2016.