Colonel Arnošt Polák

* 1923  †︎ 2017

  • “Then we were put on Liberators – U.S. airplanes with four engines. These planes were fabulous – very comfortable in contrast to the Wellingtons, where we were packed like sprats. The Americans were probably much more concerned about the comfort of the crew – we liked that. So we accomplished another training on an air base in New Forest which was in the south of England. The air base was surrounded by beautiful forests and fascinating landscape. After accomplishing the course we were transferred to Cornwall in the west of England. The runway at this base ended right in the sea, because there was a steep 100-meter-high cliff behind it. When we had off in the summer we went to such a tiny sandy beach which was nearby.”

  • “I wasn’t liable to the emigration laws. That’s why the Germans let us out as children. The only problem was getting to England. The Quakers, an international religion with the aim of living a charitable life, helped us. They also helped a lot of Jewish children to get to England. I left from the Wilson train station via Germany and the Netherlands and then by ship to England. It wasn’t any great adventure; it was pure luck to get out.”

  • “We were a Jewish family so it was very unpleasant under Hitler. I and my brother left and our parents stayed there and all our family died in a gas chamber.”

  • “A friend of mine had a flat in the Jungmann street that he inherited from his parents. I stayed in this flat with him. One day a Prague-city order came that his flat is being confiscated and that there’s no appeal to it. A truck came, took away the furniture and the mayor’s deputy, who was a communist, moved in. So I said to myself: “You don’t have a family here and you don’t want to live in a country, where they can kick you out of your own flat without the right of appeal. So I packed my things and left to England again in 1946.”

  • “I can’t say it was Anti-Semitism. They were making jokes, of course, they were making remarks but it wasn’t Anti-Semitism. It wasn’t any stringent Anti-Semitism. I can’t complain.”

  • “I was slightly over fifteen when I left the Protectorate and went to England. I was considered to be a child from the Germans so I didn’t need any visas, I simply went to England. The English accepted me as a “refugee” with the condition that I’d work as an agricultural worker. After two months of training in practical agricultural matters on a farm I worked for another two years at various farms as a laborer. When I turned eighteen and thereby could enroll in the army, I went to London to the Ministry of Defense where I signed up for the Air Force.”

  • “A lot of Jewish families that had lost their property and real-estate were given compensation and restitutions afterwards. I never asked anything from the Germans and never got anything. That’s because I thought back then just as I think today that you can’t compensate for murder with restitution. I haven’t forgiven them till today.”

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    Pardubice, 04.06.2003

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It wasn’t a great adventure, it was pure luck

Arnošt Polák
Arnošt Polák
zdroj: soukromá sbírka pamětníka

Arnošt Polák comes from a Jewish family. Thanks to the Quakers, he and his brother were sent to Britain (he was 16 years old at that time). The departure to Britain probably saved his life - the rest of his family died in a concentration camp. For the next two years Arnošt Polák worked in England as an agricultural worker. In 1941, however, by the age of eighteen, he enrolled in the Czechoslovak army and went through the basic military training. Then he applied for the Royal Air Force and after accomplishing aviation and communications courses he was accepted. He was assigned to the 311th bomber squad in the rank of a sergeant. After the end of the war he returned to Czechoslovakia and served with the Czechoslovak air force as a radio operator. In 1946 he left the army and returned to Britain where he opened up a shop. Arnošt Polák passed away on September 2017.