Jan Skopeček

* 1925  †︎ 2020

  • “There used to be something for lunch – potato peels or something of that sort. I must say that the German guards treated us quite decently. In the fall of 1944 they knew that it was over for them. Most of them were older men who had already been at the front or something. Not that they would become friends with us but they didn’t beat anybody. I don’t remember anyone being bullied.”

  • “The Walter Company would send its workers to the Gebrüder Schäfer Nürtingen factory nearby Stuttgart. I spent six months in 1943 working as a slave laborer in Germany. After I came back in September 1943, I became an assistant worker in the Walter factory and I didn’t have to operate the drilling machine any longer.”

  • “I was in the Kleinstein concentration camp until January 15, 1945, when the camp was dissolved. We had to get back to Prague individually. I already had great interest in theater back then and I bought William Shakespeare’s complete works and took it with me to the camp in the naïve belief that I’d have plenty of time to read it. Instead, I dropped off completely exhausted every evening on my bed. On my way back to Prague, I dragged the rather heavy books on a little primitive sleigh that I made myself. I gradually threw away book after book since it was too heavy for me to haul it all the way. I didn’t bring any of those books back home. When I came back home, I was sent to the Osterode concentration camp.”

  • “Prior to that, I knew nothing of my mother’s Jewish descent. Suddenly, I could see that she was only permitted to board one part of the tram and that she was fully prohibited from visiting a theater or a cinema. There used to be a special park near Jiří’s square where those wearing the Star of David would meet – that was it. I also know that some relatives began leaving. Some people were travelling someplace with their luggage.”

  • “Back at home, I learned that I had been assigned to the Osterode concentration camp. That camp was located on the territory of what today is Saxony-Anhalt. On the way there, I had high fever and was treated by Oldřich Nový who had a first aid kit with him and gave me some medications and his blanket. After we arrived in Osterode, he arranged for some hot water for me to wash myself. He probably saved my life. For the next two weeks, the new arrivals worked in the mines and then, they picked about fifty of them who were sent to the nearby Düderode village, where they were tasked with the construction of a narrow gauge railway.”

  • “I remember that always at night as I got terribly sleepy I would lock myself up in the bathroom and sleep there for an hour or two with my hands on my knees. Or I would go sleep in the storage room where one could hear the mice rustle inside piles of hey. The Czech workers probably knew that young boys were forced to work there so they tolerated us.”

  • “At Easter time, the actors used to regularly gather in the Slavia cafeteria opposite the National Theater. At that time I already felt like an actor myself and so I went there as well. In the café, I was approached by a tall and slim girl by the name Zorka Rozsypalová, who played in the Horácké divadlo Theater. She told me that her mother was from Kroměříž and that she saw me acting in the play “O myších a lidech” (Of Mice and Men). She offered me to work for the Horácké divadlo Theater. At that moment, there were some actors leaving the theater, for instance Jiří Sovák. She gave me the address of the director and director Jan Strejček. So I called him and he invited me to come to his apartment. I recited him some text and he hired me. I spent the best two years of my life in Jihlava (1946 ̶ 1948). I was learning how to act and there were great and predominantly young people there.”

  • “In the Osterode camp, they picked about fifty people and took us to the Düderode village where we had to build a narrow-gauge railway. We were guarded by only four soldiers. Six men were carrying one segment of the tracks and we had to drop it at the same time all of us. Once, one lad got injured – he had a huge slash and I and a soldier had to accompany him to the camp for treatment. There was an American aircraft flying above our heads and I started waving at the pilot. He turned around and started shooting at us.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Praha, 12.03.2012

    (audio)
    délka: 52:34
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Hroznová ul., Praha , 21.10.2015

    (audio)
    délka: 01:54:04
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu 10 pamětníků Prahy 10
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

You have to remain joyful under all circumstances

As Jánošík (from Jiří Mahen's play directed by Jan Strejček)
As Jánošík (from Jiří Mahen's play directed by Jan Strejček)

Jan Skopeček was born on September 19, 1925, in Litoměřice. In 1933, his family moved to Horní Jelení in eastern Bohemia and later to Prague. By the age of sixteen, Jan was forced to work in a factory belonging to the Walter company in Jinonice. In 1943, he was sent for work for half a year to the Gebrüder Schäfer Nürtingen company located near Stuttgart. After he returned back home, he was sent to the Kleinstein concentration camp near Osterode because of his Jewish roots. After the end of the war he came back to Prague but soon thereafter he found a job as an actor in the region of Moravia - at first he worked in Brno, then in Přerov and since 1947 in Jihlava. In the Horácké Theatre in Jihlava he met his future wife, Věra Tichánková. They both had a role in the performance „Hrátky s čertem“ (Playing with the Devil). In 1949, they co-founded the Divadlo pod Palmovkou Theatre in Libeň. Jan Skopeček also briefly performed in the Jewish Akropole. He spent a part of his compulsory military service in Vinohrady in what used to be the Czechoslovak Military Theatre (Divadlo československé armády). He performs in the Divadlo pod Palmovkou Theatre still today as well as in the Strašnické divadlo Theatre and he is the host of many other Prague stages. In the course of his career, he managed to play over 600 theatre, film and TV roles. Besides acting, he‘s also interested in literature. He wrote six theater plays (for instance „Záhada červeného pudru“ - the Mystery of the Red Powder) and a couple of broadcast plays. Among his most famous TV roles are „Tři chlapi v chalupě“ (Three Men in a Cabin), that was followed by the motion picture Tři chlapi na cestách (Three Men on the Road) in 1973. He also played in the movies „Dobrý voják Švejk“ (The Good Soldier Švejk), „Vyšší princip“ (The Higher Principle), „Tažní ptáci“ (Migrating Birds), „Tajemství hradu v Karpatech“ (The Secret of the Castle in Carpathians). He also appeared in the movies: „Kdo chce zabít Jessie?“ (Who Wants to Kill Jessie?), „Marečku, podejte mi pero“ (Marečku, Would you Hand me the Pen?), „Drahé tety a já“ (Dear Aunts and Me), „Dobří holubi se vracejí“ (Good Pigeons do Come Back), „Zítra to roztočíme, drahoušku“ (We‘ll Have a Blast Tomorrow Darling) or in the fairytale „S čerty nejsou žerty“ (There‘s No Joking with the Devils). He also played in a number of soap operas like „Klapzubova jedenáctka“ (Klapzba‘s Crew of Eleven), „Byl jednou jeden dům“ (There Once Used to be a House) and many others. He also played in more recent productions like the trilogy „Kameňák“, „Bobule“, „Vrásky z lásky“ and others.