Colonel (ret.) Karel Slanina

* 1927  

  • “As I’ve mentioned my father had a strong influence on me. He joined the resistance movement in 1941 and did so-called intelligence work. He received frequent night visits of strangers in our flat and he made a great effort to prevent me from learning about it. He succeeded at it until I once saw strangers in the flat. I asked who they were and what they were doing at our home but my father dismissed me with the remark that it was none of my business and that I must not tell anybody about it. At the firefighters’ house there was an automobile, a Zetka, and I learned to drive it on the courtyard. I longed for driving into the city and actually succeeded in persuading my father to let me go. I was instructed to bring the waste from the shed to the dump on this occasion. When I was loading the car with the waste from the shed I found a sealed box in the shed and as I didn’t have time to open it and check what’s inside I simply loaded it into the car and took it to the dump. In the evening my father wanted to know how my day went and when I he learned about that sealed box his face went pale. We had to immediately go to the dump again. Luckily the box was still there and when he opened it I saw that there was a gun, two hundred bullets and two hand grenades inside. My father was lucky that we found the box and he finally told me about his activities in the resistance. I had to swear that I will remain silent about it. He then employed me as a liaison and as a distributor of various leaflets. These activities culminated with the transport of a guerilla group from Tišnovsko to Lipnicko in a firefighter car. They first stole this firefighter car from a firefighter station, then picked up the Soviet partisans and transported them to Lipnicko. They had the emergency lights and so the German patrols even made space for them at the crossroads to pass quickly. That was one of the operations I didn’t forget – I like to remember it often.”

  • “In the years 1949 to 1951 I studied at the military academy in Hranice and in the military training center in Nitra. I graduated as a Lieutenant and afterwards I stayed in Slovakia in Nitra where I was involved in the education of new cadets. In 1953 I was promoted to First Lieutenant and the headmaster of the training center appointed me for studies at the Moscow War College. However, I wasn’t invited to the preparation school in Prague. It was because they found out in my cadre material that my cousin had fled with her two children to her husband in America. I left Nitra and went to Brno for studies. The commander asked me why I hadn’t included the story with my cousin in my cadre material. I said that in the cadre questionnaire I was asked if some of my closest relatives were abroad and that I didn’t consider my cousin to be one of my closest relatives. However, it was my first blot on my army career. I was burdened with this affair from that time on. Nevertheless, I stayed in the army till 1968 – I taught at the military teaching center in Vyškov. Today it’s the Academy of the Ground Forces. In 1968 I disagreed with the entry of foreign troops into our Republic. I considered it to be an occupation and a violation of our sovereignty. Therefore I was dismissed from the army in 1970. By that time I was a Major already. I wasn’t allowed to work in any position of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters (Mr. Slanina probably means the Czechoslovak Union of Fighters against Fascism – note by the editor).”

  • “It’s not a real combat story but I remember that by the end of the war there was a lot of German troops retreating westwards because they wanted to evade Russian captivity at any price and get into American captivity. These units were dispersed throughout the region of Brno on their westward march. When we got the message that the war was over we wanted to spread the news to the other partisans. On our way to the other guerilla units we ran into a German unit. They immediately searched us and after they found our weapons and grenades they wanted to shoot us. Luckily a friend of me who spoke fluent German told them that it was a misunderstanding, that we had accidentally found these weapons in a ditch by the road near the forest and that we were going to the river to try to catch some fish. Their commander said that they’d also like to catch some fish. So we took them to the river. He threw a grenade into the river and as they were catching the stunned fish in the river they forgot about us for a moment. We took advantage of this moment of inattention and ran away.”

  • “I was in the Delta 1 guerilla brigade. This brigade belonged to the R3 unit under the command of General Luža, professor Grňa and Colonel Štainer-Veselý. This unit operated in the highlands of Českomoravská Vysočina. In the beginning our activities focused on intelligence gathering and transmission. As the front was drawing closer, we focused more and more on combat operations – we were fighting retreating German troops, participating in sabotage operations and acquiring weapons. Furthermore we were displacing direction signs and the like. The closer the front was, the stronger our combat activity became. We were also involved in one particular operation that I would like to speak about a bit more. It happened close to a cabin where we stayed over night from time to time and where some other members of my family had been accommodated before the arrival of the front to Brno. On April 16, 1945, a four-engine plane was shot down over Brno. It was an American plane with a crew of eight. The aircraft – a Liberator – was carrying weapons, ammunition and supplies for guerilla fighters in the Vysočina highlands. The plane crashed nearby Tišnov but all of the eight crewmembers managed to get out of the plane. At this time we were at the cabin because we made a stop there to see my family. We heard explosions and shooting and we thought there must be some airborne operation. In fact the explosions came from the ammunition that was in the burning plane. We were frequently opening and closing the door of the cabin and unwittingly thereby giving a signal to the first of the American pilots, who parachuted into a nearby forest. After he saw the light from our cabin he came in and we made first contact. Later three more came to our cabin as well and so we were able to save four crew members – that’s half of the entire crew, which we saved from falling into the hands of the Fascists. We later handed them over to the guerilla command. The other four pilots were saved by another partisan group so all of the American crew members were saved from the Fascists. After the end of the war these Americans joined the American army again on the Square of Freedom in Brno.”

  • “As I’ve already told you I was born in October 1927. My mother had to be brought to the maternity clinic in an ambulance and that ambulance had to stop at the Moravian square in Brno because there was a military parade on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the founding of independent Czechoslovakia. The driver demanded passage for the ambulance and after a short while we were allowed to pass. My father, who was in the ambulance, said that I was going to be a soldier and he was right. My childhood in Brno was strongly influenced by my patriotic father and his strong stance against the influential German community in Brno. This anti-German attitude found its expression in my refusal to learn German at school, in my many activities against the Hitlerjugend and in the destruction of Nazi posters and house facades. Because the Scout organization was prohibited we continued its activities under the smokescreen of a firefighters’ youth organization. We were learning how to camp in wintertime and how to build igloos – these skills were later very useful during the war when it helped us to know how to build an igloo.”

  • “In 1947 the Republic was threatened by bands of Ukrainian nationalists’ guerilla fighters who wanted to get to the American occupation zone through Czechoslovak territory. Our army together with a special partisan brigade fought against these so-called “Banderovci” (Ukrainian nationalists). We wanted to stop their transit through our territory. This transit was accompanied by frequent terror against the local population, especially in the Beskydy region. Of course, the guerilla fighters weren’t trained in the regular combat practices and so there were frequent clashes between the guerillas and the Banderovci. And the Banderovci had the upper hand because they were trained in these practices and had great expertise. Later on, the tactics were changed and the army and the guerillas were positioned in abandoned places in the countryside. In this way they prevented the Ukrainian nationalists from acquiring food and the like. It all came to a head when their commander was captured. The whole operation ended in 1947.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Brno, 19.08.2004

    (audio)
    délka: 35:30
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
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If it was necessary, I’d do it again at any time If I was young as I was back then, I’d go through this martyrdom again without a single doubt

Karel Slanina was born on October 28, 1927, in Brno. After the German occupation he got involved in the resistance movement along with his father and participated in various sabotage activities. Toward the end of the war he even joined guerilla fighters. In 1947 he participated in the elimination of the remaining gangs of Ukrainian nationalists‘ guerillas. In 1951 he became a lieutenant and in 1953 a first lieutenant. Because of bad cadre references he wasn‘t allowed to study at university. In 1968 he protested against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the Warsaw pact and was dismissed from the army as a result (he had the rank of Major by that time already). In the ensuing years he worked as a mechanic. He was rehabilitated in 1990 and promoted to Colonel. He is a member of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters.