Jiří Světlík

* 1924

  • “They put everyone to forced labour in a different place. Having been born in the year 1924, I went to the Reich in early January 1944. I worked at Maschinenfabrik Donauer. Apart from some fifty Czechs, there were lots of Ukrainians, Russians, there were Italian and French captives, and these all produced important components for the arms industry. In the factory itself we produced multi-barrelled mortars in two rows of five and five barrels on top of each other, or circular ones, where there were nine barrels in a circle. Germans also worked there. I knew German because my parents spent a pack of money on me so that I’d learn German. So I spoke with them: ‘Gents, it’s impossible for you to win the war.’ But they thought they’d win it.”

  • “Another difficulty lay in the fact that it was far from home. We thought about how to do it to get home at least for the Sunday, and I tried it. At the time there were trains in Germany called Fronturlauberzug, which were trains for army holiday goers. There was one train which went from Paris to Přemysl, that train arrived in Nuremberg at about ten p.m., and at its tail it had two wagons for civilian transport, eight wagons for military transport. The train came to Cheb from Marktredwitz, the train had its engine on the wrong end, facing Františkovy Lázně, and Pilsen was in the opposite direction, so they attached a different locomotive to it, to those two wagons for civilian transport. At the time the wagons had a different shape, the doors into the wagons were further inside the platform, and from the outside there were two three steps. I found out that it was possible to open the doors facing away from the station building from the inside. There were Germans there right and proper. The border inspection got on in Kozolupy, because in the Protectorate, although we were part of the Reich, things were different, we had to have a permit, and I didn’t have one of course. So I climbed out on to the step and rode it all the way to Pilsen. I repeated it two weeks later and discovered that it was pointless staying there all the way to Pilsen, that Křimice was enough. Then I got so impertinent that I started taking my friends home with me because two could fit on the steps. One time it came to the worst, Tonda Kořenský from our house fell ill; he was somewhere from Volhynia, I’m not sure. He got a bad case of pneumonia. The factory doctor signed him permission to go home, but he had a fever and it wasn’t possible for him to go by himself, although he had a permit to cross the borders; so I decided to take him there. The express was pretty crammed that time, and there were two officers of the German army with me on the platform where I laid Tonda down in Nuremberg. We were approaching Kozolupy, and I told the two men straight up that I don’t have a permit, that I have to climb out of the train on to the platform. They said ‘ja, gut, gut’, so I climbed out on to the platform, the border guards passed through, and the two officers then knocked on the door to let me know I could come back inside; and at the station in Pilsen they helped me take Tonda out of the train, we laid him on a bench at the station, I went to a phone booth to call for an ambulance, they took Tonda to hospital, and I sent a telegram to his mother, because they had a farm where only his mother remained with her daughter. They came that very evening, they slept over at our house in Pilsen, and the next day they went to visit Tonda in hospital, but they had to go straight back again because of the animals. They left, and about three hours later Tonda died.”

  • “The weather on the thirtieth of April was rather downcast. By that time the prisoners in the death march from Stein had arrived to us in Stadelheim. Those who remained were placed into our cells, so I was in solitary confinement with Pepík Liška, another Czech, and on that thirtieth of April we went for a walk. The prison yard had concrete walkways, which were walks along in columns. Wachtmeister Schuster always roared: ‘Drei meter abstand halten.’ Of course, there were several hundred of us there, so we walked in bunches. We were surrounded by prison guards with subs. The bows said: ‘That’s how it began in Stein, then they started shooting at us.’ The forecast was enchanting. And then suddenly shells started coming down into the prison. One fell on the roof, knocked down the tiles, and the thatch caught fire. The guards immediately started shouting: ‘Everyone to their cell!’ And that was that. The firemen put out the fire, and nothing else happened. The first of May came. In the morning we stood gaping, all the guards had removed their swastikas from their caps and their uniforms. We said: ‘Hey, it’s turning round somehow.’ There was the morning roll call on the corridor, and Mr Oberwachtmeister Schuster yelled: ‘Wer meldet sich freiwillig zu schneeräumen?’ (Who will volunteer to clear away the snow?) Pepík Liška said: ‘Come on, let’s volunteer.’ I retorted: ‘Are you dumb? Now, when it’s voluntary, I don’t have to, I don’t have the clothes for it. Look, my shoes are leaking, I’m not going.’ Well, Pepík Liška went. He came back about an hour later and said: ‘There’s an American flag hanging above the main gate.’ And that was that.”

  • “I was supposed to be tried at the Supreme Court in Munich. The trial was scheduled for December 1944, I think it was supposed to be December 20, or 22. So they transferred me to Stadelheim in Munich, which is a prison of roughly the same size as Pankrác in Prague, quite a big institution. That’s where I was waiting for the trial. One day before my trial there was an allied air raid which razed Munich to the ground. The Palace of Justice, where my trial was supposed to be held, went down in flames. Therefore the trial had to be adjourned. But the Germans, meticulous as they are, were keeping their files in air raid shelters so that they would not be harmed. Therefore my file was not destroyed, it was just the building of the Palace of Justice that had been wrecked. After some time they rebuilt it somewhat so that they go on with the trials at least in the underground of the Palace. So my trial was rescheduled for April 4, 1945. By that time however, the Americans were already standing on the Rhine and the Russians were surrounding Berlin. So it might have taken a bad end. But the allied bombers were wreaking havoc on the German railroads and the witnesses from Donauwörth couldn’t come to the trial in Munich. When the attorney read out the indictment the presiding judge asked me if I felt guilty. I replied: “No, no, not at all, I’m completely innocent”. What were they supposed to do? They couldn’t prove it to me, they didn’t have any evidence. So they consulted and decided to adjourn the trial again and this policeman, who was just a regular policeman, just like those Schupo, with the cardboard helmet that the east-German policemen used to wear, he told me: “You’re out of it”, and he took me back to Stadelheim.”

  • “When I came home from prison, the first thing I had to do was getting an ID. But because I was a reserve soldier I had to get a special army ID first. So I went to the army office to claim this ID. I submitted my discharge papers to the woman at the desk. She looked at me in a very strange way and called comrade Major to assist her with my claim. So the comrade Major came to the desk, inspected my papers, stared at me for a while and then called another one. Two came. “You were in jail?” “Yes, I was”, I said. “What were you in jail for?” “For espionage, it’s written in the papers”. “For espionage?” You could really see their army brains reeling about the fact that a spy is to be taken to the army. But they had to take me, there was no other alternative. “Were you spying on behalf of a foreign power?” “Yes, I spied for the Americans.” My answer almost made his false teeth fall out of his mouth. They consulted the matter for a while and then they told me to come the next day. So I came the next day and was issued this military ID. Afterwards, I had no more dealings with the army. I never got a call for army exercises or the like. When I turned 60 I gave the military ID back. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 a friend of mine told me that I had been assigned to an army unit that actually didn’t exist. They had to assign me to some unit, so they simply made up a non-existent unit. Can you imagine what it must have been like for them, to take a spy into the army.”

  • “I’d like to know what you did. How were you trying to help these people (the prisoners in the camps in Slavovsko)? How did you organize it?” “Well, of course they also planned some escapes from the camp, but that was not what we were doing there. We were mainly trying to help them to establish connections with their families and to supply them with some food. We were trying to get into the pits and shafts, although I wasn’t involved in this personally. We tried to do so through other people who worked there. As I’ve said the bulk of our activities consisted of food supplies and establishing a link to their homes, letters etc. But that’s not what I was tried for. I was tried for espionage, so I’m an orderly convicted spy.” “So how did they get you?” “You know, whenever there’s a lot of people involved, it sooner or later trickles through. However, we were trying, or at least I was trying, to keep some system of conspiracy upright. So, for example, everyone involved knew only three other members and just one of them had access to another cell of three. Yes, that’s how it was. But not everyone had such a system and some fools were even taking notes. One of these fools lived with a friend who once had the idea to rob a Jednota store that was located right in the house where they lived. So they did it. When the police came to investigate the case the police dogs led them to the apartment of these guys which was just one floor above the robbed shop. After they had searched it they found these notes. So that’s how it all started. The police gave this guy to the secret state police, the StB, who were working on him for a whole month. Of course they finally knocked something out of him and then it started rolling and couldn’t be stopped anymore. Eventually six of us were tried – we were a group. I was, of course, the leader of an anti-state group, because I had been a scoundrel before. They counted in my previous activity as well. When someone does something against Hitler, he later does something against Stalin as well, that’s a logical step. You have to take into consideration that a lot of those who were tried by the Communists after 1948 had already a track record of anti-Nazi resistance activities. It goes hand in hand with each other.”

  • “I took the first train going from České Budějovice to Pilsen. Before that the trains didn’t go so far. They crossed the Soviet-American demarcation line, which was at Nezvěstice. We came there, the Americans checked the train, wrote out a list of all the passengers. Those who didn’t have a permit allowing them to cross over, or those they didn’t accept, they removed from the train. ‘No chat, you’re not coming over the line to America here, sonny.’ They wrote down all the rest, sat into a Jeep, and drove off to the American army headquarters in Rokycany to request a permit for the train. They returned an hour later, and the train could continue to Pilsen. It was after the war, people were enemies. I was lucky that I had an American passport, I could get through.”

  • “So afterwards I was relocated to Jáchymov and the first camp I was in was camp Nikolaj. That camp was infamous. It wasn’t a huge camp, there were about 800, 900 people at the most. We were working at the “Edward” pit. This pit was about a kilometer away from the camp. We walked on the road and then on a path that led to the pit. Everything was fenced off, even the state road that led from the Abrtam crossroad to Mariánská and upper Jáchymov. The camp warders were everywhere – behind the fence, in front of us and behind us. They had dogs and machine guns. To make things more complicated, we had to walk in rows of five, tightly packed together with a steel rope tied around the whole pack and so we marched to the pit. It kind of looked like a marching caterpillar. Because in this way you cannot walk normally – you have to wait until the foot in front of you makes the step first in order to make room. So the kilometer to work took us more then half an hour.”

  • “Everybody desperately desired to go home and I was no exception of this. I was also going home from time to time by train but it was extremely risky as the Protectorate was separated from the territory of the “Reich” by frontiers that were very hazardous to cross. This frontier was well guarded as any frontier – I mean nowadays it’s not like this anymore but it used to be like this. When we went home we took a fast train to Nuremberg and then to Pilsen via Cheb. You had to cross the border to the other side at Kozolupy to Pilsen. I really hated to go on foot, even in harsh weather, so I gave it a lot of thought and came up with a great trick how to cross the frontier in the train. You could only do so in one special train that was called a “Fronturlaubenzug”. This train rolled across the border once a day and carried soldiers to the eastern front and back home again. This train went from Paris to Přemyšl via Pilsen. I somehow worked out a way how to get in one of the cars as it was going. But you have to take into consideration that at that time the railway cars looked different then they do today. Today, the doors of the cars are in line with the bodywork of the car. But it wasn’t like this back then. At that time the door and the steps to the door were kind of inserted in the car so that there was a kind of a platform in front of the door where you could actually stand. There was enough room for two people on this platform, on this plank. This was only possible in the first car behind the engine because it was there that the policemen entered the train to check the travel documents of the passengers. Again, it was a car for soldiers on vacation so it was all Wehrmacht soldiers, except for the first two cars, which were designated for civilians. It was these cars that we occupied and where the passport control took place. In the beginning I only traveled to the Protectorate and the way back had to be arranged in a different way. I was aided in this by an acquaintance of mine from Pilsen, a certain Mr. Knoboch, who worked at the police directorate at that time. He turned into an StB agent (the Czechoslovak Communist secret state police – note by the translator) after the war with a rather infamous reputation. But at this point, during the war, he helped me. He produced a so-called “little cross-border traffic” pass for me which allowed me to cross the border up to a distance of a maximum of 15 kilometers from Plzně to Stříbro, and beyond that there was nobody anymore to check. So with this pass I had no problems getting as far as Donauwörth. They only checked me once but I was somehow able to talk myself out of trouble.”

  • “How did you experience the fall of Communism in 1989? Did it change your situation? How?” “Well, you have to consider that by that time I was already in retirement and 65 years old. All the fury was long gone by then.” “Were you at least happy about it?” “Well, of course we went out on the squares every day and were jingling with the keys, that’s for sure. We even had some fun. We were erasing some inscriptions and writing new ones like for example in our neighborhood, we wrote messages with lime on the pavements to “distinguished” persons from the neighborhood. But everything went down calmly, there was no violence, no knives. We’re no savages.”

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When someone does something against Hitler, he later does something against Stalin as well, that’s a logical step

Photo from papers of State security
Photo from papers of State security
zdroj: ABS

Jiří Světlík was born in Pilsen on March 11, 1924. After his education, he was trained as a typographer in his father‘s print shop. From January 1944 onwards he worked as a slave laborer in the German city of Donauwörth. Because of his secret travels home to Pilsen, but mainly because of the animosity of the camp commander towards him, he was accused of treason and of trying to weaken and disintegrate the armed forces of the German nation. He was arrested in June 1944 and held in custody in Donauwörth and Stadelheim in Munich. The trial was, however, postponed due to the bombing of the Palace of Justice in Munich by allied air raids. On another occasion, the trial was postponed again because the witnesses were unable to arrive due to the damages to the railway network that were caused by allied bombings. Jiří Světlík could thus not be tried. His return to Czechoslovakia was extremely complicated as the whole railway network suffered extensive damages from allied bombing. He got involved in the so-called „Czechoslovak Self-Help of the City of Munich“ which organized the return of Czech compatriots from Munich to Czechoslovakia. After the war he worked in his father‘s print shop until was confiscated by the Communists in 1948. In February 1948 he served in the army and experienced the beginning of the setting up of the „Iron Curtain“. He found a new job in the china works in Loket, where he participated in a group which was helping prisoners in the camps in Slavkovsko. This group arranged contacts with their families and provided the prisoners with food and other necessities because there were severe famines in the camps in the years 1949 - 1950. The group was, however, revealed and its activity was branded as „anti state operations“. In 1952 Mr. Světlík was tried as the leader of the anti-Communist group „Světlík and associates“. He was held in custody by the State Police (STB) in Klatovy, Cheb, Jáchymovsko (the camps Nikolaj and Rovnost) and in the Kartouzy prison in Valdice. He was released from prison in 1962 in the course of an amnesty. After his release he found a job in Pilsen in a steel syndicate. Here he worked in different positions until his retirement in 1984. He is a historian of his region and wrote a book „Dobřív: a History of a Village in Brdy“. He further wrote his memoirs entitled „Memories of an Old Criminal“. He is a boy scout and a member of the Confederation of Political Prisoners. He is also a member of the August Sedláček Club.