František Žebrák

* 1926  

  • “…but we were soldiers. We knew that Germany was losing the war. One could even hear it on the radio. There was no television back then but they reported the news from Oberkommando der Wehrmacht on the radio.” – “How did your officers comment on that? How did they motivate you for training? Hadn’t it felt stupid to drill for something when the war was lost anyway?” – “A simple soldier couldn’t do anything about it. We were happy to obey and to receive something. But a soldier could do nothing. It was the politicians’ job to get things sorted.”

  • “There were shelters there – just cellars without much equipment. I haven’t witnessed a cellar being hit directly. But there were plenty of civilians in the city, around 280 thousand. And it was really unpleasant there among those women, children, young people, old people… It was iffy. The women had cried, people had prayed… Once when the grenades were falling I hid for just a while – not even half an hour – in a cellar, the building trembled, dust was falling, and women were screaming and praying. It was awkward. So I rather rushed out and proceeded towards my unit between those bullets and grenades.”

  • “I was a grammar school graduate and director Rund asked me to apply for school. Back then they opened the evening school of construction engineering in Ostrava so I applied. This was in April or May 1953 but we were only supposed to start in September. An executive called me – he was reasonable and sensitive. He called me, saying there was a matter to discuss. I came to see him, he had me sit down and then called for someone. A school commissioner came in. He was a former political prisoner, and later I learned that he served time in a concentration camp. He asked me: ‘How dare you? You were in Hitlerjugend and fought against the Russians and the Americans! How dare you? Why didn’t you escape?’ I was completely calm and just told him: ‘Comrade, I found out you were in a concentration camp. Why didn’t you escape?’ Well, I shouldn’t have said that. He jumped up from the desk, grabbed me throat and I feared he might strangle me. That executive stood up for me. He said: ‘Josef, sit down! I order you to sit down!’ Josef, the school commissioner, had let me go. Then told Josef: ‘I know everything about Franta. He confessed that he was in Hitlerjugend, served in the army in Wroclaw, had his share and was harmed. And you were in a concentration camp. At this moment I can say that you were on the same boat. If he escaped they would have shot him dead. If you did, same would happen to you. Shake hands!’ He refused but I offered him my hand. Ever since I was left in peace.”

  • “I don’t know what happened, but suddenly I was lying on the ground. The Feldwebel was lying next to me and he was rolling around. He probably suffered great pain and he was groaning terribly. I said: ‘Wait, sir, I will help you.’ But as I tried to stand up, I could not. I was wounded as well. I felt some warm liquid in my gloves, it was blood. My eye was covered with blood which was flowing from my face, and I felt something warm on my back, too. I suffered a penetration wound above my knee, and here in my arm, but it all went through the muscle and no bone has been hit. Altogether I got fourteen penetration wounds… It happened on 23rd February at half past nine in the morning. My mom was just celebrating her fortieth birthday and later she told me that at half past nine she began to feel sick and she remembered me and started crying. She immediately said: ‘Something happened to Franta.’”

  • “She rolled up my trousers and she took of my socks. They stuck to my swollen feet. She could not believe how I could have endured it. She began to treat my feet. She washed my feet, cleaned them, she applied some powder and ointments. When she put the socks back on my feet, I felt as if I had been reborn. A young girl and she washed my feet.”

  • “When we became part of Germany, all the people automatically received German citizenship and Czech crowns were exchanged for Marks. For 1 Crown we got 1 Mark. That was very nice, because 1 Mark cost 8 or 10 Crowns at that time. There were great changes, and our life changed very much by that.”

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An order was an order. Those who resisted could easily get shot

František Žebrák as a soldier of the Wehrmacht in 1944
František Žebrák as a soldier of the Wehrmacht in 1944
zdroj: archiv Františka Žebráka

František Žebrák was born November 27, 1926 in Koblov in the Hlučín region in a family with six children. His father was a miner and a war veteran from WWI. His mother came from a farm. František‘s parents owned a field and a farm with cattle. As a result of the Munich Agreement, in October 1938 the Hlučín region became part of the German Reich and František thus became a German citizen. The Czech grammar school in Hlučín which he attended became a German school. Just like all boys in the Hlučín region, František joined the organization Hitlerjugend, called „Ha-Yot“ in Hlučín. After February 1944 he was drafted to the wehrmacht just like thousands of other men from the Hlučín region before. After sappers‘ training in Wroclaw his unit joined in the defence of the city against the Red Army in early 1945. František was preparing explosions of bridges, setting land mines and building barricades. He was wounded in Wroclaw at the end of February 1945. In April 1945 he was transferred to the western front near Plauen, where Wehrmacht fought against the US Army. After the surrender of Germany he spent more than a year in POW camps and he returned home to Koblov on June 18, 1946.