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Prague
(Page 1 of 6)
Report No. 61
translation by Gerda Johannsen, Victor Diodon and Arnim
Johannis.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
Prague, Events in May and June 1945
Reported by: K. F., physicist Report of December 27, 1946

location of PragueMay 5th 1945. Shortly after Prof. Gudden had telephoned us not to defend the Physics Institute under any circumstances (we had no arms anyhow, with the exception of three pistols), armed civilians entered the house and searched for weapons. There was just enough time to hide the pistols. After they had gone again, we hid the weapons with more care, since we were most unwilling to surrender them. All uniforms were also hidden. From the confusing news broadcasts of 'Radio Prague' it was impossible to gain a clear picture of the situation.

One hour later we were taken to the Police post in the Karlshof Church and interrogated. A low level air attack with bombs and gunfire started while the interrogation was going on. During this time we were left to our fate in the church. Afterwards members of the regular Police ordered us to go to Czernin Palace, where German Government offices were supposed to be. We were, however, to go one by one.

We went to collect our most important belongings. As I left the Institute with my assistant, Miss Tiedke, night was just beginning to fall. The shooting had almost ceased. We had hardly got as far as Appolinarius Str. - 12 yards away - when we were arrested by the nearest "partisan" and taken to the Psychiatric Hospital which seemed to have been turned into some kind of Headquarters. We were searched and our most valuable things were taken from us. Then we were sent to a room in sick quarters. The company was not very pleasant, but one was more or less undisturbed.

There was no change in our situation for the next two days, May 6th and 7th. Dr. Sturm, an acquaintance, visited us occasionally and told us what was going on.

Fighting was taking place about 12 yards from where we were, but the liberation we were longing for did not come.

On May 8th the fighting almost ceased, but the house was still under fire. This day I and four other men were put into a cellar. Food and treatment were still good.

On May 9th the guards were talking of the Russians being already in the City and there were some disappointed faces amongst them. Zero hour came at about 11 o'clock - a turning point for us. The mask fell, the individual disappeared and the mass only ruled.

Partisans crowded in from the street and drove some 30 men to Weinberg Avenue in front of the Mathematical Institute to clear away the barricades. The first one was cleared away quickly. Then there was the second, at the corner of Weinberg and Linden Avenue. This second barricade was built more solidly, with stones, earth, iron bars and so on. An inquisitive crowd had gathered and there were many agitators. The doings there on the afternoon of May 9th went beyond anything one could imagine.

After the first hour we were all covered with blood, as a result of kicks and blows upon the head and neck. Everything from shovels, iron bars and lead pipes up to poles was used on us.

The intoxication of the crowd was increased by the sight of blood. We were forced to go on with our work and dared not to rest for a second if we did not want to be beaten to death. There was a 70-year-old woman whose head had been shaven clean, the one-armed doorman of the Institute and a number of nurses in our group. Our shoes were taken away from us and we had to walk bare-footed over the glass shards on the ground.

Two shots fell near us, and we were driven along the street to serve as living firewall. I think there was none amongst us who did not hope for a sudden death. The snipers could not be found, I suppose they were from the same gang and did not know how to handle weapons properly. We were forced to parade then on glass shards and afterwards were driven to work again, where everything started once more.

What could demonstrate the general sadism better than the following incident: A partisan pointed his gun at my chest and I told him to press the trigger and get it over. He just grinned and forced me to go back to work, saying: "To by šlo moc rychle" ("That would be much too quick")!

When dusk came we could hardly stand. We were bent almost double, without the strength to stand up straight. When the crowd had dispersed, three policemen told us to stop work, and we dropped down like sacks. When I looked round I found that only 4 of the original 30 men remained. The others had been killed or taken away.

The policemen then took us behind the garden wall of the Institute and gave us a bit of rice and water. They kept looking around in fear of being seen by the partisans. Although we were starving we were too worn out to eat.

A few minutes later we were loaded into a lorry and driven to a former German College at Stefansgasse 22. All our belongings were left behind in the Institute and we never saw any of them again. So there we stood, barefoot, dirty, beaten up and near to collapse. It was impossible to sit down, because the mob was in charge again. The episode with the policemen had merely been a breather.

In one of the wings of the College we were forced to stand against the wall with our hands raised, until one after another collapsed. But then it really started. We were taken to another room, where what they called the "Gestapáci" were being kept. There we were chased about by a man, already hoarse with shouting orders. There were about 50 of us. We were ordered to hit each other in the face and when that was not done to the full satisfaction of our jailers, we were shown how to do it properly. When I collapsed again, a burning match was held to my toes until I came to. Then I had to get up again. The second time I was permitted to lie there a little longer. Then they trampled on my face, but since there was still no reaction on my part, I was left lying there. Anyone who put up the slightest resistance was shot dead.

During the night and on the following morning Miss Tiedke and several other women were led twice through the room; I have not seen her since. The morning of May 10th went by quietly. I tried to remove a glass splinter from my right toe, but it stuck in too deep; it was not removed until 2 months later. Until then I felt it with every step I took.

The afternoon of May 10th brought what was probably the most horrible incident of these days. A group of armed men came in and selected the 6 youngest and strongest men, I being one of them. After promising our guards that they would, if possible, bring us back alive, they took us to Wenceslas Square. The Square was packed with a yelling crowd and a path had to be cleared for us. I would have never believed that the human face could be degraded to such a grimace, the people looked like snarling dogs, showing their teeth, spitting and screaming at us. It took all the force available and the pistols of our guards to keep these creatures - one could no longer call them human beings - away from us. We reached the corner of Wassergasse and there we were confronted with our task: Three naked bodies, burned with petrol, were hanging by their feet from a large advertising board. The faces were mutilated beyond recognition with all the teeth knocked out, the mouths no longer anything but an opening full of blood. The roasted skin stuck to our hands as we half-carried and half-dragged the bodies to the Stefansgasse.

One of the passers-by tried to photograph our procession, but he was seen and beaten half to death.

After having put the dead bodies down we were ordered to kiss them on the mouth: "To jsou přece vaší bratří, ted' je políbejte!", they said. (These are your brothers, now kiss them!) I can still hear those words as though it had happened today. The will to live conquered all disgust and we pressed our lips into that pool of blood where the mouth should have been. I can still feel the icy-cold heads in my hands.

I had hardly washed the blood off my face and crawled instinctively into the furthest corner of our room when our guards entered, looking for the six of us; somehow I suddenly realized what was bound to happen now. We had seen far too much to be allowed to live. Only the dead would be silent.

With kicks and blows from rifle butts we were driven together in the centre of the room. While still being knocked about, we were asked our names and professions and then given the order: "Do sklepa smrtí!" (To the death cellar!) Soon afterwards we found ourselves in a cellar, evidently the one with that ominous name. Since there was no doubt in our minds as to the final outcome of the affair, we had only one wish, that it might happen quickly. This, however, was not our "judges'" intention.

Apparently the guards in the house were already fed up with shows of this sort, so they brought in one of the "partisans" from the street, whose desires in this direction had not yet been satiated. Then began something which we had already witnessed repeatedly and had feared for ourselves. It was slow, sadistic torture to death, reaching a climax of blood lust bordering on insanity. These people wanted to see blood and more blood and to rip the life out of the wincing bodies of their victims piece by piece...!

The first of us was done with and lying on the floor in his own blood. Then the second had his turn. I should have been fourth. But as the second victim was lying on the floor the door opened and a Czech, who looked somewhat more intelligent and who, judging by the guards' manner, had a certain amount of authority, entered the cellar. Later I learned that he was a nephew of Minister Stránský. He asked who we were and after a good deal of hesitation, he had me and a boy of 17, a former member of the Hitler Youth, brought out of the room, because we were the only ones who could speak Czech and were therefore best suited to explain the situation.

When we passed the guard, he grinned and remarked that we were the first ones to leave the cellar alive. The others were left behind. We do not know what happened to them, for we have never seen them since.

In the meantime dusk had come. We were taken upstairs and told we could collect our belongings from the cupboard in the "Gestapáci". In my case that was only a blanket which did not seem to belong to anyone and which I took possession of. I did not want to enter that room again and I was glad when I could no longer hear the screams of those being beaten there. A number of partisans had been "enjoying" themselves in that room again.

We were taken first of all to interrogation and following that to a classroom on the 4th floor. Roughly 60 people had been pressed into that narrow room, so that there was not sufficient space for everyone to lie down. I found a narrow strip of floor between one of the benches and the wall and there I rolled myself into the blanket. After the strain of the last hours I cared nothing about my surroundings. All I wanted was to rest. This state of mind lasted a week. - Slowly I began to wonder whether and where one could have a wash; but only after being urged by the women present did I look round for a possibility to have a shave. It all seemed to senseless and unimportant to me, after what had happened. After a few days had passed, without any more people being killed like vermin, hopes began to rise that one might be able to survive this hell after all. - But what did our surroundings look like! All the classrooms were packed with people: women, children, old and young men, all mixed together, and with hardly any sanitary arrangements. A great number of the inmates had lice and were consequently treated by the others like lepers. The food defied description. In the morning we received 1 or 2 slices of bread and a cup of coffee, at lunch-time a cup of water-soup and in the evening again coffee. So it went on for weeks and soon we were completely debilitated.

Everything was arbitrary and apt to sudden changes. All of us were at the mercy of our "rulers", especially the women. They were taken to interrogations during the course of which. they were forced to undress.

After a fortnight a colleague of mine from the Physics Institute was brought in, who, not suspecting anything, had just arrived in Prague on his way from Brüx. We remained together until I escaped. As a result of my experiences I avoided being selected for forced labour as far as I could. Only once I could not escape it. Luckily we were ordered to work in a quiet street. On this occasion I added a bread-basket to my belongings. I also inherited a pair of sandals from a dead man, but I still had no socks.

Three weeks later about 100 of us were brought to another school in Leihamt St. The food and treatment became much worse again. Our welcome was a dead body, shown to us with the explanation that this would happen to anyone trying to hide valuables. Following that, everything of value, including wedding rings, was taken from us.

Our general exhaustion soon reached a stage at which we had to lie down a great deal and where it took us several minutes to get up, owing to lack of blood in the head. But even this would have been bearable, had it not been for the intolerable uncertainty as to whether one would not serve as an object for the satisfaction of some partisan's blood lust.

It had become an unwritten law that anyone wishing to torture or kill a prisoner could come in from the street and select a victim for himself. One of these individuals came into our room every day, always ill-treating the same person in the most horrible way. There were no limits to his sadism. After lengthy ill-treatment he would hand his victim a gun with the safety catch on and tell him to shoot himself. The victim took it seriously, the more so as he considered this to be the only way out for himself. He put the gun to his head and pressed the trigger. Since the safety catch had not been released, the gun did not go off. The owner then released the catch, explaining apologetically that he had forgotten about it. The act was repeated, but again the gun did not fire, because it had not been loaded at all. The whole act had been staged in order to torture the victim. - One such victim jumped into the yard from the third floor and was killed instantaneously. This went on for a whole week. On the last day we were given nothing at all to eat. That night so many persons were pressed into the one room that most of them had to spend it standing up, with all the doors and windows closed.

The following morning - it must have been May 29th - about 800 of us were gathered in the back yard and searched again, though there was nothing more that could be taken from us. In the scorching sun, and still without any food, we were taken to the Moldau Railway Station. No incidents occurred on our way there; but entering the Station, the last man in the line, who was leading an old lady, was shot dead by a policeman on the demands of the mob. We were loaded onto coal wagons, about 60-70 persons in each, and were left standing there in the burning sun without food or drink until dusk. During that time Russians came and took from us whatever they thought desirable.

In the evening our wagons were coupled to a passenger train and we were relieved to discover that we were northbound, not travelling east. At Melnik we spent the night on the wagons. On the following morning, the third day without food, we were taken to the ramp were we had to line up neatly, and then the slave auction began. Farmers had arrived from the nearby villages and selected suitable "goods".

Together with my friend I was allotted to a group of 8 men and 11 women, designated for the village of Lhotka about 5 miles southeast of Melnik, close by the radio station. There all of us slept in the hayloft of a farm. To begin, we had a wash, and noticed for the first time how our bones were sticking out. The first food I took I could not digest, I was sick and had to lie down the whole day. Slowly, and by taking small amounts at a time, my stomach finally got used to receiving food again.

Every night Russians came and raped the women. So each of us was billetted with the farmer for whom we had to work. The food was good and I had no complaints as far as treatment was concerned. I had a palliasse and the farmer gave me a pair of boots for work.

Meanwhile I had reached an understanding with my friend that we would escape one day. Once I had escaped it would certainly be impossible for others to get away, so I crept through the village to my friend's billet only after I had left that farm. Everything went well and I woke him up. But he decided that it was too dangerous for him and he would not risk an escape. He gave me a pound of bread and I stole away again by the same route. I collected my bread basket, which I had hidden in a ditch, and as I left the village in the direction of the Melnik radio tower, a strip of light could already be seen on the horizon in the east.


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