Na obsah

2nd July 1942 Home

A tragic day and statements of witnesses of the last moments in jail. Meeting Alvín Palouš and the record of the lat service of Jaroslav Charypar to the heroes of Pardubice.

Information about those who were connected to the “Libuše” radio and knew about its location in the period between their arrest and the execution itself, very scanty evidence was preserved. From the very beginning of imprisonment, ie since Saturday 20th June 1942, the main effort of the Nazis was to break the silence of the questioned people by threats of elimination, physical and mental torture, promises of freedom and material security, saving lives of family members or their own. They needed to unravel as big a part of the main branch of the resistance organisation as possible as they found it seriously dangerous. It is necessary to take into consideration the fact that in that time they had no idea if they would manage to get hold of the radio. Therefore it was necessary to isolate by breaking the entire network. In interrogation cells in Pardubice, many people who had never met before, some were close friends, were sitting next to each other. Let’s outline the atmosphere and thought process of people who had no idea how long they would stay alive and whether their relatives were still alive and mainly, how long could they remain silent to prevent the number of prisoners from increasing. As the behaviour of Pardubice resistance fighters, partly the population of Ležáky or the Gestapo themselves developed could be revealed only by one source. Karel Andrle, evangelical priest from Krouny u Hlinska and one of the prisoners of the Pardubice “Bastille” as it was called from December 1945 to January 1946 in newspaper articles. They captured the life in prison during the cruellest killing of Heydrich in the Pardubice region. The author of the articles captured in detail not only the ruthless abuse of prisoners and cynical conduct of the Gestapo members, but also new friendships and solidarity among the detainees, even non-verbal contact with the outside world. It is a wonder how he managed to describe his experience with such impressive impartiality.

Those who participated in the parachuting event spent at least one week in suffocating atmosphere of Pardubice torture chambers before being killed at the Manor House. The situation in Pardubice for the arrested on 20th – 22nd June 1942 sharpened and the number of members of the organisation and murder attempts were increasing. On 23rd June, Anna Košťálová, mother of  Arnošt Košťál tried to commit suicide by jumping into Chrudimka. On 24th June, Adolf Švadlenka from Mikulovice and Explosia employee Jaroslav Dvořák were arrested. Josef Chrbolka was arrested on 25th June in Mnětice. Brother of Marie Vašková Vratislav Truhlář killed himself with a circular saw to escape arrest on 26th June. On 27th June, František Valenta from Mikulovice cut his artery moments before the arrest, but he was saved thanks to early medical intervention. He survived the war hidden in an asylum for mentally ill in Německý Brod. Emilie Chrbolkova was arrested on 28th June, mother of Josef Chrbolka from Mnětice, who also attempted a suicide and was also saved by being placed in a sanatorium in Německý (Havlíčkuv) Brod. Pavlína Nývltová is describing in her book the Gestapo operations in Náchod in connection with the arrest of Jiří Potůček. There were dozens of arrested people. Among the last people brought to the Gestapo on 7th July were Švarc spouses, parents of Věra Junkova. The number of arrested was increasing and the hopeless situation in the Pardubice Gestapo jail must have been depressing.    

Each cell of the Pardubice coercive building where the arrested were kept had its own commander. He was responsible for the morale of prisoners, order in the dormitory and apparent details such as closed windows. Guard Karl Köck invented “the peep hole”. The prisoners were not supposed to know that he lifted the metal door and watched them. Under regular circumstances, it was easy to hear the door being opened inside the cell, but Köck inserted in the peep hole a piece of paper with a hole so he could see the cell without the prisoners realizing that they were being watched. Josef Běhounek, who supervised cell no 16 from March to August 1942, was caught by Karl Köck when he was looking through the peep hole for a few minutes. Běhounek was brought to the office of Walter Piller who whipped him with a bullwhip and forced him to do one thousand squats. Piller and H. Körber were those who carried out executions. Köck mostly snitched on the prisoners and enjoyed kicking or punching them here and there. Mojmír Václavek was arrested for his leading role in the student movement. Right during his first interrogation he fell into Köck and Aschenbrenner briothers’ hands. After he came to he found out that his left ear eardrum had been punctured. His second interrogation was much brutal as the trio began to break his little fingers on both hands.

Extreme mental states, pride, courage, but also helplessness of the interrogated was captured by Karel Andrle in the following events. The first one shows defiance that the prisoners fairly frequently showed “(…) We are living in suspense, speak with caution and are very careful so we don’t get heard by the SS guards. They do that quite regularly. The cell is stuffy, we can smell death. We all can feel it. We encourage Čeřensky (fellow prisoner – Ed. Author) as much as we can, though he’s completely calm. Only sometimes a bag in his hands stops rustling and Čeřenský is staring into space and we’re pretending that we don’t see anything.… During an inspection they found live browning cartridges on him, but could not find the browning. In addition, his son officer fled to England. He’s a social democrat, that didn’t make his life easier. After the assassination he was walking across the square with his friend Jaroslav Ruml, a sixty-year-old, as if they were approving of the assassination. He’s here as well, but in a different cell. Not far from them, brother-in law of Čeřensky was walked past and Čeřenský is convinced that it was him who reported them. He says that to the Nazis during his interrogations and they stay quiet. There is no proof. His friend Ruml has definitely denied that Čeřenský expressed such opinions of the assassination. The Nazi knocked Ruml over with a blow in his head, but he jumped up opened his coat a shirt and yelled into their faces: Shoot me I’m not scared of you. (…) He’s partially deaf. It’s from the blow he took from the nazi boxer in his ear.“

“(…) The cell is getting dark, car engines hummed outside. Bad sign. The Manor! Silence that was interrupted with the sound of an SS man’s boots. He’s approaching our cell no.28. The circle around a small table scattered, the door opened Karl Köck calls Čeřensky with his choked voice. Our hearts stopped, we knew what it meant – it was Thursday night. The doors locked behind Čeřenský, cars left and soon we saw them from behind the barred windows going around the bend towards the Manor. (…) They were shot without a trial and without any evidence. The cell was quiet like a house where the landlord died.…“

„On Friday morning we took a walk around the yard. There were more people now. Young Čeřenský was there too. He could hardly know that last night they shot his father at the Manor. The senior SS man called son of Čeřensky and struck him in the face. We clenched or fists and teeth. We felt the blow as if the whole nation took it.” Another testimony presents truly brutal conduct of the Gestapo members during interrogations: “We used to hear people scream and groan when tortured and heard exciting scenes in corridors of the prison.  Hans Körber, a sadistic pervert, executioner and a drunk before whom even the other SS men trembled, was in his element. We were listening holding our breaths to his beating the Jews in the corridor and we verified it later (…). Our friends from other cells confirmed that Körber dragged out one of the arrested Jews and a few hours later he threw his half-dead body beck into the cell under the table where he had to lie on the bare floor without any blankets. He was bleeding from many wounds. Our friends took care of him and gave him their blanket, but just barely escaped the torment of furious Körber when he found out. He dragged out a poor member of “lower race” and he had never come back.”

Uncertainty and fear from torture and possible revealing of other resistance fighters led many prisoners to the extreme and final solution: “At the end of June 1942, we had one of the scary nights. Cars kept on bringing new prisoners and at about midnight the traffic let out a bit. But our first nap was disrupted by strange rustling noise that at times intensified and changed into a wild jangle of chains somewhere from below the heating pipes of the central heating (…). We slept poorly that night. Half the time we were woken up by this strange, but terrifying jangling of chains that we heard the next day as well in the afternoon hours (…).The next night was again under the sign of jangling chains that made us nauseous. They are torturing somebody, somebody is suffering and we are just clenching our fists and our thoughts were scattered all over the place trying to unravel the bloody secret. (…) (The third day in the morning – ed. Author)Körber himself brought into our cell a handsome tall man in his forties who was holding his cup with lunch. At first sight we saw a red bloody mark around his neck, perhaps from a rope, maybe from a chain. The door had closed and we were uneasily standing around Alvín Palouš, the owner of the electro-technical factory in Pardubice (…) (10). They chained him naked to the heating that he was beating against with his chains making the noise that in the evening, when everybody was asleep carried through to our cell (…). When he realized that everything had been exposed he tried to save whatever there was left so he managed to rip out of his shoes, that the let him keep on, shoelaces and tie a noose around his neck so he wouldn’t tell anymore he knew in case they would torture him some more, he confessed. And in this fatal position he lost consciousness and beat about in a position that he was neither standing nor kneeling with his chains against the radiator that carried the horrid noise to our sleep (…). The Gestapo however, cared about him and made us responsible for keeping him alive in our cell. Palouš was just smiling.”

Another method of emotional coercion the interrogated were under was a confrontation with family members: “(…) Alvín Palouš didn’t see his wife ever again. Only once they interrogated him with his wife standing behind him ordered to talk. He couldn’t turn around. They met at the Manor on 2nd July…“

                 To preserve the informative value of this testimony, I have to point out even the good stories of the author, whether it was a new friendship among the prisoners, the supportive news from the outside world or behaviour of some guards. The first meeting of Alvín Palouš with forced occupants of cell no.28 was as follows: „(…) he said: Hello, mates! After a while he sat down to the table and placed his bowl of watery soup and a cup with a dumpling, his lunch, in front of our hungry eyes and shared it with us. The cell in Pardubice was a commune where everything got split fair and square, including a mandarin or a piece of an apple or salami, which hardly ever got through to us and unofficially. (…) There wasn’t much to share in the cell but it was always with the smell of something that people out there could never know and it was something with a beautiful glow and radiance of a full stomach in the dessert of a few loaves of bread. You have never eaten such a sweet bread as we did, divided into tiny pieces stolen from the mouth of your friend who was pale with hunger, but could not eat a bite to not to share with his brother as hungry as he was (...).“

                “We had watched with excitement two ladies who used to come every day exactly at 7pm behind the sweathouse across a meadow to the edge of a field towards Studánka on their bikes. In a moment they got off and took turns in news broadcasting about the war situation with such suggestive gesticulation that we were standing at the window out of breath. They would use sport signals and we knew that on the Eastern Front Germans were getting beaten and on the Western Front there was terrible bombing going on and in the South the situation was miserable for Italians. After a few minutes they got on their bikes and quickly disappeared, every time in a different direction; an older lady and a young girl or a woman. They were a wonderful sight when they were standing next to each other at the end of their performance with their right hands raised. They radiated with power of victory and peace and strength. We learned some of their moves of by heart and then we reproduced them to those who couldn’t sit at the window because they had to keep watch at the door of the cell to make sure the guard wasn’t coming to spy (…). Even in strict isolation we were able to receive the latest news from London and Moscow and nobody would ever believe what boost it gave us (…).“

”I don’t believe that there are half a million loyal Germans, although I occasionally met a reasonable wachmeister and especially in Dresden and Litoměřice, and Germans as political prisoners who cursed Hitler and Nazism in front of wachmeisters, I was amazed. But Ruda Keck (sic!), we all knew that he was a strange exception in the area of the worst bestial brutality of the Pardubice Gestapo. We had never heard him scream nor hit somebody. He would speak quietly and acted humanely. He was scared of Körber more than us. His brother Karl Keck (sic!) came to the cell to ask us to behave ourselves when Rudy was on duty that he had a soft nature and wouldn’t hurt a fly and was in constant danger of being sent to the front by Körber. He hated him for not being able to be brutal to the prisoners (…).“The Köck brothers held quite the opposite position in the prison. While Rudolf was perceived as the good guy who helped the prisoners, Karl was verbally and physically brutal guard. Karl shuffled in his slippers across the corridor and through the peephole he quietly looked into the cells. In case of the slightest breach of the prison rules the unfortunate prisoner was taken out of his cell and beaten to the pulp or worn out with hundreds of squats he had to do. Especially the physically weaker persons could such a punishment bring on serious health complications. His brother Rudolf Köck wasn’t the only guard and Gestapo employee who was introduced as a person who didn’t lose his human side. In much the same way is the characteristics of another guard man Jan Massinger captured. In 1945, he was characterised as a positive helpful person. Massinger allowed married couples who were arrested to meet in secret before their interrogation and to unify their testimony.  

However, now from the perspective of the Ležáky victims, here comes the most important part of the testimony. It was Andrle who told us about the last hours before execution: “Palouš used to enjoy talking to teacher Richtr and then with Pelikán’s grandfather from Včelákov, who had in Ležáky in Švanda’s mill his younger daughter married to Šťulík, and he was the only one from Ležáky who came home from the concentration camp this May. He was almost deaf, but he was a nice person and intelligent. I often think about him how we used to lie to him about the fate of Ležáky which he had no idea about. His wife, daughter and son-in law were in one corridor. He had no idea that Germans took his grandchildren away and that Ležáky is ruins. (…).“

1st July, afternoon and Körber is trying his last opportunity how to break the wall of silence of all people involved and who had anything to do with the radio: “(…) they called Palouš out of the cell. He returned in a few minutes with his eyes shining. What did he want from you? I asked him. They called a whole lot of men and women, I even saw my wife, and gave us some possibilities of how to preserve our lives. They told us they wouldn’t shoot us if we told them where the secret storage of weapons and explosives is. I shuddered, but one of the women standing at the back exclaimed: Do not dare to say a word! There was a rush and then they sent us beck into our cells. Tomorrow is a Thursday friends, guns will have a hay day.”

Körber lied again. The brave woman who discouraged everybody from revealing anything, assessed the situation perfectly. The fate of everybody had been decided hours ago. One day earlier, ie 30th June, Jaroslav Charypar made this note into his diary: “(…) we’re looking at each other with glassy eyes (crematorium workers – ed. author) with a silent question of what will tomorrow bring because one of the pack suggested that we might get “a big load”. It means that the Gestapo ordered the crematorium and its employees for their needs two days ago. 

On 29th June 1942 father of Zdenka Hrdinova born Doubravova was at the Gestapo. František Doubrava, well in the know about the intelligence activities of his daughter, son-in law, the Krupkas and Bartoš himself, hoped he could get some answers at the Gestapo as in what was going to happen to his daughter. Lehne and Clages were very rude and Lehne especially wondered that Hrdinová, despite all the notices of rewards and death penalties, she didn’t report the activities of her husband. He told the downhearted father that both spouses were to be executed, and Doubrava was consequently subjected to interrogation.

On 29th June, Marie Kouřílková was at the Stantejskýs’ in Přelouč informed that people from Ležáky had not been executed as it said in the papers, but on 24th June they were taken to the Manor in Pardubice. The hoax led the following day a father and a brother of Miloš Stantejský to visit the Gestapo where they enquired about the investigation. Schulz dismissed them with a remark that Miloš committed felony and in one week the family will be informed about the results. However, not even after the told period there was no information from the Gestapo office. At the third attempt they found out from Lehne that Miloš was already executed. Lehne apparently remembered that Stantejský was chanting “words of treason” right before the execution. On Wednesday 2nd July at 4pm, the keeper of the Pardubice crematorium, Fr. Dalecký, was called to see Lehn at the Gestapo and told him that he should expect a lot of bodies to be cremated. It had been decided for forty arrested people, the closest Silver A co-operators, to be executed. It included 7 members of Ležáky ČENDA – brothers František and Jindřich Vašek, husband and wife Františka and Jindřich Švanda, Jindřich’s brother Bohumil Švanda, Karel Svoboda and Josef Šťulík. “The next day (2nd July – ed. author) Körber together with some guards came into the cell with two books where he wrote transportation – to the death as well. (…) (Palouš – ed. author) Was standing undecidedly with a cigarette in his hand that he got from SS man Körber as his cigarette of death and he lit it with a smile. (…) Friends, you will smoke it with me. It is a cigarette of death. Friends, to fare well, well, after all we’re men, let’s not play a comedy. (…) Suddenly he sits down on the bunk bed and says regretfully: We failed, my friends. We made great preparations. We had information that the end was coming. The assassination was supposed to be a signal for revolution. We even had people who would hang the traitors, and this is how it ends. (…) (says Andrle – ed. author) I want to follow after the last sentence, but cars rattled outside. Lots of cars.” The inmates from other cells were watching the events in the courtyard. Clages, Kröger, Escherlohr and other officers from the Pardubice Gestapo office got out of the cars. “It was 2nd July 1942, the last day of the martial law. Even the SS men who had the day off were in full armour. The doors of the cells started to open and men and women were walking out into prepared vehicles. We are quietly standing in our cell, the conversation is dying out. Heavy footsteps are approaching. Those are coming for me, Palouš disrupts the suffocating silence. We are lining up, the door opens and SS man Piller, agitated, holding his sheets of papers calling out names. His voice trembles: Alvín Palouš! He was standing next to me and he shook teacher Richtr’s hand. He’s coming out of the line and shaking my hand. He’s turning to our line: Long live the Czechoslovak Republic, shame on the murders! (…) (Piller is screaming – ed. author) Josef Šťulík! He’s in the next cell, says postmaster Doležal. (…) Šťulík, Šorm, we can hear his voice from behind the door (Piller’s – ed. author).“ Piller arrived to the cell of JUDr.  Žváček and J. Hrdina, yelled out their names and bid them to go: “Heraus, as you are. No need to get dressed, take your money with you.“  Žváček was dressed and had his shoes on, Pepík Hrdina left in a shirt, pants and gumboots.“ “The entire corridor was filling up with friends. Links um! Sounded and then the steps started to fade out. Downstairs there is yell, laughter, voices of men and women. Somebody didn’t want to get into the car. Cursing. He’s forced to get in.” JUDr. Žváček, teacher Janáček, Lieutenant Hrdina, ing. Jánský and one patriot I didn’t know get into the first car. Another car is occupied by MUDr. Bartoň, Košťál, Pištora and 3 youngsters, patriots I didn’t know. All those who got on for this last trip had their hands bound. I keep watching everything and I see more cars in front of the building. The women are getting in: Aja Žváčková, Mrs. Janáčková, Mrs. Hladěnová, born Vranešicová, Mrs. Bartoňová and many other women I didn’t know.“

“From the babble of voices we hear the Gestapo ridiculing: Good night, gentlemen! Cars are rattling; we are watching from our windows, they are turning round the corner towards the Manor. There are many of them, breathes out post adjunct Vodseďálek. (…) Grandpa Pelikán has asked a number of times what it all means. He’s waiting for his answer in vain. Where is my son-in law Šťulík? He’s demanding an answer over and over again. We answer evasively.“

The journey of “the convicted” from the Land coercive office to the Manor took about 10 minutes by car.  G. Mikisek mentions that he took from the prison three or four people originally from Ležáky. Ludvík Schulz with Helmuth Mieth took in their car Josef Tyc and some woman: “I knew, under the supervision of Mieth, where to take them. During the ride, Tyc was asking me where I was taking him. He was sweating a lot, though I told him to calm down. It was horrid. When I turned at Štiky towards a small church na Familii, Tyc stopped asking me and only sighed deeply because he knew since the beginning what was happening at the Manor.” At the barracks courtyard, everybody was forced out of the cars to the basement. Again, the lists and garbled names. Then follows the walking accompanied by the Gestapo to the sand pit. On the right bank, the Gestapo members are having fun, cynically laughing or just simply watching.

The execution on 2nd July was different from the previous once not only because of the highest number of shot people, but also because of the exceptional demands on the number of execution personnel. The execution began quite late or rather it began at 8.06pm and finished at 8.47pm. The number of police officers in the dividing cordon was 16 assistants, 20 of them assisted at the execution and the execution commando counted 15 men. The victims were taken to the execution place always in fives in five minute intervals. Mieth escorted Stanislav Tyc to the execution site; Escherlohr took Anna Žváčkova, who yelled at the Gestapo members standing on the top of the pit: “You murderers of Czech Nation! Long live Beneš!” The execution protocol noted her desperate, but at the same time immensely brave cry in short: “Ihr Mörder”; Schulz heard the other officials talking about Zdenka Hrdinova who, from the time her eyes were blind folded until just before she was shot, kept repeating the word “unschuldig“, Preuβ then wrote in the protocol that Hrdinová, shortly before her death, called out: “Alle Rache auf die Deutschen“; Františka Jirásková, Bedřich Schejbal and Josef Janáček called: “Es lebe die Freiheit und Tschechoslowakische Republik!“ The Gestapo member Schulz saw from a distance officer Schupo running up to shot Anna Žváčkova and shot her in the back of her head twice. (xy) The protocol does not confirm that Jindřich Vaško did not want to be blind folded as it was stated by Charypar; or that there were any other exceptional situations during the execution. Still it cannot be said that the executioners handled the situation without any emotions: “I couldn’t find a place where I wouldn’t hear them. I went to the canteen. There were some schupists sitting there with all kinds of emotions across their faces. Some of them showed that they didn’t agree with the killing either, but we couldn’t speak up otherwise we would have ended up right next to them. The killing took 40 minutes this time [L. Schulz’s estimation was quite accurate, the execution took 41 minutes – ed. author]. After the shooting I went to take a look where all the victims were lying. I saw them near by a cart behind a black blanket that was hanging between bushes. Again I saw Mikis helping to load the bodies into a hearse. Also some of the victims had their heads completely shattered” In the canteen, Lehne handed out hundreds of cigarettes and expensive alcohol to not only the shooters but even some senior officers as well.

Charypar arrived on 2nd July to the Manor when it was almost dark. From his car, he saw the last seven victims going to the execution pit. Charypar recalled seeing hotel manager Košťál and MUDr. Bartoň in the last lot of victims.  Shortly after 10pm he loaded both dead men in the hearse first. The fact that “Erna” Košťál was brought first was confirmed by Fr. Dalecký. In one load he took six bodies to the crematorium. Among the bloodied bodies there was one that was clean - Taťána Hladěnová. Charypar says that it seemed washed and clean and the members of the execution squad released it last. They did not refrain from gesticulating and gross comments. Jaroslav Charypara’s entry: “2nd July is forever going to be for Pardubice and its citizens a day of mourning and remembering the good people, sons and daughters of the Czech nation. That day at the execution site at the Manor, 42 heroes died [correction 40 – ed. author] – 22 citizens of Pardubice. That was the announced “big load“. I witnessed some of them being taken to the execution. All the people walked proudly and bravely, even before their death they did not show weakness. Only dr. Bartoň was broken because he knew that some moments ago they had killed his wife [Emilie Bartoňová died in Osvětimi, not at the execution site at the Manour – ed. author]. Even the executioners themselves who had been doing this job for some time talked about the bravery of those people with admiration. So I heard that Mrs. Žváčková called before her death: “Long live Engalnd, Beneš, The Czechoslovak Republic!“ and Lieutenant Vaško: “I don’t want my eyes to blind folded. I want to see my murderers!“ Even these scoundrels called him a hero. Then the shots faded and it was time to carry out my horrible task. In that pile of 42 bodies there so many people I used to know tangled up together, covered in blood and mutilated. I was standing there over them in silence as the only human being around because the six attendants who had just rushed to the bodies to load them up could not be possibly human beings; they cannot be ever called people and men. Once punishment, not revenge must come! God, let us all be strong!”

F. Dalecký recorded the appearance and injuries of the dead from that day: “If it was possible, which happened under various circumstances and ideas for the present supervisor, I tried to find out more detailed description of some of my friends. Dr. Žváček gunshot wounds, face covered in blood; Mrs. Žváčková 3 gunshot wounds, shot in the head above her right eye, blue and green bump from being hit. The present Gestapo member of Polish nationality said that she was brave and called all kinds of words: Long live the republic, long live Beneš!” Teacher Junková, face partly covered in blood, left arm dislocated, 3 gunshot wounds, chest and head bruised. Ing. Palouš, number of gunshot wounds, chest, side, face coverd in blood. Mrs. Paloušová, 3 gunshot wounds and face also covered in blood, shot in the head as well. Janáček, a teacher, gunshot wounds, bloodied face, bruised head, possibly after hitting the ground. Dr. Bartoň, a wound behind his right ear, 3 gunshot wounds, face covered in blood and dirt, eyes half opened. Mayor Josíf from Opatovice, number of gunshot wounds, chest, stomach, face covered in blood, left arm dislocated. Mrs. Hladěnová, the only one who was in a normal state so it seemed she hadn’t been shot at all. With all kinds of excuses I managed to convince the Gestapo members to check her thoroughly with their presence and help and I found out she had a gunshot wound, left side of her heart and any signs of violence were not visible. She was the only one who was brought in such a good shape. Insp. Hebký from Pardubice, number of gunshot wounds, face stained with blood, a gunshot wound above his right ear. Other people were shot in a very similar manner and many of them were shot outside the designated target, some of them had 5 gunshot wounds. It was quite obvious that those were shot in the back of the head which was confirmed by the present Geastapo member.”

In the sand pit of the shooting range, 194 Czechoslovak citizens from Pardubice, Kolín and Hradec Kralove lost their lives.