“Altogether I have served in the German and Czech armies a total of seven and a half years – just like it was in the times of Maria Theresa.”
Emil Appl was born in 1923 in Dolní Čermná (Rottwasser in German) in a miller’s family. Apart from the flourishing mill, his father also owned a brickworks and a saw-mill. Appl attended an elementary school in Dolní Čermná, followed by a higher elementary, which he finished in Lanškroun, and then he entered apprenticeship. For two and a half years he was commuting to the Protectorate (a part of Dolní Čermná was in the Sudetenland territory), and he learnt a machine fitter’s trade. He was drafted to the German army, but instead of joining the armed forces he was sent to Berlin, where he began his service in the organization Todt in a contingent for the eastern front. After short one-week training and an oath he went east with his work unit, following the advancing German army. Their task was road mending and construction work, especially to ensure uninterrupted flow on the German army’s supply lines. Through Kharkov and Kubjansk he got all the way to Boguchar, where the Russian army began to advance shortly after and thousands of Italian and German soldiers were taken prisoners. Appl’s unit was the last group which managed to escape from Boguchar on December 17, 1942. During the retreat, Emil Appl experienced three Russian winters before he got to a military hospital in the Reich’s territory when he contracted a serious case of jaundice. In 1944 he experienced the bombing of Berlin and he returned to the eastern front to Red Ruthenia, where Bandera’s nationalistic groups were raiding in the former Polish territory. In May 1944, he was transferred to Bavaria, where he worked as a labourer on construction of subterranean bunkers - factories intended for the production of Messerschmitt airplanes. On April 12, 1945 he suffered a work injury and he was allowed to leave Germany - via Regensburg, Klatovy and Prague he returned home to Dolní Čermná after 33 months of forced service for the German wehrmacht. In 1945-47 he studied at an industrial school and in 1948 he was drafted for a two-year military service; in 1950 he became a civilian again holding a corporal’s rank. Owing to his unfavourable personal profile, in 1951 he was summoned to a commission and drafted again, this time to the infamous and unarmed Auxiliary Technical Battalions (PTP). Altogether he has served seven and a half years in the German and Czechoslovak armies, for the most part unwillingly.