Lieutenant Alfred Bäcker

* 1921  †︎ 2012

  • “I was raised in a German family and my father was the director of the Budweis gas works. He became director in 1914 and was director ever since. In 1918, when the authorities in Budweis changed from the old Austrian to the new Czechoslovak ones, our family got into trouble. In order to keep the job as director of the gas works my father had to promise he would give at least one of his children a Czech education. My brother was allowed to keep his German name Wilhelm because my father and grandfather was named Wilhelm as well and all the Bäckers were named Wilhelm. I was given the international name of Alfred – it took a long time for my parents to figure it out. In this way they could postpone the decision whether I'll become a Czech or a German. This decision was made by the time I was seven years old. By then the Czech mayor was made redundant because he was making too many debts. He was replaced by a man from the central government who came to Budweis and looked at the bookkeeping data of my father's gas works. He found out that my father was running the gas works in an extremely efficient way. In fact the conduct of the gas works was one of the most successful of all the public facilities in the whole city. So he gave my father a free hand in respect to the education of his children. Since then I started to go to a German school, not a Czech one and that's how I became a German.”

  • “The difference is that the people were against the Germans and also, I'd add, against the Henlein followers. But I tell you, I give you my word, up until 1938 there wasn't a single thought of dismantling the Republic. We didn't disrupt the Republic even though we might have done it if we wanted. It just didn't happen. There was no German influence on us.”

  • “We were two years without a holiday and one and a half year up there in the north (in Finland). A friend came to our unit and told me that they had a Bäcker in their unit too. Once I came to this unit, it was a battery but I don't remember anymore, if it was the third or the fifth battery, and I asked whether they had a Bäcker serving with their unit. They had one Bäcker and it was my brother! Four thousand kilometers away from home did we meet on the front! It was shortly before Christmas 1941 so we celebrated that Christmas together. It was the best thing that happened to me. Then we decided to go home as soon as the opportunity would arise. The opportunity came on Christmas 1942. So we boarded a ship together and went from O’Lovernbroku to Danzig. From Danzig we then went on a train to Dresden and from there to Budweis. So the whole family could celebrate Christmas 1942 together. After Christmas we returned together to Finland but I got sick suffering from some kind of lung disease so I was transferred to Germany via Sweden for recovery while my brother stayed on the front. I spend about half a year recovering from my disease.”

  • “When I was in Vienna I knew that the war was lost and I wanted to go to Budweis but I didn't know that there was gonna be a revolution, I didn't expect that to happen. When I returned to Budweis I wanted to go to Dobrá Voda where my parents lived and on the way there the partisans caught me. I had no idea what was happening there and all of a sudden appeared civilians with guns and red badges. They asked me if I was German because they'd noticed my German military car. They said: “You're German so leave your car here.” Then they took me to the president of the national committee in Dubíkov which is a village near Budweis. The partisans wanted to shoot me but the president of the committee asked me how many brothers I had. I said I had one brother Vilém and he ordered them to arrest me. He didn't want them to shoot me because for these young people I was just a first scape goat they had found.”

  • “My parents didn't know for seven years what I'll become so they were sending me to the factory to speak Czech with the Czech workers. My mother spoke very good Czech, my grandmother was half Czech and my grand grand mother was a Czech who didn't speak German at all. That's my mother's side. But from my father's side we were all Germans. My grandfather was an engineer, he was constructing gas works and that's how he came to Budweis. He came to construct the local gas works and after he built it he stayed here. That was still in the times of Austria-Hungary. So from my father's side were all German and from my mother's side were kind of mixed because there were Germans with Czech names and Czechs who turned German as it was quite usual in Budweis. In Budweis you never knew for sure whether some one is a pure German or a pure Czech. The people from Budweis were usually speaking half Czech and half German. I have this sentence: “Mutr vypucovala fotrovu ivercír na gongu.” It's half Czech and half German – it's Budweis. I was raised that way.”

  • “We used to go to Kaplice each year to visit some relatives of ours. We lived in Budweis but visited these relatives in Kaplice fairly often. Once we drove to Kaplice, I don't remember the exact date anymore, but it was before the break-out of the war scare. The railway cars were packed with people trying to get out of the Czechoslovak borderlands. They were afraid that an outbreak of hostilities was imminent in the Šumava borderlands between German and Czechoslovak troops fighting for the Czechoslovak fortifications located there. These people had with them only the most elementary belongings and traveled to Pilsen.”

  • “It was during Christmas time 1944. We were conducting an assault operation on the enemy positions. I was with the artillery unit that provided fire support. I was a bit sick and we received so much enemy fire that we were quite disoriented – we didn't know where we were and what we were supposed to do. I was wounded and fell unconscious. The last thing I remember was flying up into the air. I woke up in the afternoon when it was quite again. I didn't remember what happened and there was nobody there, just the dead and the wounded. I tried to figure out where my unit had gone and walked in that direction. I went in that direction and after about three kilometers I heard German again. I didn't know how I looked like so when I asked the soldiers what unit they belonged to they were looking at me with an unbelieving look. They looked at me as if I was a ghost – my uniform was drenched in blood and shot to shreds. They thought I was dead and now they were lucky to find out that I was still alive.”

  • “The chief of the partisans had an inn in Dubičný and knew my parents. He just wanted to find out whether it's really me because they'd thought that we died in the war. You know we hadn't been home for over two years so they thought that our parents had just been too afraid to confess that both of their sons died in the war. He was glad that I'm alive and he took me to his house and sent his daughter to tell my parents that I'm home and safe, that nothing is gonna happen to me. Then he set me free and let me escape with my car. I drove to Budweis to my parents, we packed our things in less then three hours and on 8th May we managed to flee to Austria. As I had that car it was relatively easy. We joined the retreating German army and went all the way to Kaplice, which was already German territory. This way we made it out of Budweis alive. At this time, my brother was in Prague. We hadn't heard of him for about ten years. Then we found out that he was buried in Blatná, near to Písek. My father was, however, dead by that time already. He died in 1953.”

  • “Almost all of the Jews were German those days. When I was in elementary school I didn't know yet what a Jew was. When we went home from school at noon the Czech school boys were chasing us and were shouting: “You Jew, you Jew.” I used to ask home afterwards what a Jew is. In secondary school, I was a protestant and a lot of my school mates were catholic so every now and then, when there was a religion class, we were free and spent that time with the Jews who were freed from that class as well. So that's how I got to know a lot of them.”

  • “Our main occupation in the camp in Finland was to guard the camp. There were about 120 people in the camp. We were also building igloos. Guarding the camp was extremely hard because of the biting cold in the winter in Finland. The shifts were very short, usually 20 minutes, half an hour maximum. If you stayed longer in the cold you'd freeze. Except for the eyes, all of the body had to be wrapped up warm.”

  • “They kept me waiting because the artillery officers had a short life and there wasn't enough of them. So they sent me to the Russian front again, to Hungary.”

  • “I was a displaced person in Austria even though it was my home. I didn't have any rights at all and I didn't have a job because in those times it was extremely hard to find a job. I was a stranger in Austria and as a stranger it was even harder to find a job. I only got Austrian citizenship in 1956. Until then I couldn't find a job and I had to work for the Americans as a driver.”

  • “We had short black trousers and gray shirts – that was our uniform. But it wasn't a uniform of the national socialists but of the members of the Turner. The Sokol members had their own uniform.”

  • “In the summer it was completely different. There were attacks every day and we were supporting the infantery attacks with artillery fire. There were battles every day. We were also providing communication between the headquarters and the front units.”

  • “I got into a hospital on the outskirts of Vienna and there I left my suitcase and went for a holiday to Budweis. When I returned from Budweis I found out that my belongings had been taken to Russia by Russian troops who had in the meantime occupied the surrounding areas of Vienna. That was the first time I didn't have anything but the things I had taken for the holidays to Budweis.”

  • “During Christmas time we had a period of darkness which lasted up to two months. We had to get used to it. We had two months of darkness, little food, inadequate clothing and equipment. The winter there was terrible. It was close to the Arctic Circle in the north. The nearest town was over 300 kilometers away, it was called Kuusamo. Another town was Rovaniemi, which is very famous today. Rovaniemi is on the northern perimeter but we didn't make it there anymore.”

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    ve Vídni, 17.11.2008

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We’re living well today but we’d have been even better off if we hadn’t been expelled from Czechoslovakia

Alfred Bäcker
Alfred Bäcker
photo: archiv T. Babkové

Alfred Bäcker was born in September 1921 in Budweis in a mixed marriage. His mother’s family was of Czech extraction while his father’s family was of German origin. His father worked in the Budweis gas works which had been built by Alfred’s grand father. According to the father’s family tradition, Alfred’s brother was given the name Wilhelm and as the family was proud of its German extraction, the younger Alfred was supposed to have a German name as well. For political reasons, however, he eventually was given an international name. Since the age of seven he was able to attend a German school due to personal changes in Budweis. Afterwards he attended a grammar school. He graduated in 1939 and thereafter was sent to Nuremberg where he was trained as a telephone operator. Later he was drafted to the army and was sent to Finland where he spent a year and a half. In Finland he reunited with his brother and together they returned home. However, he had to return to the war and he was wounded. He was transferred to Munich for treatment and recovery. In Munich he was given military training and then he was sent to the front again, this time to the west, to the Ardennes as a platoon leader. He was wounded again and was treated in hospital. Due to a lack of artillery officers he was soon thereafter transferred to Hungary where he suffered pneumonia after having spent a night on guard in a watchtower. He was again taken to a hospital in Vienna. After recovery he decided to return home and on this journey he was surprised by the end of the war and by guerrilla groups. Although he was arrested he managed to get to Dobrá Voda where his parents lived and from there they escaped with the fleeing German army across the border. Alfred Bäcker spent the rest of his life in Austria. Died September 10, 2012.