Erwin Baránek

* 1925  †︎ 2015

  • “We were all lying in front of the battle line. All of a sudden, my assistant machine gunner starts screaming. He got hit. So what now? Jump up? No way, they would shoot you the same second. It was at a village at the border of Luxembourg. So I jumped up and put my arms up in the air. I’ll never forget that moment. I heard the bullets buzzing all around my head. One came in just within an inch of my ear. They kept shooting at the others who were dug into the ground. There was the path and here was us. Where you have the stakes with the wire where the cattle are grazing, that’s where the path was somewhat elevated. So I took that guy and ran towards the Americans. I was wearing a Stahlhelm (helmet) on my head. The plan was to throw it away and put on a cap instead. One of the Americans kicked me in the buttocks. Not all too hard but just a little bit.”

  • “In the camp, we had a good life. If you wanted to you could work. Those who wanted to work were taken in a truck to the farms where they worked. I came to one family and even today, when I can’t fall asleep, I like to think about these people. They were so kind to me. They treated me like a god. They would smile at me all day long. I worked well for them. I did everything they wanted me to do. We ate together at one table. In the beginning, I even felt ashamed. I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. But they kept smiling at me. They spoke to me and I didn’t understand. I worked in the greenhouse. They had a big garden with three greenhouses.”

  • “I came for a vacation as a soldier. I had everything with me, my rifle and ammunition. I remember that as I was leaving Sudice I heard the bell in the church toll. At the place where you leave in the direction of Ratibořice, I turned around towards Sudice one last time and fired three rounds into the sky. In this way I symbolically said goodbye to the place.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Sudice, 11.09.2013

    (audio)
    duration: 02:20:41
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Eight years of involuntary service in the army

Erwin Baránek
Erwin Baránek
photo: archiv pamětníka

Erwin Baránek was born in 1925 in Hněvošice in the region of Hlučínsko. For over 150 years, Hlučínsko used to be a part of Prussia until it was ceded to Czechoslovakia by the Versailles Treaty in 1919. The inhabitants of Hlučínsko were called “Moravci” and the languages used in the region were the so-called “Moravština”, German and Czech. The same was true for the family of Erwin Beránek. Whereas most of the border regions of Czechoslovakia became part of the Sudetengau after the Munich Treaty, Hlučínsko was directly ceded to the Third Reich, becoming a part of Prussian Silesia. Its inhabitants thus automatically became citizens of the Reich with liability of compulsory military service. Therefore, after reaching maturity they were obliged to enlist in the Wehrmacht. Erwin Baránek thus first had to join the RAD (Reichsarbeitsdienst) and subsequently the Wehrmacht where he was among other things assigned to the guard of the submarine base in La Pallice in western France. In December 1944, he was taken captive in action by the Americans and spent the next two years in POW camps in England before he was released to go home in January 1947. Shortly after his return, however, he had to enroll for basic military service in the Czechoslovak armed forces where he served until 1950. All in all, he thus spent 8 years of involuntary service in the army. His brother Johann was drafted to the Wehrmacht close to the end of the war at the age of 18. He was captured on the eastern front line and spent several years in Soviet captivity. Died in2015.