Robert Bardfeld

* 1925  †︎ 2019

  • “One of my schoolmates was in the hospital with lung edema, and another one was also in the hospital because of his festered legs, and the remaining four were gradually leaving the work in the quarry as they were being transferred to other, worse worksites, and eventually I was the only one who stayed in the quarry. December was nearly there. I had no calories to keep going on [laughing], it was getting cold, and I thought: Christ, I will not survive the winter here. Alone in the quarry. And so I reported sick. And I really did feel awful. The male nurse in the hospital was German, and he took my temperature and reported that I had fever. I have the card from the hospital with me, they kept a register, and it is written there that I was admitted to the fourth room in the internal medicine ward.”

  • “Some groups - two to five young men - were released, but at the same time, they began sending those, who had been marked so before, to concentration camps. At first two seventh-graders were sent to Flossenbürg, that’s a place near Cheb but on the German side of the border. I have never been there. Their names were Vorlický and Zeman, and they went to Flossenbürg. They have survived the war, but they are no longer alive now. I and five of my schoolmates were sent to Buchenwald, and the rest, Kubík, for instance, were sent to Auschwitz. Unfortunately, there was this tragedy that one girl from the seventh grade was released, but after her return home she sent a letter to another girl – her friend and fellow prisoner – to Terezín, and they intercepted the letter. This girl, Sylva, was thus brought back to Terezín, and from there she was sent to Auschwitz, where she died a short time after.”

  • “There was a Czech medical student, and another Czech worked there as a janitor in the operation theater. He was not a medic, but he was there to scrub the floors and clean the windows. His name was Pepík Beran and he was from Pelhřimov. The two naturally supported me – a gaunt Czech student. When the lights were out in the evening, they would pass me a piece of bread or a cooked potato. And I was not doing anything, just lying there and eating the bits. I was also helping them with feeding the prisoners who were unable to eat themselves, or with changing clothes of those who had soiled themselves. I could not just lie there and look at them while doing nothing.”

  • “One day, he (Jöckl, the commander of Terezín – author’s note), when the warden Storch, who was one of the worst people there, informed him that we worked too little or too badly, ordered that we would be given no soup that day and that the group that worked there would be detained in a special cell. This was way too much even for the warden. Or he ordered the wardens to do make us ´exercise.´ That meant that they forced us to roll on the ground in the dirt and the wardens were jumping among us with heavy boots. They didn’t care if they stepped on you. They smashed somebody’s head or hand, for instance. After that we were supposed to go to that special cell, but Jöckl’s deputy let us go.”

  • “The Americans were advancing from the west to the east in a crazy speed. But their supplies ran behind and therefore they stopped in Erfurt for one week, which was fifty kilometres from Buchenwald. During that week, the wardens evacuated nearly half of the camp and sent them on death marches. That was quite bad. But we voted on this in the hospital, or decided that we would not evacuate because we could not leave the poor bedridden prisoners. Only one of us asked to be included in that transport. He probably hoped that he would run away during the march. But all the others said that they would not go anywhere.”

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    Praha, 23.01.2013

    duration: 04:44:11
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Imagine what it had to be like for the parents

Robert Bardfeld, 1942
Robert Bardfeld, 1942
photo: archiv Roberta Bardfelda

  Prof. MUDr. Robert Bardfeld, CSc., was born June 10, 1925 in Dobřichovice near Prague. Due to his father’s job as a mechanical engineer the family often moved and Robert thus spent his childhood in Prague, Most, and finally in Roudnice nad Labem. He also had to change schools several times and he attended elementary schools in Prague-Smíchov and in Prague-Vršovice and then the grammar school in Most and later in Roudnice nad Labem. It was here that he and other students were arrested on June 20, 1942 for alleged planning of the assassination of oberlehrer Bauer, the principal of the German school in Roudnice. Although Robert Bardfeld was not involved in this plot, he and the other students were taken to the Small Fortress in Terezín. He was interrogated here and as a prisoner he had to work on the construction of a swimming pool for the Small Fortress commander Jöckl. Later he commuted to Ústí nad Labem to work on the railways and to Lovosice to work in a chemical factory there. Most of the students were released after three months, but for various reasons several of them, including Robert Bardfeld, were sent to concentration camps. Together with five other schoolmates he was transported via Leipzig, Halle an der Salle and Weimar to Buchenwald, where he spent further three years from October 8, 1942 to May 11, 1945. At first he was assigned to the penal work division (Strafkompanie), which had to do the most demanding jobs. Robert was sent to work in a quarry, but he became ill and was admitted to the Buchenwald hospital. The head doctor supported him and issued him a false confirmation that he was unable to work, arranging for Robert to stay and help out in the hospital laboratory. After three months, Robert was released from the Strafkompanie and allowed to work in the laboratory “legally.” After the liberation of the Buchenwald camp by the U. S. army on May 11, 1945, he continued serving in the laboratory and returned home as late as May 20, 1945. He passed the graduation exam in the same year after attending a fast-track course for young people whose studies had been interrupted by the war. In 1945 he began studying medicine. He completed his studies in 1950 and began working in Písek in the department of internal medicine and in the pediatric department. His medical career was only interrupted for two years when he did his compulsory military service. Then he returned to Písek and subsequently transferred to Prague where he was offered a position in the Institute of Rheumatology. He continued working there even past his retirement age. He successfully passed the academic examinations and was awarded the degrees candidate of sciences, associate professor and professor. He had married his former fellow student from the Roudnice grammar school before doing his military service, and he now lives with his wife in Prague. Robert Bardfeld died in 2019.