Jiří Bartoš

* 1926

  • “I was curious and have therefore witnessed them taking some fifteen German soldiers, their hands held above their heads. They arrived to our customs house and stopped. One of them had a bandaged head and a Russian soldier asked him: ‘Što ty?’ He understood and replied: ‘Unteroffizier’ – a non-commissioned officer. The Russian soldier ran to where I was standing because the commander was there. The commander had a luger in his hand. The Germans were hiding all around the houses, even in the bathrooms. The soldier ran past me and asked the commander: ‘What to do with them?’ He replied: ‘Shoot them.’ I did not know what was coming. The Russian soldier returned. As they lead them further, more Russian soldiers were joining in. Those fifteen soldiers have been killed there. The Russians immediately took whatever they had in their pockets. But they left the non-commissioned officer with a bandaged head alive. He went on and I was watching what was happening. He went to the back of the house. There, he returned and saw he was the only one left. That soldier with the luger was coming from the side, talking to another officer. When they got to the level of this non-commissioned officer, he shot twice, the guy fell down and they walked on.”

  • “It was Sunday 6 April 1941. My dad said: ‘Let’s do something in the garden.’ I agreed. I got out and heard this fantastic engine roar. Initially, I did not know what was happening because Yugoslavia did not have many airplanes. I looked around and saw airplanes coming in waves of fifteen from the East. They were raiding Belgrade. In a moment and without any ado or declaration of war, bombs started falling down. People were mostly asleep, it was about six a.m. The artillery then started shooting but their grenades exploded low, not gaining the required altitude. Desperate, I ran off hoping it was only an exercise. But the explosions were such that even at this distance, one could strongly feel the shock waves. I turned on the radio. Nobody knew anything, they played this light morning music, the bombs were falling and people were killing each other. That was how the war started.”

  • “I always liked to go to the movies. One Sunday I told my parents I was going to the movies. I took the tram and when I was halfway there, the air-strike sirens started screaming. I got out of the tram, we watched, nothing happened. After a while, they announced an end of the air strike. I rode all the way to the main square. There again, the air-strike sirens went off. I was watching and saw several airplanes high in the sky, one of them getting hit. The Germans had powerful cannons. The pilot jumped out with a parachute. I thought this had been it and went to the movies. I sat down and in about then minutes, the sirens started screaming again. I told myself: ‘Well, I may just as well leave this damn cinema!’ I got up and took the tram number six. We went for about a kilometre and suddenly, someone looked out of the window, shouting: ‘Oh my god!’ We asked: ‘What’s going on?’ There were tens of allied airplane squadrons raiding Belgrade. The tram driver speeded up, driving as fast as he could. We rode up the hill when bombs started falling. I ran into some house, there was an arch so I squeezed myself below it. Splinters were pouring all around. The bombs were falling into residential areas, although in the evening, they said they would only aim on military targets.”

  • “I sat down at the gate. There was a way out there and further on, there were only trenches. I piled up bricks, creating a peephole in order to see through. From there I was looking for someone to shoot. One day I had this prepared when they started systematically shooting from a mortar from the direction of Bosut river. When I saw where the shells were falling, it was clear to me that I was about to be hit, too. I did not know what to do. I went to hide inside a house. I could hear explosions outside, passing by. I went outside. From the church where our machine-gun was dug in – it was some thirty metres far – I heard: ‘Bartoš had died!’ There was a hit at precisely the place where I previously sat. I heard that and replied: ‘Bullshit, I am here!’ And I went on with piling up those bricks.”

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    Plzeň, 15.11.2013

    duration: 01:37:20
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The circumstances forced me, when I defended myself, I thought of nothing

3735-portrait_present_t1 BARTOŠ.jpg (historic)
Jiří Bartoš
photo: PB

Jiří Bartoš was born on 23 January 1926 in Belgrade. His father Karel was originally from Říčany near Prague. After fighting during the World War I at the Italian front, he remained in Belgrade, working in a pottery shop and marrying Julia Meťko from Daruvar. Jiří attended a Czechoslovak school where he had both Czech and Serbian teachers, and later trained to become a tile layer. Following Luftwaffe’s shelling of Belgrade and the ensuing occupation of the city by the German army in April 1941, he contributed to the family budget by repairing stoves and cookers. Hanged men publicly displayed in the main city square symbolized the brutality of the occupants. Belgrade was liberated in October 1944. The city was cleansed of the Germans; the captured soldiers were given no mercy. Right after liberation, Jiří joined the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia. He underwent a short training, later serving in partisan forces in the Srem region. He was lightly wounded during a battle by the village Vrbani. Following a recovery in Belgrade and Valjevo he was on the way back when he received the news of Germany’s capitulation. In Zagreb, he and his company were ordered to rest on the island of Krk. They disobeyed, instead sailing from Krk to Karlobag and taking part in the battles against the Ustaše. Jiří demobilized in March 1946 and in November that year moved to Czechoslovakia. From 7 January 1947 until his retirement, he worked in a pottery factory in Horní Bříza.