Josef Beneš

* 1936  

  • "My jsme byli na odloučeném pracovišti (pozn. pamětník mluví o výkonu vojenské služby u PTP v Rajhradě), tam nebylo tedy vůbec nic. Pokud tam přijel nějaký politický pracovník, jak oni si říkali, my jsme jim říkali naopak politický nepracovník, ta ti to u nás měli těžké. Tam třeba při tzv. politickém školení vstal kluk a řekl, že si mají na ta kasárna dát ještě nápis "Arbeit macht frei", to měli nacisté na koncentračních táborech, že práce osvobozuje. Vždyť tady je to to samé, vy jste nás prostě přinutili pracovat. Tam už jsme na tom prostě byli kádrově tak špatně, že na nás žádné výhrůžky nefungovaly."

  • "Sedli jsme na vlak, vzali jsme si jen, co jsme měli na sobě a jeli jsme do Břeclavi, odtud do Valtic, které jsou na hranicích. Tam jsme přijeli už za tmy, trochu jsme se tam porozhlédli, protože za dne to nešlo, no a asi kolem půl deváté jsme vyrazili k hranici. Psal rok 1956 a byl konec října. Šli jsme vinicemi, byl škaredy podzimní den, to si vzpomínám, chladno, pršelo, mlha. Pro nás to bylo ideální. Každý jsme měli své věci, tedy v tom smyslu, že každý jsme pro ten přechod měli rozdělené úkoly. Tatínek měl silné stříhací nůžky. Já měl u sebe pepř proti psům, protože jsme samozřejmě věděli, že hlídky chodí se psy. K hranici jsme se dostali o půl dvanácté. Vše bylo osvětlené, a protože pršelo, tak bylo vidět, že dráty jiskří. Ovšem nevěděli jsme, že jsou tam natahaná lanka, která když člověk překročil, tak signalizovala. A když jsme byli od hranice asi tak sto metrů, tak začaly létat signální rakety, které celý prostor více osvětlovaly. Rychle jsme utíkali k hranici, tatínek si chystal nůžky, přiběhli jsme a začali stříhat. Ale v tu chvíli už k nám z obou stran mířily gazíky plné vojáků. Cesta dopředu byla uzavřená. Otec řekl, že nemáme šanci, ještě ke všemu dostal ránu elektrickým proudem z drátů, a tak jsme se dali na útěk zpět ke zdi valtického zámku. Celou oblast až někam k Židlochovicím obsadili vojáky a začali stahovat kruh. Vydrželi jsme dva dny v kukuřici, pořád pršelo, a pak jsme se rozešli k železnici s tím, že někde nastoupíme na vlak. Ovšem všechny železniční stanice byly obsazené vojáky a v okamžiku, kdy jsme se blížili, tak proti nám vojáci, samopaly a... to bylo dost drsné."

  • "Klíčové bylo, že v roce 1946, když byly volby, tak můj tatínek jako baťovec, nemohl být jinak než-li proti komunistům, protože bylo jasné, že bude to, co bylo v Rusku. Znárodňování majetku, prostě značné trable pro lidi jako byl on. Jezdil na kole po vesnicích okolo a tam lidem říkal, že když komunisté říkají, že nebudou dělat kolchozy, můžu Vám říct, že do pěti let, když vyhrají volby, zde kolchozy máte. Já jsem jezdíval s ním, tatínek mě vzal tzv. na štangli, a já jsem tam kolem něj poskakoval. Někteří lidé mu tleskali, někteří lidé na něj nadávali, to už tak chodilo. No a samozřejmě přišly volby a víme z dostupných materiálů, jak dopadly. Komunisté dostali celostátně třicet osm a půl procenta hlasů, což bylo dost, ale málo na to, aby získali moc. Tatínek s maminkou byli ve vesnici jediní dva, kteří hodili tzv. bílé lístky. Volby byly povinné, ale pokud si člověk nemohl vybrat ze čtyř stran, které byly k dispozici, tak mohl použít bílý lístek, který říkal, já se do toho nechci plést, bylo to jako kdyby se neúčastnil. Když se tatínek dozvěděl výsledky voleb celostátně, že v Praze vyhráli komunisté se čtyřiceti pěti procenty, v Brně naopak, třicet pět, a vyhráli suverénně národní socialisté a v Třebíči čtyřicet pět procent komunisti, tak řekl, že v tomto rudém hnízdě nebude bydlet. V roce 1947 jsme se tedy stěhovali do Brna. Ale pracovně stále tatínek zůstával na Třebíčsku. Ovšem po únoru 1948 za ním přišli, aby podepsal přihlášku do KSČ. No a otec řekl jednoznačně, nekolaboroval jsem s nacisty, nebudu kolaborovat s komunisty. Tak mu řekli, že má šanci do pondělí, a potom letí. Otec nic nepodepsal, vyletěl a dělat opět skladníka."

  • “I don’t remember Sokol from the First Republic. After the war, in forty-five, Mum immediately joined Sokol, me too, my sister too. We trained in the countryside, right. And Scouting. Those were the two organisations I’ve ever been part of. Of course, like my mother remembered, when they banned both Sokol and Scouting in 1950. I was at the rally in forty-eight, where they told us to turn our head away and call out ‘long live President Beneš’ while passing the grand stand with the current president [at the time], which was Gottwald. That was in 1948, four or five months after [the] February [coup]. Well, and of course they banned Sokol, they banned Scouting too. Well, so Mum said: ‘Just like the Nazis.’ They didn’t want them. Because those were organisations that fostered a love of the homeland in people, with no strings attached.”

  • “And this one thing happened in Brno in 1951. I remember it because we were looking out from the school in Šujanova [Street], because we happened to be at that school at the time, those three months. And suddenly we heard that the gasworks and the heat plant were shutting down, the smoke stopped. And people were saying there’d be a strike. The first such strike here. People came out of the factories and into the streets, they went to Freedom Square, and it was said that the crowd that gathered there on 2 December 1951 went unrivalled until the year eighty-nine. Nothing like it ever happened in the years between. Until then, people had been paid out a so-called Christmas bonus. It was like a thirteenth [monthly] wage. They got some money before Christmas. That had been established, I don’t know, since the First Republic [a period of Czechoslovakia from 1918-1938 - trans.] in some companies. But it’d certainly been in the years 46, 47, 48 to 51. Except the regime was so hard put that it couldn’t afford to pay the bonuses out in 1951. The people, when they found out, they went on strike. Specifically, from what I know for sure, at the arms factory in Zábrdovice, they locked the workers in, closed the gates - and those gates were solid - the workers took chains and tractors and ripped them out, the gates, so they could get out. That happened sometime around one o’clock, after lunch. They ripped them out and set off along the Cejl to the square. And they did the same in Líšeň, the same at the First Brno Works, and so on. And they all met up [in the square]. I went there later on, after school. I used to walk from school sometimes. So I went there, it was getting towards evening, it was dark, five p.m., one bloke jumped up on the ‘gampl’. There were rails leading along the one side of Freedom Square back then, where the tram line was, and there was this elegant tram stop there, it was covered, and the roof was kind of shaped like a bolete - so it was called the ‘gampl’, which is German for ‘bolete’. And this bloke jumped up on it and began a speech, saying we had to start a revolution. Suddenly, some ten or so men appeared there, stetsecs [State Security officers - trans.], and they started pulling him down. The bloke was gripped with a terrible fear, you could hear that. And he said: ‘Friends, you won’t give me up, will you!’ I was there, I saw it. And the people roared: ‘No we won’t!’ And they simply chucked the men out of there. They pulled back. Well, but then the militia came along, the army, policemen. They nabbed the ones who didn’t leg it. And supposedly, 150 people received harsh prison sentences.”

  • “So we decided we’d go that day. Neither of us went to work that morning. We packed. We left practically everything here the way it was. We dressed normally. We each had gloves because we knew there’d be fences with high voltage there. So thick gloves. And we took wire cutters with us. We travelled to Břeclav, from Břeclav to Valtice, we were there in the afternoon. It was a dismal, damp autumn day. Which suited us. Dogs can’t smell so much, soldiers can’t see so much, it’s raining, something’s going on. We walked from the Valtice train station along the manor wall. We reached the top, and we knew that the fences were ahead of us some five hundred metres. And then there’d be another five hundred metres or so from the wires to the border. We started crawling, in case we’d be seen by a patrol. Except when we came to a certain distance, rockets started suddenly exploding in the sky. They had some kind of tripwires there, and when you stepped on them, they set off a fireworks, which lighted everything up. So we rushed up to the wires. Dad started cutting. It was raining, and that affects the conductivity, of course, so Dad got an awful shock. I was helping kind of dig under it, the first layer. Except then we saw some jeeps and four-wheelers driving up both from the sides and from behind the fences. We kept on trying all we could, if perhaps we could make it. Then it was clear we wouldn’t, they were some 100 metres away. So we ran back inland. And we hid. They caught us on the third day. Except we were [ousted] by hunger. Hidden in the maize. We tried to get away. We were stuck in a constant crouch. They had us surrounded, they were closing in, and we knew that if we didn’t come out with our hands above our heads, they’d shoot us. And in the end I was landed with a few months, Dad got a bit more. Except Dad was so ill that in the end they released him in 1957 as well. Dad had to go to a mental asylum for a half a year. He couldn’t sleep. During the first interrogations they’d sent a current into his body, to force him to speak, that’s what they did back then. Well, and he’d gotten that shock on the border, then this second one, so he couldn’t sleep. Well, so Dad spent a few months there. And then he went, went, went... until he died at the start of the 1960s.”

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    Brno, 07.07.2016

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    Brno, 17.01.2020

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Never be afraid, and know that you’re working for a good cause

Josef Beneš, 1932
Josef Beneš, 1932

Josef Beneš was born on 2 December 1936. His parents, Josef and Zdena (née Kukurcová), worked at the Baťa shoe factory in Zlín. When Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the family had already moved to Stařeč near Třebíč. Josef’s father refused to collaborate with the Nazis, and so he was removed from his management position. After the war he travelled to the surrounding villages and warned people not to vote the Communists in the 1946 election. Following the Communist coup in February 1948, the family moved to Brno. Josef attended an extended grammar school. When the regime dissolved this type of school, he was barred from continuing his studies. So he trained as a cook. Josef Beneš Sr began planning the family’s emigration in the 1950s. He secured legal departure from the country for his wife and daughter. He and his son attempted to illegally cross the border to Austria in October 1956. They hungered in a maize field for three days while hiding from border guards. To save their lives, they finally decided to leave their hiding and surrender with their hands held up. Josef and his father were sentenced to several months of prison for attempting to cross the border illegally. Josef’s father was tortured with electric shocks during interrogations. He never recovered from the consequences of his torture or imprisonment. He died in 1964. After his release Josef Beneš Jr was drafted into the Auxiliary Engineering Corps (forced labour) in Rajhrad in 1957. He was not released from service until three years later. Until 1989 he worked as a cook, a waiter, and a driver. He is now retired and lives in Brno.