„We were in the mines. I was with the diggers. We would do a tunnel so they could get coal and lay tracks for mining carts. That was a better job to some degree. The worst part was the equipment. You had just a tin can with food tied on your back and a spoon in your pocket. That was your equipment.”
„They set up a brigade and I was able to communicate with them so they made me an interpreter. I did what I could. I communicated with the Russian. We built a residence for some general. After that we were collecting hay in Kolmer. And we were ambushed by Banderites. They shot all the guards and we could run away, but where could we run to, where to...”
“The work didn't bother me much as I was used to it. And there was enough food. There was plenty of food. In the military. At the Technical Auxiliary Battalions. There was meat and everything – and I could eat as much as I wanted to. Even at home I couldn't live like that as my parents had no money. Just this small pension, social pension, the smallest one, three hundred. That was nothing, right? I didn't feel like... Like on Christmas, they wanted to send me home and I didn't want to go. As I wouldn't have nothing like this at home. There was plenty of food, you could eat as many schnitzel as you wanted to, and just everything. There was tea with rum in it on the Christmas Eve, so I had quite a good time."
„It was quite common for people to escape, but if they were caught, the whole camp had to stand attention. And as a deterrent they would drag them to this rostrum. There were Mongols, quite big men, among the soldiers. And they would give them beating. Many times they were bleeding, as they were lying there beaten.”
„This German woman got involved with a Pole somehow. And they found out, so they would lead her across Mohelnice. They would share her head and policemen led her across Mohlenice with this board with this message in German: 'Ich Sau... I, a pig, had a relationship with a foreigner.' They dragged that poor woman all across Mohelnice, that's something I remember.”
„Then the train came, it was full of elderly men and women. They put us in and off we went. We were in cattle cars full of people, floor was covered with straw. There were both men and women, and we saw various things happen, indecent things we had never seen before. For a toilet there was just a hole in the floor and a plank to sit on. So there wasn't much of luxury I would say.“
Vladimír Bernát was born on December 27th 1927 to a large Czech family living in Mohelnice. Following the Munich Agreement, the Bernáts were one of the few Czech families that stayed in the town occupied by the Germans. Before his fourteenth birthday, Vladimír had been loaded into a cattle train and sent to perform forced labour in Nazi Germany. Shortly before the end of the Second World War he had been ordered to dig trenches near the town of Neisse. As he was issued a German uniform he found himself in another train a month later. This time he was heading to the Soviet Union as a prisoner of war, where he had to endure terrible living conditions for almost five years. After he finally left the gates of a prisoner-of-war-camp, he didn’t get home, as he was repatriated to the newly established Federal Republic of Germany. It took him a year and a half to get to Czechoslovakia where a Communist regime had already been established. As a prisoner of war coming back from the hostile country of the Western Block, he faced suspicion and was drafted into the Auxiliary Technical Battalions and sent to work in the mines for two more years. After leaving the army, he did a blue-collar job in MEZ Mohelnice enterprise till retirement. In 1954 he married Jarmila Šlesingerová and fathered five children. In 2018, when the interview was recorded, he had been living in Mohelnice. Vladimír Bernát passed away on November 3rd, 2020.