Robert Birnbaum

* 1929

  • “When the Gestapo came for Dad, you just can’t imagine, it was pandemonium. They opened all the [cupboards - ed.] and threw everything out - bedclothes, dresses, underwear, all on one pile. Then they took Dad and left. I remember it perfectly. I can still see how I wanted to say goodbye to Dad. I jumped into his arms in the corridor. And the Gestapo man took me and threw me at the wall like this. It’s as if I could still feel the pain in my back.”

  • “In 1944, before Christmas, they closed our school, and we had to go dig trenches for the front. So we dug trenches around Brno for [German - ed.] soldiers, so they could defend themselves against the approaching Russian army. So we didn’t attend school then.”

  • “[Q: What memories do you have of the 11th All-Sokol Rally in Prague in 1948?] It was a tremendous, incredible experience for me. I was nineteen at the time, it was my first year as a man. We practised [a routine - ed.] in Puklice, and there were awfully strict exams. At the Sokol hall in Jihlava, our nine-man team had to present our routine. Then the judges marked both the whole thing and each of us separately. And it was an incredible experience for me to pass through the Gate of Athletes in Strahov [in Prague - ed.]. You just can’t imagine [the feeling you have - ed.] when you walk through the Gate of Athletes. It’s hard to talk about it with someone who wasn’t there.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    pamětníkův byt, Jihlava, 17.03.2016

    duration: 51:59
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

In sports, you have to accept both victory and defeat, and the same applies in life

photo: archiv pamětníka

Robert Birnbaum was born on 20 March 1929 in Puklice near Jihlava. His father Robert Birnbaum Sr was the administrator of the large Puklice farming estate. In 1941 the witness’s father was arrested by the Gestapo (possibly for resistance activities) and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he died. His grandmother was also persecuted by the Nazis; she survived Terezín only to die in the extermination camp of Treblinka. The witness attended a secondary technical school of mechanics in Brno; he later studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague. At Christmas 1944 the Germans closed his school, and Robert Birnbaum and his classmates were assigned to forced labour until the end of the war, digging trenches around Brno. After graduating from secondary school in 1947, he found a job at PAL (later Motorpal) in Jihlava, where he worked until his retirement. He did sports his whole life, he played league football and trained in Sokol from his childhood. After the organisation was dissolved, he was active in the Czechoslovak Union of Physical Education and Sports. He participated in four All-Sokol Rallies and all the national Spartakiads. He also organised district spartakiads, for which he was awarded a state Medal of Merit for Development.