František Bocek

* 1928

  • “When we came there we thought they would give us nice uniforms. The winter greatcoats were piled up on the floor and smeared with blood. We were just kids, young teenagers. The coats were way too long for us. We went to Katowice where they finally gave us our nice new uniforms. They dressed us up really neat. We didn’t even have to bring our own boots, they would us some but the boots were mostly torn. I think it must have been the boots of soldiers who had been killed. So we took those and a few hats, and we had to get dressed up really quickly because Ivan was already coming. There was the sea. Four meters and there was also a train and the railroad tracks. We took that train and went straight back again as quickly as we could. The Russians were already there. With the Germans in the big boats. It was banging. I saw the church falling down. I saw the Russians shooting. It was freezing there, - 34 degrees.”

  • “One guy was on guard and a grenade exploded in between us. The shrapnel cut open his side and ripped out his guts. He was holding them in his hands. He would keep saying: ‘Gott muss helfen’. God help me. Gott ist nicht. There’s no God. I saw too many dead in the war.”

  • “We were all on duty and would see each other only on holidays like Christmas. We met at my uncle’s place in Český Těšín. It was a very impoverished place. We didn’t have proper shoes and had to wear ‘krpce’ instead. You’d kill a pig, skin it and make sort of boots from the worked skin. It was made of the skin of the pig. These were no shoes. We’d call it krpce.”

  • “It was nearby Katowice. Our cannons were stationed there and each one was guarded by a patrol. A Polish partisan killed one of the guards. The Germans caught him and they shot him. He was from the city of Sosnowiec. They were shelling the city for the whole night. I asked the commander why we were bombarding the city. He said that it was because they killed our guard. They caught him. So 24 cannons were shelling the city and it was on fire within half an hour. Twenty four cannons and every single one had its own name. Our cannon had the name Conrad.”

  • “Three days prior to the arrival of the Russians, they were ordered to the trenches. They took my brother and put him on a train to Yakutsk, Siberia. There, he had to dig for gold. They were regularly up to 80 meters below ground. Those who died were thrown outside and the bears would feast on the corpses. That’s what the Russians did.”

  • “The fighter planes were flying circles above our heads and sprayed us with cannon fire. It was four of us plus our commander. All of us had to learn how to fire a machine gun. I was the last one. I grabbed that thing in my arm and the fighter came. We just couldn’t believe our eyes. The bullets were bouncing off that plane. It was just like throwing green peas against a wall. So he arrived and opened fire at me. There was a high chimney. There’s no such high chimney like that one in Jeseník. If it wasn’t for that chimney I wouldn’t be sitting here today. My legs were shaking for half an hour afterwards. I was completely terrified.”

  • “The commanders then went home and left us to ourselves. There was a box and we took the Russian grenades out of it. It was the kind of egg-grenades – we hadn’t used any of them. And already in the morning, we saw little American tanks on the fields in the distance. There was a footbridge and a ditch and we hid the grenades there. We came to one of the houses of the peasants. He didn’t want to have anything to do with us. He said: ‘get away from here’. The Americans came on a jeep. You should have seen them – they ripped away our epaulettes and our backpacks. We had backpacks as good as new. There were two shirts in there, a bottle, spoons and some food inside. We had all of this inside our backpacks. They poured a gas can on it and set it on fire. Four backpacks including the blankets. And then we had to run 7 kilometers to the nearest internment camp. There was an incredible amount of soldiers. At first we were just a few. But later, there must have been at least five thousand of us. We had to move three times. It was on a large field. There were Germans, Hungarians and Romanians. It was all under the open sky. We were lice-infested within three days.”

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    Javorník, 07.02.2012

    duration: 02:00:48
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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In the Wehrmacht by age sixteen

František Bocek in January 2012
František Bocek in January 2012
photo: Vít Lucuk

František Bocek was born in 1928 in the village of Bukovec (Bukowiec) nearby Jablunkov. František never got to see his father because his father left Czechoslovakia shortly before his birth to go to Uruguay to make money for the family. František only sent a couple of letters to his father before he stopped writing him. The family stopped receiving news from him and today they still don’t know what happened to him. After the Munich conference Poland annexed the region of Silesia including the village of Bukovec. Shortly after the beginning of World War II Nazi Germany occupied Silessia as well as the rest of Poland. This included the village of Bukovec, as it was integrated into Upper Silesia. Therefore, both of František’s brothers were forced to enlist in the Wehrmacht and go to war. Antonín came back, but Josef was captured by the Soviets and deported to Siberia. Here he spent over eight years in various Gulag camps. During this time his family had absolutely no information about him. After he was released and transferred to East Germany, he was being closely surveyed by the East German secret service (Stasi) till the collapse of the regime. In late 1944 - at the age of 16 - František Bocek had to enroll into the Wehrmacht as well. He saw action in nearby Königsberg (Kaliningrad) serving as a cannon munitions supplier for a Flak 88 cannon. He also fought at Katowice and Nuremberg. An American pilot nearly shot him in the village of Schwandorf. After the end of the fighting he was interned in Kulmbach. He was subsequently released but wasn’t allowed to leave the American zone of Germany. He spent some time in Bavaria working on a farm, but he ran away and made his way back home. Shortly after the war the whole family moved to Vápenná, in the region of Jesenicko. Today he lives in Javorník.