Corporal Josef Brabec

* 1924  †︎ 2015

  • “Look, it was in the war, we were in forests most of the time. We came out of the forest, we went to the front. The forest was cut at places and it stunk. There were so many killed people, bodies – human body awfully stinks. So we smoked, we had a proper smoke there otherwise we weren’t allowed to smoke. We carried on; we went for about a kilometer or two and the horrible stench again… And then foxes searched for bodies in forests. Something terrible, they ate the corpses. When a corpse was buried in a wrong way they rummaged it out and ate a bit of it.”

  • “My name is Josef Brabec, I was born in Poland. Then the Russians occupied us so I joined the Army in Russia, I was 20 then. We practiced in forests of Romania and then we went to the front in March. When we approached Romania we went to the Carpathians. We started fighting there on September 8. We got to the front. I was wounded in October and then we went to Dukla and it was a slaughter. I was shot there too.”

  • “When we dug up a hole at our place in Kybyčuvka, there were about 300 Jews with their families. They dug up a hole that was 2 meters deep, 3 meters wide and 8 meters long. They were bringing people who had to lie one by one crosswise heads next to one another. Lying they were shot by the Germans. They were bringing them by trucks from the ghetto from town. Some Jews ran away but Hampel (a leading German officer) killed many of them. The Ukrainians peached upon the Jews by the Germans. On the contrary, the Czechs hid the Jews. When the Ukrainians got to know about it, they immediately peached on the Czechs.”

  • “I got to Dukla, I was wounded there. I was running with a machine gun when all of a sudden a shell exploded behind me. We thrust and my mate Kvapil, he came from our village, he lay behind me and I jumped out with a machine gun. When I jumped out it exploded behind me. I felt hot air that pinned me down… I was thrown forwards and I fell down. I looked what happened. My leg tingled but I jumped up. The machine gun was thrown aside; I wanted to pick it up. My leg was broken, I only saw stars and collapsed. I looked over my shoulder and Kvapil was defending, rolling his eyes, his nerves thrilled. He lay and it exploded next to him. The shell tore him to pieces. It kills on the surface.”

  • “I lay and begged the nurse to massage my back. It was getting into my head. It is an inflammation, it paralyzes you and it gets into your head. Once it gets into the head it’s the end. As if something kicked – and in your head, such a nasty pain. I was sweating, it was something unbearable. I lay, I couldn’t speak. It held my teeth, my tongue moved. I could roll my eyes but I couldn’t move a finger so I just lay. I told the nurse somehow in Russian – she wouldn’t say a word – what I would like. I could speak Russian a bit. She went to ask and it was not up to me any more. Whether it happens or not. All of a sudden she came and turned me on the right hand side. My leg, my right leg, the wounded one, was in a full length plaster cast. She started tickling me. I had no shirt, no shorts, there was absolutely nothing on me. She was tickling even my back. I could breathe out so much easier then… Her tickling was helping me.”

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    Damnice (Jižní Morava), 13.07.2003

    duration: 01:15:05
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

“Let there be no war, nothing good is awaiting you there. Such eminent commissioned officer, who is a major or a general, stands back at a lookout point and observes from there. But soldiers, they go with manpower. And just in the East we fought through manpower. In the West they fought with iron.”

Josef Brabec
Josef Brabec

Corporal in retirement Josef Brabec was born in Volynia in Poland on January 3, 1924. Volynia region was first occupied by the Germans in 1939 and then by the Russians. The Russians behaved in quite a bad way because they oppressed people’s lives by high taxes for farmers. According to the Soviets the Brabecs were kulaks. They also had to pay high taxes. Both father and his son joined the Czechoslovak Army. The father stayed in Besarabia and was dismissed after two months. The witness underwent training in Romania and served as an infantryman (machine gunner). He was wounded in the battle of the Dukla Pass, he took part in the fights at Makhnovka. He got tetanus and out of the eleven wounded he was the only one who survived. He underwent medical treatment in Kislovodsk (the Caucasus). At the beginning of August 1945 when the war was over he was dismissed from the Army. He returned to Volynia and then he was repatriated to Czechoslovakia. Men from his home village were in Damnice, which was the reason for his going there. People from the village occupied the houses after the Germans. He shared a house with some Germans but they left for Germany on April 11, 1946. His girlfriend, his mother, father and sister followed him within one year time. After his arrival to Czechoslovakia he started his private farming. In 1958 he joined the Agricultural Cooperative where he worked till he retired. He passed away on November, 16th, 2015.