JUDr. Gerhardt Karel Bubník

* 1935

  • "No memorizing is required there at all, but study. And it's constant, daily, in the sense that it's a bit like at secondary school - what they demand of you. Professors set assignments from a lesson to next one. From a lecture to next lecture. But it´s independent study: the professor gives you a reading list, a list of court precedents, what you need to study for the next time. And lectures don´t really look like our concept of lectures, the professor doesn´t stand there and present his opinions and theories and he doesn't read it at all, of course, it would be completely impossible for a professor to read something from a book. No, he starts the lecture or the class with a kind of introduction and there is a normal discussion. And the professor even calls you out because he wants to get to know you. He writes your grades in his notebook during the semester. And he encourages you to discuss, argue, think creatively. Analyze what you've studied. And you're equal to equal."

  • "In the end, I succumbed to this persuasion, not pressure. I kind of thought, enough of all this: the persecution pronounced during the war, then certain discrimination at the faculty, discrimination at job placement, discrimination at races and now [I was discriminated] as a referee. It was the year sixty-two [or] sixty-three, and even in our city bar association and in our law office – actually, I have to go back to explain circumstances in the bar association and what it meant. There had to be a party organization in the Prague bar association as well. But lawyers, with perhaps one or two exceptions, didn´t want to join it. The [communist] organization was obligatory and it had to have at least ten percent [of members]. That meant about twenty [or] twenty-five people. You'll laugh at it today, but that's the way it was among us lawyers. As I said, we all knew each other well and trusted each other, actually, it was more like drawing a lottery ticket, to choose someone who would have to do it. And there was always, I would say, a lack [of members]. So in that year sixty-two, when I was being persuaded at the figure skating, the bar association actually supported it as well. So I submitted the application, and as I wrote in my book later, it was actually my failure, I still consider it a failure to this day, I have apologized for it. Even though I never used my membership in the Communist Party in other way than to do my sport work and activities. I never held any position, neither in the party nor in the state bodies. After 1990, because I had a clean lustration certificate - I never cooperated with any security, with any state police - I was offered various positions as a professional who could speak languages, and I was the only one here who was a Harvard law graduate, we haven't mentioned that yet. But I turned them all down because I am aware of..., I didn´t conceal my membership and make a new career, as other people did."

  • "On May 4, which was a Friday, the day before the outbreak of the Prague Uprising, we learned that prisoners were being brought from concentration camps. Namely, down in Vršovice, near Koh-i-noor [company], to a school called Fajglovka. So my brother and I ran there through the meadows and fields, and we saw prisoners coming out of the trucks, some of them still in their striped clothes, some of them on stretchers. Somehow, we naively had hoped that maybe our parents or at least one of them would be there. But unfortunately, that didn't happen. And another incident happened: as I was standing there, a German officer was standing near me, and suddenly something whistled, the German officer collapsed. Apparently, somebody shot him. My brother and I immediately started to run back home across the fields in a panic. And we and the inhabitants of our and neighbouring house, spent the Prague Uprising in the cellar on coal heaps. Days and nights. Because as we were isolated, from those German barracks Na Míčánkách in front of us - there was nothing between them and our house - they were shooting at the houses, into the windows, and when they saw someone coming out or in a window, they were shooting. And that's how one of our friends, Vašek Dostál, died. Just for a moment,he carelessly went out of the front door and was shot immediately."

  • "Our flat was very small. A tiny kitchen, I think it might have been sixteen [square] metres, and a tiny room of about twenty metres. There was no space at all, there were four beds in the room for us to sleep in, and two wardrobes. And in the kitchen [there was] a big coal stove, a kitchen cupboard, an old kitchen table and chairs - and that was it. So even for four of us it was quite small. And now, in that year forty-two, it happened that my mum´s Jewish relatives came from Jablonec, they had to register to the transports in Prague, there was an assembly point in Holešovice, where the Parkhotel is today. So there were maybe six or seven of us sleeping there, four or five were adults. I know that we slept even on the ground. I also have a memory that will never fade away, which is that, in fact, my mum kept sewing day and night, those days when my relatives were getting ready for the transports. She had a Singer treadle sewing machine - she was a seamstress, because they didn't know how it was going to work in the camps. They didn't know much. She was always sewing quilted vests and quilted felt boots for all of them on the machine, so that in those camps - they knew they were going to Terezín which meant to the ghetto - so that at least they would have some warm clothes. The machine was really running day and night."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 30.03.2021

    duration: 01:42:58
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 08.04.2021

    duration: 01:56:27
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 13.04.2021

    duration: 01:54:53
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Advocacy was thought to be “a bourgeois relic” that would not be needed under the communist regime

Gerhardt (Karel) Bubník after the war
Gerhardt (Karel) Bubník after the war
photo: Witness´s archive

Gerhardt Karel Bubník was born on 23 July 1935 in Prague into a mixed Czech-Jewish family. His Jewish mother, Eliška, was protected by her marriage with his father Oskar for most of the war, but his mother’s relatives were gradually transported to the Terezín ghetto. None of them survived the war. When the Nazis also targeted mixed marriages in 1944, the witness´s father was interned first - he went through the Klein Stein and Osterode labour camps designated for non-Jewish spouses of Jewish women. Witness´s mother was ordered to go to Terezín in January 1945, and after her deportation, nine-year-old Karel and his brother Robert, sixteen months older, were left home alone. Their mother’s German friend Marie Waldenová helped them to survive, but she was taken away by the rebel guards during the Prague Uprising. When the war ended, both parents returned, but the father was in a very poor condition. After the war, Karel Bubník studied at an English grammar school and got a degree in law in 1958. By that time, he was also representing Czechoslovakia in figure skating, but he gave up his active career because he was banned from travelling to the West. He then worked as a referee. In order to be able to referee at the highest international level, he finally joined the Communist Party in 1962. He worked in a law firm, went to the USA in 1968 to study for a year at Harvard Law School, and decided to return to Czechoslovakia at the end of 1969. During the normalization period, he defended citizens against the state, e.g., acting on behalf of emigrants trying to legalize their stay abroad. Because of his contacts with foreigners, State Security tried to start cooperation with him in the early 1970s, but he unequivocally refused. After the Velvet Revolution, he founded a private law firm with a colleague and continued to work as a voluntary sports official. In 2007, the International Olympic Committee awarded him the Olympic Order, and two years later the Anti-Doping Award. In 2016, he was inducted into the Legal Hall of Fame. In 2017, he published a book of his memoirs, Life Among Paragraphs [Law and Sport:My Passions, Amazon edition, trans.]. Karel Bubník lives in Prague and donates considerably to charity.