Miloslav Čeřenský

* 1918  

  • “So my brother was here in Pardubice. I’ll start with my brother and then will go on… So he was a professional army officer in a cavalry regiment. The name of this regiment was the 8th regiment of saint Wenceslaw. There was a cavalry training ground here and he was a lieutenant. In 1939 the Gestapo was after him but he managed to escape and serve in the Czechoslovak army abroad. As the exterritorial Czechoslovak army had comparably many officers but few rank and file soldiers he served in the Middle East as a cavalry officer with the Englishmen. Only after the Czechoslovak armed forces formed did he join them. He then served in Tobruk as a “Tobruk rat”. He served all of the Tobruk period and then went with Klapálek through the Middle East to Russia. After a strict cadre screening he was allowed to fight on the Eastern front. Here’s an interesting story. My brother fought in the battles for Dukla pass. He was put into combat at Machnovka, where Czechoslovak officers were employed as “kanónenfutr” (cannon fodder). The Russians simply needed to fill a gap caused by a German breakthrough so they used a Czechoslovak army unit. My brother survived Dukla but he was wounded in one of the later heavy fighting at Mikuláš. He returned to Czechoslovakia in the rank of a Major, which means he made it from lieutenant to Major in just five years. I have one more interesting story. Because my brother didn’t greet our comrades who came to “restore order” in 1968, he was downgraded and sentenced to fifteen years of prison in Mírov. After an appeal the sentence was reduced to seven years and my brother indeed spent three and a half year behind bars. And he was downgraded… that’s the way our fatherland or rather the Communists used to reward… Besides that, my father was a typographer, working here in Pardubice in the company Vokolek and son, a typographer, a machine typesetter, and my mother was looking after the house and the family. She was originally trained as a seamstress.”

  • “And this very building was marked as “Arest”. So there was more absurdities like this in Mauthausen... They would, for instance, fence off block nr. 6, herd in the inmates and conduct experiments on them. I spent half a year on block six and they did experiments with me, too. They took my blood. Another thing was to divide the inmates into two groups, each on a differing diet. The one half were on a so-called “Ostkost” (“eastern diet” – usually buckwheat mush), the other half had Nährehefekost – which in Czech means as much as yeast diet. They would feed us with yeast only and take blood samples. They kept us on block six for half a year with the strictest security provisions. It was prohibited to leave the building and to eat anything but yeast. And this friend of mine, Ludvík Kratochvíl, used to bring me a piece of bread every morning in the stone pit. I have no idea where he got it. This helped me to make it through and survive the awful yeast diet.” “Well, this is comparatively bearable but did they conduct some harsher experiments?” “Yes, they did all kinds of experiments. For instance at this Arest, there was a large room in the cellar where you could easily accommodate 8 – 10 people. So they would infect the group of inmates with lice and then try to get them rid of the lice in various ways. This was because the German soldiers were suffering from infections with these parasites on the eastern front. So they were trying to find ways and means how to solve this problem. They would try some sort of powder, vaccines and other things to remove the lice. I was lucky to evade these “experiments”. I escaped because I was on the “Ostkost” diet at that time.” “According to what pattern did they choose the victims of the experiments?” “They would weigh us, and they would take samples of blood all of the time.” “How would they choose you, you’d just go there or was it by chance?” “Yes it happened entirely randomly. Sunday morning, this “freistuba” would tell me: “Pack your stuff, you’re going to six, and that was it.” “Did you know what it meant?” “No I didn’t. And then we found out that the block had been fenced off and that they would be doing experiments there. But we didn’t know what’s going to happen to us. Nobody knew anything because no one told us a thing.” “Was there some kind of a doctor who was responsible for this?” “We had to go to this external laboratories, which were located outside of the camp three times or so a week. Our boys with chemical or medical education were working in these labs. They took the blood and urine, filled in some charts and analyzed the results. Because all the men from the SS who weren’t guards had to go to the war. There was a great shortage of men.

  • “I got involved through my father but of course we knew that we were being watched as my brother had left the country. There were a lot of “Czech patriots” who were denouncing for personal benefits.” “And the Protectorate police was interested in you because your brother was somewhere abroad? Did you report him as missing or lost?” “We had reported him as unaccounted for or missing but the Gestapo were pursuing each case of a lost officer of the Czechoslovak army separately so they pretty much knew he’s abroad. And when this affair around Valčík broke out, a lot of arrests took place. As you know, Valčík and the others had documents, IDs and everything, for example a certain Pištora, who was a social democrat as well, was a very close acquaintance of us and he provided him with these documents. He was working at the district’s Institute of National Health so he had the possibility to issue some health-related documents to these people. I later met him in the Pardubice prison. I saw him when they herded us into the showers. He was all beaten up, beaten up really bad. His Back and buttocks was all ripped from the interrogations of the Gestapo.” “So when these parachutes were dropped here some time around the eve of 1941/1942, they had some contact addresses right? They went to hotel Veselka?” “Yes, they went to hotel Veselka, which is not far from here. The hotel owner Košťál took them under cover as hotel employees and they were sending information to London via the radio set Libuše, which was located in Skuteč in Ležáky.” “Then Hladina got involved, right?.” “Yes, Hladina and his wife, whose maiden name was Branešičová. I’m the last one who saw her alive here in the prison in Pardubice. It was called “pracovna” (working room) if you know what that means. It means “donucovací pracovna” (coercive/enforcement working room). I saw her walking alone in the courtyard. Even the inmates had their walk rounds. I had to violate the restrictions and stand on a bench to see her across the whole hall walking around the courtyard. So I saw this Táňa Vladěnová as one of the last ones alive walking on the courtyard. She was a very beautiful woman, not just her face, but also the feminine shapes of her body...” “There was some tension in the relationship, right? This Hladine was already older.” “That’s right, he was older, he was a motorcycle racer, well, their relationship… you know, I’ve heard it too… it’s possible but who…” “So your father got involved in the resistance movement through Hladina and the owner of hotel Veselka?” “Well, not only my father! It was dozens of people from Pardubice and the environs. The Pardubice and the Chrudim districts were both involved. Everybody needed someone to help him with documents or some attestations, or maybe to be officially employed somewhere etc. You needed a stamp for everything and this official stamp was provided by the people working in the public service. “So you got to the resistance movement through your father?” “I helped through my father, yes.” “So what did you do in particular, what was your specific work?” “It was intelligence information gathering, nothing more, but as my father was engaged and my brother was abroad, when the “Heydrichiáda” (the fierce campaign of reprisals and retributions to the Czech nation after the assassination of Heydrich – note by the translator) started, all of this was more then enough to get us all arrested. And my father was arrested on June 1 and executed on June 4 here in Pardubice in Zámeček with his friend, some Mr. Ruml. I was sent to Mauthausen with the note “Rückkehr unerwünscht” – return undesirable...”

  • “It was a 3rd grade camp. This meant that everyone entering it had a note in his papers saying: “Rückkehr unerwünscht” (return undesirable). This was indeed true. The commander of the camp, whose name was Ziereis, liked to “greet” newcomers by telling them: “Entlassung von hier is möglich nur durch Kamin” (the release from this camp is possible only through the chimney). Entlassung durch Kamin... There were three crematories in Mauthausen and all of them were in permanent operation. Flames were lashing against the sky day and night. There’s such a hillock called Ludwigsberg in Mauthausenu. But you’re supposed to ask me questions, I don’t know what else to say.” “You went from Prague on a transport?“ “In a train, in a transport via Budweis to Kaplice, where the frontier of the Protectorate was located. Not in Dolní Dvořiště but up here already. When we arrived we got off at such a small train station in Mauthausen. It was a small station, there’s a different one there today.” “What was it like when you arrived there?” “It was terrible. On the way to the camp, which led outside of civilization, SS-men accompanied our group which consisted of some ten to fifteen people. There were elderly people as well who couldn’t walk as fast as the SS-men demanded. So they were beating these poor people with their rifle butts to speed them up. As we were approaching the camp, we saw to our left the so-called “Russen-lágr”. They assumed that they would win the war and take hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners. Therefore they were building a huge POW camp which was supposed to stand on a huge plain. It was an endless plain – you couldn’t see its margin. And on it stood the houses for the future Russian POWs. That’s where I saw the incredible tempo of the work in the camp for the first time. The horrible reality awaiting me. And yet I hadn’t seen the stone pit and all of the other horrific commandos – the death squads.” “And you went to the shower, washed and were handed out the camp dress?” “No, that’s not how it works. Every one has to undress completely, they shave you and remove the hairs from your body. Then they herd you into a large hall with showers. These are no tiny sprinklers but huge showers. The steam and the hot water make you hot and then they hurl you out on the Appelplatz (rallying place) no matter whether it’s hot or cold. It’s not really bad in July or August but it’s really horrible in the winter. They leave you standing there naked for an hour or two, sometimes even for twelve hours, regardless of the weather. They don’t care if it’s hot or cold, rain or shine, freezing and snowing or scorching sun. Then they give you the clothes. I got bloody clothes and besides a number, I also got a Jewish star because I was taken for a Jew (I was on a transport with a lot of Jews). So I went back and risked a beating but as I spoke some German I was able to tell them: “Ich bin kein Jude, aber römisch katholisch...” (I’m not Jewish but Roman-Catholic). So after a few punches they took the star away and left me only with my number 1122. So the beginning was terrible…” “In which house were you accommodated, if I may ask?” “The first house I lived in was Nr. 5, a so-called quarantine, but the name is only imaginary, because we were shut there but had to go to work with the others. Then I got in the worst bloc of all, block Nr. 13, where Hašler died. I mean they were all really bad but on this bloc, there was this warder, a madman by profession.”

  • “He sought advice from his chief and then he came back and said: “which one?” And he replied: “the impertinent one, leave him here”. And that was me. So all of the sudden, I had a roof over my head, heating behind me, a writing desk, and a pen and paper. Well this Berdych was lucky as well. He claimed to be a scriptwriter, a “Scenareschreiber” and they said: “So you’re a typist, you’re going to be a typist.” Well, I was lying. I told him I’m very good in German. „Ich spräche sehr gut deutsch!“ (I speak German very well)... „Ich verstehe deutsch” (I understand German) and so on. It wasn’t easy with him at all. Sometimes he would inarticulately scream at me: “Mach das Fenster zu!” (close the window!) He was from Baden, and had a lisp. This is bad enough to listen to for Germans and it’s even worse for foreigners. One curiosity from the camp. There was a German from Hamburg and a German from Vienna and they weren’t able to speak together because of their differing accents. So they had to call a Czech to interpret for them. These were lower social classes – scum. They couldn’t read nor write. In Mauthausen you could mostly find criminals from Vienna or Linz. We had a color-coding for them – red, green, black etc. The green ones were thiefs, the black ones were murderers with life-long sentences and they came to Mauthausen and murdered again. It was unbelievable indeed. This Berdych for example lied to them as he insisted he was a topographer. They didn’t have any men as everybody was in the war so they used the prisoners from Mauthausen for all kinds of work, even highly specialized tasks. For instance, this Maršálek, a Viennese Czech, was the “hauptschreiber”, who wrote the whole history of Mauthausen. He was the “hauptscheiber” or the main clerk or typist. He was in charge of the organization of nearly everything. It was him who saved these boys who told me about my brother, where he is and so on. He saved them with my help! Because there came a death sentence for them from the Bratislava Gestapo headquarters. They were foreign soldiers who didn’t manage to retreat quickly enough and then they commanded an uprising. So we made this document disappear and so they survived…”

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    Pardubice, 09.01.2008

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History keeps repeating itself and humankind has never learned from anything...

Miroslav Čeřenský
Miroslav Čeřenský

Miloslav (Míťa) Čeřenský was born on October 18, 1918 in v Pardubice where he’s spent almost his entire life. He graduated from a business school. His father was a typographer, his mother a seamstress working at home. During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, his father established contact with the paratrooper Valčík in the Veselka hotel. Miloslav joined the resistance movement through his father and functioned as an intermediary or informer. After the assassination of Heydrich in 1942, His father was one of the first to be executed in Pardubice.The execution took place on June 4, 1942 in Zámeček. Miloslav (Míťa) didn’t escape arrest and after a trial he was sent to the concentration camp Mauthausen. There he first worked in the stone pit and then as a typist. He spent the rest of the war in the camp. He returned to Pardubice on May 21, 1945. After the war he returned to the East Bohemian Union of the Electricians. In the fifties he worked as a tinsmith as part of the initiative “77 thousand into production” and then he became a keeper of a recreational chalet in Desná and Luční bouda. He also supervised skiing lifts. He retired in 1980.