Jaroslav Čermák

* 1929  †︎ 2011

  • "Two of the partisans without weapons came towards us. 'Where are you from?' They spoke fluent Czech. 'I'm from Hradec Králové.' He was a sergeant, a legionary, and he was training the partisans. 'Come on in, boys, we'll give you food and someone from the camp will come for you.' The second was a Pole, Duda, from Warsaw, also a legionary, seven years of service. So we went, they gave something to eat and reported our names in French through a military transmitter. And suddenly the box started in Czech: 'Look, give us the boys, we'll ask them where they are and we'll tell them we're coming for them.' We were in awe, we didn't know they had transmitters. The journey to HQ was some four five hours on foot. We climbed when we got to crags. They brought us there, and straight off we stripped naked, they burned the clothes, sprayed us with disinfectant and put us in quarantine for some two weeks."

  • "So we headed for the river and along it and up the rocks. It was steep. Then we hear someone lamenting. We listen and the boys say, there's someone up there, and they're saying how cold and hungry they are. So we went back there and we found an eighteen-year-old Jewish girl. She had escaped arrest at school and had ran to the partisans. So we dressed her in rags. We had so many rags, we pulled them off scarecrows along the way. Our boots were wrapped in rags. We were like ghosts, not a sound, not even on gravel. Our boots were falling to pieces, we had them perfectly wrapped. Our coats were long, we almost had them trailing on the ground, us boys. They were from the scarecrows, full of lice and fleas. So we gave her one, a three-quarter coat, to keep her warm. We took her with us, she knew it there: 'We have to go up here and that's where the partisans are.'"

  • "Once when we were in Marseille we visited a fortune teller. She started predicting: 'You will fall, you will fall, you will not return...' Then came Míla Masopust and she said: 'You will marry in France and you will not have anything to do with the Legion.' When I came, she said: 'Goodness, what year are you born in? You'll survive it all.' And true enough when they slit my throat in Vietnam, they took me to hospital, my veins already red... (The doctor said:) 'He'll manage. What year were you born in?' - 'Twenty-nine.' - 'Is this your first wound?' - 'No, I served already, during the war.' - 'He'll survive, he lives on a lucky planet.' And I survived everything. Even jail.

  • "'Are we in Germany yet?' they asked me. They were probably told exactly what to do, and that I live in the hotel over there and that I start my guard duty at ten. Just then they walked out on to the corridor. There was a pike there, a railing, and that divided Czechoslovakia from Germany. The wires were some two hundred meters away from it. 'Are we in Germany yet?' I spoke in German: 'Where are you from?' - 'Well, from there, we're Czechs.' - 'Well come with me then, I'll take you to the station.' As soon as I spoke Czech, they said:' That's him. Hands up.' And straight away they pulled me behind the fence. 'He's ours, he's ours, the Germans can't reach him now.' They took me to Strakonice, and from thence to Prague. There they convicted me. Then I ambushed the escort. I disarmed the jailor. The mafdo (mukl, "man for disposal") cracked my head, knocked me out, that's how they got me, they gave me handcuffs and took me to Leopoldov. They gave me five years extra."

  • "Our captain said to the Americans: 'We're coming to your help because you're stupid.' That's what he told the general. 'They have Czechoslovak defence bunkers in Cheb. You won't penetrate them with anything, they're quality concrete. If they're complete, with the tower, then you won't even get a fart out. I've got two boys here who served in Cheb, first and second lieutenant, they know the place, they built it.' We jumped into our car and drove off. We got to Landsberk and stopped. And the one says: 'Go down here, and to the right, and along this cart road. Stop by the pond, that's Germany still. The bunkers are behind the ponds, they'll be manned by the SS, we'll use petrol for them.' Those bunkers didn't have air conditioning. As soon as we splashed some petrol in them, the Germans were crawling out with their hands up. If it had been sparked off, that would have been their end. We took them to Cheb and said: 'Wait here till the Americans arrive.' We entered Cheb three hours before the Americans did."

  • "We didn't know where we were. I could speak German, so I chatted with the one-legged jailor. I say to him: 'What stream is that?' - 'That's the Danube.' - 'Aha! The Danube starts in Schwarzwald,' I knew that from school. 'I know where we are now. That labour camp is about sixty kilometres from France, and fifty from Switzerland.' So I decided to escape. The others told me: 'Goodness, how can we tell which way?' I say: 'The scouts taught us that moss grows on the north side. We'll go south, so we'll be looking at the moss. And straight downhill.' From seven (escapees) only five of us went. The youngest was thirteen. He wanted to turn on us at Bodam Lake, give up to the Germans. I thought to myself: 'That's the end of that, we won't get any further.' So we talked him into staying with us and we got into France."

  • "Third of May we arrived at Beroun. On the 4th we were in Prague. Smrkovský threw us out. We drove to Hostivice and Jeneč. Twenty soldiers stayed in Jeneč, another thirty in Hostivice, and two jeeps of us continued to Prague. We had information about where to find the Czechoslovak radio station. That it's some twenty thirty metres away from the Museum. (The Germans) wanted to surrender to us. But we needed authorisation from the Revolutionary National Committee to accept their surrender. And Smrkovský didn't give it us. He phoned the general, that we had violated the demarkation line, and that we should get ourselves gone. Our commander said: 'Do you know how many dead you'll have, and there'd be none like this.' - 'We have to do the uprising!' We had to go back to Holoubkov. The Americans were laughing at us, how the Czechs had kicked us out. General Liška's tank brigade arrived at Holoubkov. Everyone was afraid to cross the demarkation line. They thought it applied. It didn't apply to us (Czechs). I mean, the French told us that, nothing applies to you, you're Czechoslovaks. So we went back, they gave us food, petrol. We were there for ten days and only after ten days did we start off for Prague again."

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    Praha 4, 06.09.2006

    duration: 03:57:22
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The doctor said he’ll\]

Jaroslav Čermák in 50s
Jaroslav Čermák in 50s
photo: archiv pamětníka

Jaroslav Čermák was a man of many fates. During the war he hid in the Jura mountains with French partisans, the Maquis, he took part in the liberation of Czechoslovakia, fought in the Foreign Legion, escaped twice into exile, was twice convicted by Czechoslovak courts, returned to Czechoslovakia twice again. He was born in Odolena Voda, near Prague. His father left for Poland at the beginning of the war and joined with partisans in Slovakia, his mother was arrested by Nazis for aiding the resistance. Čermák was taken to a juvenile reformatory in Germany, near the French border. He escaped with several other boys, together they joined the French partisans in the Jura mountains. At fourteen years of age he completed his first combat training, and with false papers, making him two years older than he really was, he got his first engagement. He fought with the French Maquis also in Normandy during the D-day landings, he took part in the liberation of Paris, he accompanied the French all the way to the Austrian town of Linz. From thence he apparently continued, with Czech and Polish legionaries, and reached Cheb, and at the beginning of May also Prague, before any other Allied units. After the war he signed on to the Foreign Legion, serving in various corners of the French colonial empire, he fought in the Korean War and in Vietnam. In 1953 he was stationed at the Czech-German border, where he was kidnapped by Czechoslovak authorities. He spent thirteen years in Leopoldov and Mírov, after his release he emigrated West. He married a Czechoslovakian emigrant and returned to Communist Czechoslovakia in the Seventies, gaining legal residence and at the same time, as he claims, working for the French intelligence services.