Karolina Čermáková

* 1934

  • I don’t know whether you’ve heard of the name Josef Holub, the German writer. That’s my cousin. He succeeded in escaping from Italian captivity and several weeks or months before the end of the war he came home on foot after a long journey, no money, nothing. Parents had to hide him. When he saw they had nothing to eat, no money, nothing, an acquaintance of his (he said it was his cousin, but I don’t believe it) came along. He made an offer that they could go smuggling together, moving things over the border for good money. In a barn at the edge of Nýrsko there was a hiding spot where people would go, hand over their things and come to an agreement with that man, not Josef, the other one. They negotiated the transport and then the two of them carried it over on their backs to the hofs in Bavaria.

  • Early that summer they dug up the mass graves. A train with concentration camp prisoners rode through Nýrsko and they threw the dead out of the train. At that time a lot of people were also killing each other. So they were put in mass graves and all the German men were ordered to be at a certain place at a certain time with shovels and they had to open up those graves and wash the dead. My father said they were beaten the whole time, quite brutally. And something happened which my father took a long time to come to terms with. One person was thirsty and said so out loud. So they told him there was enough water in the pit, to go down and drink his fill. My father returned home completely crushed and exhausted. That was one of the worst experiences.

  • But in Nýrsko things weren’t as calm, because in quite a short time these strange, odd groups showed up, they had red bands with “RG” written on them (Red Guard – actually the Revolutionary Guard). And they did terrible, ugly things. They beat people, robbed homes and I can be sure of that since we lived in a duplex and the Germans in the other half had already left and crossed the border earlier. We often heard sounds at night of people searching through the house and carrying off whatever they wanted. That then happened in all the empty houses.

  • Full recordings
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    Neukirchen, SRN, 02.09.2019

    duration: 01:49:32
    media recorded in project The removed memory of Šumava
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The Iron Curtain ran just behind our house

Karolina as a child
Karolina as a child
photo: Pamětník

Karolina Čermáková was born on 15 April 1934 in Nýrsko in the Pošumaví Region. She grew up in a bilingual environment with her mother speaking Czech and her father German. Her father Alois Holub was of German ethnicity and worked at an optical factory, her mother Anna was a housewife. After Munich, her father had to persuade her mother to stay with him in Nýrsko, and after the war it was she who made sure he didn’t move to Germany. This meant that while Karolina’s immediate family wasn’t expelled, she was separated from her broader German family. After the war, as a German her father Alois was only allowed to work at unqualified labour for the lowest pay. Religion played an important role in the life of the family. After matriculation, Karolina worked at a bank for two years and also married the engineer František Čermák. The couple were considered to be enemies of the new communist regime, because they maintained personal and written correspondence with the West. The Iron Curtain was directly behind the Čermák family house. When it fell, celebrations gradually took place at all the border crossings, and Karolina served as an interpreter at many of these events. Mrs Čermáková retired in April 1990. She considered herself neither Czech nor German.