Heřman Chromý

* 1947

  • "Everyone was under surveillance and all of them had undergone interrogations where they had to confirm that I gave them a book, that I influenced them. The best thing was the accusation that I made mistakes in the upbringing of my own children. A communist colleague - let's call him Jiříček - gave his testimony. This guy became known for swapping wives with another guy. Later, they got divorced but the swap had taken place. I'd say that was a pretty decent performance. I did part-time jobs and there was no way I'd do anything of the sort. They even found a girl who was supposed to claim I had an extramarital affair with her. Not that I wouldn't be interested - she was cute - but I didn't. By the way, this helped her emigrate to Canada. One of the witnesses testified how bad a worker I was. My new colleague at the cash desk also gave false testimony. This is what they were aiming for and it took me a while to grasp why they were doing it. They wanted me to accuse them of lying. 'That isn't true,' I was supposed to say. One of my colleagues from the office brought me Frolík's memoirs. He was from Prague and had his contacts there. So they had it covered. But they didn't succeed and I was really happy about it."

  • "August came. I remember very well the night when they had arrived. I went to work - I used to run there, always coming at the last moment, it took me 15 minutes. I ran out of my house because that night I went to bed earlier and slept well; after all, after beer drinking one always gets a good nights sleep. I saw the queues and asked what was happening. Someone from the queue replied: 'We are being occupied'. I used to live at the corner near one of the first supermarkets. Dumb, I asked: 'Who, the Germans?' And they said: 'The Russians.' As you can see, it didn't occur to me at all. I knew there were negotiations, there was a meeting in Bratislava but I couldn't imagine this. The propaganda we were fed with since childhood was so strong that I couldn't swallow it."

  • "On 9 April 1986 they arrested us. They had it pretty well prepared, knowing that I'd come to work later that day because it was payday. Every month I already waited in the bank, working as a financial executive and transporting the cash. They didn't want me to go with the working class... It was a fairly secret operation. So they arrested me when I got up at 7 a.m. and rushed to the bank to be there at 8. They seized me right at the entrance. I told them: 'I have to go to the bank,' - I was still pretty naive then - 'it is payday.' It was payday in both senses. Obviously, I hadn't known that the dissidents Jirka Pavlíček and Honza Dus were also arrested, and released 48 hours later. And because I was the chief of the group and because my anti-regime activities were apparent, I was worth faking that letter for them. That was as if in 1950s, them forging my signature, putting together some things I had really written. In the end I learned that it was a letter in which I supposedly scolded the president."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 25.05.2016

    duration: 01:50:10
  • 2

    Praha, 08.06.2016

    duration: 01:58:09
  • 3

    Praha, 15.06.2016

    duration: 01:57:47
  • 4

    Praha, 22.06.2016

    duration: 02:01:13
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When I was a child, they called me “Jew” because they couldn’t scold me for being a communist

Heřman Chromý, 2017
Heřman Chromý, 2017
photo: sbírka Post Bellum

Heřman Chromý was born on 29 September 1947 to a Jewish mother and a communist father. Straight after graduating from high school in 1966 he fled from his father to Děčín to work in the port on Elbe. Soon, for economic reasons he returned to Prague where he worked as a typist in a bank. In 1967 he received a draft card following which he faked a suicide attempt and mental illness to successfuly avoid conscription. He continued to work in the bank but was fired for disagreeing with the Soviet occupation in 1968. He was hired as a clerk to a power plant in Mělník and at the same time organized cultural events with provocative and anti-regime motifs. At the break of 1983 he signed the Charter 77. Throughout 1970s and 1980s he published collections of poems in the samizdat edition of the Havel brothers. In 1986 he was sentenced to two years in prison for his anti-regime poetic and cultural activities, based on a staged letter to president Gustáv Husák. Following release in 1988 he worked in left luggage at Prague’s Holešovice station. The 1989 Velvet Revolution marked the start of his political career. In 1990 he was elected to the Federal Parliament on the ballot of Civic Forum and since 1995 worked as a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At present, he publishes commentaries on political and other topics at his blog.