Petr Cígler

* 1924

  • “And like, when I cam into the courtyard, we were on Charles Square we students, and I remember seeing Pelikán hanging out of a classroom window and yelling, as we were in the courtyard - whoever goes with the demonstration to the Castle, will be kicked out of university, no mercy. I can see him as if it was today, leaning out past the frame and yelling from the window. They made a blockade at Moráň, and we set out from the backyard through Zderaz as a procession. The end was perhaps on Jirásek Street and the front was already on Neruda Street. I was somewhere between Újezd and Small Side Square when the rubbish men cut up the procession with their rubbish trucks. Someone shouted that they’d close up the Castle, so we rushed up Hellich Street. How young we were. We ran up, I was in the third row. The police were already standing there, and we wanted to see President Beneš - that they should let in our delegation. Slogans were shouted, and suddenly the militia appeared in civvies with truncheons in hand, and things got ugly.”

  • “The camp by the Lužnice River in 1939 was built up to the knowledge and with the help of Prince Schwarzenberg of Orlík, who provided us with both a place to camp and the necessary planks to built it with. When the camp was over, his son, the young Schwarzenberg - not the current one [meaning Karel Schwarzenberg, a well-known Czech politician - trans.]. It was the one who died in England. So he and the gamekeeper helped us remove everything and return the meadow to its original state. I remember him, we called him ‘Prince’. They barricaded themselves up with one priest. We nicknamed the priest Paternoster. And they stocked themselves with fir cones and buckets of water, and we were supposed to capture the place before it was taken apart. We were attacking them and they were pouring water and throwing cones at us from above. They were pretty much winning when someone had the idea to cut the whole thing down, and so they gave up. We decided to cut it down. I have wonderful memories of that Schwarzenberg. He really knew it was banned. The Gestapo traversed the country and arrested people when they found a camp. They beat the children and destroyed the camps.”

  • “We kept it up a year, muddling them up so that they couldn’t arrest anyone. Simply, we were foiling the Gestapo’s work. My father writes in it that either someone told on me, or the Germans worked it out. Either way, they got me, and I was sentenced to life imprisonment. And off I went: Budějovice, Pečkárna, Pankrác, Terezín. Until it was turned into a ghetto, until 1940.”

  • “In that January 1944 I was leaving for Germany, and I was decided I wouldn’t work for the Germans. When I arrived in Kassel, then of course what I did was that when they stood me in front of a machine, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what to do. I ran the milling machine the wrong way round and it got damaged. So the Germans put me away. I carried crates from lathe to lathe and I swept the workshop, so I didn’t work on the aircraft engines. That’s where I had the Abstand. I kept my distance from them. Some of my colleagues noticed this, and they came to me, suggesting that when there’s a bombing run, we’ll break some of the machines and leg it. We’ll exploit the confusion and leg it. Boys, that’s madness. We did it, I legged it, but the Germans caught us in the end. I said I was just running from work, that my mum was ill and I wanted to visit her. They didn’t want to release me. Of course, they interrogated me, and after spending some three weeks in Arnstadt I was taken to the Gestapo, and that’s where it started.”

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    Praha, u pamětníka, 01.01.2011

    duration: 03:05:19
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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There’s no difference if I speak this or that language. As long as I’m human

Petr Cígler was born on 12 July 1924 in Petrovice near Klatovy. His whole life he was greatly influenced by his father, a legionary in Russia, whose resistance activities during World War II landed him in prison in Pankrác, Terezín, and for almost five years in Dachau. The Cígler family moved frequently because Petr’s father worked in the civil service. In the 1920s he was stationed in Komárno, where he experienced ethnic clashes between Slovaks and Hungarians. During that time Petr grew up in the care of his grandparents. The beginning of the war found the family in České Budějovice. Petr was active in the Scouts troop Dvojka (Two). After his father’s arrest he and his ill mother moved to Petrovice, whence Petr commuted to the Klatovy grammar school and later to a secondary school in Pilsen. In 1944 he was assigned to forced labour in Kassel, Germany. After a failed escape attempt he was interrogated by the Gestapo in Weimar and interned in a subsidiary camp of Buchenwald concentration camp. At the beginning of 1945, with the battlefront encroaching on them, the camp was evacuated. Petr was transported to Erfurt, and then to Strakonice, where he worked with other prisoners at an aircraft factory. In spring 1945 he escaped and hid in the forests south of Pilsen until the end of the war. After the liberation he studied at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague and at the Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague. In 1948 he participated in the student protests against the Communist coup. He worked in subordinate positions at the Tesla plant in Hloubětín, and despite offers of emigration, his patriotism led him to decide to remain in his homeland. During the early 1970s he was employed as an external lecturer of informatics at CTU. Petr Cígler lives in Prague.