“It was like this: It was the seventeenth of September nineteen-forty-two. When all the raids, the Heydrich retributions [were over], it seemed that all of these matters were over... But our dear mister Frank, the dolt, came up with the idea that what with all these para-landings here, everyone would want to get in touch with their family for Christmas. So consequently, he ordered a prison camp be made for all these families who had someone outside of the country, and that set off Operation E - we didn’t know what it meant. It came all of a sudden: they started on the night of the seventeenth and finished sometime on eighteenth abouts. And they secured all of these families throughout the country. They came to us on the morning of the seventeenth. Mum was in hospital at the time from a [chance] shell wound, and I had set off from the Avia to buy plums, that I would make plum dumplings. I came home with the plums and saw two chaps, one German, one Czech, visiting all over the flat. They had already secured Dad, and they brought my sister along from work soon after, she worked on a Hollerith [tabulating machine] at Hlávek Bridge, at the power plant there. And now I had that toy aeroplane with the paperweight, over there we had an American sort of table, where my brother had his things, so they went through it all and say - you must have gotten that from someone? And where’s your brother? I said I didn’t know, a bloke ten years older than me, what would I care... simply, I played stupid, we all did. So get your things ready, for hygiene and so on... So we each took a small suitcase, each with his own, and they took us away.”
“When they brought us, they immediately split us up, men from women. There’s a road that comes up from Kyjov. The camp was straight at the beginning of Svatobořice. So when you go to Kyjov, to the left down was the men’s camp and above the road was the women’s one. And over the road they built - what was called the Bridge of Sighs. Because that was where they took - from the men’s camp, there was one building which housed a few women from Moravia right from the seventeenth [of September], and they set up a kitchen there - number thirteen it was, the building. And there, over the road, they would take food to the women’s camp in great big pots. And to stop anyone from seeing inside, it was a boarded-up wooden bridge. You can see it on some of the photos. And they were not allowed to meet, even if they were husband and wife. As soon as Punťa [the camp leader's nickname] or anyone else caught them, they were immediately locked up in the morgue.”
Everyone has something in their memory that no one else has
The former Sokol sports chief Milada Věra Dekastellová was born on 23 November 1919 in Prague. Practically all her relatives were enthusiastic members of the Sokol sports organization. Milada’s father had married her mother, a seamstress, after his first wife had died. Milada had a sister, Hana, two years her elder and a brother, Josef, eight years her elder, who played a critical role in the family’s fate. Josef graduated from the Military Academy in Hranice at the rank of flying officer. When Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany, he escaped through Poland to France with the aim to join the fight against the German occupiers. On 17 September 1942, “Operation E” (Emigranten) was launched, which was organised by Reich Secretary of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, police chief Karl Hermann Frank. The first phase of Operation E focused on arresting everyone who had some relative in emigration. Milada Dekastellová’s mother had the good fortune of happening to be in hospital recovering from a shell wound, and Milada’s grandmother was visiting her at the time. However, Milada, her father, and her elder sister Hana were arrested and later deported to the prison camp in Svatobořice. On 23 January 1943 her father was released from Svatobořice together with other elderly or sick people. Her grandmother had died shortly before that. On 18 July 1944 the remained prisoners were also released, including the Dekastell sisters. In November 1989 the witness renewed her activities in Sokol. She died on 1 January 2014.