Karel Dufek

* 1916  

  • “A number of organizations were already in Czechoslovakia. The Organization for Aid to Democratic Spain, and so on. I contacted them. They provided instructions about which way to take, because you could not freely pass through Nazi Germany, because at that time, the Nazis would arrest every Czechoslovak passing through Germany, even if he had a legal passport, and suspect him of going to Spain, and sent him back to Czechoslovakia in an instant. Besides, you have to realize that the situation in Czechoslovakia was not unequivocal, because the Czechoslovak police were sniffing around in all committees from the communist secretariats to social democrats, and looking for so-called recruiters. At that time it was a punishable offense to recruit volunteers for Spain. After the war, I found a whole story about myself in the district political administration, about where I got the money from, which way I traveled, because the Czechoslovak police, the police of democratic Czechoslovakia, was sniffing around and slowly arresting and punishing anyone who was recruiting for Spain.”

  • “Unfortunately I got to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I got to the German department, headed by Dr. Hajdů, he was also my friend from the army. And I became the head of the German section, later it was also headed by Dr. Sekaninová. There I was, till autumn 1948 or so I think, and then Clementis says: ´Look, we lack people, because there have been some purges, there was some shifting of people after February 1948 – we need people abroad! Look, we need to appoint somebody to Egypt, or to Ankara, so make a choice, you will go abroad.´”

  • “I was studying at the Masaryk University in Brno, for two years, I was taking exams, but besides my study I obviously continued reading political and ideological stuff, which was very interesting to me, for already while a grammar school student, I was reading things about socialism, about Marx’s Capital. There was a fierce struggle going on between the individual faculties in Brno, between the leftists and rightists. Naturally, I felt inclined towards the left, and I was looking for a place to belong to. At all the faculties in Brno, there was a leftist organization, called the Unity of Progressive Students, its orientation was rather leftist, social-democratic, and communist, I would say. I worked there very intensely, I was its member, in my second semester, I was appointed to the self-administration of the Kounicovy dorm where I lived. And the Kounicovy dorm had a reputation of being a leftist dorm, because there was also another dorm, oriented towards the People’s Party, frequented usually by students with affiliation to Catholicism, etc. But the Kounicovy dorm was famous for its leftist tendencies. I met a number of people there who were active in the leftist movement, attending various meetings, etc. And at that time, the great unrest in relation to the Sudetenland population was starting, and naturally, in all Czechoslovakia, the so-called fascist organization, led by gen. Gajda, was legal, and a part of these students had some inclination to fascism as well, and thus at all the faculties there was a constant struggle, and arguments and disputes between the left and the right.”

  • “From Lyon I went to Marseille, there were organizations with a great number of volunteers who were arriving from all over the world. I met there at least thirty Italian antifascists, they were emigrants, then some Germans, Americans, etc. And French organizations for assistance to Spain that took care of us. They held a public meeting in one of the halls, it was crowded with people. When it was over, it was late in the evening, after 10 p.m., half of these people walked with us through the streets and accompanied us to the station, there were buses waiting, which then carried us legally to the Spanish border, even at that time, in January 1937, the border was not closed. The French border guards were greeting us with clenched fists!”

  • “Then I was called off, I did not even have an opportunity to say good-bye, nothing like that, because there were some clearances and purges again. They called us all back, and on January 9th 1952 they came for me to my flat, arrested me, in the car they blindfolded my eyes, and took me away. They thought I did not know where they were taking me – to Ruzyně. I spent 550 days in Ruzyně in a concrete cell, in solitary confinement, blindfolded. Without a single minute outside.”

  • “Even a part of the students were intensely following the events in the world, because Spain had totally triggered political thought not only in Czechoslovakia, but all over the world. There were many world politicians who were making a public stance for the Republican Spain, and so on.”

  • “Thanks to my university education, I was assigned to the technical division, not to the infantry. I was assigned to the antiaircraft artillery. And the battery, this was the latest in technology. These were Soviet antiaircraft batteries, not just the mechanized ones, but ones with electrical aiming, all elements were electrically transmitted to the cannons. And for six weeks we had to be trained by Soviet technicians, because none of us understood this system then.”

  • “Firstly, I had been to Spain, which meant: he is a Trotskyist. There was a tiny pitiful party: POUM – Partido Obrera Unificada Marxista, they were Trotsky adherents. Simply, Stalin got it into his head that whoever from his advisors and technical staff had been in Spain, had been imbued with Trotskyism; many of them were executed after their return to the Soviet Union, they were shot. Meaning that for these people and for the Soviet advisors, who were on the rampage here, the Interbrigade equaled Trotskyism. Also, some of the first ones to be arrested in large numbers after February 1948 were the Interbrigade members. Secondly, I had been in the American zone for several years, that was clear – an American spy, things like that, therefore, after my solitary confinement, I had absolutely no right to anything, I was put into a cell where I was not even able to sit on an iron stool, because it reclined from the wall and was locked up during the day. Mostly I had to walk for these sixteen hours. I had my thin hemp clothing, which they gave me, I did not even get socks, and there was hoarfrost on the concrete floor. The cell was not heated, and I had to keep walking for sixteen hours. And when my feet became blue and swollen, and I wanted to sit down on this stone-wool floor, a warden was already banging on the door. ´Get up and keep walking!´ I had to keep walking.”

  • “The end justifies the means, because what mattered was whether somebody wanted to fight the fascism somewhere or not. And this was way more powerful than some legal codes, like that I would become a Czechoslovak army deserter. I did not care about it.”

  • “I have gone through many things in my life – I was in the Czechoslovak army, then I worked for the American staff. But I have never again experienced what I had experienced in Spain. It is something unspeakable. This was a brotherhood in arms. For instance, in the International Brigades, there were nearly fifty nationalities. There were no language or nationality barriers, or barriers due to one’s conviction, religion. It was brotherhood in arms, I have not experienced this anywhere else. There, it would never happen that someone would abandon a comrade lying somewhere wounded: even if he had to crawl to him on all fours, he had to go to him, because of this fantastic solidarity, which I have not experienced anywhere else afterwards.”

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  • 11

    Praha, 11.09.2006

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I have no regrets, all of that was a part of my life

dufek2.jpg (historic)
Karel Dufek
photo: archiv pamětníka

Karel Dufek was born on January 24, 1916, in a family of a forester, near Velké Meziřící. He was one of seven children. In 1935 he left for Brno to study medicine. Being influenced by the news of the war in Spain, he decided to join the international volunteer brigades, fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans. He got in contact with the Committee for Democratic Spain and with its assistance he left for Spain in January 1937. After the withdrawal of the International Brigades he was shortly interned in France, then he joined the Czechoslovak Foreign Army. After the fall of France he left for England, where he was declared unfit for service and worked in a factory producing aircraft parts. After the allied forces landed on the Normandy coast he became a liaison officer with the American General Staff. From 1948 to 1951 he was Ambassador to Turkey. In January 1952 he was arrested, accused of Trotskyism, spying for the USA and other crimes. In May 1953 he was sentenced to 25 years of prison, together with Eduard Goldstücker, Pavel Kavan and Richard Slánský. He served 4 years in the Ruzyně and Valdice prisons. After his rehabilitation he was employed by the Union of Antifascist Fighters. In 1957, he began publishing an International Policy magazine, and later headed the public relations department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 1968 and 1972, he was the Ambassador of Czechoslovakia to Brazil.