Jan Dušek

* 1922  

  • “I was working at the “Schreibstube” where new inmates were being received. Outside the Schreibstube, there was a wide street. They brought a Jewish family into the camp and left them on the street. It was four men, three women and some children. I was on the roof, repairing the chimney. Soukup walked by and told me to lift up the ladder. I did it and continued to work on that chimney. It was a very hot day in August. The children were crying so one of them went to the Schreibstube to ask for some water. Rojko and Steinkopf were there. He got beaten and then again. I was hidden behind the chimney so that they couldn’t see me. They beat them to death. One of the girls had an ear ring. Rojko tried to take it off her ear. He couldn’t do it so he kicked her in anger and brought a knife and cut it off. As he cut her she raised her arm. He finished her off. This was just one of the many horrors I saw in the camp. There were a lot of people killed and beaten to death every day.”

  • “It was in vain anyway, we were hopelessly outnumbered and the Nazis shattered our organization after all. They were interrogating me for six months in the Gestapo headquarters in Budweis. After my arrest I didn’t get any food for seven days. I spent my time there praying. I was religious, went to church. They put an old inmate into my cell afterwards, Václav Němec from Budweis, the editor of the magazine ‘Free Word’. Once I was praying he kicked my ass. I thought he was a Gestapo man. He said: ‘there’s no God… you’ll see it for yourself after a while when you learn what’s going on’. Since then I lost my faith in God. Especially since Buchenwald. Where was God when they were sending children to the gas chambers in Buchenwald? God says that children are innocent, that they’re free of sin. Why did he allow this to happen? Why did so many people die? Why did the Pope bless the Germans and the Italians? I couldn’t get these thoughts out of my mind.”

  • “The Romanian officer had a Ban dog trained for him in the Hundkommando. The Romanians were always drunk. They brought a young Jewish girl – she might have been 18 – and set the Ban dog on her. The Ban dog is a huge dog and people are afraid of it but this wasn’t a quick death. I jumped out of the window and set two of our fiercest dogs on her in order to shorten her suffering. I still ask myself sometimes whether I’m a murderer. I’m really sorry for what happened, that I had to end her suffering like this. She was a nice girl but it didn’t help her. In 1944 the camp became the target of an allied air raid. I was waving them when they were approaching. It was an enormous raid, three thousand people died. I ended up among the dead bodies because I was badly wounded myself – I still have a huge scar on my head. The camp clerk sent my parents a letter saying that I had died. I woke up after three days and a friend of mine, who walked by, dragged me to the block. I was more dead than alive. The only treatment I got was that he peed on my head. That was the only medicament I got.”

  • “We were sent on the death march by the SS on the fifth of April. There were seven thousand of us. I cannot really describe all the horrors I saw during the march. It’s incommunicable. After seven days of marching we were liberated by the American army. 1500 people remained alive at that point. Another 300 killed themselves. After they had liberated us they brought three huge cauldrons of soup. It was wonderful – I had never eaten such delicious soup before. Well, hunger is the best cook of all. Those 300 died of the soup, their organisms weren’t able to cope with it because they ate too much. They were so hungry that they just couldn’t eat enough of it. I survived because I didn’t eat in such a hurry – I took my time and ate slowly and gradually. No one can fully understand what it really means to be hungry.”

  • “My name is Jan Dušek, I was born on March 7, 1922, in the village of Lipí, district of Budweis. I went to school in Habří which is about three kilometers away from Lipí. I walked there every day in my wooden shoes, in summer and winter. No one would take us to school, except for the farmers sometimes in the winter. My father was a carpenter and worked in Budweis for the railways. My mother had a small farm house and two goats. I had a sister but my parents didn’t have too much time to take care of us as it’s usual today. We basically cared for ourselves. Later I attended secondary school in Budweis – that was 14 kilometers away. I had to go there daily on foot, later I got a bike from my brother in law. Then I became a mason and worked in Budweis. It was during the years of the great depression, times were hard. It got better when the buildup of the fortifications against the German attack started. But except for that time it was hard to make a living. A croissant cost some 50 cents and my mother could barely afford it to buy one for me.”

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    Jindřichův Hradec, 02.02.2009

    duration: 01:22:19
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Where was God when they were sending children to the gas chambers in Buchenwald?

DSC00908mladý.jpg (historic)
Jan Dušek
photo: Dobová: 1944, Buchenwald, Současná: 2.2.2009

Jan Dušek was born on March 7, 1922, in Lipí near Budweis. Before the outbreak of World War II he became a mason and commuted to work in Budweis. He was arrested for the first time in Planá after he stole parts for a secret radio station from an airport construction plant. He was, however, released after three weeks of interrogations by the Gestapo. In 1940 he joined the illegal Communist resistance organization TRN. His main duties in this organization was to collect weapons and leaflets. On April 21, 1943, he was arrested again and taken to the Gestapo headquarters in Budweis. From there he was transferred to the Pankrác prison after six months of investigations. He only stayed one week in Pankrác and was then taken to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in the autumn of 1943. In his first concentration camp he worked as a mason and in the, “schreibstube”, (for receiving new camp inmates). In May 1944 he was transferred to Buchenwald where he became a member of the illegal international leadership of the camp, a member of the Hundkommando, that was training dogs for war, and a member of the Lagerkommando, that was receiving and transporting inmates. In 1944 he experienced an allied air raid which left him with a life-long injury. He was sent on a death march on April 5, 1945. The inmates on the march were liberated by the U.S. army on April 12. He returned home in June 1945. After the war he worked for the police. Currently he lives in Jindřichův Hradec. Jan Dušek has been permanently scarred by his terrible experiences and suffering in the concentration camps.