Vratislav Ebr

* 1942  

  • "I walked up the St. Wenceslas Square around the chess shop and near the Museum I see a man running and flames coming out of him. I thought they were filming something there. Of course, the name Palach didn't mean anything to me. So, like a curious Czech, I went up there. I ran there just as the man ran into that intersection near the Food House. It's not there anymore, there is McDonald's now. He stood against that house and was knocked down by someone. I think a tram driver pulled him to the ground and threw a coat at him. I was standing next to him and I had no idea what future history it was. When I looked him in the face - it's an unforgettable moment - a dark-haired, handsome man. And suddenly, in the heat, his skin went up as it cracked. His eyes protruded. It was a terrible sight. A student read a letter. Someone called an ambulance from a phone booth, and it arrived and he was taken away. I saw that as a witness and I stand up for it."

  • "When I saw this, it was and it still is an experience for me. Very sad. About two days later, an article was published in the Red Right, 'How they attack us from the West and how they are making things up. That no student Jan Palach burned himself and that they used cold fire to say that he had been burned.” That was the article in the newspaper. Vilém Nový was signed under it. I don't respond much to newspapers, but when I read this, I couldn't believe my eyes. What bullshit is there! This is not true! So, I wrote back. My mother warned me not to get involved in anything and let it be. But I didn't stop. By the way, the author of the article, he was a big, furious communist, but I probably didn't even know it and I didn't care. I was given a summons to come to Bartolomějská Street, which happened. There were ten of us and they gradually called us to the office. We didn't know each other, they were random witnesses who probably reacted just like me. They made a record of my statement, and that if they would need anything else, they would call. I signed it and left. They treated me normally. If anyone thinks it was like the Petschek Palace, it wasn´t. It was just a five-minute interview."

  • "Petr Cibulka made the files of the members of the State Security or something like that. When I read all the names stated there, I knew that it was not possible... for example Jarda Suchánek, whom I have known for years. And suddenly I saw my name in the lists: 'Vratislav Ebr, a State Security collaborator.' I have never been a part of any State Security, though. Then, I called someone and I just wanted to know what I was doing with the State Security, on whom I was supposed to report... It was Jarda Suchánek who said to me: 'Forget it.' Yes, I went to Bartolomějská like many other people, because whoever wanted to go abroad had to go there and sign that he would not associate with anyone. The people who commented on the Olympics, the hockey match there and I don't know what else, so they had to sign that they wouldn't have contact with anyone there, then they came back and signed that they didn't have contact with anyone. That was the whole formality."

  • "Then the Gestapo handed me over to their then infant care centre, today it is Thomayer's Hospital. There were a lot of children, as I know from the story, of those parents who ended their lives prematurely. I only got a number there, I didn't even have a name. Additionally, I learned that Goebbels promoted the execution of all children associated with parents and relatives involved in the assassination. He justified this by saying that when these children grew up and learned the history, they would become cruel enemies of the German Empire. That was solved, but then fortunately the year 1945 came and everything changed. Then the fate was completely different."

  • "Perhaps I am the only one who has in the baptismal certificate: 'Born around October 20, 1942.' The explanation is obvious. I am the son of a mother who was the sister of the co-assassinator Josef Valčík. The whole history is known - they were from Smolina, not far from Valašské Klobouky, and when the unfortunate apocalypse of the arrest happened, they arrested my mother and my father in the field. My mother already had three semi-adult children and she was just expecting a fourth child. It was me. My pregnant mother was taken to Pankrác and in October 1942 I was born. After my arrest, my mother was in Pankrác until January 1943. Then they took my mother to Mauthausen, where she ended her life."

  • "The poet Jaroslav Seifert is one of the few who strongly condemned the assassination of Heydrich. People asked me about it - what I think about it. I did not condemn him for that opinion. I took it with understanding. It was very complicated. Seifert wrote that so many lives had been ruined by one not well considered act of young people. There were a lot of guys who did it, and others who risked their lives. At first, they all had no idea what the revenge would be. I took it as a fact, as a sad fact, as something terrible. However, to say that it is good that they did it or that they made a mistake is very difficult, and I have not yet answered that. Not because of passing the buck, but because it's really hard. I understand both sides."

  • "For three months they let my mother with me, it must have been terribly stressful for her. Whether she knew that she had already been doomed to death, or whether she believed, that everything would be better, no one knows, but it must have been horror. So I was born in October in Pankrác and in January they sent my mother to Mauthausen, where she was executed. My father was shot to death on 23rd October, three days after my birth. He even didn´t know that I had been born."

  • My mother was a sister of Josef Valčík, one of Heydrich assassins. Soon after the assassination, people involved in this act were revealed and arrested with the whole families. My parents were arrested in Moravia, where they lived. They already had three children and my mother was pregnant at that time, she expected her fourth child - me."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    byt pamětníka, Praha 5, 28.03.2012

    (audio)
    duration: 44:09
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 21.05.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 02:24:03
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Nazis let my mother give birth to me, then they sent her die

A historic photo
A historic photo
photo: Post Bellum

Vratislav Ebr was born on October 20, 1942 to Františka Sívková during her imprisonment by the Gestapo. She was arrested along with her relatives after the identity of the paratroopers who assassinated the Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich was revealed, including her brother Josef Valčík. The witness’s father, František Sívek, was executed on October 24, 1942 in Mauthausen, and his mother was executed also there on January 26, 1943. The several months old son was transferred to the infant care center in Prague-Krč by the Gestapo. There he lived until he was four years old. In 1945, he was adopted by the childless couple Ebrs from Prague 6, with whom Vratislav spent a beautiful childhood. He learned about his family past from his adoptive mother at the age of sixteen. Then, he also met his three older siblings Marta, Mirek and Stanislav, who had no idea that Vratislav survived the war. He trained as a bookseller and worked in that field all his life. In August 1968 he experienced the occupation of the building of the Czechoslovak writer by the Warsaw Pact troops. On January 16, 1969 he witnessed the burning of Jan Palach. In the 1980s, he restored the fame of the name of Jakub Arbes, after whom, with the consent of the management, he had a bookstore in Smíchov named. Here he organized autograph signings, discussions, meetings and happenings that attracted attention. From 1997 to 2004, he operated the bookstore privately. The historian Jaroslav Čvančara, who sought to break the taboo of the Heydrich rampage with his newspaper texts during the totalitarianism, helped Vratislav to understand the complex past of his family. Regarding the original family, Vratislav Ebr is also still in contact with his older cousin Vlasta Tkadlecová from Křekov near Valašské Klobouky. She experienced a similar fate and lives near Smolina, where the witness’s parents came from.