Hugo Engelhart

* 1926  

  • “They transferred me from Rtyně to the hospital in Pankrác, where they needed a gynaecologist. I was a junior doctor with no board certification, but I had spent two years in the maternity ward in Děčín. I was put in charge of the women’s ward in Pankrác. The room was always full of mafdettes [an approximation of the rare feminine form ‘muklice’ of the Czech ‘mukl’, an acronym meaning ‘man designated for disposal’ - trans.]. I made a round of the ward, I admitted and released patients, which was necessary. I tried to help those poor women as much as I could. There were also births there, some of which I participated in - some [female] prisoners were locked up when pregnant, and so they gave birth in prison. The interesting thing was that the mother was allowed to keep the baby for six weeks, to breastfeed it, care for it, and then the baby was taken away and appropriated by the stetsecs [State Security officers - trans.]. The babies were given to stetsecs who couldn’t have their own children, for instance, so they bartered for them. When I was released by amnesty, I wrote a letter about it to the Ministry of National Defence and offered them some of what I had experienced during that time. Back then they took my detailed statement regarding one [female] doctor, who organised the trafficking with these children - I’ve forgotten her name, unfortunately. She was from the same year as me, we’d studied together, graduated together. She was a terrible beast, a die-hard Communist.”

  • “I couldn’t get in, so they took us - there were four of us, the rest had head wounds - by ambulance via Várpalota, which was the district town. When we arrived in the town, the Americans happened to be executing a carpet bombing run on it. It was dreadful, it was one of the worst moment of the war. The ambulance driver legged it, of course, he left us wounded inside and hid in a cellar somewhere. We were stuck in the middle of the road, and we could hear the bombs fall all around us. When there’s a carpet bombing, the bombs are dropped one after the other as the aeroplane flies over. So we waited out the raid, with God’s protection, as the ambulance wasn’t hit, and about an hour, hour and a half later the driver came and took us to Vienna.”

  • “There were two interesting cases in Bartholomew Street, which I remember well. One of them was the old gentleman [DELETED], a herbalist of nationwide renown, his name was Mikulášek. His method was that he had the patient urinate, then he poured the urine into a vial and scrutinised it. He used the urine to designate the diagnosis and the treatment; he usually prescribed teas, various herbs. [DELETED] Mikulášek also treated Antonín Zápotocký. Zápotocký kept Mikulášek under his protection, and so it wasn’t until [Zápotocký] died that they sent Mikulášek to prison. I don’t know how Mikulášek survived; I only saw him once. When he was admitted, the guards played a joke on him and brought him goat’s urine in a vial. He recognised it and said: ‘That’s the urine of some animal.’”

  • “We still had no news of my brother. When August came and we still had no news of him, Mum said: ‘I’ll make a pilgrimage to Holy Mountain.’ So she and Auntie went to Příbram, to Holy Mountain. My brother came back that very day, he returned from the army in uniform. He had travelled via Cheb, because he wasn’t even eighteen yet, so boys like him were sent home from captivity: ‘Go home, go home, to hell with you already!’ He tried to get home, and when he was in the customs office in Cheb in German uniform, he got a proper blow to the face. He said: ‘What’re you doing? I’m Czech!’ - ‘Yeah right, anyone could say that!’ My brother said: ‘If I wasn’t Czech, I wouldn’t keep a Czech diary.’ And he had a diary in his pocket, which he wrote in Czech. The diary helped him in that they finally let him go, but they told him: ‘But take that uniform straight off!’ So that’s how he arrived in Roudnice. Mum and Auntie came back from the pilgrimage that same evening.”

  • “I interpreted this misfortune in that there was need of me there. As a doctor, I had the opportunity to help the inmates a lot, so I saw it as a kind of mission from God for those five years. So I could be of use to those who needed me most. The way I see it, it was a kind of providence.”

  • “When I went down the shaft, they gave me a tin box with Dinyl at the entrance - that was a back pain medicine - and inside there was also a piece of the Host wrapped in paper. When I pumped out the water that had drained into the mine, I had a brief moment for myself, so I could pray and receive the Body of Christ. That’s how it worked for the whole two years that I was in Rtyně.”

  • “I had a record with Security, they had taken me into evidence during Operation Norbert. Operation Norbert was supposed to work in that in the case of some troubles, the people on the list were to be immediately arrested and disposed of. It was a nationwide list, I was in the list for Ústí Region. Four of us from the Děčín Confederation of Political Prisoners were listed among the main enemies of the Communist Party: the former district chairman Dalibor Bubník, Láďa Bumba, the Děčín Scout leader Brother Černý, and myself. The list is exhibited in our room - the blacklist of Ústí Region...”

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    Děčín, 13.12.2014

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Děčín, 30.01.2020

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Děčín, 31.01.2020

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Sometimes I feel as if it was God who sent me into the mines

A Portrait of Hugo Engelhart on the Day of His Marriage
A Portrait of Hugo Engelhart on the Day of His Marriage

MUDr. Hugo Engelhart was born on 13 March 1926 in Olomouc into a mixed German-Czech family. Both his parents were dentists, his father came from Děčín and his mother from Roudnice nad Labem. Hugo had a brother, Jiří, one year younger than himself. In 1937 he enrolled at the Czech grammar school in Roudnice nad Labem, later switching to the German grammar school in Děčín. During the war he and his brother gradually became more and more active in the anti-Nazi resistance movement around Děčín, which was organised by Eduard Turek from Czechoslovak Labe Shipping. In March 1944 Hugo Engelhart was drafted into the Wehrmacht. At first he fought in the Ardennes, then he was transferred to Hungary, where he was injured in the leg in March 1945. He was taken for treatment to a hospital in Vienna and did not return to the front. After the war he joined the Czech National Socialist Party (CNSP). He completed secondary school in 1946 and began studying at the Faculty of Medicine of Charles University in Prague. He became a member of the CNSP Academics’ Club. He graduated in 1951 and returned to Děčín District to practice medicine. In 1952 he joined the anti-Communist group of Ing. Laibl. The group was betrayed, and Hugo Engelhart was arrested on 22 April 1955. His seditious activity basically consisted of listening to foreign radio broadcasts and monitoring the opinions of people. Even so, after four months of investigation in Litoměřice, Hugo Engelhart was sentenced to 16 years of prison and the loss of citizenship rights for ten years in a show trial. He spent over a year in Prison No. IV in Bartolomějská Street in Prague, where he served as a doctor. He was then transferred to Rtyně in the foothills of the Krkonoše Mountains, where he worked in a mine. His function was that of a prison doctor. As a devout Catholic, he helped organised secret celebrations of Holy Mass in Rtyně. After some two years he was assigned to the maternity ward in Pankrác and then back to Bartolomějská Street. He was released after five years of internment thanks to the amnesty in May 1960. He worked as a general practitioner in Děčín District - Verneřice, where he served for more than 31 years. In 1968 he co-founded the Děčín branch of K 231. After the fall of Communism he joined the activities of the Confederation of Political Prisoners; he is the long-serving chairman of the Confederation’s Děčín branch. In 2010 he was awarded the title of Knight of the Czech Medical Chamber.