Karel Exner

* 1920  

  • "Only one priest escaped. When we were trained there, one clerk said that they [the Communists] had wiped out wolves from the society. The father Bob said, 'Yes, you wiped out wolves, but you made hyenas from people.' Well, that was strong. An National Security Corps officer immediately intervened and it was over. There were also some older ones among the National Security Corps officers and one of them was good, honest. And he said to Bob, 'They will come for you.' Of course, he did not wait and disappeared at night. He managed to hide for a long time, but then they found him anyway."

  • "I went to get dressed and get ready. Mom was crying. And I went with them. There was also a church secretary and a member of the State Security. There were three men. We went to Jilemnice to the gendarme station. They dropped me off there, left me alone, and disappeared. I didn't know what would happen. I sat there for about an hour. Then they came back, they took me out and the Jilemnice dean Sedláček was already sitting in the car. In the meantime, they went for him. We all drove towards Česká Lípa. We didn't know what would happen. We stopped somewhere in the fields. There was a car from which another priest got out, from a parish in the diocese of Litoměřice. I don't remember the name. They brought him to us and they were driving the three of us south, in the direction of Kolín, Čáslav. Sedláček who was sitting next to me whispered, Želiv, Želiv…‘"

  • "I remember how the Germans moved from Silesia, it was sad. They had horses or even rode with cows. They had some things on the car and they were running from the front. Then, it was quiet for a few days and then the Soviets arrived. So, they were welcomed like everywhere else. My boss, a colleague, also enthused about it and welcomed Soviet soldiers. However then, he witnessed the soldier come to the parish and take his bike there and leave. So, he lost the ideal a little."

  • "The vicariate conference was organized by the church secretary and he was also present. He always wanted us to have a political contribution at the beginning, so everyone had to work out something. For the most part, of course, it was about peace. There was a talk about peace, it was ambiguous. There was a talk about peace so that the wolf would eat and the goat would remain whole. It had to be tricked somehow. Church secretaries listened to everything and tagged us. When they had to give their approval to the appointment of a priest; the priest, who was zealous and showed that he did not agree with communism, they put him aside, to the borderland - somewhere where people do not go to church so that he can do nothing there. Priests, less gifted or softer in nature, were sent to cities. I was there too. I got to Paka and Světlá like this, it was nice there too."

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    Nová Paka, 26.11.2020

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In the hour of a great test

Karel Exner, 1939
Karel Exner, 1939
photo: archive of the witness

Karel Exner was born on December 21, 1920 in Studenec near Nová Paka. His father Karel (1880–1970) was a home weaver, his mother Anna, née Blažková (1884–1972), took care of the family farm and four children. After the Jilemnice grammar school, Charles entered the Hradec Králové seminary and on June 3, 1944 he was ordained a priest. A day later, he had a prime divine service (a first mass of a newly ordained priest) in Studenec, which became a silent demonstration of national pride during the Nazi oppression. His first job was a post of a chaplain in Jaroměř, and from 1946 he was an independent clergyman in Horní Štěpanice. On July 25, 1950, he was arrested by the State Security and deported to the Želiv internment monastery. Around a hundred priests worked there under a strict prison regime. A year later, some of the younger priests were moved to the Hájek re-educational monastery near Prague, where they tried to turn them into regime servants. However, it did not work. After two years spent in Hájek, Karel Exner had to go to Auxiliary Technical Batalions in Zvolen at the beginning of 1953, where they worked mainly on construction sites. In May 1954, he was released into civilian life. Because he did not have the state approval, he worked in a factory for a year and then was able to return to the spiritual administration. He first served for half a year in Chřenovice in Posázaví, then for eighteen years in Světlá nad Sázavou, then for six years in Hostinné and finally, in 1982, he settled in Nová Paka. Throughout the November Revolution of 1989, like other priests, he was under pressure from communist bosses. Regional and district church secretaries reported to their superior bodies on the activities of the individual pastors. They controlled how they talked, how they behaved and who they interacted with. In 2020, Karel Exner lived at the parish in Nová Paka and enjoyed an admirable mental condition.