Jan Fechtner

* 1946

  • "The only problem I had was that they didn´t want to let me go abroad on a ship. I then had to explain and justify that to the cadre staff, proving that my father had been rehabilitated. I was never in the party and people found it strange that I could go even though I wasn't in the party. They asked how it was possible that as a non-party member I could travel to the West, but fortunately I had a good boss. I guess I was good enough [at my job] that he would send me on those trips, even though the party organization didn't like it."

  • "I was a young teenage boy at the time and I had a terrible laugh about it, but one day it happened that gas started leaking in our house. My dad smelled it and started shaking, panicking. Mum then explained to us not to laugh, that he had experienced gas attacks in the war. There had been no gas masks then, soldiers had used wet rags for protection. Until [the masks were available], gas attacks had ended in huge casualties."

  • "We were out for a walk one day, we came back home and suddenly a man in a leather coat opened the door and roughly dragged us in. The family sat in a corner, my mother crying, the children terrified. They [the men] were yelling at my father, emptied every drawer in the flat. They grabbed him and led him out of the flat. We haven't seen him for two years. It wasn't until many years later that we found out that he had been taken to the Little House near Loreta. They wanted to eliminate army officers. They attached my father by the leg, hung him upside down in his cell, or didn't let him sleep at all. They were expecting a confession. They even wanted to pull my dad out of the window, but they didn't throw him out at the last minute. I learned this not from him, but from friends who were tortured there with him."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 25.05.2022

    duration: 01:23:37
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 27.06.2022

    duration: 01:39:55
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

His father had been tortured in the Little House at Loreta, he only found out years later from father´s fellow prisoners

Jan Fechtner as a deck-hand in 1961
Jan Fechtner as a deck-hand in 1961
photo: Witness´s archive

Jan Fechtner was born on 15 February 1946 in Prague. His parents, Milada and Václav Fechtner, lived through the war separately. As a member of the Czechoslovak army who had participated in the construction of Czechoslovak fortifications in the borderlands before the war, Václav Fechtner was imprisoned by the Gestapo and spent the entire war in the Svatobořice internment camp. Due to his father’s position in the army, the family faced problems for the next decade. After the February coup d’état, father was arrested, interrogated in the infamous Little House (Domeček) at Hradčany and then imprisoned in the communist prison in Stráž pod Ralskem. In the meantime, the family, including little Jan Fechtner, had to endure insults and humiliation from people around them. Teachers gave Jan Fechtner to other pupils as an example of a child of a traitor to the nation, and it reflected on his school results. Mother Milada, despite her good education and knowledge of languages, was only able to get menial jobs, for example, as a worker in the Tesla company or as a helper in the Emauzy hospital. After finishing the ship apprenticeship, Jan Fechtner worked in Děčín in the crew of the Elbe-Oder navigation company and regularly navigated across the border to cities in East and West Germany. Later, in the 1970s, he worked for Military Constructions and participated in the construction of the Prague underground. After 1977 he joined the State Navigation Administration, where he passed the captain’s exam. In 2022 he was living with his wife Štěpánka in Prague.