Karel Fořt

* 1921  †︎ 2014

  • "Ten- or eleven-year-old boy doesn’t decide about his future. This is what parents do. I had a family which wasn’t absolutely normal. Mostly, the mother is faithful and the father less. But in our family it was vice versa. There were two gymnastic unions in these times here. One was big, national but was against religion. Directed against Austrian monarchy. It was called Sokol and it exists even today. And because it was against the church and against the religion, the catholic gymnastic union Orel was created. The Sokols wore red shirts and the Orels blue. I had been grown up in the village at first but when we moved to Horažďovice there was a conflict in my family in which union I should have gone which happily resulted in becoming a scout."

  • "Suddenly on 1st September 1954 some soldier was standing in front of the barracks peacefully serving his duty when they shot him from the dark. Others ran out and started to shoot into the dark. The commandant heard that, took his bathrobe and said to his wife: ‘What are the boys doing there...’. And he went out from the barracks and was shot too. Next morning the regular bus went through the rock valley to Sahara. The partisans stopped it and let the Arabian passengers get out. Some French couple was there, so they took these two aside and shot them too. Then they threw the bus into the valley. And so without any commentary the so-called freedom fight began. It wasn’t the military fight but it was a terror. They murdered primarily the Europeans and raided French farms in terrible way. They cut their throats..., ...pregnant woman, so their slit her belly... The fight was led in very terrible way."

  • “In prison, when I was there alone, I began thinking. Till that time, till that moment, I wanted to be a partisan just like my dad, to be a soldier and fight. Meanwhile, the situation kept changing, and suddenly I realized that murdering people was no solution. I imagined that as a partisan I would let a train explode, and children with whom I had played yesterday would be sitting there... I realized that this war solution – there was Hitler, and Stalin, they were still allies at that time – that this was no solution. That there was somebody else, and since our childhood… Jesus on the cross, who had an entirely different agenda, he was not shedding blood of other people, he was not butchering others, but he himself went to die. Thus I have decided for what I am today.”

  • “On the night of July 9th, one policeman who served there was throwing pebbles at my window. His name was Karel Zámečník, and we knew each other. My dad had helped him when he applied for the police. Besides that, his brother served as a priest in Vinohrady, and he allegedly refused to give altar-bread to some German woman because she wore a swastika symbol, and they arrested him for it and tortured him to death. This policeman was throwing pebbles at my window at night and he told me, ´Father, something is happening around you. Corpses of two naked dead men with crushed heads have been found here.´ There were rumours about it already a month ago. ´They want to frame you up in that case.´ A girl from the post office then came in the morning and told me, ´I heard that they were going to arrest you tonight, but they wanted to do it at night so that people won’t see it.´ We had a few hours left, we sat on our motorcycles, rode as close to the border as possible, left the motorcycles there and the following night we already slept on the other side.”

  • “I was keeping a so-called Rapportbuch, a report book, where I had to record all sorts of data everyday. Suddenly they got the idea to show this book to Hitler. Thus I had to open my office. Naturally, I retreated to the corner. He entered with all his entourage, and there were cameras. I didn’t even have to raise my hand and say Heil Hitler, but I saw him from a short distance. He was a man who probably already knew that it was over; he committed suicide half a year later.” Interviewer: “How did you perceive him? Did you watch him?” - “He was a sphinx. When he arrived, there were German women who were kissing his boots. Perhaps he was still clinging to the hope in their new weapons which were being developed, the rockets and all that. He hoped that these weapons might still save him somehow. But he probably already knew at that time... because the English managed to destroy them. It was coming to an end for him. He was like a sphinx, not saying a single word. Our director was explaining it to him. They were filming him, this was done mainly for the propaganda, to show that they were still working, still fighting, because soldiers were still dying.”

  • “When I came there, all heads were bowed, nobody greeted me, I passed through the silent crowd. But I had been in Austria for three years during Hitler’s time, and I knew how things were done in a German church. Then I began preaching, I told them, ´You are asking me who I am? In the Gospel they were asking Lord Jesus,' Who are you? Should we wait? You are also asking: Who are you? Wer bist du? And you know the answer: you are a Czech. I’m telling you, I’m a Czech, but above all I’m a priest. And you are asking me once more: Wer bist du?´ I was making it to sound dramatic. ´Du bist ein Tscheche. I’m telling you, being a Czech is exactly the same sin as being a German. It’s not my fault, and it’s not your fault. By the way, I come from nearby Horažďovice.´ It was a town where they used go with their cattle, the largest cattle market used to be held there. It was a town twenty kilometres away. They had been going there to sell and buy cattle. I explained the all this to them, and they were singing, I knew all their songs. When the mass was over, I took off my robe right in front of the altar. The weather was great. It was early August, and thus I sang this beautiful song in German ´My cradle stood in the beautiful Šumava mountains.´ It is mainly a German song, but it exists in Czech, too. Thus I began singing it in German, but then I realized, as it happens with songs, that I only knew the first couple of lines, but not the rest. I realized that unless they joined me in the song, it would turn into terrible embarrassment. But they did join me, at first children, then women, and eventually men. In Czech the song says, ´My cradle stood there in Šumava, in the beautiful green Šumava.´ And when I came out of the church, they were kissing my hands.”

  • “I took it upon myself and I said, ´Ja, ich.´ He asked, ´Wer hat es geschrieben?´ Who wrote it? ´Ich!´ It was funny, he didn’t remember precisely what was written there in Czech. He had a little Gestapo official there, the guy had been a former Czech policeman but German speaking, and he translated it for him. I got slapped twice. There was the thing about Beneš: We shall remain faithful. Wir bleiben treu. Two other slaps, one of my teeth got knocked out and my nose started bleeding. As I was looking at him, I noticed the inscription on his belt buckle. There was a swastika and an inscription Meine Ehre heisst Treue, which means Faithfulness is my honour. When he asked me who had written the message We shall remain faithful to Beneš, I read out the inscription on his buckle. He suddenly relented and said: ´Abführen – lead him away,´ but he didn’t slap me anymore.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    České Budějovice, 01.01.2009

    duration: 02:06:07
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    České Budějovice, 15.01.2011

    duration: 01:36:09
    media recorded in project A Century of Boy Scouts
  • 3

    České Budějovice, 17.07.2013

    duration: 01:20:47
    media recorded in project Fleeing into the Freedom
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I wanted to be a partisan, but while in prison I realized that killing others was no solution. I became a priest

  Catholic priest and editor of Radio Free Europe Monsignor Karel Fořt was born November 8, 1921 in Rožmitál pod Třemšínem. He spent his childhood in Vodňany and Horažďovice. He studied at a grammar school in Strakonice and in České Budějovice. During the war, in 1940, he was arrested by the Gestapo and briefly imprisoned. In 1941 he entered the Catholic seminary. The following year he was taken to Linz for conscripted labour, where he also met Adolf Hitler face to face. After the war he finished his study of theology, and in 1948 he was ordained a priest. He served in the parish of Vimperk and he was visiting abandoned parishes in the Šumava Mountains. In the very last moment he was warned that the StB planned to arrest him and involve him in a fabricated trial for a murder case. He escaped over the border on a motorcycle. Later he served as a priest in Algeria, where he experienced the anti-French uprising and war. He eventually settled in Munich, where he was conducting holy masses for Czech expatriates and working as an editor for Radio Free Europe. At present he lives alternately in Munich and České Budějovice.