Hermann Frey

* 1929  †︎ 2023

  • “At the time you had to wear a big D, no actually it was a big N (Němec = German). But we didn’t wear it in public transport. They wouldn’t have even let you sit down then. I had a friend from school who spoke a few words of Czech and we agreed it would be better not to talk at all. We communicated just with our eyes. We got to Prague and in Prague we changed trains for Domažlice. So we went to the Domažlice connection and in the middle of the stairs my suitcase burst open. I could see my friend’s breath freeze. I knew a little Czech, but only swearwords, that’s the first thing you learn. And in Russian all I knew was how to write my name. Anyway, my friend looked at me and could see I was crying. So we started swearing at each other, packed the things up and got onto our train. And the Czech passengers who were also changing trains had a good laugh. The knew we were Germans.”

  • “We got up early. You’d hear: ‘Get up!’ I still remember that, then we went to work. At seven, half past seven, eight we’d get coffee. At least something they called coffee. That’s war. Anyone able to, had to work of course. And if you couldn’t work, you were in trouble. And a lot of people died there. Anyway, me and my colleague decided to leg it. Four or five weeks before, six others ran away. They made a big mistake. They stayed together. With a group like that it’s much easier to catch you. They found them. Do you want me to tell you what happened to them? They had to dig a hole 1.60 m deep and wide. When it was done, people had to line up, two or actually three groups. The first group was us, we stood in a circle, the second was the patrol and the third group was the firing squad. I’m sure you understand what happened.”

  • “In Prague, there was fighting in the residential zone. Nobody knew who was shooting at who. It cost a lot of lives. You didn’t know who was inside. Later we weren’t able to escape from Prague, we couldn’t get out. That’s why the Russians captured us. And about 2000 of us men walked in a column all the way to Hradec, to the Adolf Hitler barracks.”

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    Pegnitz, SRN, 14.07.2020

    duration: 01:31:28
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
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I was conscripted into the army at the age of sixteen

Hermann Frey, Pegnitz, 2020
Hermann Frey, Pegnitz, 2020
photo: Natáčení

Herrmann Frey was born on 19 February 1929 in the municipality of Kamitz, district of Neutitschein (Kamenka, Nový Jičín) and grew up in Alt Zechsdorf near Troppau (Staré Těchanovice). His father was a butcher. The inhabitants of Alt Zechsdorf were almost exclusively German and Herrmann did not learn Czech. He joined the Motor Hitler Youth at the age of ten. In February 1945, after reaching the age of 16, he was conscripted into the Wehrmacht. He was deployed in combat in Poland and later sent to Prague, where resistance broke out. There he was captured by the Red Army and marched to Königgrätz (Hradec Králové) with around two thousand other prisoners. As a prisoner of war, he was deployed in the labour service in Opole, Poland, where they dismantled the local factory for transfer to the SSSR. They escaped from there with a friend and only travelled home at night. A patrol caught them in Troppau (Opava) and they spent four weeks in a labour camp. Shortly after his release, Herrmann decided to travel to Germany on his own and found a new home, first in Berchtesgaden and later in Bamberg. He completed an apprenticeship as a baker, but spent most of his life working as a driver and car repairer. He married in 1952 and has two daughters. He died on December 9, 2023.