Fedor Gabčan

* 1940  

  • "Once I heard my father's name mentioned on TV. I started to pay attention and I heard a Mr. Bachnar talking. He praised my father as a very nice person. He recalled how the front was approaching and the camp inmates were already armed. My father was one of those who knew that arms were smuggled to the camp but he pretended not to have seen and known anything. On the day when the uprising started, they went to his place, he went out, not even properly dressed yet, and said the memorable sentence: 'Boys, I knew that you had some weapons but I wouldn't have guessed that there were so many.' This way, they parted before leaving for the fight and he gave them his blessing this way."

  • "I had pictures from the Nováky camp, I knew that my father, who had been in the gendarmerie, worked there as a guard, but I did not care for more. They took a picture of mine, with some rabbits bred by a lady who later ended up in Auschwitz. Until that time, I did not care whether he [my father] was a good man or a bad man, whether he hurt people or whether he did not. When I read, later on, that he was very considerate and people there liked him, I had a good feeling about it. I am glad that I can say that he behaved better than other, higher-ranking people."

  • "In the Czech Press Agency it worked this way: I got a text and I should provide suitable photographs. It was like advertising photography in a way. I photographed all sorts of heroes of socialist work and so on. I had to shoot a portrait of a record-breaking miner at the Trojice (Trinity) mine. I asked where to find him. The other miners cursed him from head to toe but they told me where he should be so I went made his portrait. Some other time, I had to photograph, for example, socialist work plans at the Nová Huť (New Foundry). The employees wondered what work plans and cursed who invented this crap again but told me to photograph whatever I wanted. I went to the foundry where they worked with the molten iron, shot a series of photographs which showed the work effort and that was it. I did not mind it."

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    v Ostravě, 05.03.2019

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I was glad to have had found out that my father had not participated in murdering the Jews.

Fedor Gabčan, Ostrava, 1987
Fedor Gabčan, Ostrava, 1987
photo: Archiv Fedora Gabčana

Fedor Gabčan was born on the 22th July of 1940 in Kúty in Slovakia. His father, Štefan Gabčan, was a gendarmerie officer. Between 1943 and 1944, he worked as a commander of the internment and work camp for Jews in Nováky. At the same time, he collaborated with the anti-Nazi resistance and participated in the Slovak National Uprising. Fedor graduated from the School of Cartography and Geodesy in Košice. At the beginning of the 1960’s, he moved to Ostrava. For five years, he worked in coal mines there. He learned to draw in evening art courses and photographed the Ostrava landscape. Between the 1972 and 1976, he studied at the Film and TV School at the Academy of Musical Arts in Prague. After graduating, he returned to Ostrava. He worked for the local branch of the Czech Press Agency and earned his living as a product and advertising photographer. After the fall of the totalitarian Communist regime, he established the photography courses at the High School for Arts in Opava; he also taught historical photography techniques at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music of the University of Ostrava.