Bruno Grötschel

* 1935  

  • “There were three armoured cars parked in our street, one with this four-barrel AA gun on top of it. And in the end... At first, I didn´t know which branch of the military they were, but... As they would always park in such a way you couldn´t read the plates well. But then I had a chance to look closely and I found these two lightnings, the SS. But they weere quite well-behaved. And being a child, I found them very nice indeed, as on their retreat they took those goods from all the factories... They´we got these tons of chocolate. And as they couldn´t eat it by themselves, being adults and all, they would give it away in order to buy the trust of the people, of children. And from time to time, I would also go there to get some chocolate.” - “And as the fighting began, you were still in that house, as it went on?” - “Well, we weren´t inside the house, we were in the cellar, as it was dangerous to be up there. As your flat could be hit by something. As they wouldn´t deliberate on where they were shooting, where they were aiming. They would just hit something and that was it. I was standing alone in front of our house and there was this house on the opposite side of the street which had burned down. And I was looking through the basement windows as people would throw some rubbish there and other stuff. And I saw something down there which I found quite interesting. And suddenly, maybe fifty metres away from me, on the crossroads, there was this blast and this huge cloud of smoke emerged... Fortunately, I was unharmed, but one of the fragments buried itself into this wall maybe half a meter away from me, it was this huge. I kept it for quite a long time afterwards.”

  • “We got out through the wall to the house next to us which burned down two years before. As the cellar down there served as an emergency exit of sorts, so we got out. Well... I looked up to check on our house and found myself staring right at the sky. There was no house, just this pile of rubble. And in front of it there was this huge crater right down to the underground railway. After the bomb fell down there, the whole house collapsed. And there was this steel girder, this I-beam. And it was all bent. So it had to be quite an explosion.”

  • “Sirens sounded alarm at ten-o-clock in the morning, so everyone could take just a few necessities. The most important were IDs, money and the food-rationing tickets. These were the essential things. After that, if you had some time, you just tried to pack whatever you could. So after we would get these things, we went to the cellar. And down there, you waited to see whether something would happen or not, whether you would get out of there or you wouldn´t.” - “And then there was an explosion? Or did you hear it coming? The bombs falling around you?” -”The dentist, he was... As you had this group in every house, not the anti-air defence, they were – in case something would happen – supposed to bring the firefighters and so, to ensure that people would be moved from that cellar and so on... And the dentist was also in this organisation. And every time, he would go to the roof to see from which direction they were coming. And on that day, he just came down and said: 'They are right above us just now.' He said: 'About two thousand of them.' Then he would sit down and at that moment there was this explosion, the whole cellar would lift, move sideways and go back again. Well... There was so much dust you couldn´t see your hand right in front of your eyes. And as those candles in that metal thing were, it would light just this tiny bit of the cellar, few steps away you couldn´t see it at all. There was so much dust I couldn´t understand that we were able to breathe at all, it must have gotten into our lungs for sure. That´s how we found out that something fell on us as well.”

  • “I wanted to ask why your mother actually went to denounce herself?” – “Well, the reason she did it was that they knew about her, the Germans were no amateurs at that time, they had everything planned precisely and they had information about everything and they knew everything. Therefore they knew about every family. And when my mother then went and denounced herself when my brother was to go to the army and she did not want him to go, she said: ‘Look, I am a Jewish woman and he has nothing to do in the army.’ In this way she redirected their attention to herself and they started surveillance on her and they also started looking for some information about us so that they would have something to penalize us for. It was merely a reaction if she had not told them that she was a Jewish and my brother would have gone somewhere to the war front and got killed there. Because they were usually being sent to the eastern front; not many soldiers went to the west. And newspapers were full of notices about those who got killed there. And my mom therefore did not want him to be sent there. That’s why it happened and why they were after us.”

  • “You had to be afraid even when you just went for a walk. I went with my brother and we walked through the town. The wind was blowing and we just automatically walked through the middle of the road, because if you walked close to the houses, which had been burnt out, a brick might fall on you. And as we were walking, a large block of the wall suddenly collapsed about twenty metres in front of us. Had we walked a little faster, it would have fallen on our heads. So the danger was always there.”

  • “As a child I was not scared at all. At that time there were air raids here and there, but we did not mind at all. We were playing outside when the sirens sounded, and at first there was always a preliminary air raid warning, which was signalled by three long sounds of the siren. When the second and third was sounded, we knew that perhaps that would be an alarm. But these preliminary warning signals were sounded when bombers were approaching Berlin, so that the people would get ready and anticipate a possible alarm. But many times it happened that the group of airplanes then turned and flew in a completely different direction. The warning was then called off and life continued as usual. What was the worst was when the group of airplanes kept flying on, and then after a while a real air raid alarm was sounded, and that was signalled by a warble tone of sirens in the duration of one minute. And that meant that you now had to go and find some place where to hide.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    České Budějovice, 26.03.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:32:11
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    České Budějovice , 27.08.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:30:20
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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It was a miracle that we were able to meet again as a family

Bruno Grötschel in 2018
Bruno Grötschel in 2018
photo: Eye Direct

Bruno Grötschel was born on February 13th 1935 in Rumburk, a fourth child of Osmar Grötschel and Karla Schnipperová, a Jewish woman born in Poland. After the annexation of the borderlands by the Nazi Germany, the family – Bruno, his parents and three siblings – left for Berlin where Bruno´s father managed to get a job. Grötschels hoped that by doing so, they would be able to avoid persecution due to the Nazi racial laws in the anonymous environment of the metropolis. While living in the centre of the German capital Bruno witnessed both the Allied air-raids and the final Battle of Berlin. He was the sole member of the family who hadn´t been held in a labor camp or a concentration camp after his mother publicly claimed her Jewish heritage in order to save her oldest son Waldemar from serving in the Wehrmacht. After the war, Grötschels returned to Czechoslovakia; Bruno learned to speak Czech, completed his elementary school education and graduated from a military academy in Kremnice. As an officer of the Czechoslovak People’s Army, he had been serving at a military airfield in České Budějovice, he also spent two years at an anti-aircraft unit based in Slaný. Despite the fact that he refused to join the Communist Party, he was allowed to stay in the army even after the ‘normalisation period’ political screenings of the early 70s. In 1973, he had been investigated by the Secret Police (Státní tajná bezpečnost) due to his two step-sisters who decided to stay in the later Federal Republic of Germany after the war. After retiring from the army, he had been making some extra money doing part-time jobs.