Josef Hasil

* 1924  †︎ 2019

  • "There were over forty of us. The truck could fit about the first twenty of them and take them to the camp where we were staying. And then they came back and took the other twenty. So the only thing to do was to wait that time for them to come back. So they put us in a room which was guarded by a guard with a rifle, as they called them. One of the workmen, one of the communists, was guarding the place. He stood by the door and watched to ensure no one escaped before the truck arrived. We figured it out and said, 'We have to take a risk'. So I had an agreement with Tonda that as soon as the first ones depart - I told him, 'Look, Tonda, I'm going to jump over to the door, open it and fly out. And you have to follow me. That's the only way we can escape.' But we also took a big risk because sometimes there were some SNB (National Security Corps - transl.) guys guarding outside, and they had dogs. But it happened to work out. The SNBs weren't there, and the dogs weren't there either. And I flew out the door, and Tonda said the guard got so startled that he left the rifle behind. And he ran out and shouted at us (as we later found out from others who had escaped): 'Young men don't run away, I won't tell on you'. Will say, won't say, we were already gone - by the wall, by the high wall. We climbed over it, and there was a path behind it."

  • "I told Tonda, 'Look, there's a gamekeeper here. We have to get help. We can't go any further,' because the bottom of our feet were blistering. We were wet and tired. So I said to Tonda, "Tonda, wait here behind the logs." It was early in the morning, probably before seven o'clock. As soon as I opened the door, there was a woman just like you. I told her, 'Excuse me, we're no criminals. I'm a member of the SNB (National Security Corps - transl.), I escaped from prison. I was arrested for taking people across the border.' And she said, 'Oh, come in, we have a son, and he wants to escape too, and we don't know if he's already done it or not.' And the gamekeeper came right in and said, 'Come inside, don't be afraid.' They helped us tremendously. They treated our feet with some of that oil they have for animals, they washed us thoroughly, they gave us food, and we waited until the evening. And in the evening, we agreed - the gamekeeper said: 'I know a place in the forest where you will be hidden. Only the gypsies know about it, they go there to give birth.' In the meantime, we asked if they could notify someone from my region. And they said, 'Yes, yes, write a letter.'"

  • "I had good hearing, which was my luck when I was crossing those borders, transferring. I had the advantage of hearing very well indeed. Just a little rustle somewhere - and I already knew where the guards were. I detected that with my hearing. Sometimes, they smoked, too, which was easy to detect. And sometimes, they weren't smoking, but something rustled somewhere, so I heard it and I avoided where they were and I bypassed them. And then I went across the border. And that's how I eventually got involved - that I ended up transferring people who had wives or parents in the labour camps. So I transferred them across the borders when they needed it." - "And which route was the most dangerous?" - "All of them. When you went to Bohemia, all the roads were dangerous. But it always ended well, thank God. I always prayed before crossing. I prayed to the Virgin Mary and told her not to help me if I was doing anything wrong. But I always made it out all right. Sometimes I saw the guards, sometimes I didn't see them, sometimes I heard them. And so I bypassed them when I heard them and crossed the border again."

  • "However, as I walked through the forest and all the way down through the saddle, I came to an open clearing there. I was absolutely devastated. Thirsty, everything. I came to a little village to this little cottage. I only wanted something to drink. And there was this Romanian emigrant, so I asked him to give me something to drink. He gave me some milk, I think. And as soon as I had a sip, I fell asleep immediately. And in the meantime, he went to the SNB (National Security Corps - transl.) - and they caught me there. And they found the magazine. It was making a noise, cartridges or something. So they undressed me and took everything off and found the magazine. And: where did I get it and so on. They had this SNB guy there - he was a hell of a communist. And that was the end of me. They tied me to a bed, and in the morning, they dragged me to the train station and to Krumlov, Krumlov first, I think, and then to Budějovice, and from Budějovice to Tábor, and then from Tábor to Hradčany - I used to listen to the Loreta bells every day. There was a military prison there. There, I experienced when I was being received. Bad..."

  • "And he wanted me to put my hands up. I knew I had to do something. So I climbed up and grabbed my stomach as if it hurt. And I didn't do anything. I just kept my eye out to see where he had the rifle. And as soon as I saw it, I grabbed it quickly, pushed it back away from me, and as I was holding the rifle, I jerked it. He was holding it, I was holding it, but I pushed him back with the rifle. And, of course, I gave him a hard yank with it, and he let go of the rifle and rolled down the road to the ground. And I said to him, 'Warum bist du zu toll' (unintelligible; in the second recording: 'Why are you so stupid? Why don't you let me go? I won't do anything to you'). I still knew a little German. And he, when I saw him, the poor guy, his eyes were bulging out from how scared he was. He looked like a corpse. I took the rifle and threw the magazine out. I put it in my boots, and then I threw the rifle into the forest when I was safe from him. And when I knocked him down, I fired my gun, too, so he wouldn't follow me, and the woodsmen would come to his help. They thought I was going to hurt him. I had absolutely no intention of doing anything to him. I just wanted to get back to the border. And I already knew where to go. I was almost there. Just to cross that road."

  • "When we were arrested, we were being interrogated, we ended up getting all the way to Pankrác together. Each of us was interrogated separately, of course. They invited Vyleta to a room at the police headquarters that day. They blindfolded him. When you walked in the door, you immediately got kicked, you got hit in the stomach, in the legs, and it was already on. You didn't know who was hitting you. And they would tell you all these "pleasant" things. You can imagine. And then I saw him: his teeth were broken and knocked out, he couldn't speak for weeks, and everything hurt him. So I kept waiting every day for it to come - the beating - for them to call me. But I don't know why, bless God, in the end, they didn't beat me like they had beaten him. I didn't get beaten, but I experienced the same hunger as him. But I wasn't as hungry as he was. I was able to put up with a terrible lot, and I still saved that extra piece of bread at the end so that if I didn't get any bread the next day, I would have at least that one piece of extra bread. So we went through it all together, the whole tragedy."

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    Česká katolická misie v Brookfieldu, Chicago, Illinois, USA

    duration: 05:14:34
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The communists called me the King of Šumava, I was just helping people to safety

From border guard to transferrer
From border guard to transferrer
photo: private archive

Josef Hasil was born on 8 February 1924 in Zábrdí near Prachatice as the seventh of eight children. After forced labour in Passau, Bavaria, he joined the partisans and helped disarm the Germans. After the war, he joined the SNB (the National Security Corps - trans.). While serving in Zvonkova, very soon after the February communist coup, he and his colleague Zdeněk Vyleta began to help emigrants escape to the West. However, on his return from Bavaria on 20 October 1948, a fight broke out near the border. Josef escaped but was immediately denounced by a man whom he asked for water when he was on the verge of exhaustion. He went through a succession of interrogations and prisons (Český Krumlov, Tábor, České Budějovice, Hradčany - Loreta, Pankrác, Bory, Dolní Jiřetín). He saw General Heliodor Píka and other convicts in the Pankrác prison yard awaiting death. On 2 February 1949, the infamous judge Karel Vaš sentenced Josef Hasil to nine years in prison. In the forced labour camp in Dolní Jiřetín, Josef and his fellow prisoner Antonín Vítek planned an escape: while waiting for transport after their mining shift, they slipped past the armed guard and fled in an unpredictable direction towards Žatec. After crossing the border, Josef Hasil (like his brother Bohumil) contacted the American intelligence service CIC, the predecessor of the CIA. Together, they transferred refugees from Czechoslovakia - from mothers with children to prominent politicians, while cooperating with the resistance and building a vast network of informants. His brother Julius, who later settled in Canada, also joined the activities. In State Security materials, the uncapturable agent-pedestrian Josef Hasil is referred to as the King of Šumava. During one of their crossings in September 1950, Brother Bohumil got hit by nine bullets. The rest of the Hasil family did not escape the cruel persecution either. With the establishment of the Iron Curtain, Josef emigrated to the USA in 1954. There, he married Eliška (née Pokorná), worked as a draughtsman in the General Motors car factory and became involved in Czech associations and parishes. In 2001, President Václav Havel awarded him the Medal for Heroism. Josef Hasil died on 15 November 2019. In 2023, he was granted the status of a Participant of the Resistance and Opposition to Communism in memoriam.