František Havlůj

* 1920  †︎ 2014

  • „We were spreading these leaflets – we were supposed to support the families of those who had been arrested. So we would carry messages for the wives of the prisoners etc.” Interviewer: “How did you receive the leaflets?” “This Rudla received them, he was our contact.” Interviewer: “He was your contact to a higher instance?” “Yes, that’s how it was supposed to be but it wasn’t like that, that’s for sure. These people know each other. You wouldn’t come to a stranger and tell him: “Hey, let’s do this kind of job.” You’d have to be crazy, he would report you immediately to the police. It doesn’t work like this. Everybody knew each other more or less. That’s also why, when it blew up, it came as far as the very upper reaches of the organization. And then there’s the thing, that everyone spoke at the interrogation, nobody is gonna tell me that he didn’t, I just don’t buy it! That’s nonsense. They had very persuasive methods. They knew how to make you confess even what you didn’t know.”

  • „They did this on block thirteen – I wasn’t there by that time anymore – they placed all the sick and ailing inmates on this block and served them even smaller food rations then to all the others. Additionally they poured cold or hot water over them. Rudla and I went to block eight, which was right bellow block thirteen. But Hašler stayed on thirteen, I don’t really know why. I don’t think he had an injury, but whether he had to stay or whether he chose to stay, he simply stayed there. So they fenced off this building from the others and treated the inhabitants as described, they simply annihilated them. This Hašler stayed there for some two or three weeks, nobody knows really, because no one who was there with him is here… it’s just fairytales and legends… I wasn’t in touch with him afterwards but I was with him in that building. But I know from what happened in that building that whoever got there stayed there, there was no getting out alive. They wiped out the entire building! He died around mid-December or so. He held out for about six weeks, no longer.”

  • “They had it calculated that an average healthy man could last for six months there. No one had to touch him, no beating, just half a year there and he would die of exhaustion. This Rudla Formánek, that I keep on talking about, we worked together, slept together, ate together. I didn’t notice that some one would beat him or something. You had to be alerted and on guard all the time there or else you’d get beaten – everywhere! We arrived on October the 3rd. October the 3rd, November the 3rd, December the 3rd, January the 3rd, February the 3rd, March the 3rd and on March the 8th he died of exhaustion. He was called “Tarzan” in the Sokol (the Czechoslovak youth movement – something like the Scout movement – note by the translator). He had the body of a Tarzan. But he ate twelve dumplings at home while I ate one or two, which is a huge difference. And there were a lot of people like this there, I’d say about half of the transport. You saw loads of dead bodies every day! It wasn’t that bad in the mine but up there on the plain, they called it the plain, they were cutting it down remorselessly. And down there in the mine you couldn’t work because the pipeline would freeze, which made it impossible to work. We had to go to work three times in the morning and three times in the afternoon. The pit was covered with snow and we had to carry away the boulders. Now, the thing was that if you chose a boulder that was too big, you weren’t able to carry it away. But if you, on the other hand, picked a light one, the supervisor would beat you up for slacking off and load you up with a boulder so heavy, it would bring you down. So you had to pick a boulder that looked reasonably heavy but that could still be carried. And then we would run with the boulders like the gold prospectors in Klondike were rushing with gold.”

  • “That was the transport for the concentration camp, it transported about 260 people in these cattle cars – the so-called “antony”. The train station was crowded with sick people – they were the first ones to be loaded on the transport. So there was the last line of those in the truck. This boy he leaned on a wall with his face and his glasses cracked. He still had his glasses, he just patched them together with such a thin duct tape. Everybody said: “Oh that’s good, we’re going south, not west.” Because nobody knew about Mauthausen, they only knew about Dachau. So we said to ourselves that it’s fine, that we’re not going to Dachau. When we arrived at Mauthausen, at this tiny train station, there was a nice road leading right up to the camp.” Interviewer: “Did you go up to that manor house, up there to this manor building, the concentration camp is to its right side, right?” “All the way up there did we go, where now the bus station is.”

  • „So they sorted out people – who would go where – and I got in block thirteen.” Interviewer: “That was allegedly the worst block.” „The worst, yes… that was the block where all the mineworkers lived. The mine had the worst commando. Followed by the Strassenbahn 3, that was some regulation of the access roads from the Danube. That’s where I, Rudla Formánek as head of our unit and this Kindl worked.” Interviewer: “So they then released the fourth guy?” “No he didn’t even get there. We didn’t talk about him at the interrogation. So it looked like it was just the three of us. So they didn’t arrest him or anything.” Interviewer: “So they didn’t arrest him?” “No, he and his brother died two years later anyway. They were young lads, he and his brother. We had saved him but he died anyway.” Interviewer: Maybe he grieved for it too. You never know.” “No, I don’t think so, he was shattered, he was older, twenty-one like his brother.” Interviewer: “So which commando did you belong to?” You were in the mine?” “I was in Steinbruck – a stone pit. We were around 1100 people. 1100 people were walking up and down these stairs.”

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    Praha Stodůlky, 27.08.2008

    duration: 01:45:56
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“We had saved him and yet he died.”

František Havlůj was born on 24 October 1919 in Stodůlky nearby Prague. His father was a driver and before worked as a fireman. During the First World War he served with the Dragoons at Freistadt. František attended general and municipal school and was then trained in the Waltrovka works for car manufacturing. As an apprentice he circulated through all of the divisions of the works (fuselage production, locksmith workshop, aviation details - the testing ground for aircraft parts, aircraft assembly - the assembling of engines, repair works etc.). In 1937 he accomplished his training and was due for the draft in the spring of 1939 but it never happened. Immediately after the occupation of Czechoslovakia he joined the underground movement “the Communist youth” and was helping its activities by disseminating leaflets, carrying messages and helping family members of those who had been arrested. In the end of September 1941 he was arrested and sent to Mauthausenu, where he stayed till September of 1942, when he enrolled as a worker in the Steyr works (a factory manufacturing engines). In the Steyer works he worked as an assembly line operator. In the Mauthausen camp, he occupied block nr. 13, where among others, Karel Hašler lived as well. This block was renowned for the cruelty of its guards and František Havlůj was lucky to have left it in time. During his time in the Steyer works he witnessed several bombings but the factory stayed operational till the end of the war. After the arrival of the Americans he got into a camp that was set up by them. Here he met a Czech from Český Krumlov who took him together with a friend and his wife back to Bohemia in May 1945.