Viktor Hnízdil

* 1928  

  • “The Germans surrounded the whole of Malín, and they started putting the women and children into one big room. They were sorted out in four places, I think. The people who were brought to Malín after the sorting, say, from the fields, were shot on the spot. When they saw someone, they shot him. I say this because my mum’s father, One Mišák, was out with a cow, so they shot him in his yard, and his son Viktor Mišák - they shot him in the yard, too. We didn’t find those until the next day. Those who were somewhere further out and didn’t come back until the afternoon, they survived. For example, Kechrt was with Beštová in Lutsk.”

  • “The worst thing was when the Germans came and made a ghetto in Ostrožec and fenced it up. Then the Jews knew things were bad, so they tried to flee. They fled into the forest because there’s a big forest between Ostrožec and Kneruty, they dug themselves a hole and hid. That was stupid because they wouldn’t have lasted long in it anyway. Come winter, they’d be gonners. A few of the families were holed up in those hideouts and would come to Kneruty for food in the evenings. But the Germans knew about it, and so they issued a statement that if anyone gave any food to a Jew, they’d murder the whole village. So no one dared do it. Ukrainians, Banderites, Jews, and secret agents made the rounds of the villages, and no one knew who they were. One time in 1943 a Jew came to us, and I recognised him. It was just me, Mum, and my sister at home. He wanted some bread, but we couldn’t give him any because we were afraid. So I shoved him, but he held on. So I shoved him harder, knocked him out of the doorway, and then banged the door shut. So he went to the Czechs, where the teacher lived [she taught in Český Malín - ed.], but they didn’t give him anything either. He went into their barn and hanged himself there.”

  • “Dad was a horse dealer, and we’d have, say, fifty horses in the barn before the harvest. Dad traded them, but he had help. He had his people, who sold them at bazaars. Those were practically every day. Dad would just go and watch, but when someone bought his horse, no one knew it was from Hnízdil, because there was a lot of cheating going on in horse dealing. Say, horses who had just one egg [sic], they were called ‘nenter’, they were a nasty sort. They wouldn’t stand any other horse, they’d bite and kick and do all kinds of things. But such horses look beautiful. What to do with them? So you’d buy a litre of vodka before the bazaar started, you’d pour that down its throat, and it’d sleep. It’d stand there and you could touch it all over, and it wouldn’t so much as budge. You had to sell it [before the alcohol wore off - trans.], and you’d sell it well, and the person who sold it had to make himself scarce before the horse woke up. Once it’d been bought, that was that.”

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    Šumperk, 28.07.2016

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They murdered his grandfather, his uncle, aunt, and two cousins including a ten-year-old girl

Viktor Hnízdil
Viktor Hnízdil
photo: archiv pamětníka

Viktor Hnízdil’s birth certificate claims that he was born on 28 February 1928 in České Kneruty in the Dubno Governorate in Volhynia, which was Polish territory at the time. In actual fact, he was not born until the spring of that year, and his date of birth was erroneously recorded during the post-war remigration to Czechoslovakia. Those nigh on twenty years that he spent in Volhynia left an unforgettable mark on his life. He experienced both the Soviet and the German occupation, the mass slaughter of Jews, and the terrorising of local inhabitants by Banderites. As a fifteen-year-old boy he was assigned to a so-called stripka, which was a Ukrainian law enforcement service instated by the Germans. In his line of service he experienced repeated clashes with the Banderites and several narrow escapes from death. He was also an eye-witness of the burning of the neighbouring town of Český Malín. Among the burnt and shot bodies of men, women, and children were also his grandfather Josef Mišák, his uncle and aunt Viktor and Emílie Mišák, his sixteen-year-old cousin Josef Mišák and his only-ten-year-old cousin Lilie Mišáková. When the Soviet forces arrived in 1944, his father joined the Czechoslovak army corps and served in the intendance (supply) unit all the way from Dukla Pass to Bohemia. In 1947 the whole family remigrated from Volhynia to Czechoslovakia and settled down near Šumperk. In 1956 Viktor Hnízdil married Jaroslava Johnová - the couple moved to Bedihošt, where the witness worked as a garage supervisor at the local sugar refinery for many years. In 2004 the Hnízdils returned to Šumperk. They still lived there in 2016.