Josef Holý

* 1933  

  • “Mum wanted to take the duvet, so they gave her one with a rifle butt. Okay, no duvet. Cushion, yes? She got another blow and Dad wanted to help her, so he got one too. They hit her with a rifle butt, like this. They herded us into cars, took us to Brody and from Brody by train to Przemyśl. There we got out, it must’ve been close, because walked just a short way and we arrived at the concentration camp.”

  • “Dad had the horse in the stable, and he said he’d sleep by the horse, to guard it. He’d been given a pistol by the soldiers, he was a good shot. That could come as a surprise. Suddenly he rushed up in the night: ‘Shhhh, get up. We have to leave.’ So we got up, climbed into the cart, because there wasn’t much anything else there, just a bit of straw, and we left and Mum said: ‘What’s up?’ - ‘They lynched the owner of the house.’ The farmer. And they were debating whether to set fire to the place or not. They didn’t in the end, for the reason that there was a patrol close by.”

  • “Once in the night we heard a knock on the door. My parents opened it. We had a great big sultan (dog) on a chain, and he was a terror. He wasn’t afraid of anyone. Not even soldiers. They opened the door and there they were - a girl, some thirteen years old, and her brother, a year or so younger or older. Those were the Albert children. The Alberts were Jews and they had a hops-processing plant. They had managed to escape from the ghetto. There were more of them who did. Maybe the warden let them out, maybe he reckoned: ‘It’s cold, they’ll freeze in the forest.’ And they were starving and frozen to the bone.”

  • “We children learnt German, we [attended] a German school. There were twenty-seven or twenty-eight of us, and just five remained. All of the little ones died. I still have two cousins buried in Toruń. And those who survived, died in the aftermath. But the interesting thins is - Slávek Svítků was born in the camp, and he’s alive to this day. He’s showing them right proper. It’s interesting. It’s true that when she had the baby, everyone helped hide them variously, and even gave them food.”

  • “Mum’s maiden name was Sitařová, and Dad used to be a musician, so one day he came to Dlouhé Pole, and he was playing and lo - that’s how he’d tell it - what a pretty girl. She was quite a young one. With long, beautiful hair. He took her to dance and straight away gave her a kiss, Mum almost gave him a slap in return. He talked it through, stayed over at their house, Granddad came and they arranged the wedding right away.”

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    Nové Město nad Metují, 06.01.2013

    duration: 01:40:42
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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There were twenty-seven or twenty-eight of us, and just five remained

Josef Holý, 6 January 2013
Josef Holý, 6 January 2013
photo: Martin Reichl

Josef Holý was born in Dubno, Volhynia, on 11 July 1933. At the time, the western part of Volhynia belonged to Poland, but Josef Holý remembers only the final days of Poland’s governance over Volhynia. He experienced the Soviet occupation of Volhynia in 1939-1941, and the Nazi one in 1941-1944. The battlefront returned to western Volhynia in 1944 - this time it was the Soviet army which was pushing from the East and the Wehrmacht which was retreating. In this time, Josef Holý was detained in the village of Alexandrovka with his mother and father, probably to clear out the battlefront zone. They were transported to Brody and then to the camp in Przemyśl. This was followed by camps in Gdynia and then Toruń, where Josef Holý attended a German school and was required to learn German. Shortly before the end of the war, he and his parents managed to escape from the Toruń camp. In February 1945 they were liberated by the Red Army. However, the family did not receive a “bumážka” (a permit) to Czechoslovakia as they had hoped, but back to Volhynia. So they had to return, through Warsaw and the River Bug. They did not come to Czechoslovakia until 1947, during the massive re-emigration wave of Volhynian Czechs. Josef Holý settled down in Hudlice, working briefly as a driver. After military service he moved to Prunéřov (now a part of Kadaň) to work as a bus driver. The bad air in the Chomutov district led him and his wife to take their children and move to Nové Město nad Metují, where he found a job as a new vehicles operative. He now lives with his wife in Nové Město nad Metují.