PhDr. Karel Hrubý

* 1923  †︎ 2021

  • “Shalgovic had a list of people who were involved and were already arresting politicians from KAN and political prisoners they were setting up ... Because they were the loyal people of Moscow. And my wife told me you were going to tell me again what you told me at that time in Železná Ruda when we sat on the border visiting our uncle, at the bar. March 1948... people were running around and they were shooting at them. And we sat there by the bar, we could just pick it up and cross it. And my uncle went out and said, 'Karl, if you want to run, just say so. I will go too. Let's move the furniture ... because it was a semi-detached house, half of the Czech customs and the other half were Bavarian customs. We'll move it around, the Bavarians will help us, and we'll all go.' And I was a student back then and said to my uncle: ´See, the front will be here and you do not ran away from the front.´ Well a young man does not ran away. And my wife reminded me. We already experienced the jail. And she says, 'Dad, if you say the queue will be here again, I'll get divorced.' It was all different in the end, they arrested a few people, but soon the arrests stopped and checks began and punishment, deposition, exclusion started. But few people have been shut down. They closed individuals but did not close massively, as in the 1950s. And so we actually had more worries than necessary. But we've suffered years of a nasty jail. And so, on the third of September we got on the express train, drove through Cheb and arrived in Nuremberg. There we got off at the station and there were Bavarians in those short leather pants. They had tables… and as we got out they asked us: 'Sind Sie Pfluechtingen? Are you refugees? And I heard the word refugee for the first time. And I got stuck in my throat and I said, 'Nein, sind wir nicht.' I didn't see a fugitive in me. I was to come back.”

  • “The guards suddenly became uneasy. They were more forgiving, unsure of what would happen. And I had my first visit after the conviction in April. I haven't seen my family for almost a year, I left my boy when he was fifteen months old. Now I didn't know how he would react to me when they brought him a strange man in brown prison clothes. If he crouches into his mum's lap and gets afraid... I was called to the guardhouse, a guard was waiting for me and led me outside the camp. There was another wooden house with a guest room. So they took me to the house and there was a wife with my dad standing in the doorway. A kid between them, holding my mom's hand. And when we were about twenty yards away, he jumped away from my mother, ran to me, reached out, said 'daddy' and threw myself into my arms. The guard couldn't do anything. I held my baby in my arms, it wasn't allowed! Well, what could he do? He looked back to see if anyone could see us and hurry to get inside. And he even left me a boy so I could hold him on my lap. I was intoxicating ... And my wife, as we all enjoyed the meeting, so my wife was so exuberant, we were holding hands and he tolerated it all. And my dad, who was about seventy years old at the time... that dad with those twisted beards sitting there and let himself be caught by the mood, suddenly leaned over to me and spoke in a muted voice, but so that the guard says: all straight people had to suffer. But not in vain, remember. ‘I thought the end of the visit ... before they instructed us that we were only allowed to talk about family matters. The guard took a deep breath, looked at the old man, and swallowed, and the visit continued.”

  • “They also wanted to get me involved into espionage, too. But thanks to the testimonies of others and my friend I lived with. We were already studying to become teachers in Pilsen, he was an excellent friend, so he did it. He really conveyed the news. And they qualified it as espionage. And he didn't say anything. And I denied it. Well, the investigating judge yelled at me: 'You're lying! Šimák confessed it.´ And I said: 'Šimák did not know it.‘ We were like two brothers. “Then we will bring him to you and confront you.” And I said: ´Then bring him to me…´ There was never any confrontation. Because they made it up. They blamed it at him, but when we saw the protocols, there was nothing like that. In other words, it was investigated in this way. Then came the Supreme Military Court and why the Supreme Military Court? We were a five-member group and one was a Prague security officer before February. He had something to do with security, so we all had to go to military court. And I did too just because I wrote the analysis of the regime. And they gave us seventeen, fifteen, twelve and ten years to serve in prison. Luckily, I got out of the espionage, so I only got ten for high treason.”

  • “And when I was studying philosophy the third year, February 1948 came. I was immune to the communists because I had Masaryk in me, his social question. Few knew that in the 1990s Masaryk wrote a two-volume work where he dealt with Marx, not as a social warrior. He respected him. But with his materialism… he said, you count with capital as a system, with production conditions, but you forget the human in us. All the human needs. And you proclaim a utopia that people will never fulfill. Because people are not angels. And you are projecting the future there, into that classless society, equality, everyone will have according to their needs, everyone will do only what one likes. This is an illusion. And I've already incorporated it all. In addition, I received a brochure from my dad by a German journalist, Eduard Bernstein. He was a journalist who had to escape to Switzerland during the times of Bismarck´s rule and then resorted to London, where he was a collaborator of Engels after Marx's death. And he was an expert of Marx's work. But he already had some doubts back then.”

  • “I tell it because it must not be simplified; as people think the whole nation thinks the same. And they say that the whole nation was in favor of removal. They are right to the point that there were some differences in people who approved it as a necessity and in people who did not approve of the way it happened. They wanted to see a bit of humanity. I could see that even in those brutal time of war and Nazism, there was still compassion in people. Although she was a German, everyone understood that this could not be done. And then we talk about the removal, I fully understand that after the war, after such bad experiences... when we were actually dishonored at every step... if a German soldier was walking, you had to make his way, not to touch him, because it would start the trigger. And all the people were full of anger, but not all were in favor of evading children and grandmothers. But it was not otherwise possible, three and a half million Germans could not be brought to justice. We didn't even have so many judges. And then, you know how it works… in Germany they had denationalization courts and then denacified every Nazi. And he got a certificate that he was not guilty of humanity and was a civil servant and perhaps a deputy. So, I fully understood the Benešov principle, we have to get rid of the Fifth Column. I understood it, but I didn't like it being done in a brutal way.”

  • “But I just got to the City Theater and they were already arriving from the German border, from Litice to Klatovy Avenue and down under the theater were the 35th Barracks. It was a famous Pilsen regiment, but now there were of course the Germans. And I found myself between the theater and the 35th barracks when the convoy arrived. And those stupid boys… damned war… they were the fifteen-sixteen-year-old soldiers, the last advance they had mobilized, and they were still brainwashed by Nazi ideology… they had flints, ammunition, machine guns, so they started firing at the Americans. Well, a lost thing of course. And I was in the meantime… I just ran into an open door. It turned out that it was the building of the Chamber of Commerce and Trade and that there were already a lot of people in the cellar who had fled there. And before I ran there, I saw how the Americans were acting. These were tough guys who went from Normandy through all of Germany. They were still fighting. He was sitting on the jeep, and when the first shots were heard, he slumped to the ground, listened to where it came from, hid behind the jeep, took the submachine gun and fired back. In peace, totally calmly. It was the end of the war, but he could still lose his life ... but those people didn't think about it, they just could not. Those were great soldiers.”

  • Full recordings
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    Basilej, 30.07.2019

    duration: 05:26:49
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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For some people, evil is part of their character. And it doesn’t matter if they wear the brown Nazi uniform or have a red Communist card in their pocket.

Karel Hrubý 2
Karel Hrubý 2
photo: archiv pamětníka

Karel Hrubý was born on 9 December 1923 in Pilsen as the youngest of six children. He grew up in the working district of Roudna, his father worked on the rail, and his mother stayed in the house and looked after the children. He trained as a turner and during the Protectorate he worked in the Škoda factory in Plzeň. In 1944 he started to study at the Teaching Institute. He experienced a raid on Pilsen in April 1945, at the end of the war he witnessed the last local fighting during the liberation of Pilsen and witnessed the expulsion of the Germans. After the war he went to Prague and studied philosophy and sociology at Charles University, which he completed in 1949 with his dissertation regarding T. G. Masaryk. Already in 1945 he became a member of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party and after its violent merger with the Communist Party in 1948 refused to join the Communists. He was involved in the work of an illegal group of social democrats and, as a student, worked out an analysis of the communist dictatorship. In connection with the kidnapping of the last pre-February chairman of the Social Democrats, Bohumil Laušman, who was kidnapped by secret police agents from Vienna in 1953, an extensive investigation was under way. Members of an illegal group, including Karel Hrubý, were arrested. He was arrested two years later and sentenced to ten years in prison for treason by the Supreme Military Court. Subsequently, he was transported to a work camp in the Dark Mine near Rtyně in Podkrkonoší. In 1960, he was released as part of president Novotny’s amnesty, which also involved political prisoners for the first time. In the following years he worked as a grinder in a production cooperative. During the Prague Spring, he was offered the post of sociologist at the Research Institute of Production Cooperatives. At the same time he returned to politics and became a member of the preparatory committee for the reconstruction of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party. All negotiations ended with the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops. Fearing a new wave of arrests and political trials, Karel Hruby traveled to Switzerland with his family in September 1968. Shortly after his arrival, he was offered a position of sociologist of a large pharmaceutical company, and in the coming months he developed a marketing strategy for the drugs sale. Thanks to its success, the company gradually introduced it in its branches around the world. In 1972 he was actively involved in the work of the exiled social democracy and a year later he became its vice-chairman and the chairman in 1989. At the same time, he was a member of the global leadership of the Society for Sciences and Arts, associating the Czechoslovak scientific and cultural elite abroad. In Switzerland he was its chairman and for many years he was also the editor of the important cultural and political exile proceedings of the Metamorphosis. In early 1990, he returned to Prague to participate in negotiations on the restoration of social democracy. He is the author of a number of scientific studies in the field of sociology, political science and philosophy, still actively publishing. In addition to his scholarly texts, he also published a book entitled Could Be Worse, A Reconciliated Remembrance of the Communist Criminal, and a year later a collection of his studies and essays, collectively entitled Journeys through the Communist Dictatorship. In 1995 he became an honorary citizen of the City of Pilsen and in the same year the President of the Republic awarded him a high state honour, the Order of T. G. Masaryk II. degrees of merit in developing democracy, humanity and human rights. He lives in Basel; he is a widower. His only son is a doctor.