Karel Hýbek

* unknown  

  • "So he was actually fighting on Italian front, in the Italian Alps, where the offensive battles occurred, right?" "I just went through some old pictures from that time - they’re authentic. The soldiers were taking pictures of themselves in firing positions in Dolomites - the high rocky mountains - they tried to use the canons there...So he was there in 1917 and 1918... The situation there was getting complicated, because Italy left the triple alliance and joined the Triple entente. So yes, my father fought against Italy, against Italians." "And the front went as far as the Po River and Piave River right?" "It is written on the pictures that it is right there on Piave River. My father made precise notes on the pictures, he always wrote the date and the place." "So he was among the first troops coming back in 1918 and right after that he was enlisted to Slovakia?" "No, none of the four brothers went to Slovakia. The legionnaires were mostly sent to Slovakia. My father almost went there, but he was still by the striker’s troop. If he would have been in the infantry, he would have been probably sent to Slovakia too."

  • "There used to be one house where no one lived. It was used as storage of clothes of all the prisoners who came to the camp. Each pack of clothes had the prisoner’s number on it and it was put on the hangers or hooks etc. The house was full of them. There were fifteen thousand packs of clothes. In the case of someone’s death (there were deaths of course) the staff responsible for the clothes received some kind of death certificate and then they had to find the clothes matching the number of the prisoner. Then they handed them over to the military HQ which decided what to do with the clothes - if they send it to the parents or the wife etc. That’s how it worked. But if some prisoner was supposed to be released, that was something else. They called it ´Effektenkammer´ which means storage facilities for personal effects confiscated from arriving prisoners in German. So this house was used only for storing the clothes of all 15 -20 thousand of prisoners. If the military HQ received an order from Prague’s Gestapo (they had a list of all prisoners’ names and their numbers) to release some prisoners, they agreed on some date of release together. The list of the prisoners to be released was passed to this storage house and the staff there had to find all the clothes matching the numbers on the list. They then had to check the clothes carefully, clean it, brush it etc. All of this procedure was supposed to stay confidential of course. But you know how rumors work... I used to have some friends there who told me that they received the list of people who are supposed to be released. But since there was still quarantine, we didn’t know the date of the release yet. We only knew some people will be released, but didn’t know when. They had to repeal the quarantine first. About two weeks later an order to repeal the quarantine came. I knew it in advance, because I used to have some German friends there in the house that took care of the clothes and they told me about it. I gave them my number and the next day we met and they told me: ´You’re on the list of people who will be released too.´ That’s how I found out about my release. Of course, it wasn’t hundred percent sure, but maybe ninety percent. The main thing was not to lose your mind over it. You had to stay calm and think that with the God’s help there is a hope... We had to hope that everything will be fine again. Otherwise you couldn’t think about it much. Not in the concentration camp. Anyway, this friend of mine told me that I’m the next to be released."

  • "SPASEN" - which is an abbreviation for Association of Students of the Mechanical and Electrical studies - used to have only one dean for all faculties back then. It wasn’t even called faculty back during the 1st republic period. They used to call it Mechanical Engineering College of Prague officially. This was a common school for Mechanical and Electrical engineering students and we had only one dean. All facilities were centered to one building on Charles Square in Prague." "And Jan Opletal was quite involved in it, right?" "He was a medical student; all medical buildings were in Albertov (part of Prague next to the Charles Square - translation note). The day when Jan Opletal died we organized a preliminary committee for his funeral preparation. There were about twenty five of us involved at the beginning; I got in touch with professor Jirásek immediately. Three or four of us went to see him; he was supposed to inform us about what exactly happened there. He told us all about the accident, about the shooting etc. “ "So you didn’t participate in the demonstrations of October 28th at all? “ "Of course I did. I was there from the morning until the evening. The dorm life used to be quite active back then. Few days before October 28th - it was already in Protectorate and the war was here from September 1st - everything was already tense, everything happened unbelievably spontaneously. That morning on October 28th people didn’t go to school. They all went outside to the streets instead. The waves of students went through the streets of Prague from 8am. Sometimes the police intervened somewhere, but our Czech officers behaved really nice, they just told us: ´Look boys, don’t make unnecessary mess here, so they don’t have to call the German police officers here.´ But you know, we were young boys...How can you do a demonstration in disciplined manner...In the afternoon we gathered in Vinohrady (part of Prague), namely in Žitná, Ječná and Mezibranská Streets, where the Koruna shopping center is today. There the crowds came from all the surrounding streets. We sang the national anthem, we all wore the tricolor on our shirts, and everything was organized in the days ahead. But what was this all about? We demonstrated against the closing of the universities. Nothing bad was going on schools back then, you know, but we we’re already in Protectorate, our republic didn’t exist anymore and the anniversary of October 28th has been strictly forbidden by Germans; not only by the protectorate government , but also by the Germans...We were informed by the Prague Police inspectorate - by Czech police president - that we are not allowed this and that, because it is forbidden by Germans...That infuriated us of course; therefore we all went to the streets on October 28th. But it wasn’t that we would knock the cars over or break the window screens or anything like that."

  • "There were also some Jewish houses. The Jews were not together with the rest of us. They were held in separate houses. Their houses looked completely the same as the others, but they were isolated. No one was allowed to go inside of the Jewish houses. If someone would have gone there it could be fatal. I have to tell you honestly - but not as something brave - I used to go there. I wasn’t the only one...Of course I had to be very careful...Why? - Because there were Czech Jewish people. I met them during work, where it was hard to keep the people separated. So the Jews were working there just like we were. The Jews were commanded by different people though. Their commanders were often killers. As much as 20 or 30 people died every day during the so-called work. We were not guarded by such commanders, although ours were also though, but not as bad as the Jew’s. They were called ´Vermietungskomando´ - which means destroying commando, they were supposed to physically destroy the Jews."

  • "I already had a program schedule for each day. They asked me to participate in this and this. We arrived there on Thursday afternoon and that evening there was a big round up at 7pm. It took place in the former prison kitchen where there was a beautiful big hall. Our Czech ambassador from Berlin was also invited, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs participated too. The other participants were the Government of the Federal republic of Germany; Brandenburg federal republic, which was in charge of Sachsenhausen camp with all the rights and duties of it. That’s the way they organized it. And I received a daily schedule including my tasks for the day. They assumed that I was there for the first time after a long time (in 2005); it was the 60th anniversary. I received a preliminary invitation with the conditions and reasons why I should go there, whether I speak German or not etc. They were concerned if I will be able to talk with Germans in public... I told them I feel confident enough to manage the German language. So back then in 2005 I was in permanent contact (during the 6 day event) with the German staff that was taking care of the Monument. There were several discussion meetings organized with high school students from around the Sachsenhausen and other places. I spent hours and hours talking to them... It wasn’t just me talking to them, but these German students were able to ask any questions and I was supposed to give them the answers. Part of the reason why they chose me for this event was that I have participated in the November 17th event, when 1200 students from Prague, Brno and Příbram came there. Even though Sachsenhausen was a Nazi concentration camp, this event was really significant and very unusual. So this even still has its own place in the history of the camp."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 10.10.2008

    (audio)
    duration: 01:16:11
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

It´s like this with time - it just keeps running forward; and it never goes backwards.”

Karel Hýbek
Karel Hýbek
photo: www.gymceska.cz

Mr. Karel Hýbek, Ing, was born on October 2nd 1919 in Kostelec, beyond Labem town. His father was a former Austro-Hungarian soldier. He also served in the Czechoslovak army and finally also in the protectorate government troops. The family lived in Jindřichův Hradec town and in České Budějovice. After that they settled down in Rokycany where Karel Hýbek attended high school. Czech Universities were shut down in November of 1939, ending Mr. Hýbek’s studies at the Mechanical Engineering College of Prague. After the incidents which occurred during the funeral of Jan Opletal, Karel Hýbekwas one of the chain of students that were arrested in the Hlávka dorm. He was deported with other students to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He had been released in 1942, just before the R. Heydrich assassination. He returned back to his parents, who moved in the meantime to Benešov town. After the liberation he underwent a short military training at the army academy and completed his academic studies which had been interrupted by the war. In June of 1949 he begun to work as an assistant at the Mechanical Faculty and he remained there until 1952. After that he worked at the Research institute of the ferrous metallurgy. He stayed at this position until 1973. After that he moved to the Research Institute of Engineering where he remained until 1989.