Jiří Janisch

* 1926  

  • “I remember the 15th of March 1939 well. There were inscriptions, broken windows and stuff in the streets where Jews had their shops the day before. “JUDE” was written all over shop displays. The situation in Jihlava was really very bad. There were many Jewish families and their shops there. It was all broken. We lived near a Jewish prayer room, and there was a synagogue in Jihlava. They set it on fire and it burned down. As for the prayer room... it was torn down. There is a cemetery but both Jewish buildings are gone without a trace except for memorial plaques. Nazis really raged there. The pogrom was horrible. All the shops had “JUDEN RAUS” written on them in red. A Jew had a booth in the main square – it was all destroyed. The situation on 15 March 1939 and prior to that was bad. It was dangerous just walking in the streets because Nazis were raising hell. And on 15 March 1939 when we went to school there were German motorcycles. The Nazis mostly drove motorbikes. There were soldiers there and there was no school, it was closed, but then teaching resumed.”

  • “We came to Jihlava and my mother was summoned to the police headquarters. They told her that, since she was of a German nationality and Czechoslovak citizenship, she should change it all to German. My mother refused, and this saved me from having to join the army. It was my mother’s gesture. I didn’t know at the time, that’s what she did; otherwise I would have to go to the front. My cousin, my mother’s sister’s son, was in Germany with his family. He was two years younger and was drafted. By coincidence, he served in Jihlava. We didn’t know it at the time. He was with the SS. My aunt told him not to contact us, as this could have severe consequences, and we only learned that he was there after the war.”

  • “I was walking home from work at two pm and suddenly I felt like I was followed. The man caught up with me and told me to get in the car. They took me to the StB office in Hluboká Street in Jihlava. They told me that I was smart and popular among my friends, and that they needed someone to tell them about the sentiments in society, how people perceived the atmosphere and who was for socialism and so on. They said that we could meet. I told them that I couldn’t do it, that it was not my nature to spy and tell on anyone. I just couldn’t do it. They kept convincing me that I was the right person they trusted, and I kept refusing. I never told anyone at home about this except my father-in-law.”

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    Jihlava, 19.10.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 02:13:09
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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People need to trust each other

Jiří Janisch, 1948
Jiří Janisch, 1948
photo: archiv pamětníka

Jan Janisch was born in Lanškroun on 9 April 1926. He and his sister grew up in a Czech-German family. He was on forced labour deployment during the war and only avoided Wehrmacht draft thanks to his mother’s firm stance. The StB interrogated him for hours in the 1950s. Despite their pressure he rejected their offer of collaboration. He still works and, at age 92, is probably the oldest working retiree in the Czech Republic.