Josef Jedlička

* 1921

  • “Look, you were moving between the wagons. If I piss or not, nobody knows. I didn´t carry water with me. Just a little water was enough and it was already forcing out the oil. Everything went from the West, from the Ruhr land over Hannover to the front. What losses there were then on the front, when everywhere on the wagons it was written: Richtung Warschau. They were heading to Warsaw, it means to the East. Most of it went to Stalingrad and to that region.”

  • “I worked at the railway. I was sent to Kassel. There we were building railways. I fled from there, but they caught me, so they sent me to Hannover. There I worked as a shunter. At the railway it is possible to do various things. We wore uniforms. More and more soldiers were being sent (to the front). Friends at the railway and at the shunting were very interested, how it would turn out at the East front. I said: ´Napoleon didn´t end well there, due to frosts.´ I was afraid to say something…”

  • “(Whom did I know there? There must have been more of you, or did you do it by yourself?) [the sabotages in Hannover] No, that is why so many people perished in Bohemia, that our young man was showing off. You know how they came out of it near Kladno. Lidice. There the boy was also showing off and prided himself. (…) Oiling of axles. Mostly you have wagons, what is turning, has got axles. There are either bearing or normal axles. The older types were greased by oil. It was dropped onto the grease boxes which were then screwed up or clapped. Oil was put there. After certain number of kilometres somebody came with a can and poured oil. The worst were French wagons, the most modern ones were ours. (…) They had bearings and vaseline was pushed in there. Where there was oil, when you pissed or poured water there, so water is heavier and it forced the oil out of the axle. After a few kilometres the bearing jammed and burned. In Hannover they were producing new tanks.”

  • “(Should we have fought?) No, not fight. God save, we would have been cut to pieces like Polish. What would we have achieved as a handful when there was a mass around us (of Germans). French weapons, Belgian, Dutch, our weapons. We only had a few scrubby ones, I call them scrubby. At that time I saw it as a boy, fortresses, fortresses. They would have just shot twice with a tank. And what about the borders to Austria, Poland, Slovakia? I will tell everyone straight into the eyes that he is crazy, that he would like to massacre our nation. As the troops were marching, so they would have liquidated us. In addition there were the people from Sudets. Such is my opinion.”

  • “The name didn´t mean anything to me, I was from the Carpathian Russia. We were not told anything about the (brothers) Čapeks. First after the war I heard something about him. He himself said that he was Čapek from Bohemia. We met. But it was not possible to talk too much there, they were punishing it hardly.”

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    Praha, Střešovice, 03.09.2008

    duration: 01:36:26
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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A sabotage maker on the railways of the German empire

Josef Jedlička
Josef Jedlička
photo: Hynek Moravec

He was born in 1921 in Uzgorod in Carpathian Russia in the family of a former legionnaire from Zborov. His father had served under the at that time lieutenant colonel Ludvík Svoboda. As a kid he used to play with Ludvík Svoboda´s children, with his daughter Zoe and son Mirek. In 1939 they had to evacuate from Uzgorod, the family moved into the father´s native Svojanov near Svitavy. Josef found a place at the railway as a shunter. In 1940 he got the command to work in Germany, like many other young people from the year 1921. He was sent to forced labour on building sites near Kassel, some time later he had to take up work as a shunter in a shunting railway station of the empire railway in Hannover. On German railways in the surroundings of Hannover he did various kinds of sabotages, he added water or sand to grease boxes of the wagon axles. In 1944 he was arrested and sent into the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. He returned to Czechoslovakia first in July 1945, as the railways in Germany were broken. After the war he served in the army. Josef Jedlička took part for example in the transfer of money used during the monetary reform in 1953 to the Soviet Union. For the whole his life he worked either at the railway, or in the army. He was retired as a trainer of the civil defence at the Generality of the Czechoslovak people´s army.