Jan Jelínek

* 1940  

  • “They reached Estonia, a place called Raasiku. Then we were there with my brother and sister. There awaited them a section of the Estonian SS. This is a peculiarity. Of course, the Germans tried to make the nations they conquered a kind of special section of the SS. They tried to do this here too, but it didn't work out. It was rare, but the Estonians pride themselves on it under the special pretext that the Germans had liberated them from Soviet oppression... Then they took the first ten behind the wall with weapons. The others who stood there and didn't know what was going to happen, they heard a terrible cry. The Estonian soldiers drank terribly. They had a large supply of vodka and drank. They forced their victims to stand inside mass graves. But before that, they tore their gold teeth alive. Those people were screaming, so then they did it when the people were dead. They forced them to step into the pit next to each other, the pit the prisoners had dug the day before. Then the commander, who had put on a butcher's apron and gloves to keep his uniform from getting dirty, totally drunk himself shooting them all. Then they called another ten in.”

  • “I loved the Weekly because I studied journalism. Although Professor Beránková said that I am the strangest student, for I do not study journalism but film newspapers. I wrote all the student works about the Film Weekly. At that time, television was not developed the way it broadcast Film Weekly instead of the film newspaper and later lived on it. World Film Weeklies, Twentieth Century Fox, etc., that was something. When they took something from us, the fame was all theirs. In 1968 they took over everything. So I was a film journalist by nature. I loved it. Travel around the country and shoot whatever happens. Of course, when normalization came, it got worse. We had to shoot about how comrades congratulated someone. But we had a laugh competing, who would be better at getting the square and the church into the picture of the top village. Because the communists were going crazy, it had to be without a church. There was a censorship on the approval - then they were asking, if we could shoot it again without the church. We said it was Tuesday, a copy is made on Wednesday and it goes to cinemas on Thursday. So they asked if it could be erased somehow only to show the square without a church. So we had fun.”

  • “The superiors ... The director of the Educational House was a passionate communist, and I cheated on him. I found out that there is a Department of Education and Journalism at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University. I got the application, comrade director was thrilled that someone in his party would have a university degree, and signed it, recommended me there, I changed the subject and studied journalism. When I finished it and I came to him to move to Prague Short Film, it was a bitter disappointment, but he swallowed it. It was 1968.”

  • “I went to school there, but I was a village child and the city was strange for me, still strongly German. It didn't suit me. I wasn't looking forward to that school, I didn't know anybody there, I didn't have any friends, the friendships that had been established there were already, but I didn't have any friends. It bothered me so much. In addition, my dad came back from the hospital two or three times, kept sitting in a chair wearing a bathrobe, and was seriously ill. My mother was very sad. She used to take us under the windows of a wooden house by the Germans just outside the hospital where my dad lay. I don't know why Dad wasn't in the hospital, but in the wooden house next door. She led us there so that he could wave to us. He wanted to see us. All this was sad. Very soon, in 1947, my father died.”

  • “The vast majority of Jews were Czech-German. Aunt Bendová, the wife of the owner of the Benda bothers´ company where my dad met my mother, was German and spoke with a strong accent. She was strange to me because she smoked a lot, I was terrified. But my dad knew German very well and learned colloquial German by driving on the train, playing cards, and he cheated on the Germans, so they always ended up laughing... So they were friends. When we make spooks out of the Henlein fans, it was only later. Strangely the people all of a sudden came to my dad and told him he should divorce the Jew. He said, 'But Karl, you've always liked her so much. Don't remember that? '-' I remember, you know, but the leader ordered it and it is spoiling the Aryan blood.' My dad still could not believe it, and even said he wanted to immigrate to Australia and saved an amount of money in Switzerland, but it was already too late, nothing could be done.”

  • “Mommy was already going to Terezin with you?” - “Yes, but Daddy said we were not going anywhere. He pushed us into the car and drove us to Hořepník, to the house of his father, who strongly opposed to marrying the Jewess; he even did not attend their wedding. At that time he agreed and hid the mum. My mother lived in a small bedroom with curtains closed and was not allowed out. While I, who was blond after my father, I was allowed to go out on the street. The young Germans who used to march there and sang German songs, so they thought of me as a blond, for them I could be no Jewish kid. Mum, who was looking through the little hole in the curtain, because she wasn't allowed to do more, she was a black, absolutely clearly Jewish woman; she then found out that ten blond men were walking outside with a tiny little boy among the first two; he even lifted his legs and sings with them. It was me. Next to us lived the Austrian reservists, the old gentlemen to whom I carried bread; they considered me grandson. It was all strange. I didn't really care about the war, while my mother, who was used to be taken to Dubrovnik and lived well, so suddenly she could only live in a single dark room for five years and was allowed to go to the garden in a dark night. That must have been a terrible trauma for her. She never smiled again after Dad's death.”

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    Praha, 26.09.2018

    duration: 02:02:10
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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My dad was hiding the mother from the Nazis in a darkened room for five years

young Jan Jelínek
young Jan Jelínek
photo: Pamětník

Jan Jelínek was born on 19 July 1940 in Prague to a mixed Czech-Jewish family of merchant Josef Jelínek and his Jewish wife Marie, née Ledererová. John had an older brother and a younger sister. The family lived in Liberec, where the father had a textile shop. At a time when his wife and children were threatened to be transported to Terezin, Josef decided to hide his family in his father’s house in Hořepník near Pacov, which he succeeded. Marie hadn’t been out of a small darkened bedroom for five years; little Jan, with his father’s blond hair, could walk out on the street. After the war, his father took the family back to Liberec, but in 1947 he died as a result of the war stress of disclosure. Widowed Marie with three children moved to Nymburk. Jan graduated from the local grammar school and then attempted to study at FAMU, but was not admitted due to cadre reasons. He enlisted in the army in České Budějovice, got married and after his return he settled down with his wife in Mladá Boleslav, where he found a job in an educational house. He was in charge of educating young photographers and amateur filmmakers. In the 1960s he went to study journalism, which he graduated in 1968, and then joined the Short Film. For more than twenty years he has been making reports for the Czechoslovak Film Weekly. In the mid-1990s, in cooperation with the Jewish Community, he made fifty interviews with Holocaust victims. They were published in a book called „And where was God ...? “.