Kurt Kempe

* 1932  †︎ 2023

  • So that’s how it was. In Vidlovle we had to work for nine months on what was practically forced labour. In February it was very cold and one morning we had to assemble in front of the new owner, a Czech, I don’t know the reason, they say someone stole something. The clothing we were wearing – I for instance had a kind of military dress coat and military trousers and clogs, and those clogs had a hole in them. Snow and sleet was falling and we stood for three hours outside in that courtyard. My toe and nose were frostbitten. But that was the lesser evil.

  • Because today when you walk alongside the Postoloprty barracks, these are gone now, they were pulled down two years ago because it was the last shameful place Germans would travel to and take pictures of. Where the anti-tank trench was, today there’s a beautiful park there, so that no one is reminded on what used to be there. Nothing in the Postoloprty pheasantry reminds you of the fact there was a camp and buildings there. Today there’s a sports field there.

  • I also stood with the men. And when a son (of our neighbour) from our house walked by with a gun and red armband on his sleeve, he was part of that group, they called themselves “revolutionaries”, he took me and moved me to the children. And today I know that saved my life. Because otherwise I’d have stayed with the men. And the men were, on the 27th (of May), that same day, all of them were executed. All of them. All the male population of Postoloprty from thirteen to sixty five. And they’re all at the Czech school. There they had a large anti-tank trench, it was about 40 m long, 5 m wide and 4 m deep. And into that trench they shot five hundred people over night. But we didn’t know that at the time.

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Weidenberg, Německo, 28.05.2019

    duration: 02:27:17
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I’m one of the last witnesses of the Postoloprty massacre

Kurt Kempe at the meeting of Postoloprty natives in Lichtenfels (first on the left), 1947
Kurt Kempe at the meeting of Postoloprty natives in Lichtenfels (first on the left), 1947
photo: Pamětník

Kurt Kempe was born on 5 August 1932 in Postoloprty (Postelberg in German) as the son of carpenter Ernest and his wife Emilie, maiden name Neumann from Blšany (Flöhau). In September of 1938 he attended the first class in a Czech school, however a month later the Sudety region was annexed, Postoloprty became part of the Reich and Kurt and his Czech classmates were moved to a German school. He only began to comprehend the horrors of war in the autumn of 1944 seeing German deserters from the East passing through the town and most acutely in 1945 when people from one of the death marches from a concentration camp “near Dresden” stayed the night in the cold storage of the Postoloprty brewery. During the final days of the war, thirteen-year-old Kurt, together with other boys who were members of the Hitler Youth, took part in an improvised citizens defence action under the Volkssturm, but thankfully there was no actual fighting. The Red Army arrived in Postoloprty on 9 May, but were gone from the town by 15 May and made room for a military unit sent from Prague to “clean the town of the Germans” with the help of the local Revolutionary Guards. As early as Saturday 26 May 1945, German officials, Nazis and the like were assembled at the local courthouse. On Sunday 27 May the remaining German citizens of Postoloprty were forced to gather at the local barracks. Kurt was originally placed alongside the adult men, but a son of family friends of theirs, the Bernards, moved him to join the children and so saved his life. Apart from the women and children, all men aged 13–65 years old stayed in the barracks and were shot. A day after the massacre the remaining German population was allowed three kilograms per person and transported to a camp in the pheasantry. There Kurt spent about a month, and at that time the men from neighbouring Žatec were brought to Postoloprty and also shot. While staying in the Postoloprty pheasantry, Kurt – together with a group of similarly old boys – was taken to field labour in nearby Vidovle. After nine months of forced labour, in March 1946 Kurt was transferred via the concentration camp in Žatec - in open cattle-cars -to Bavaria. Thanks to the Red Cross, his uncle was able to find him there, and later also identified Kurt’s mother and sister. In 1950 his father also returned from Soviet captivity. Before that, in 1947, Kurt went to a meeting of Postoloprty natives in Lichtenfels. At this meeting Kurt heard the first-hand accounts of the surviving men, only then understanding the extent of the Postoloprty catastrophe. Today he no longer wishes to return to Postoloprty – he still can’t stomach the way the locals fail to remember the massacre of the German citizens.