Josef Klesa

* 1921  

  • “We were only guarding those Germans, there were norms for it, if someone was in the SS or SA, he got a ten or fifteen year sentence, there were set standards for this, not like to today, when courts drag on and on, arguing whether they are guilty or not, and things like that. It went without a hitch. There was certain Dr. Liška, and he would sentence five or six people per day. We as guards would handcuff them, take them to the court, they would hear their sentence, we would take them back and there would already be others waiting…”

  • “Just like with normal prisoners. As far as I know, from what I have seen or heard, they were treated like regular prisoners.” – “Political prisoners say they were often beaten.” – “No, this was not so. If some of them tried to break away, or were talking too much, then it was up to them. But if someone behaved correctly, no one even noticed him. I know that!”

  • “Then I was also sent to do the washing of steam locomotives; when Soviet prisoners came, we would together clean the locomotives with paraffin oil, it was like crude oil and that’s what we were doing there.” – “What did you think about Germany?” – “We could not speak, in Schonstrasse we were cut off from everything that was happening around. No radio, no newspapers, we had nothing, only what we heard from others now and then.” – “Then, what did you think about your fate, about you being in Germany?” – “Nothing really, I met the Soviets there, here I have portraits of people who were there, I was drawing their portraits there and gave them to some of them when they were leaving, because they were then sent to other factories all over Germany, but when they came and stayed in that camp for a week, we were in contact with them.”

  • “And the sentenced people, did not they for example ask you for something, like passing a letter to someone?” – “No, nothing like that, they did not dare, they were working in a pencil lead workshop and there was one sister who was taking letters out, and I think there were several cases like this, but I was not involved in it…” – “Why not?” – “Because I knew this was punishable, they had taught us that in the school, one was even sent to a correction cell for doing something like that, they fired him…” – “So you mean you would be threatened with placement in a correction cell, should you…” – “No, but we would by fired if they found out that we were taking something out for those guys. That’s why so many guards changed there, because there were many of those who got involved in it. In some cases, it was a form of provocation, and of he did it, he was fired on the spot.”

  • “I know that the one who was then executed, this general Píka, was there, but this was related to Petelík, because Petelík was a die-hard Communist, and I learnt this from another guy, with whom I was in a camp near Most, that they hanged him as a warning to the all the other communists. He was also in the D block and it was rumoured that he had an extra set of keys made, planning to take over the prison, there was some sort of a revolt, I don’t know to what extent it was carried out, but this uncle of mine was telling me: ´You see, this Mrs. Petelíková herself caused it. It was their turn to clean the common areas in the house where they lived, they lived just by the prison, and she kept saying – I won’t clean anything, just wait for my husband to come back, he will show you. And when Prchlíková heard this, she immediately told it to her husband, who was in the factory committee, and they searched his personal things and found the keys in his locker, but whether somebody else put the keys there instead of him, I cannot tell.”

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    Praha, 01.05.2006

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    duration: 49:31
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“I was not working in the political prisoners´department, but I think they were not being beaten. If they behaved correctly, no one even noticed them.”

  Josef Klesa was born March 10th 1921 in Cheb. He grew up in Kusíny, near Přeštice, about 20 kilometres from Pilsen. After elementary school he trained as a clockmaker and goldsmith. He was working as a clockmaker till 1942. In 1942 he was sent to forced labour to Germany, where he spent three years till the end of the war in several labour camps. After his return to Czechoslovakia he went through a course for prison wardens and found employment as a warden in the Pilsen-Bory prison. He served at the gate, in the prison year, or as a leader of an artistic workshop. While he was in the prison, the so-called Bory revolt took place, and tens of political prisoners including general Píka were executed. In 1946 Josef Klesa joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in 1948 he left, but became a Party member again in 1962. He briefly served as a guard in Cheb, but then he returned to the Bory prison and worked as a warden there till his retirement.