Jan Klus

* 1929

  • “I remember one ROH [Revolutionary Union Movement] meeting. It was mandatory, they checked it. We came there, the boss was Oldřich Vojnar, who came from Střítež. And that was during the period of Khrushchev. Vojnar would always say: ‘Comrade Khrushcheeeev.’ I was sitting there, something was being said, and I was nervous about it. I stood up and said: ‘You can’t even pronounce it.’ The others stayed sat and waited to see what would happen. I said: ‘My mom works from morning to night, making units, it makes her all crooked, and I’m sitting here in this stench!’ They smoked there, and we were sitting in a closed room. I got up and slammed the door behind me as I left. The next day they came to me to tell me to go to a meeting. They summoned me, but I didn’t go there. Then they started bullying me.”

  • “We started going to kindergarten. We were four closest neighbours, two girls and two boys. Back then, there were no large fields but small fields with baulks between them. The baulks were so grazed that it felt like a carpet because cows, goats and every animal possible grazed there. We used to go to school through those baulks. And not far from us, there was a track, the Košice-Bohumín railway, where there were crossing barriers. Today everything is automated, but back then, there was a railwayman with a red flag. There was a post, a wheel, and he lifted the bars by hand. We arrived there; the gates were closed. We were there for the first time, so we wondered what it was. Suddenly there was a train, a locomotive, passing through. We were about to cross to the other side, but the attendant called at us not to go, saying there would be another train. We counted the railway cars. There were maybe fifty of them, but we could only count to ten at the time.”

  • “Dad’s brother, the second of the siblings, his name was Adam, he went to primary school in Košařiské. At that time, they taught only in polish and german. Czech schools were not established until after 1918. And the teacher told the mother to send her son to study in Těšín in Poland, where there was a grammar school. There he studied, graduated and became a Polish patriot. That’s how they led them in that school. Then the Germans came and summoned them to sign the Volksliste [Deutsche Volksliste, German People’s List]. He refused because he was brought up in the Polish spirit. He didn’t sign it. They took him to the Gestapo, beat him up, and he ended up in Auschwitz. About two months later, a note arrived, and I remember it as if it happened today. It was 14 August when the letter from Auschwitz arrived. We were cutting rye at the time. Dad mowed; my sister and I carried sheaves. And dad was sharpening his scythe, and suddenly the whetstone fell on the ground, and he started crying. Mom said: ‘Children, go to dad, something must have happened to him.’ The scythe fell to the ground, and he started crying terribly. In the distance, he saw his sister coming in a black dress. He knew what it meant.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Jablunkov, 06.02.2023

    duration: 02:25:39
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Jablunkov, 08.02.2023

    duration: 02:11:19
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Jablunkov, 14.02.2023

    duration: 21:40
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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It was tragic when the Communists took away our fields, horses and cows

Jan Klus / 1961
Jan Klus / 1961
photo: Witness archive

Jak Klus was born on 14 October 1929 in Jablunkov to an evangelical family that claimed Polish nationality. The parents owned land in the settlement of Černé under the Beskydy mountain Kozubová. They farmed on six hectares of fields and raised horses and cows. He experienced the Polish occupation of Czechoslovak Těšínsko in 1938. Less than a year later, Těšínsko was taken over by Germany, and the witness became a citizen of Hitler’s Third Reich. His father and other relatives signed the German People’s List (Deutsche Volksliste) out of fear of persecution. While several relatives had to enlist in the Wehrmacht, his father dodged it because he collected wood from the forests for the needs of the German army. His uncle Adam Klus, who refused to renounce his Polish nationality, died in the Auschwitz concentration camp. At the end of the war, the Germans drafted the sixteen-year-old Jan Klus into the army, but he escaped conscription and hid for several weeks until liberation. After 1948, when the communist dictatorship commenced in Czechoslovakia, his parents faced pressure to join the Unified agricultural cooperative (JZD). His mother signed into the cooperative after his father’s death in 1958. After the war, Jan graduated from a mechanical engineering school and worked most of his life in the Třinec ironworks. In 2023, he lived in the Radvanov district of Jablunkov, where he got married in the early 1960s and started a family.