Michal Koch

* 1936  

  • “Our people expected that we would be liberated from Hitler and that finally there will be peace. But instead what happened was that the communists forced us to move out. I can say that we hoped times would be better, but instead we ended up like this.”

  • “They arrested three Germans, young students. They had to join Hitler’s army, but only in the last year of the war, in the very last moment. They tortured them, they branded swastikas on their heads, the boys nearly lost their minds. They wanted to escape over the border, but they were caught and tortured. They wanted to run away from the partisans, they were successful and they got over the border. But one man who was working a field recognized them and went after them with a hoe. They were shouting: ´Hilfe, Hilfe!´ Some Austrians were digging something in a field nearby and went to help them escape. But they didn’t do anything to that man. These partisans became so powerful in Austria that they later came to Wildendürnbach, it is a neighbouring Austrian village, and they stated that unless these guys were surrendered to them, they would set the whole village on fire. The Wildendürnbach mayor then ordered that those who had helped save them should confess it voluntarily, and these two came forward. And then they tortured them. Completely. They were dead by the morning. With pickaxes. We were watching them over the fence. It was certain Čorda, who later worked in a quarry here, then Pechal and certain Jirka. They were young guys, twenty to twenty-seven years old, and they turned themselves partisans in the very last minute. And so they tortured them to death. Jurdić was later hoeing the vineyard and he exclaimed: ´Dad, there is some German soldier buried here!´ For they had dressed them in German uniforms and then buried them. Jurdić then reported it, the Austrians started an investigation, and each of them got a three-year sentence, I think. One of them pegged out in jail, and these two were then released.”

  • “My father and my uncle didn’t have to join the army, because they were working as engine-drivers. But they kept an illegal flobert gun and they shot down a roebuck with it. A policeman from Novosedly turned them in, and so they had to go to the army in 1944 as a punishment. But my father hated Hitler, because he was a Croat and he strongly clung to the Croatian language, he was rather inclined towards the Czechs. In Italy he thus got himself immediately arrested by the partisans and he joined them. Then he returned home as a partisan, he even had some decorations. He was also helping them when he was a soldier, he was carrying some ammunition for them. When he returned home, he found out that his brother had been tortured to death in the parish house.”

  • “I was in that house yesterday, I always stop by. Bulgarians now live there. They are really good people, I can’t say anything wrong about them. They told me: ´You’re always welcome whenever you come.´ I was there yesterday and I told them: ´Now, I can finally move you out and move back myself.´ (laughing). No, don’t worry, none of us would go back to Přerov anymore. Our kids live here, what would we do there?”

  • “My father returned home from Italy and one day he was guarding a bridge that was being built over the Dyje River. One day I went with him, a car stopped there, and a robust man stepped out and said: ´Mr. Koch, you’ll go with us.´ Father replied: ´I cannot go anywhere, I’m guarding this place.´ They slapped him on his cheek. Two other came and handcuffed him. I ran away, I saw that Križanić, the mayor from Přerov, and Šalamon from Frélichov were sitting in the car. They already wanted us to move away in 1947. My father, Križanić, and Šalamon had written a letter to the president of Croatia, describing what was going on, and he replied to Prague that if they had harmed us, he would in turn expel all Czechs from Croatia; the Czechs even had their own schools there. The affair was hushed up, but in 1948 they did it more cleverly. They arrested them and displaced us. My father was imprisoned for some nine months, then he followed us after we had been relocated to Vojtíškov.”

  • “When I was in the cemetery now, I saw the monument that they built there. But our people wanted the inscription about forcible displacement to be included there, but it was not allowed, and thus it only says: ´In memory of those who had lived here from 1584 till 1948.´”

  • “When they were moving us, I remember I went as the last one. All was already loaded on wagons in the railway station in Novosedly, there were twelve wagons for us. I was riding a bike and singing: ´A time will come, we will come home again, to take the houses that were ours.´ I was singing this rhyme and my poor granny was crying. She was still there, later the aunt from Poštorná invited her to live with her.”

  • “My uncle was twenty-seven. He graduated from grammar school and he was dating a girl in Přerov. He was working with the Czech gendarmes, probably while still a student. The partisans who came to Přerov were swanking around, and in exchange for a painting of Virgin Mary they gave him some silver-plated gun, at the time there was an order that all weapons were to be surrendered. They took him to a parish house, and his parents as well, and held them there. The parish house was right next to our house, and we could see what they were doing with them; my mom was bringing them food through a hole in the fence. They were burning the nails of these old people, granny and grandpa, with a candle. And they were also torturing their son, because of that gun. Later he was not even able to speak, they had probably cut his tongue off. They showed him to his parents, and granny exclaimed: ´Miho, what have you done to us?´ They found out he couldn’t even speak anymore, because he had no tongue, his skin was blue and his body was beaten... They murdered my uncle like this, in the morning they hanged him on a door handle. Then they carried him on a wheelbarrow to the graveyard.”

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    Hanušovice, 06.11.2010

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    duration: 56:47
    media recorded in project History and language of Moravian Croats
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I was riding a bike and singing: ´A time will come, we will come home again, to take the houses that were ours.´

Michal Koch
Michal Koch
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

  Michal Koch was born in Nový Přerov in 1936. Most of the inhabitants of this south Moravian village were Moravian Croats, and Michal’s native tongue was Croatian. His parents had six children, but two died as infants, and Michal was the eldest of the remaining siblings. After the country became annexed to the Reich, the compulsory conscription affected the Croats as well, and Michal’s father had to join the army in 1944. He however joined the Italian partisans instead and he returned from the war with many decorations. After his return home he found out that his brother had been tortured to death by “partisans,” who controlled the Moravia borderlands after the end of the war. Tomáš Koch advocated for the Croats to be allowed to stay in their homes, and he was arrested for that in 1948. His family was then forcibly displaced to Vojtíškov. At present Michal Koch lives in Hanušovice, and he still knows Croatian and actively uses this language.