Bedřich Kudláč

* 1927  

  • “We spoke about it at home because Hitler grabbed the power and so on. My father was a social democrat so he was in trouble because of that. He and my brother, who was born in ’24, handed out leaflets against Hitler. That was in 1933. Of course, the Nazis found out. My brother was in a concentration camp, but he survived and came back home. I was officially a German then; I was seventeen. It happened because my sister wanted to get married. She was born in 1920 and wanted to marry a German. There was a lot of paperwork, and in the paperwork they somehow figured out that there was a boy who could serve in the military, and that was me. I got the letter on 1 January 1943. It’s a pity I didn’t keep it… well I didn’t really want to keep it because there was a swastika watermark on it and so on… I found it after the war but I thought I’d leave that in Germany.”

  • “It was the end of the war, we happened to be in the port, so we stayed in Trondheim. Englishmen came two days later, drove us from the barracks and out from Trondheim to the plains. Those were mountain meadows, and they gave us one rifle for a thousand Germans and said, guard yourselves. You couldn’t run – the sea was ahead, the mountains and plains were behind, all the way to Sweden. There was nowhere to run to. I can’t tell you how long that was, but a little later a committee came and we couldn’t believe our eyes. They wore perfectly ironed uniforms. We were amazed; I liked the sharp dressers – they were Americans. A sub-committee came and asked about people who used to have a different citizenship before. I was one of them; I used to have Czech citizenship before, so I applied.” – “What did that mean to you?” – “They put us in a separate camp, all Sudeten people, so we were apart from the other Germans, and later on they put us on a boat and took us somewhere and we didn’t know where, under an American flag. I thought, ‘For Christ’s sake – they’re taking us to America, now that would be an adventure!’, but it wasn’t meant to be; we were going to Germany. And there was a proper military POW camp with barbed wire, like we didn’t know in Norway… And jazz, jazz and more jazz, all day long. It was so loud it got on our nerves. The Americans had all those loudspeakers on, playing all the time, and we asked, ‘What’s going on?’, and they said, ‘Our president died.’ That was right when Roosevelt died.”

  • “There were no direct attacks, only Englishmen and Americans flying from England to Germany – they started flying via Norway instead of directly. One day, some stupid German shot at them, and one Englishman or American didn’t like it, came back and dropped an egg on us. We called the bombs ‘eggs’. That was it; we were swimming. Nobody stopped, it was like, ‘Heads up, leave the boat!’. And we jumped into water. I was in school all the time; the practice on the minelayer – well either the mines had been all deployed or there were no minelayers available, so eventually I served on a submarine. It was an adventure for a seventeen year-old boy. I was out on the sea three times on the submarine. It was a small, older one; most likely obsolete by then, and there were about eighteen or twenty people on board, not more.” – “What was your task on the submarine?” – “I was the radio operator’s apprentice. It meant I had to listen to the sonar – all the sounds and noises, and then write a report, but the reports were encrypted. You didn’t know what others were writing to you, or what you were transmitting. Everything was encrypted – just digits, nonsensical letters, and there was an encryption officer.”

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    Kyjov, 22.10.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:09:59
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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It was a big adventure for me

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photo: soutěž

Bedřich Kudláč was born Fritz Kudláč on 5 July 1927 in Dresden to a family of a Czech father and a German mother. He had four elder siblings. He completed a German elementary school in 1942 and was deployed as a draftsman. He joined the Kriegsmarine, the navy, in 1943. After the initial training, he went to Norway, studied to become a signaller and worked on boats and submarines. He lived in the ports of Trondheim, Hammerfest and Narvik. When the war ended in 1945 he went through several POW camps and adopted the first name Bedřich. His former Czech citizenship rescued him and he reunited with family after several months. He worked as a fitter after the war. He moved to Vracov in the Hodonín area in 1948. He never went back to Germany.