Karel Lánský

* 1924  †︎ 2019

  • “I also dug trenches with a friend from the generation of ’24 at one point. They were to be dug to... because there were alarms every day. It was the so-called small alarm, you could set your watch by it at nine a.m. All it meant was: Warning, enemy aeroplanes approaching. But work went on. Two hours later we had the big alarm, when the factory was abandoned and we fled the building. And we didn’t even come back, because although the air raid lasted, say, two hours, they didn’t give the all-clear until some time later, so it wasn’t worth it to go back. No one checked whether we went back or not.”

  • “We were a group of people who - apart from the fact that we really had been staunch Communists in the beginning - we were one of the first groups, Party slang called us fractions. We had critical views because, after all, we weren’t dumb. We had some contacts, we listened to the radio, even to some foreign broadcasts. But the contacts were the main thing.”

  • “In fact, when they fired me, the chairman of the Party committee yelled: And don’t you dare take to the spade, we’d consider that provocation. But I already had it agreed. They offered, and perhaps they’d have even secured it for me, that I could go work at the national committee in Kbely as some kind of weasel. Rubbish. If it’s the spade I’m good for, the spade I’ll take. We were ten blokes who’d been fired. A proper work team that could afford to skip the May Day parade at a time of obligatory participation and flag-waving - not Padrunka’s team. No one could force us to do that.”

  • “Hodík rendered his customers one last service with that - the stars they had received... this was his initiative, I don’t know if anyone else did that... so we gave the stars lining. That was a lot of work. That was Hodík’s act of service that, because it had lining, the person could just pin it on. From below, by the lining. Then they could take the pin off and use it elsewhere. Whereas otherwise, if it didn’t have lining, it was just folded in, and the Jews had [more difficulties with it]... Well, it didn’t bother them for long, unfortunately. But I liked that about Hodík. Without billing them for it, of course not. Because some of them managed to visit Hodík to have him take in one of their suits a bit, because some of them lost as much as ten kilos in that while. Like I said, his customers, those were Director Kurzweil, Director Schwarzkopf, executives, engineers... well, those who could afford such first-class bespoke tailoring.”

  • “I was employed at the radio as an expelled [Communist]. Chance had it that Mr Mikoláš [corr. Miloš] Marko, who was chief of the radio, found out that I had been employed although I was expelled, but he was already leaving. But he found out about it, and he didn’t like it one bit, that someone dared to take in a person expelled from the CPC - for political reasons, not that I had stolen something or raped a little girl or anything... He never came to terms with that.”

  • “Radio and television, even for the most primitive Party bigwigs... that was important to them. They knew that whoever controls the media... so they weren’t oblivious to that. I reckon the Party leadership took its time to choose who could and could not be radio director. And whether it was to be a person who had radio experience, say, from France or England, or even from Moscow, that wasn’t as important as having a working-class background. And serving the CPC, that is, kowtowing to everything that happened to be prohibited at the time.”

  • “The responsible union member of Mine Vrbenský, who was in close contact with me, announced that they needed to reinforce their maintenance team. And Arnošt Lustig applied for the job, I’m sure you know who that is [a famous Czech-Jewish writer - trans.], together with one other Jewish boy. I kept my mouth shut, but I took Piži [read: Piji] Weiner aside, we called him Piži, he brought that nickname back with him from the concentration camp. But I called him Béda, that was just between the two of us. I said: ‘Bedřich, do you consider it fair that Arnošt, of whom we all know that he trained as a tailor before they sent him to the concentration camp, that he should apply for maintenance? Isn’t that a bit of a sham, just to avoid manual labour, that he’ll just be walking around with a haversack?’ And Piži gave me an honest lesson, that was the first lesson against my anti-Semitism: ‘Karel, I know you mean well, but do you have any idea what Arnošt went through?’”

  • “It was just suspicious that Marko came up, although he’d already been recalled from his position as central director of radio, accompanied by two or three stetsecs [State Security members - trans.]. That is, one of the guards who kept watch at the radio recognised he was a stetsec, they didn’t introduce themselves. So that was a sign that things were getting rough. So the way we solved it was, of the people available - from the point of view that we were there and we trusted each other - we established a trio, which basically decided what direction the radio would take. That was Jirka Kmoch, Igor Kratochvíl, and myself. Of course, we didn’t want - and I was the one to advise this the most - to behave as some kind of usurpers, so we just prevented them from directing the radio.”

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I was employed as a worker for longer than all our worker presidents

dobový portrét výřez.jpg (historic)
Karel Lánský
photo: Dobová - archiv pamětníka, současná - Eye Direct

Karel Lánský was born as Karel Landštofl on 6 July 1924 in the village of Staňkov near Domažlice. His father did not care for his family, and so the witness grew up in poverty only with his mother and younger brother. In 1939 he went to Prague to train under his uncle, a tailor. Several days after receiving his certificate of apprenticeship in summer 1943, he was assigned to forced labour at Walter Motors in Prague. He experienced the last days of the war as a worker at the Ruzyně airport. He participated in the Prague Revolt, and on 1 June he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC). After the war he studied at the newly established University of Politics and Society, but already during his studies he started working at the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Youth Union. He was later employed by the Czech Union of Physical Education, and after military service he joined the press department of the Central Committee of the CPC. In 1961 he was one of eight Communists from the so-called group of Klement Lukeš, who were expelled from the Party for their critical opinions. At that time he was employed as a worker. As a non-Communist, he was engaged by Czechoslovak Radio in spring 1968. During the days of the Soviet occupation in August 1968, he was one of the people who defended the radio from being taken over by collaborators, and he practically directed it for several days. He was then forced to leave. He resumed employment as a worker, in 1989 he found employment at the Central Committee of Czechoslovak Television. After the fall of Communism he made a brief return to Czechoslovak Radio as its Director of Foreign Broadcasting. He is married and has one daughter. He lives in Prague. He co-authored the book Rozhlas proti tankům (Radio Versus Tanks).