Josef Lesný

* 1911  †︎ 2011

  • "There were not five of us, but over five hundred of us, Jewish boys – Hungarians. And we were assigned to a Hungarian regiment – 20th division. We were filed as a labour regiment. We were trained in Hungary for mine placement, mine clearing and on handling unexploded shells. When others were in danger, we had to do the work."

  • "I commanded a platoon already, there were thirty of us. I said: 'Guys, we did not come here to die. We will show the Germans what we are made of.‘ So we did. But we made one major mistake. We were short on ammunition and ran out of it. We went full blast with those Russian machine-guns. The Germans started to run back. (...) We confiscated the German machine-guns. Oh my, they got crushed. And I had no wounded men, not a single one."

  • "We did not celebrate any holidays. My wife is a Christian. All my three children have been baptized in the Christian faith. I live without faith, it did not amuse me. (...) All the professors in Slovakia during the first republic were Czech, Slovaks had no intelligentsia. (...) When my father was dying, he told me not to forget I intended to do what he did."

  • "The eleven of us, mostly coming from the city of Györ, had not fallen back, unlike the others who did due to the significant strength of the Russians. Those who stuck to their units were then sent to gulags by the Russians. My brother-in-law wanted to hand over a stock, a Russian man came in, boom, boom and that was it. They trusted no-one. I had a leather jacket and a Czechoslovak Communist Party membership card sewn inside it. I thought they would either discover it or it would come in handy. (...) The member cards were printed in Russia and were written in Russian and Czech or Slovak. I ripped the jacket at night while they were shooting on us. We hid. I had my card ready. (...) He pulled out his gun and said: ‚Ty staršina!‘ I gave him the card and he apologized. – ‚Ničego, tovarišč.‘ He would have shot me on spot as a group leader. I told him: ‚Nět, éto samyj jevrej, rabočij.'"

  • "What was taught there? We would wake up at 4 in the morning. First, we went running – up to ten kilometers. Then we jumped, from one meter up to two or from five meters into a soft landing. We all spoke Slovak, Hungarian and German. There were even Germans there – communists, who trained for a descent into the rear of the German army. There was a platoon of anti-aircraft defense, all women. (...) And the women would simply bathe naked. Just to know, there was even fun there."

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    Liberec, 30.05.2010

    duration: 03:35:47
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The communist membership card saved my life

Josef Lesný, picture from military ID
Josef Lesný, picture from military ID
photo: archiv pamětníka

Josef Lesný was born in 1911 in Hungary as Jozef Lövinger. He was born into a mixed Jewish-Christian family and studied to be an artist of cabinetry. In the 30’s, he joined the pre-war communist party in Bratislava. He was called to arms in 1938 and served as a machine-gun operator. He was drafted once again during the war and as a half-Jew born in Hungary, he served in a labour unit of the Hungarian army. He was captured by the Red army, his pre-war communist party card saved his life and provided him with better treatment in a detention camp in the Soviet Union. He underwent parachute training in Petropavlovsk and was seeded as a member of the Red army to the battle of Stalingrad. Later, he asked for a shift to the Czechoslovak unit and served in the 3rd brigade, taking part in  combat at Jaslo and Dukla. He was injured. Since the war, he has lived in Liberec. He has died 7th October 2011 in the age of 100 years.