Jan Lorenz

* 1924  

  • “By some mistake one of the tanks exploded. It was like an earthquake. Many people lost their lives. Luckily, we were far from it, we were not on duty at the time, so we avoided it. Some thirty or forty people died there. It was impossible to enforce some discipline. The Russians were riding there and they were half-drunk. Whenever there was some argument, they were immediately reaching for their submachine guns and making their way. In this case our duty was absolutely futile, they were doing what they wanted there. The civilians did not even dare to go there. It was a time of complete disorientation, and unfortunately, things which are deplorable and which should not have happened, did happen there. But we could not prevent it. Our service was over after some two weeks. They called us back and we were dismissed.”

  • “While I was returning by train from Switzerland or Holland, several times I met the boys from the ´Prchal´s army.´ They were actually a foreign legion. They were passing through trains, on which our citizens were travelling, and they were trying to talk them into staying abroad. Warning them that a putsch was bound to happen in Czechoslovakia, that it was not worth going there, and that the communists would destroy our free life. At that time I thought it was ridiculous. As for me, I did not see any indications that the communists would seize power, nor that the public mood would be inclined that way. I paid no attention to it at all. And then I was really taken by surprise.”

  • “My name is Jan Lorenz, actually I was christened Jan Ladislav, that’s why some people call me Honza and others Láďa. I was a boy scout. I was born in 1924, and boys with this year of birth were being sent to Germany on forced labour. Owing to this, many of us students thus got to the armaments industry, and they even had possiblility to eventually see parts of secret weapons. (...) Via secret transmitters we were passing information to London. If you say to somebody today that you were transmitting messages to London, they won’t be able to imagine what it all involved. It was a very daring act, and nearly impossible in terms of technology. The transmitters were powered by big and heavy batteries, and they also required a large antenna, therefore the operators had often to hide and move them.”

  • “Nobody bragged about anything. (...) There was an air raid aimed at the Kbely airport, the Mustang airplanes flew in there, I don’t know how many of them, and they destroyed about forty aircraft which were dispersed on the ground. I myself once transmitted the information that there were many planes on that airport, and that there were no fighter planes, which had been sent to the western front. And that there were relatively few anti-aircraft guns. By coincidence it happened that one day I was not in the factory, and I took a walk to the Petřín hill, I wanted to see the roses that bloomed there. And by chance I saw this air raid from the top of the Petřín hill, and I saw them dropping bombs on the planes. I felt great joy, I remembered that we had alerted them to this before. Naturally, we were not the only ones, there were also other groups which had established connection, and which had the transmitters that the English were sending here through trained paratroopers. Thus I imagined that in some part I had also contributed to it. I don’t have it confirmed, obviously. But I nearly was not able to suppress this desire to tell this to the people who were standing by and watching it. I imagine that people who were in the resistance movement could have mentioned something when somebody was in a pub and got a bit drunk, it was enough to mention it and some informer would have reported it to the authorities.”

  • “I experienced the first election after the revolution. When they gave you the ballot paper, it looked like a large sheet of newspaper paper, and the names of all the candidates were written there. They were all mixed together, but most of the names that were to get elected were communists. A few social democrats and members of the People’s Party There were thrown in as well. This was called a candidate list of the National Front. And there was one more sheet of paper, which was crossed – a large letter X on it, nothing else. (...) You may go into a voting booth to prepare your ballot but you don’t have to. (...) There was a guy standing by the door, and he greeted me: ´Good morning, Mr. Lorenz. I am so happy you came to vote.´ I have ever seen this guy in my life, but he knew my name. Since that time I was alert. I had this blank paper twice; a friend of mine had brought me a copy. (...) Therefore I placed the blank paper with the X in the voting envelope, and I threw the copy with the X to the rubbish bin, in front of everybody in the room. Some of the people sitting there were observing you, watching which of the papers you threw out. At least five people from our house did the same, but when the results were announced, it said that the Party got ninety-five percent of votes.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha-Malvazinky, 17.09.2009

    duration: 03:38:17
    media recorded in project Portraits of Prague citizens
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

If you say to somebody today that you were transmitting messages to London, they won’t be able to imagine what it all involved

Jan Lorenz in 1955, Sydney, Australia
Jan Lorenz in 1955, Sydney, Australia
photo: archiv pamětníka

  Jan Lorenz was born October 13th 1924 in Prague. He grew up in the Smíchov neighbourhood and attended an elementary school in Malá Strana. He also attended the Sokol sports club in Malá Strana, and he participated in the Sokol national meetings in 1932 and 1938. The majority of his friends, however, came from a water-scouts´ club, of which he was also a devoted member and with which he was going on trips, descending Czech rivers. His co-workers in the resistance movement in the Intelligence brigade were then also mostly former scout members. He organized transmission of reports from his friends, which he would then hand over to his messenger. In May 1945 Jan Lorenz took part in the Prague Uprising, but he was not involved in direct combat. In 1945 he began studying at the Faculty of Architecture of the Czech Technical University, but was dismissed for political reasons in 1949. In January 1950 in the Domažlice region; he and his friend from boy scouts crossed the border over to Bavaria. In Germany he arranged his emigration to Australia, and in December 1950 he then sailed to Sydney. In 1955 he resettled to San Francisco in the United States. He worked a technical engineer; living in California and Kentucky. After 1990 he returned to Czechoslovakia, and now lives in Prague in the Malvazinky neighbourhood.