Josef Luxemburg

* 1947  

  • "The first thing we thought was if they would send us home from the army. That was the first thing that came to mind, then we sat and lounged around the radio, we listened to it because we didn’t have any orders from the officers at night or in the day for that matter. Then they started coming to us. They started saying something, saying that they didn’t know what was going on, that they didn’t have any information either... And then we had our outing, we saw them there, we talked with them. We could see that it was already pretty serious. And we started to treat it as such. (– And did it occur to you that you would have to fight?) That we should actually fight, well, probably not. Rather, we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to leave the army and that they’d be able to send us off somewhere. If we would have fought, well, maybe... I don’t know. We probably didn’t even talk about it. We thought that we would be able to go fortify something somewhere, but that we would have to somehow fight, shoot... We didn’t make room for that in our minds really. On the other hand, we might have actually bought it. It was the Warsaw Pact, our most faithful friend... so how would they do something here that would make us have to start shooting at them... That was probably far from our minds.”

  • “We got the orders: all weapons must be locked up, even though they were locked up normally anyway. But someone kept walking around and checking us if our weapons were secured, and they were all interested in how the soldiers were living, whether or not they had certain things. Or if something was going on there, if there had been any rebellion or whatever, and they checked and made sure of everything. And then when the orders were floating around, then the officers again knew where they had to fall in line. They stopped being so friendly with us, everything took on a military air again. And it was even worse when the officers one could talk with... But even they stopped giving us any information. There were two people there, front-liners, they had fought on the Russian front. They were really talkative... they told us not be scared... Then there were the young officers and they were strict in the usual way, but one could talk to them about these things. And they said the same thing... But there were only maybe two of three such officers from those commanders... And how many companies were there?! Who cared about them? Ten company commanders and even other officers. But these company commanders were few, maybe two or three, and then the front-liners who shared even more information with us. Who cared what they were doing? (–And what kind of attitude did they have?) The young ones who gave us information, they didn’t really believe in what was going on. (–What didn’t they believe?) That it could be like that... That they would just storm in here, and that our government would let them do it. But they only hinted at it; they wouldn’t talk about it directly. So they thought that the Soviets would definitely leave and that it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But then word starting going round, they could already see, that it probably wasn’t going to go down like that. Then the front-liners hushed up. And that took a lot for them, I’d say. They were older guys, they couldn’t believe that Russians had come and were doing this. They were totally disappointed by it, I’d say. They more or less stopped saying anything. I had the feeling that they were completely heartbroken.”

  • “So, then, it must have been ten or eleven o’clock, they started saying... I woke up people in the company and we listened to what was going on there. We could hear a sort of rumbling off in the distance. We didn’t know what to think. First of all, there were soldiers there, there was always somebody driving around, so we didn’t get it. And then they started saying that the Warsaw Pact armies had crossed over the borders. Actually it was Russians from the GDR who were driving here through Terezín. And that was the rumbling we’d heard before. We were really close to the barracks. When they were making some turn there, they knocked off a piece of the building. We saw it the next day. And they came so they could strengthen ties? A car kept going back and forth, it was spray-painted, someone had written mokolo on its fender, sprayed in a khaki color, and they were sitting up by machine gun. They had anti-aircraft guns mounted on it. And they wanted water the whole time – water most of all, and something to eat. But, you know, young kids, right... no water, no food, there wasn’t any, there wasn’t going to be any. We were still sitting in the windows, the cook gave us... we were busy with our bones with meat... when I think back on it today... And we started writing over the traffic signs. We pasted over where it said Terezín and put Lidice in its place. Maybe we were the only ones then at the barracks who had permission to leave, so we walked the five kilometers to Litoměřice. We took a short cut, maybe two kilometers, so we got to Litoměřice really fast. There were already Russians there sitting there by their weapons, and we argued with them about what was going on, about what they were doing there... They said we were wrong. They took out their Pravda (Truth), the newspaper, and said that here is the truth. You’re wrong in what you’re saying. So we simply couldn’t come to an agreement with them and then we came back. Back then they secured the guns – everything was locked. The officers didn’t know what they were supposed to do, the orders were all over the place.”

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    Milevsko, 27.10.2019

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Nobody ordinary people invited them here

Josef Luxemburg in 1967
Josef Luxemburg in 1967
photo: archiv pamětníka

Josef Luxemburg was born in Mělník on 26 November 1947. In 1966 he began the undertaking of his mandatory military service in the engineer corps in Terezín. Two years later he finished his service with the rank of sergeant major. One month before his reentrance into civil life, the armies of the Warsaw Pact occupied Czechoslovakia. He was a witness to events that took place in both the Terezín barracks and in nearby Litoměřice. From the barracks he witnessed the arrival of Soviet tanks and the behavior of Soviet soldiers and officers. Together with other soldiers, he pasted over traffic signage with the intention of confusing the occupying forces, and debated in Litoměřice with Soviet soldiers convinced of the legality of their entrance into the territory of Czechoslovakia. He was a witness also to the changes taking place in the barracks of Terezín themselves, such as the increased monitoring of soldiers, and the stifling of any rebellion and the limiting of their access to their weapons, as well as, meanwhile, the reactions of the officers to the ongoing situation. After his military service he married and moved a few times before finally settling down in the South Bohemian town of Milevsko. He worked in the shipyards of Mělník, where, after completing basic school, he trained as a machine fitter, but also in the forest and at a junkyard. After 1989 he was a member of the local government of Milevsko and worked for ten years as an editor and photographer in Milesvko newspapers, where he focused primarily on local politics. He has had lifelong success with photography. Now he is retired and lives with his wife in Milevsko. He has two grown children.