Jan Maršálek

* 1914  †︎ 2011

  • „It varied. Some commandos were assembled by SS men who wanted to get out with a commando and wanted something special. Some commando got an order from Arbeiteinsatz. There were five carpenters, five bricklayers, ten artists, painters, electricians and so on, who went to Kärnten. I went and searched for people, who I thought would go to the Yugoslavian partisans. Just one of them ran away, the others stayed until the end.“

  • „The French came and did not understand German. Viennese German, learnt by those Spaniards, was terrible. Even a native German could not understand them. A French, apparently a teacher a small person, came in the bathroom, I stood nearby. He had a shirt and some Havlíček told him to take it off. He looked at him nodding in agreement, but did not understand. Havlíček smacked him and tore his shirt off. As I stood nearby, I got angry. It would not be the same with an SS man. ‚He does not understand you, why do you beat him?‘ And he said: ‚Shut up or you get one too!‘ I got curious so stepped closer and as he wanted to smack me, I smacked him first or maybe I fist punched his face. He ran out and I did not know what that means. He had a whistle as all block men did and blew it three or four times. That meant an attack to block men.“

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    Vídeň, 26.10.2008

    duration: 08:09:41
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I was no heroe. If I had been one, I would not have lived now.

Arrested by the gestapo
Arrested by the gestapo
photo: Gestapo

Jan Maršálek was born on 19 July 1914 in Vienna in a Czech family. Since childhood he inclined to the political left wing, social democratic and communist organisations. He learnt to be a typographer and worked in a printing office, where only left wing papers were printed. Since 1936 he led an organisation called The Communist Aid, which organised collections to support the families of the imprisoned. In March 1938, after connection of Austria he ought to join the Wehrmacht, but he immigrated back to Czechoslovakia. He first lived in Pilsen and later in Prague helping social democratic and communist revolutionaries and he participated in activities of illegal communist organisation. On October 1941 he was arrested by the gestapo in Prague and being an Austrian citizen he was transferred to Vienna. On 28 September 1942 he was sent to a concentration camp Mauthausen. He became the second camp typist and due to his post and relations with rebellious organisations in a camp he could influence prisoners work positions and placement in the block. He often helped prisoners and saved lives of many. At the end of war he organised returns of the Czech prisoners back to their country. After liberation he returned back to Vienna. He worked at the police and focused on finding former Nazis. In 1946 he married his pre-war love, Anna Vaváková, his co-worker from resistance and a prisoners in a concentration camp Ravensbrück, and together they brought up their son Saša. All his life Jan Maršálek was interested in the history of the Mauthausen concentration camp; in 1947 he published a book called Mauthausen mahnt and since 1963 he worked in the Mauthausen memorial. He died on 9 December 2011 in Vienna.