Josef Mašín

* 1932  

  • “We walked to Elsterwerda and two days later we got on a train there. When we arrived later in Uckro, they were already waiting for us; the woman who had sold us the train tickets noticed us. At that time, all people in Germany were wearing these typical German hats, the same as the wehrmacht unit of mountain riflemen during WWII. They had peaked hats with flaps on the side and all Germans were wearing them, whereas we had berets. We also had our own clothing. It was completely different, because men in Germany had nothing to wear. They wore re-dyed German uniforms, either the jackets or trousers, and we didn’t fit in at all. She noticed us and she reported it, and so they were already waiting for us in Uckro. Volkspolizei. They stopped us when they were checking people. We had planned everything, but we didn’t think there would be so many of them. They jumped at us and pushed us into a closed corridor. They had blocked one exit from that corridor and they attacked us with guns. Radek and I pulled out our guns and we won the gunfight. Three of them dropped to the ground, but I think only one of them died. That’s where we lost Zbyněk Janata. During the commotion,which only took a few seconds, Zbyněk ran from the station building and took another direction. The four of us, except Zbyněk, met again a few hundred metres from the station and continued eastwards. We were listening for the sound of trains for orientation.”

  • “When we were running away from the village, the police were already behind us. They were chasing us with cars and motorcycles, shooting at us and we were shooting at them. We crossed one road and a field, and there were buses and trucks full of policemen coming. They encircled us, it was near the village of Waldow, they encircled us in a small wooded area, and there were one thousand two hundred policemen there. The area of the woods was just some two hectares and it was quite dense. That’s where they shot Vašek Švéda. They were shooting at us, although they didn’t know where we were. They were shooting at random, and during this random shooting they injured Vašek. The bullet passed through his arm and came out on the other side, he was not able to walk, he was bleeding profusely, and so he was lying there for some two hours without help. At that time, they also sent their dogs out there, their cordon... My brother was lucky that he hit two cops, he shot two cops and they didn’t even know where the shots came from. The volkspolicemen revolted, they received orders to keep advancing, they were sending dogs there and shooting like crazy. But when they saw those two shot policemen, they refused to obey. They said: ´Fuck off.´ The officer ordered them: ´Advance there.´ And they replied: ´Go there yourself.´ This was insubordination, and they eventually made them retreat and that has saved us.”

  • “We had weapons. We had inherited some from our father from WWII, and we had some which had been left by Germans. But we needed more weapons for our actions, because we had planned several actions – to kill the Minister of Defense, Čepička; to attack a bus… There was a school for the Secret Police, and they were regularly going from Kolín to Milovice, always on the same day of the week, and we wanted to attack their bus. But the weapons – we had some submachine guns, German Schmeiser from WWII, which were nothing special, and we needed… The State Police was equipped with brand new weapons at that time and we needed something new. Since all police stations had been issued with new automatic weapons, our objective was to burglarize the police station in Chlumec. In our plan we didn’t want to kill the policeman. My brother was supposed to strike him on the head, but if you want to hit somebody’s head with a piece of iron, you won’t put him to sleep. It’s better to use some oil pipe, or a stocking filled with sand, it works better than some hard object. That’s what we discovered when we were there.” Interviewer: “You mean you were testing it there?” J. M.: “No, we didn’t, but he was not lucky. Radek probably didn’t hit him hard enough. And, when the cop realized that we were after him, he began to pull out his gun, and at that moment – because we thought that in Chlumec there were other policemen upstairs on the first floor, it was at night, and we were afraid they would descend upon us, and so I fired at him twice, at that policeman, and I shot him to death. We left the police station without the weapons.”

  • Video sequence about the assault on the vehicle carrying wages for the Kovolis workers, the gunfight and another victim.

  • “The affair with the cash-keeper took place at a time when we wanted to get Radek out of prison. We were considering several actions like that. For instance, we wanted to attack a train transporting uranium ore from Jáchymov. Or with the minister Čepička. I often read – you should have done this or that. It’s easy to talk about it today. But it’s not easy to keep running in front of a spa hotel with a submachine gun, waiting for the minister Čepička to arrive. We didn’t have any intelligence organization like that. This costs money. I used our family money, what we had or what I had earned. At that time, I was working as a driver in Jeseník, transporting wood from forests, I was earning quite a lot, and I was thus financing our actions. But because of these, I was absent from work a lot, and then I didn’t have money either. These actions needed funding. Money was also needed for the people we had left behind, like Vašek Švéda’s wife and his family, who got kicked out of their farm in Lošany after we had left the country. We were criticized for Švéda buying a couch for himself. But they had been kicked out of their estate, and they had nothing, no furniture, and in Pivín, where his family lived, they had to sleep on the floor in a small house, and so we were thinking, if Vašek goes with us – he had two little children – who will then care for his wife and the people who stay behind? The money was intended for things like that. We knew people in Jáchymov who we wanted to bribe to find out where Radek was in order to get him out of there. At that time it was nearly impossible to travel by train. If you went by train, you were exposed to searches. These checks were quite common. If we wanted to go on the road, we had no means of transport, and we needed a vehicle. We therefore used the money to buy two motorcycles as well. These were not to be ridden on weekends for fun!”

  • Talking of the three refugees hiding under a pile of old branches on a forest clearing in Germany.

  • “There were no maps in Czechoslovakia at that time. The only map we had was from our friend Roušar, which was a general map that I had found when I went to see him in Hora Svaté Kateřiny. It was the only map, and it covered only two or three kilometers within the East German border. We had absolutely no map for the area north of there. The only map we had was torn earlier from a magazine. It was a general map showing the layout of highways and roads which lead northward to Berlin.” Interviewer. “You certainly must have lost your way. Or what did you use for orientation?” J. M.: “Well, Vašek Švéda was a hunter, and we had practiced things like this before, and so we knew the ways of navigation. Today you have GPS, but back then we used celestial navigation, by stars. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t allow us to see stars all the time, and so we had to use our ears for orientation. We knew that there were parallel railroad lines, one from Dresden, and the other one leading westward to Berlin. We listened for the movement of traffic and used it for our orientation.” Interviewer: “You mean you were keeping a certain distance from the railroad track as you were walking?” J. M.: “We listened for the sound of trains. But this depended on the weather. The transfer of sound is different in a cold weather or in a rainy weather. You can imagine that we were zigzagging.”

  • Talking of being hunted by East German armed forces in the forests of East Germany.

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We did not leave the country in order to make our lives better, but in order to join the struggle against communism.

Josef_Masin_1950.jpg (historic)
Josef Mašín
photo: foto z nahrávání, dobové wikipedia

  Josef Mašín was born March 8, 1932 in Prague as the second son of Josef Mašín, a legionnaire and hero of the resistance movement during WWII. He was brought up in the spirit of patriotism and traditions. After the communist coup d’état in 1948 the Mašín brothers decided to declare war on the new totalitarian regime: they formed a small resistance group which was supposed to take part in the anticipated anti-communist uprising. The group soon began with sabotage activities, with the aim to harm the socialist state economy and the morale of the members of the Communist Party and the public. The group’s members were obtaining weapons and explosives from various sources, producing also some on their own. Several people, however, became victims to their assault actions, by which the group planned to obtain weapons or money. Josef, himself, shot two people to death. In October, 1951 both brothers were arrested together with their uncle Ctibor Novák in the evening before their first planned escape. Josef spent several weeks in custody. In 1953 the group’s members made the final decision to leave the country. They wanted to join the American army in the West and fight an armed fight against communism. In October they crossed the border to East Germany and after 29 days of being chased by the East German army and police, three of the five refugees arrived in the American sector of Berlin. Josef Mašín then served in the U. S. Army for five years. He also lived in Köln, Germany for some time, married, and with his wife Eva, he had two daughters. In 1980 the family moved to Santa Barbara, California.