Rudolf Mejsnar

* 1928

  • "My uncle [of German nationality] was an anti-fascist - he was Czech, he had a German wife and he had clear reputation except the fact that his son was in the Wehrmacht and couldn´t return to the liberated republic. My uncle, as a farmer and anti-fascist, did not have to move, but he volunteered to be deported. During the last or penultimate transport, he decided to hold the family together, and he could only meet his son and daughter in Germany. The transport didn´t move them far [from the place where] the Erich Schickling Gallery stands today."

  • "Before Christmas 1942 or 1943, the Germans invited us to a labour camp in upper Vrchlabí, where French and Jewish women were sewing uniforms. Those emergency houses still stand on the left side of the Elbe when you go from upper Vrchlabí to Žalý. They invited our band from Horní Branná through the Kuratorium [Board of Trustees for the Education of Youth, trans.] to go and play for the Germans who worked as guards there and wanted to have a pre-Christmas party. We had a horse, we loaded the instruments into a carriage and we were going through Vrchlabí. A silent town with no men. Everybody was at war. We saw wicked looks... What is music supposed to do here at the time, when German soldiers are killed on the front? And on top of that, the Czechs! The Germans looked at us very badly. We played the Protectorate's hits and we got refreshment. But we were playing behind a closed curtain! The Germans were having a dance, dancing in semi-darkness, so we were actually playing for ourselves... And when it was over in two hours – we played Vacek, Vejvoda [composers, trans.], the song Cikánka and all like that - we packed up our instruments and we didn't go through the town anymore, but took the back road behind the Vrchlabí castle to avoid hostile looks."

  • "Uncle Mejsnar lived on the border in Horní Branná. He had gone to a blacksmith in Dolní Branná with a horse. That was on September 30th at six o'clock in the morning, when the barrier between Horní and Dolní Branná wasn´t standing there yet. Then he was returning with the shod horse, he could see his farm, which was a hundred metres from the barrier, but they wouldn´t let him go any further. That was the end of him. He went mad."

  • "It came out on me and Jiří Šlitr that his father gave us a two-wheeled cart and we were transporting the school equipment overnight, knowing that the next morning the Germans would cut us off. It was from the 29th to 30th of September and I still remember the whole night because it was the first night I stayed up. Jiří and I took turns: he pushed the cart up the hill because he was older and had more strength, and I pushed the cart on the flat. We went like that about two or three times. It's two or three kilometres. The moon was full." - "Wasn't it dangerous?" - "No, not at all. A statement had already been issued that it would be German territory since the morning. Anyone who didn't want to join the Germans had to leave. At eight o'clock in the morning there was already a barrier between the villages, which could not be crossed, and there were Ordners [German guards] patrolling. We were the last to arrive. We were in Horní Branná, which was a hundred metres from the border. The border could later only be crossed with the German Grenzausweis [passport]. The stop Horní Branná was on the territory of Dolní Branná. So when you were going from Martinice, you went through the Sudetenland and you were coming back to Horní Branná through German territory."

  • "[Zálesní Lhota] or Hüttendorf was mostly a German village, so they spoke a kind of Lhota dialect there. Nobody from anywhere else understood it - neither Czech nor German. No one remembers that dialect today." - "Could you put together a sentence in the Lhota dialect?" - "I'll try. I bought a new shertz - which is an apron -, I came to the fenstr - to the window -, I saw the rut and it was already fajr - the Miller factory was on fire. Only a person from Lhota understood that sentence."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 06.03.2021

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    duration: 54:47
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 07.03.2021

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    duration: 01:43:03
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Praha, 21.03.2021

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    duration: 01:02:10
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 4

    Praha, 03.04.2021

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    duration: 01:39:49
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 5

    Praha, 02.10.2021

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    duration: 55:22
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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From Zálesní Lhota to Brussels, Montréal and Ottobeuren

Rudolf Mejsnar playing the violin (1940s)
Rudolf Mejsnar playing the violin (1940s)
photo: Witness´s archive

Rudolf Mejsnar was born on 11 April 1928 in Zálesní Lhota in the Podkrkonoší region, which at that time was populated by a mixed, predominantly German population. He originally wanted to become a photographer; however, due to the sudden death of the owner of the photography studio where he was to work, he enrolled in the weaving school in Jilemnice in 1943. As a secondary school student he already worked as a part-time draughtsman in the Tiba factory. He completed his secondary education at the Brno School of Art Crafts, then continued his studies at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (UMPRUM). From 1956 he worked at Textile Production (Textilní tvorba, from 1959 called the Institute of Furnishing and Clothing Culture), and in the mid-1960s he got a job as a designer at the Hedva company in Moravská Třebová, but he had a detached workplace in Prague. In 1979 he went freelance. He represented Czechoslovakia with his prints at world exhibitions in Brussels and Montréal. His works are included in the permanent exhibition of the Erich Schickling Art Gallery in Ottobeuren, Bavaria.