PhMr. Libuše Nachtmannová

* 1919  †︎ 2013

  • “May I ask once more about the Defense of the Nation? Could you say a few words about how it worked etc.?” “Well it was a military group. Look, our army went underground with all of its equipment, including radios, cameras, printers etc. As an illegal group consisting mostly of men they also needed women for some specific jobs. For example, the men from the resistance needed to stay somewhere. They usually lived in families and pretended they were relatives. But they couldn’t stay for too long because the neighbors might become suspicious and report it to the police. So they changed the families they lived with about every week. And a girl would always accompany the man to his new family, because as a couple, they wouldn’t attract that much of attention. Or a radio had to be moved to another location – this had to be done after each broadcast because the Germans were able to locate the radios after broadcasts. I remember that once they didn’t relocate the radio and broadcasted from the same place for a second time. It was here in Jinonice where Atlis is today. The Germans stormed the building and the radio operator rather shot himself that let them arrest him. He would rather commit suicide that stand the interrogation by the Gestapo because they used terrible methods to extract the information they wanted from the interrogated person. So that’s how the DN worked.” “So how exactly did they relocate the radio?” “It was stripped down to it’s individual components, put in bags, on top of it a decoy layer like potatoes or vegetables and I could carry it around Prague the whole day. A woman with such a bag wasn’t that much suspicious. A man with a shopping bag would much more suspicious – it wasn’t all that common these days, yet. Only Masaryk was pushing his children in a baby coach around Prague. These days men wouldn’t baby coach even their own kids. They would at the most carry a briefcase and a radio doesn’t fit in a briefcase. But the shopping bag was pretty convenient, we would go several times, bring the parts somewhere, the return and take a second tour. They never caught me with it.”

  • They didn’t catch me while I was transporting a radio. They must have gotten my name from somebody in the interrogation. When they interrogated me they already knew everything about what I did in the resistance. But, of course, they wanted names, names, names – who else? Give us the names of the others! We were advised beforehand by our organization that the best strategy at an interrogation is to speak but lie – to make things up. So I came up with a girl by the name of Eve and one more person which I described to my interrogator. I invented fictional personalities. The tricky part was to remember all the details of what one said and to repeat them correctly at the second session of the interrogation. I only made up two people so luckily I could remember and repeat everything correctly.”

  • “I experienced the events related to Munich – that tragedy of our nation – in the north of Bohemia as I come from Roudnice nad Labem, which was the first Czech city to absorb the refugees from the frontier regions. They were adopted and slept in school gyms and then traveled to their relatives all over the country. I graduated in 1938 from a grammar school in Roudnice nad Labem shortly before Munich. The atmosphere had by then already been stirred up to a considerable degree. There were all sorts of exercises for the public – the defense of state, healthcare, civic defense and we, the young people were taking part in all these exercises. But even our mothers went to these exercises. In short, the nation as a whole was getting ready to defend its country. After the mobilization announcement in the radio I remember all these men running to the train station. Everyone grabbed his stuff and ran to the railway, to the gathering place. Each and every man – as a reserve soldier – knew where he had to go, where his point of concentration was. From there they went to these fortresses which were spread out along the entire border.”

  • “In Ravensbrück, we were sowing this striped clothing for prisoners. Then they ran out of fabric so only those prisoners who were leaving the gates of the camp for work would wear the striped dress, the rest of us would be dressed in civilian clothes. When we came to the camp, we handed in our civilian clothes and got the striped dresses instead. But afterwards, when they run out of the striped dresses, they just painted a white cross on the front and the back of the civilian clothes which they got from the newcomers and which they had kept in a so-called “efekterkamru”, a kind of a wardrobe. There they cleaned it and washed it stored it to wait for the end of the war or I don’t know what they intended to do with it. So we were given these civilian clothes marked with these crosses – an X in the front and an X in the back. When we learned we were going to leave the camp on a death march, we prepared for it well in advance. Our girls, who worked in the efekterkamru, handed us civilian clothes without these crosses and we put our own crosses on them but instead of paint, we used toothpaste. On the death march, there was chaos – we were intermingling with fleeing Germans, tanks, slave laborers who were being transferred, so we decided the time was right to flee. We rubbed off the toothpaste crosses and we became civilians who quickly dispersed among the crowd and walked in the direction of Prague. Well, of course we didn’t quite make it to Prague. We were in fact approaching the battlefront and when we reached the demarcation line, there were Russians to the one side and Americans to the other. So we approached the American troops but they said: “We’re sorry but you’re in the Russian zone, we can’t take you as refugees.” So we had to approach the Russians. The Russians then accommodated us because of the typhus and then they sent this train… well it was all in the Russian direction – the return.”

  • “At that time I was convinced we should have fought against the Germans. We were saying: “Give us guns, we paid for them.” The determination to fight was clearly there. However, this faded away after Munich. And when we observed it after the war from hindsight, they would have destroyed us, as they destroyed all the places in Europe they moved through – Poland, Warsaw… So I’m not that sure anymore whether we should have fought. After the war the idea emerged that it was actually a good that we didn’t fight because it enabled the preservation of our nation. Although there were 360 000 victims in that period and the time of the Protectorate was really bad, it would surely have been much worse had we fought and lost the war. But I’m really not sure which way it would have been better. Sometimes I think we should have fought even with the risk of being destroyed. In this way we could have preserved our honor because there’s much talk today that our surrender was actually treason in a way, or not exactly treason, but weakness, yes weakness, that’s the right word. Weakness of this nation. But actually we weren’t weak because for one a lot of our young people were in the resistance movements and secondly many fled the country to join our armies abroad – in the west as well as in the east. So you can’t really say that our nation lost its honor.”

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    Praha, Česká republika, 27.08.2008

    duration: 02:17:04
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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In the concentration camp, some collaborated but I have to say that the Czechs didn’t

Nachtmannová libuše (1) – kopie.jpg (historic)
PhMr. Libuše Nachtmannová
photo: Eva Palivodová

Libuše Nachtmannová, born Marianová, was born on January 9, 1919, in Roudnice nad Labem. She went to elementary and grammar school in Roudnice nad Labem, where she passed her school leaving exam in 1938. She was in the Scout and Sokol youth organizations. In September 1938 she started her university studies in the field of pharmaceutics in Prague, but had to interrupt her studies in the fall of 1939, when the universities were closed down. After that she worked in Prague in a German company. In 1939 she was invited to join the underground resistance movement Defense of the Nation (DN). Her task was to organize the transfer of radios and their operators to new places. She also accompanied members of the DN who were fleeing from Czechoslovakia.  Libuše Nachtmannová was arrested in a counterstrike of the Gestapo at the DN in October 1941, in which the DN was crushed. After several interrogations she was sent to the concentration camp Ravensbrück, where she stayed till the end of the war. She was on the so-called death march, from which she managed to escape. After the war she got married and had a son. She also managed to finish her pharmaceutics studies and since 1949 till her retirement worked in the Research institute for plant processing in Prague-Ruzyně. She died 28. 8. 2013.