“Well, growing up in Žižkov. As you know, Žižkov was a self-evolved quarter, so I remember the First Republic quite well, the situation at the time, including the social situation, which wasn’t easy. There were signs everywhere offering flats for rent, and yet all the cellar rooms were full, where people tried to survive for just a few crowns. The typical Žižkov pubs, some of the fun around election time, when things could get pretty wild...”
“It was a chalk hill made up of pure gypsum, a pretty big hill. There were two tunnels dug right through the whole hill about two hundreds metres apart, with a railroad track leading into them, there was a railway junction there, and in between these two parallel tunnels, which weren’t completely straight, they were a bit curved, there had dug out production halls. There were about fifty of these halls. And from the south side there were about twenty of them, and that was as far as we could go, only the SS could go there, those were production halls for V1 and V2 rockets, mainly V2 afterwards. They did the assembly and final production of the rockets there. One of the terrible, truly terrible concentration camps was there, Camp Dora. Only prisoners and Germans worked on the rockets. And the whole of this enormous underground ant nest was managed by the SS and the Sicherheitsdienst, which was basically the in-house secret service of the Nazi Party.”
“Dora was originally an auxiliary labour camp of Buchenwald - they sent prisoners there from Buchenwald. But it was organised independently later on. Apart from these prisoners, there were also Soviet POWs, and then right on the route that we took to Tettenborn, about halfway along, there was Ellrich Station. And there was another big concentration camp in Ellrich. The inmates there were the ones who dug the underground factories. That kept on going. This one was already working, but they needed more underground facilities. They dug so they could move some of the production underground.”
We wanted to build a better world, except we didn’t know what it was supposed to be like
Ladislav Okrouhlík was born in 1924 in Prague-Žižkov. He trained as a precision mechanic. In January 1944 he was assigned to forced labour in Germany. He worked in an underground factory complex near Nordhausen. The neighbouring Dora concentration camp supplied prisoners who worked on the production of V1 and V2 rockets underground. He operated a lathe under very harsh conditions, with minimal amounts of food, for twelve-hour shifts. When Nordhausen was bombed in April 1945, panic broke out in the surrounding area. Ladislav Okrouhlík and a number of other prisoners took the opportunity to escape. They set out on foot to Prague. The witness reached Prague with a severely injured leg and ended up in hospital. In 1950 he started working for the Ministry of the Interior. He was tasked with the surveillance of certain people. He joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. However, his job troubled him, and so he had himself transferred to Public Security (the police force), where he dealt with economic crime. He reached the rank of major. After August 1968 he expressed his disagreement with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces. He was expelled from the Communist Party and lost his job at Public Security. He worked as a foreman at Scrap Materials Prague until his retirement.