"I was in the German Youth for eight years. Nowadays it's reviled as Hitler Youth. Alright. I'm okay with that name, but I didn't join the Hitler Youth. I joined the German Gymnastic Organisation, when I was seven. That's where he boys went, girls had some sort of ballet group. Then suddenly they switched our grey socks for these white, kind of Henlein ones. Suddenly we didn't have grey trousers, but black cords, in the same way we were missing our grey shirts for brown ones. And suddenly we didn't just wear the Carpathian German badge, but also the Hitler Youth lozenge. And we had renamed ourselves. First we were Deutsche Turnverein, then Die deutsche Jugend, then Hitlerjugend and in the end we were armed forces (Waffen...). In Germany they drafted fourteen-year-olds, at home it was the Volkdeutsche, from fifteen onwards. I was fifteen and a half when they drafted me. I wasn't there for long, about one day. We were backing away over Kobylí to Moravia . That's where my loyalty to Hitler ended. (...) The Russians were close by, also in Moravia. I didn't get a single shot out, there were four of us and some seven Wehrmacht chaps. The Oberfeldvébl told us: 'If any of you dares to fire, I will personally kill you with the butt of my gun. We want to go home, the Russians are occupying Vienna and they're fighting in Bratislava.' When they found out that I knew the place, then they had me lead them out and all was good. What do you think? Loyalty to any leader ends when they start losing."
"I borrowed myself a bicycle. On Sunday, that was five piastro's per hour, I paid two hours. And quite simply I escaped through Dong Dang, that was some 16 kilometres. The border was to the right, two kilometres from the road. That's where the Tshankajshka caught me, the Red "Riders" got me away from them. I joined the Red Cavalry, when they tore us apart then I crossed over with the Vietnamese and into the Vietnamese army. Is that enough? Or do you want me to tell you that Ho Chi Min says hello? Were the borders guarded? Yes, there was a French bunker there and you had to be very careful. They sent some twenty legionaries after me in a truck, they were supposed to catch me. But a small bicycle is much more handy. They didn't get me. The greenhorn got away, finito."
"I remember now, when you reminded me, they took us to the cinema (in Nanning, China) once. And we just about got on together there. But we didn't have much contact, don't get me wrong. When they locked us up in Pankrác, then it was free-for-all between the captives and those who switched sides. The beat each other with metal drawers. We did have a friendly relation, or a hostile one. In some there was this hidden hostility. I couldn't give a damn. I played chess, there were some three, four good chess players. We made ourselves chess pieces out of bread and we played chess."
"You know what I hated most? When I got back, the first question of any dumb girl was: 'And how many did you kill?' - 'Well, you ninny, six hundred, fifteen hundred, you dumbass.' How many did you kill? Killed, didn't kill? They really think you have the time to count that. But I was always the faster one, that's why you can talk with me now."
"They weren't the Vietnamese army yet, they were just partisans, farmers. He fired, guns were a commodity. They didn't even have proper twine, much less wire. What they did have they tied to the gun, and when we shot whoever was using it, then they left him there and pulled the gun back. Chase someone through the jungle like that. It's not like here among the red currants. Only later, when I joined their side, did I see how they did it and I understood why we could never find the gun. They pulled it back, and these blubbing twelve-, thirteen-year-olds scooted away. They were supposed to. He fired, and so the French wouldn't find it, they pulled the gun back and ran. When the French soldiers got there, they looked like fools. There was the dead body lying there, of a civilian, a farmer just in his shirt, and no weapon. Only afterwards did I understand where it went."
I was always the faster one, that’s why you can talk with me now
Ervín Páleš was born in Bratislava into a Slovak-German family, his father was a university professor. During the war he joined a the gymnastic organisation of Carpathian Germans, which later became part of the Hitler Youth. That was one of the reasons why he was thrown out of school in 1946. He became a laboratory technician and in the summer of 1948 he crossed the borders into Germant and joined the Foreign Legion. He didn’t want to join the fighting in Indochina, but he applied so as to avoid being placed into the punishment platoon. In July 1949, on the day of his 20th birthday, he landed at Saigon. He didn’t last long in the Foreign Legion, he deserted in October 1949 in the north of Vietnam (the Dong Dang area), and cycled to China. He served with the Tshankajshka partisans, later with the red Mao’s partisans. He crossed China back into Vietnam and joined the Vietnam partisans. At the end of 1951 he was demobilised and sent home with a group of Czechoslovak and East German repatriates. From April 1952 till June 1953 he was held and interrogated in Prague and Mladá Boleslav, but he was released without charges. In 1958 he was the consultee for the film “Černý prapor” (The Black Battalion), about the Foreign Legion. He worked as a dental technician in Bratislava. He now lives in Šamorín.