Leopold Ráb

* 1924  

  • “It was a group of young guys of my age, fifteen or sixteen years old, and we tried to act like soldiers. The group leaders were mostly officer from our army. They taught us how to handle weapons, and the general military drill exercises. We had to undergo training according to the regulations of our army so that we would be trained like soldiers. So that when the time came, when the occupation started to collapse, we would be able to rise with weapons in hands.”

  • “Every Friday we could hear the guillotine chopping heads. It is something horrible. There was always silence, or you could hear crying, shouting, everything, because the people reacted to the fact that they knew that they were going to their death. Then you heard some rumbling, you could hear it everywhere in the building. Then the head was chopped off, apparently. We were able to imagine it, because we heard it from them. The convicted persons told us. When we were taken for a walk, they led us to the yard and we saw those guys and they would whisper something to us so that their wardens would not hear it. The wardens there were not so bad like the ones from the SS.”

  • “A rumour spread that we would set out on a march and they would march us to Dachau near Munich. And it was really true. There was an order to pack all things, put all our clothes on and in the morning we started. There were four and a half thousand people there. They made us march to Dachau in tight rows of five. We walked for about five days and six nights and we slept in a meadow, in a barn or wherever they took us in a village and ordered us to sleep in farmers’ barns. Some of us managed to get a place in a heap of straw, and they were fine. Some were lying on the ground on the threshing floor and some were sleeping outside in a meadow. In all kinds of weather.”

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    Plzeň, 21.02.2014

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But we did wage a good war, indeed

In the army in 1947.
In the army in 1947.

  Leopold Ráb was born in 1924 in Pilsen. He spent his childhood in a workers’ housing in the suburb of the city, but later the family moved to an apartment in the centre of Pilsen. He experienced frequent clashes with the German youth. In the 1930s he began to train as a lathe operator in the Škoda factory. After the outbreak of the war and the declaration of the Protectorate, his uncle was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured to death in prison. During his uncle’s funeral, Leopold was offered to join the illegal resistance movement in order to avenge his death. He underwent short army training and he was ready to fight against the Germans. However, after the failure of one of the group’s members, Leopold became arrested by the Gestapo in June 1944. He was subjected to cruel interrogation and imprisoned in the Small Fortress in Terezín for a brief time. From there he was taken to the court trial in Dresden where he learnt that he was sentenced to the capital punishment. During the Allied air raid, the execution site was hit by a bomb and the trial was postponed. In April 1945 Leopold was sent on a death march to Dachau where he was to be tried and executed. However, he managed to escape and he survived to see the liberation by the American army. One week after the capitulation of Germany he returned home to Pilsen and he was happily reunited with his family. He married after completing his military service and his daughter was born. He began working in the Škoda factory again and he continued working there until his retirement in the mid-1980s.