Edvard Schiffauer

* 1942  

  • “They wanted me to sign a cooperation agreement. I didn’t even talk with them about it, I didn’t ask what kind of cooperation, nothing, just no, no, no. I drank a Kofola [a Czech cola - trans.] or something there. Then they took me back to Opava, it took at least four hours, perhaps more. I was supposed to meet up with Věrka [his wife - ed.]; I came there an hour late, of course. I got out of the car and puked and puked and puked. They met with me by summons one more time. They took me to the manor house in Hradec, where they also tried to persuade me; that’s where they gave me a Kofola, actually. I refused completely, I thought that would be the end of it. Those were the two [meetings - ed.]. [Q: Did they want anything specific from you?] I didn’t even want to know what they wanted. They wanted me to sign up to collaborate, claiming it wouldn’t be any trouble at all. But I didn’t want to know anything about it anyway. Then they came, I was in Nová Huť by then, some four or five years later. They came and said that if I hadn’t liked the people who had talked with me, if they hadn’t been to my liking, that they would give me some other ones instead, that they wanted my cooperation. The mistake was, when you read about how they did it in Prague, the dissidents in Prague didn’t reply at all. Whereas I talked with them; it was their training, they had it all worked out, they talked about all kinds of things, about religion, the world, and so on. And then they switched to this. And that was it. It would have been much simpler if I hadn’t spoken with them at all, but I only found that out afterwards.”

  • “The typical thing here was that when the investigation ended, before the trial started, we had the option to see the case file. It had about two thousand pages, I spent I think two or three days there for sure. So then I asked my investigator, the captain, why they took us specifically - there were nine of us. At the time we were all of the same opinion, and he could have taken any nine people from the street and find some kind of reason for punishing them. And he told me, and I made note of it, that it didn’t matter which nine they took, but what kind of impact it would have on those who were active somehow or would like to be active. So it really was a show trial, in which they showed their vigilance. The typical thing was that they published a two-page article in Nová svoboda [New Liberty, a newspaper - trans.], how the air had improved in Ostrava. They gave an absolutely horrific description of the meeting in Leskovec and how dreadful we were. How better the air was in Ostrava now that they had removed such freeloader, such evil people, who were ruining what we had been given a year and a half or two years ago by our Soviet friends - the opportunity to work freely, in liberty.”

  • “When we asked the HSTD [a Czech acronym for the Main Press Supervisory Board - trans.] for permission for Rain Gutter Theatre, our request was refused because apparently the acronym DPO [Divadélko Pod okapem, the name of the theatre in Czech - trans.] might be interpreted by some citizens of Ostrava as ‘fuck’s sake, Ostravans’ [orig. ‘do prdele, Ostraváci’ - trans.], for which reason the application is denied. So back then we pledged in writing that the acronym DPO will never be used, that the acronym will be OKAP [‘okap’ means gutter - trans.], as in Rain Gutter Theatre, well, and then they approved it. That’s how ridiculous press supervision was at the time.”

  • “Mr. Štefek, I beg you, give me back my peace. I am in a bad psychical state again. I cannot stop thinking about the fact that I met you and that I will have to meet you again. I ask you as another human being, please, try to make a decision that would bring happiness to another man. I am not keen on cooperating with you, I do not wish to cooperate with you, and I want to have peace from everyone and from everything. I want to write and write, and I am truly convinced that through my writing I can contribute to the society with far greater and more lasting values than through my failed cooperation with you. In Štítina, on October 25th, 1984.”

  • “The music theatre is on the second floor. People were coming from the street and right in the door we searched them if they had any weapons. We had submachine guns ourselves and we were dressed as partisans. The people then walked up to the second floor where they had to say the password, and if they had forgotten it, they had to go back... Then they entered the vestibule, and there was a pile of various army stuff, some fences, and dirty things scattered all over. A pole with a map of Europe hung on it was stuck in the middle of this pile, and arrows from five states were aiming at our country. It was a kind of a silent symbol. When people came for the play, they were right in it.”

  • “I only began to understand the purpose of the trial when I studied the findings of the investigation a year later. The file had about two thousand pages, and I spent three days in the court building before I managed to go through it. I asked my investigator at that time why they had arrested specifically the nine of us when they could have arrested any other nine people who shared the same opinion. I wrote down what he replied to me at that time: ‘It does not matter whom we arrested; what matters is what impact it will have on those who would ever want to do something similar.’ It simply served as an exemplary trial.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Štítina, okres Opava, 23.11.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 04:00:26
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Hlučín, 19.04.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 02:49:07
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Music and punishment of Tomáš Edvard Schiffauer

Edvard Schiffauer in mid-1960s
Edvard Schiffauer in mid-1960s
photo: archiv Edvarda Schiffauera

Edvard Schiffauer was born March 26, 1942 in Ostrava in the family of a chemical engineer. The family’s living standards degraded after the communist coup d’état in 1948. In 1960 Edvard started his study in a preparatory course for the first grade of the Technical University in Ostrava, which included work in ironworks and in coal mines as well. A year later, he and his fellow students established theatre Divadélko pod okapem (“Rain Gutter Theatre”), which became an Ostrava version of Prague’s Semafor Theatre. In 1968 he was involved in the foundation of Theatre Waterloo and he composed music for the musical Son of the Regiment. Theatre Waterloo became banned by the authorities during the normalization era. A large-scale court trial was held with those who had been involved in this theatre and Edvard was sentenced to nine months of imprisonment for having composed music for its playes. He served his sentence in the prison in Pilsen-Bory, where he wrote a children’s opera with his friend and later Charter 77 signatory Ivan Binar. During the normalization era, Edvard Schiffauer was employed as a worker and he was being permanently interrogated by the State Security Police and forced into cooperating with them. He eventually did sign the commitment of cooperation, but as he himself says, he has never done anything in this matter. After 1989 he received formal education as a composer. His name was included in Cibulka’s list of StB collaborators, and his story was later recorded in Zdena Salivarova-Škvorecká’s book Osočení (‘The Denounced’), which follows the lives of people who had been included in Cibulka’s lists.