Colonel Bedřich Seliger

* 1920  †︎ 2012

  • “We did a lot of mischief when we were boys. For instance, we’d play football when somebody would discover that there’s a plum tree with huge plums behind the wall. So after a while of scheming one climbed up, shook the branches and the plums fell down to the ground and we collected them. All of a sudden a man – probably the owner of the garden – rushed in and caught one of us. He took that boy to the nearest police station and the result was, of course, that this boy unloaded the names of the other footballers and my father had to come to the police station and pay 50 Crowns, which at that time, was quite a sum of money. The parents of the others had to pay 50 Crowns as well. It was for some charitable purposes.”

  • “I suffered from three diseases at the same time. I had dysentery which was very common and widespread and additionally malaria from Uzbekistan and I had a third disease.” “You state typhus here.” “Yes, I had a terrible fever – over 41 degrees of Celsius. It made me go blind for several days. They gave me the precursor to today’s almighty medication – penicillin. They called it “sulfamidin” but it was a penicillin-based substance. Yes, it was something like it – a Russian type of penicillin. This might have saved my life. Gradually, as the fewer was ebbing away I started to see again.”

  • “That was the attack of our infantry at Dukla. These boys did it all wrong. Instead of racing forward, they just crawled and took cover somewhere in no-man’s land. I was watching it and said to myself: “this is gonna take a bad end.” And it did. I had a dug out for my radio operators because the connection with the firing position was via radio. Through these radio operators I was issuing orders to the firing position of my mortar company. They weren’t, however, executing my orders because they didn’t rush forward but crawled in somewhere out there and were completely defenseless. Some even ran back. The Germans turned their mortar fire against our observation points. One of the mines hit our trench. I was lying on the ground and some of the splinters brushed my back. So I knew I had some shell splinters stabbed in my back, I knew it.”

  • “We used to play pool in one pub. It was before Jews were forbidden to enter restaurants. So we were playing pool and one guy that I knew but I don’t remember his name anymore came to the table of two German officers and told them that we were Jewish. They just brushed him off telling him not to annoy them. So you see, even things like that sometimes happened.”

  • “There I realized how the army chiefs of staff also can work. I’ll say it on the record, I don’t care. We were about fifty or sixty meters away from the enemy. When somebody sticked out a helmet on a bayonet it immediately attracted enemy fire. Every evening the order came to send out a scout who was supposed to find out how many men were at the other side. Such a nonsense! It was certain death! I never carried this order out. Every morning when we woke up in the trenches that were filled with water (it was springtime and so there was a lot of rain and mud in the Ukraine), I reported to the headquarters that the order had been carried out and that the manpower of the enemy hadn’t changed. That’s how we did it. You can’t send a boy on a suicide mission.”

  • “I was working in Olomouc and had a cleaning lady at home whose name was Františka. Once I returned home from Olomouc, I entered my flat and – the piano was gone! I said: “Can you tell me what happened here?” “Well the Russian officers came and said they had the order to confiscate all the pianos that had been German and send them to Russia. That was something of an enterprise! I was really upset so I went to see this “military commander” who was some Major – I was a Lieutenant by then already. I got very upset in his office about the fact that they took my piano which was a replacement for my original piano that had been confiscated by the Germans during the war. He actually listened to me, I persuaded him and they really gave me my piano back!” “The same one?” “Sure, the same one. It was a beautiful piano. We gave it away only recently when we moved to the new flat because there was simply no room for it.” “What brand was it?” “Förster.”

  • “Unfortunately my parents, my two sisters and at least other eighteen of my closest relatives died in 1942 in an extermination camp.” “They all left with the same transport?” “Yes, they all left with the same transport from Theresienstadt on July 6 (clarification: it was on July 28, 1942).”

  • “This Vilhelmskij told me at this dinner: “We’ve heard that you Czechs brew the best beer. You are a Czech, here you have a “bakul” (a one-liter mug of beer) and you’re gonna prove that you’re Czech. If you are Czech for real, you’ll drink it.” I wasn’t used to drinking alcohol at all. The waiter brought the mug and I closed my eyes, held my breath and finished the mug in one go. Ten minutes later I fell unconscious.” “How’s this possible? Do they have a stronger beer there?” “It was half a liter of beer and half a liter of vodka. He did this to every new employer but nobody was allowed give it away. So I spent the next three days in alcoholic intoxication. It was a stupid joke. At least he could have asked if I was used to drinking beer. I didn’t drink beer. I don’t really drink beer till today.” “So what you’re saying is that because you weren’t used to drinking beer, you didn’t notice that there’s something wrong with it?” “As I said, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath… I wanted to prove that I’m Czech, that I can drink it. How could I have known that it was gonna be like that.”

  • “Shortly after the war the women who had spent some intimate moments with our officers somehow got in touch and decided to get on a bus to Czechoslovakia and make the men who were the fathers of their unborn children marry them. The whole bus was filled with these chicks. General Svoboda somehow found out about it and gave the order not to let that bus enter Czechoslovakia. So they all had to return. These are crazy things…”

  • “I had a wonderful childhood, really, I love to remember those times. I did a lot of sports: I played tennis, table tennis, I did ice skating, skiing in the Drahan highlands and in the holidays we either went to the Sokol (a youth movement like the Scout) stadium to swim or we cycled to the Plumlov Dam. I also fell in love. I had a very good friend with whom I shared a desk in school for several years. He was a Jew as well and his name was Greif, Vítězslav Greif. The two of us were dating one girl at the same time. She somehow couldn’t quite make up her mind about whom to choose. So eventually, she solved this dilemma by picking a third boy. What was her name again? Would you imagine that I can’t remember her name at the moment? Her surname was Plačková. Rút Plačková! Yes. She was the daughter of a dentist. So we dated her both.”

  • “Shortly after the outbreak of the war, after Germany’s attack on Poland, I came back home one day and as I entered our flat I immediately got a few slaps and kicks from two Gestapo men who were in our flat. Only my mother was at home and these two Gestapo men with one Czech collaborator whom I knew.” “Can you tell me his name?” “I’ve got his name somewhere in my records. He later changed his name (from Průša to Pruscha – note of the author). They told me to immediately give them the Marxist literature that I was hiding – they said they knew that I was hiding it somewhere because they’re well informed. I had one drawer that belonged to me only and that I had the key to. I was keeping the letters from my girlfriend and other similar things in that drawer. I knew that I didn’t have any Marxist literature. So I opened that drawer and they searched it. Our family watch that had been passed from generation to generation was also in that drawer because after I had passed the school leaving exam at grammar school, my father gave it to me. They took this watch and asked where I had stolen it. Then they gave me a few more slaps and said they’d take it with them and find out whether somebody is missing it. In this way they simply stole our family watch! Only my mother was at home. They didn’t find anything else. After the search was over, they arrested me. I was given handcuffs and taken to the police station. Luckily, the station was only 100 meters away from our house so not too many people could see me walking in handcuffs on the street. I was only nineteen years old then and I was ashamed for having these handcuffs. On this day I saw my parents and sisters for the last time.”

  • “Before I left the vile army, I served in Olomouc at the army-corps headquarters. One beautiful day General Beránek summoned me for a conversation into his office. It took place in the presence of Colonel Srp who served with the chiefs of staff. So we were chatting about my war-time experiences, about my life after the war, if I needed anything. The conversation was being conducted in a very respectful atmosphere. All of a sudden, General Beránek says: “Captain, you know, a lot of your co-belligerents are transforming their German sounding surnames into Czech equivalents. Aren’t you considering doing this as well?” “Well I might consider it one day.” “Well and when, when are you gonna consider it?” “Well, that’s easy, when Mr. Gottwald and Mr. Fierlinger will change their names.” After this they turned quiet. There was absolute calm. They abruptly terminated the conversation. I was quite offhand when it came to these things. I’ve never had any respect for some functionaries. Never.”

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    Teplice, 11.11.2006

    duration: 03:32:44
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I’d like to say to the young people of today, that their way of life doesn’t lead to anything good. I’m really surprised by the alcoholism, drugs, vandalism and the disgracing of graveyards…

seliger_1945_1.jpg (historic)
Colonel Bedřich Seliger
photo: foto: Lukáš Krákora

Bedřich Seliger was born on June 19, 1920, in Prostějov in Moravia in a Jewish family. After Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, Bedřich’s parents tried to get him out of the Protectorate at any cost. That’s why he enrolled in an intensive English course in the summer of 1939. However, soon thereafter he was arrested by the Gestapo for his activities in on of the cells of the underground resistance movement. He was sent to a concentration camp in the Polish city of Nisk nad Sanem where he arrived on November 10, 1939. This was an interim camp without any enclosures and guarded only during the day. Therefore it was relatively easy for Mr. Seliger to flee from the camp. He crossed the border to Ukraine and obtained a working permit there which enabled him to work in a bakery in Bolechov, Ukraine. After the German invasion in 1941 he managed to escape to Uzbekistan where he worked in one of the Sovchozs (a forced association of farmers - note by the translator). With the help of the Czechoslovak consulate in Kujbyšev he was able to get out of Uzbekistan and be one of the first Czechoslovaks to appear in Buzuluk, where the Czechoslovak army corps was being formed. Bedřich Seliger participated in all the major battles of the Czechoslovak army corps in the Soviet Union. He started as a commander of a mortar contingent and later platoon at Sokolovo, Kiev, Rudá and other places in the Soviet Union and later during the liberation of Czechoslovakia. In the battle for the Dukla pass he commanded a mortar company. He suffered three injuries during the whole campaign. After his return to his native town of Prostějov his worst fears were confirmed - his parents and his two sisters were murdered after the transport to the Belarusian town of Baranoviči. After the war Mr. Seliger served until 1947 at the headquarters in Olomouc. Bedřich Seliger is the holder of three Czechoslovak war crosses and a Crimson Star of the USSR. In June 1945 he got married for the first time with Jitka Lamplotová. His first son George was born in 1948, the second son Vladimír in 1950. after leaving the army in 1947 Mr. Seliger worked in leading positions in the textile and glassmaking industry. In 1956 he got married for the second time with Jarmila Bínová, a pharmacist. He didn’t have any more children with her. In retirement he vigorously played chess and participated in chess tournaments. He also helped out in the gym. He accomplished a course for coaches and referees. He loved to travel frequently. Bedřich Seliger passed away on November, the 27th, 2012.