Karel Soukup

* 1937

  • "There was a big military parade, where the Americans were in polished helmets, the soldiers in tanks, and they all were going to the square. Edvard Beneš arrived there and was decorating them, as I remember. He was going in an open convertible, and to his right was an American officer, I don't know his name. He had this moustache. I knew only General Harmon because he lived in Nová Huť and we had a cottage in Chrást. We had given him a cut vase, so I could recognize him. But not here. It was just a different general. But for me it was an experience, because I was standing on the balcony on the first floor and he was practically below us, like twelve metres. But even at that time I was thinking how this man [Edvard Beneš] looked very bad and unhealthy. He was all ashen grey, ashen in the face, and he was sort of contorted next to the general. Maybe that was what caused a little bit that, as he was so ill, he wasn´t able to resist [the Communists] in 1948."

  • "Then there was the battle. We got it more or less first-hand, because here [the Americans] were shelling an evangelical church. I remember there was one jeep between the pillars at the theatre. Then they were on the roof of Adrie [department store, trans.], they were shooting there too. One soldier was lying with a machine gun in the front of our house, shooting at Adrie. Because they were terrible shots and everything was shaking so much, we were lying in the bathroom by the center wall and we were shaking with fear what was going to happen, because it was a big battle. Around noon it stopped. We were looking out of the balcony and the Americans were bringing the German soldiers out of the barracks at Sady Pětatřicátníků street. We were watching in shock. They were standing in ten rows, it was a kind of a line three hundred and four hundred meters [long]. They all had their hands up to show they were surrendering. We were like, 'Oh my God, as this was a short distance from us, if those Americans hadn´t come, they would have massacred us like they did in Prague.' And we would have been practically the first to get hit."

  • "I went to the State Male Teachers' Institute on the corner of Tylova Street. Now there's been a medical school there for a long time. We were taught by professors who also taught aspiring teachers. We had such a timid headmaster. Just before classes started, we had to stand up, raise our hand: 'Sieg Heil!' We sang the German national anthem. My arm always hurt, so I used to support it up. So I got scolded that the right hand had to be held properly. At that time I could speak German better than Czech. Because my parents would tell me that I was not good at German, they paid for private tuition so I wouldn't have any problems. It was really hard Germanization."

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    Plzeň, 04.03.2022

    duration: 01:50:09
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - PLZ REG ED
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I couldn’t have a professional career, but at least I have a clear conscience

Karel Soukup in 1955
Karel Soukup in 1955
photo: Witness´s archive

Karel Soukup was born on 29 May 1937 in Pilsen into the family of a well-known tailor. Shortly afterwards, the World War II broke out, but his father’s business managed to go on. At primary school, teachers were trying to Germanise Karel Soukup and his classmates. In May 1945, he witnessed the arrival of the American army and a month later, President Edvard Beneš´s visit to the town. As a member of Junák in 1946, he held an honor guard at the foundation stone of the monument to the American liberators. However, it was not built after the February 1948 coup. The Communists subsequently nationalized family´s trade and evicted them from their flat. Karel Soukup, however, managed to start his secondary school studies without any problems. At the end of his first year he experienced the uprising of the Pilsen workers after the currency reform. He was not able to enter university due to lack of finances. He completed his compulsory military service with the air force in Žatec and then began working in the electrical engineering factories in Pilsen. He welcomed the relaxed atmosphere of the 1960s. The Soviet invasion in August 1968 was therefore a strong disapointment for him, but he was not particularly affected by the subsequent checks. However, he did not believe that the regime would ever fall. The year 1989 was therefore a shock for him, but a very welcome one. After the Velvet Revolution, the family regained its property. Later, together with his younger brother Jan Soukup, he worked on saving architectural monuments. In 2022 he was living in Pilsen.