“Since I had refused to divorce my (Jewish) wife, I lost, interestingly, first the nationality. The Germans had completely different idea of nationality and citizenship. I lost first my nationality, because of my crime against the race, and then on account of my lost nationality I lost my citizenship. This is the document where they told me about it… I got my first encounter with Gestapo early, in 1941. It was an invitation to come to the room number 323 of the Gestapo and it was pretty serious. We had thought that we would save for my parents the better part of their furniture. However, for having Jewish property, there was this penalty. The situation was pretty disagreeable. I knocked on the door, and when I was asked to enter, there was this Gestapo “Kriminalkomissar” sitting, his name was Friedrich Hössel. He let me wait. That is one of their tricks… you get nervous. After a while, he talked to me and he said: ‘You are accused of having stolen property of your Jewish in-laws. He held the accusatory note, so that I could read the signature. This saved me, because I could tell him: ‘You are completely wrong, and the information is from my genitor, who is, and I can prove it, a murderer.” And it was true, he had killed a prostitute and was seen with her together in certain place. She was killed in Dobřichovice. I told him: ‘Do me a favor, take the telephone and call Czech police.’ He said: ‘Oh no, the accuser is a Czech?’ I did not know… he hated Czechs more than Jews... interesting case. So, I had already the upper hand. He said: ‘The accuser is a Czech?’ And I said: ‘Yes.’ He said only one word: ‘Sub-humans.’ When he said that, the thing was finished in my favor. I was very astonished… When you go to an interrogation, you have to observe. I have already observed and I made my picture of Mr. Hössel. He was apparently Prussian law and order police officer, who was seduced by outlook for better income, and he was himself not a bad guy. I tried to get closer to him. I got him so far that he conceded that a man who does not divorce his Jewish wife could be a character. I made another observation. On one of the desks in the room, there was a hunting cartridge. He wanted to get me out already. I said: ‘Excuse me Sir, are you also a hunter?’ And he said: ‘Yes, but in this goddamn place I cannot get a single cartridge.’ I told him: ‘Mr. Kriminalkomissar, there are people in Prague who sell it. They will sell the cartridges to me.’ I got my first order. The next day I came… For coincidence, I had the same specification, the same caliber at home. I brought him for the first time one hundred. For him, as a hunter, it was special. He said: ’Can you get me the cartridges before the weekend?’ The next day, I walked voluntarily into the Gestapo building and brought it. Somehow, I forgot to tell him how much he owned to me and I have established one of the most valuable contacts. I cannot tell you how many Jews were rescued through him…”
“Meanwhile, things got worse. We were living together with Hana’s parents in a house in the suburb of Prague. Our efforts to emigrate somehow were completely in vain, there were no possibilities. But then, a miracle happened. As a diesel engine designer in Škoda, I could not continue because this was armament production and no Jews were allowed there. Also, no people living in mixed marriages. It so happened, that the director of Škoda, who was very much antagonized by others, he came to me and made me a very generous offer. In order to help me out of the country, he would name me Škoda representative in Calcutta, India… absolutely fantastic. However, my wife had one sister, who was married to a Dutch Jew. They had already left for Netherlands and Hana was here with her parents. I could not take on this assignment of Škoda anybody else. It was only us, who could go. And she did not want to leave her parents alone, although it would have been better. As a Škoda representative, I would have the possibilities of money transfers and so on and I could ultimately much more effectively help the parents, than sitting in Czechoslovakia. So, we missed it. Then, Hitler occupied Prague on 15 March 1939. We were sitting in a trap.”
Imagine that I went voluntarily to the Gestapo headquarters
Otto Springer was born in 1907 in Prague. He was the son of Carl Springer, a high-ranking soldier, and Wilhelmine Hopfengärtner, daughter of one of the wealthiest people in the Czech lands, Max Hopfengärtner. The latter moved to southern Bohemia in the mid-19th century, first to manage and later to become the owner of a metallurgical plant in the village of Holoubkov near Rokycany. Otto’s grandfather amassed great wealth and built a villa in Holoubkov. It was between this lavish country estate and the Prague family home that young Otto divided most of his time. Later he studied technology in Prague and met his future wife Hana at lectures. She was of Jewish descent, which soon complicated the newlyweds’ lives in the environment of interwar Czechoslovakia. Otto worked as an engine designer at Škoda. As a man from a mixed marriage, he was to leave the company. However, his supervisor offered him and his wife to go to Kolkata, India, where he would work as a representative of the company. But Otto decided to stay because his wife Hana did not want to leave her parents alone in Czechoslovakia. Instead, he became involved in anti-Nazi circles, working as a kind of agent. He developed good contacts among some of the Nazi leaders and through them he was able to obtain benefits for his friends and acquaintances. Among other things, he was able to significantly help many of them in their efforts to emigrate. At the end of the war, he was taken to a labour camp near Wroclaw and participated in the death march. After the end of the war, he continued his cooperation with Western intelligence, but was betrayed and emigrated to the USA via Germany in 1948.