Josef Svoboda

* 1932

  • “I believe writer Švandrlík may have also served in the same auxiliary technical battalion near Plzeň…That film, starring Landovský and others, was probably made on the basis of that, the Black Barons film. And the film corresponded with that. But I am not sure whether he really served near Plzeň, there was an airport. But what was portrayed in the film a lot was that we were made idiots there! We, the commanders who served there, had gone through proper military education. And each of us got there in a different way, for refusing an order, or something like that. Those officers were then transferred there as commanders of the auxiliary technical battalions. And this was what happened to me, that was how I began my duty there.”

  • “My brother, who was in the concentration camp… (What was his name?) – Jiří Svoboda. He was in the concentration camp and the way he got there was that when he was eighteen, he was sent to forced labour in Germany, in Breslaw. As a forced labour worker he was sent to some butchery which belonged to a German butcher. And that butcher was always cursing…can I say that? – (Sure, tell me.) – He was always cursing him, calling him a Czech swine, and similar names. And you can imagine, the German smacked him in his face a few times, and my eighteen-year-old brother smacked him back. And the butcher went to report him. Thus my brother got arrested and was sent to a concentration camp. First, to Flossenbürg, then he was in Gross Rosen and finally in Sachsenhausen. With a ´Return Unwelcome´ note! So he spent three and a half years there for such a petty reason! My brother Jirka left the concentration camp because they sent them on a death march at the end of the war. And about three of them agreed to escape in some way. They would have been shot for that. The Germans were shooting those who could not continue due to exhaustion. And they agreed they would fall down, they SSmen who were accompanying them did not have much time, and they thought they were already dead. But they were not, and when the group of prisoners passed them, they got up and ran away. They eventually got to the American sector. My brother returned home only after the war, after two months, because he had stayed with the Americans, they were giving them food. And somebody there gave him a bicycle, and he thus came home on a bike dressed in a prisoner’s uniform, I still remember it very vividly. After the war he joined the State Police. In 1945. And he was sent to Teplice, to Šanov, there were the Bandera´s gangs, and their task was to arrest them and exterminate them.”

  • “(What does the year 1989 and the fall of the Communist regime mean to you? How did you feel about it?) – My impression was…what I did not like was the ringing of the keys, and all those speeches. If you look at it now, where has it all gone?! In my opinion, the young people stand no chance, because whether they manage to finish their studies or not, there is unemployment, you hear economic crisis mentioned at all times! – (So you think that before 1989 the situation was more favourable?) – It was. In my opinion it was. I was never partial to anyone, I had to earn my own living, and I really do not like the situation in which we are today. You can see it for yourself, how things look, everyone striving for positions, craving just money, money, and people – they are in the very last place, I think.”

  • “I was transferred to Znojmo, to the fortress battalion and this battalion was intended to support the border guards. Because Znojmo was a town near the state border. It was in 1953. And our task was to watch the small fortresses in Šatov and other places together with the border guards – we took them over. The work was quite demanding and there were many people who required something more from us. And there was a chairman of a local communist party organization, and he somehow focused on me, and began bullying me wherever he could. – (And you were a Party member at that time?) – I was in the Party at that time, there was no other way. Later, I was transferred to those Auxiliary Technical Battalions. Not because I would be unreliable, but because I had some negative comments in my file. And if I remember it correctly, I was sent to Sokolov, which used to be called Falknov nad Ohří, and there we lived in a monastery building, we had our command there, and I worked as a platoon commander there.”

  • “The residential area in the Slovany suburb in Plzeň was being built. They were sent to work for Posista, a construction company, and they worked at building the blocks of flats in Slovany and in other areas where Posista was operating. The soldiers were deployed there and had to work there. It was a group construction work. Thus they did not get any real training. The drill – we only had wooden replicas of firearms, no real weapons. Some of the boys were not able to bear it, all the stuff, so there were even some suicides. – (Perhaps because some of them were bullied?) – Not all the commanders were same, as for myself, I have never taken part in anything like that.”

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    Praha, 06.05.2009

    duration: 01:04:48
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Soldiers came from the shift and had a political education class

Svoboda Josef
Svoboda Josef
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Josef Svoboda was born July 1st, 1932 in Pohůrka, near České Budějovice. He grew up in a very poor family. During the war, his elder brother Jiří was sent to forced labour in Germany.  Due to a misunderstanding with his employer he was sent to a concentration camp. Till 1945 he went through three concentration camps - Flossenbürg, Gross Rosen and Sachsenhausen; after the liberation he joined the State Police. In 1945-1947 Josef Svoboda attended the last two grades of a higher elementary, then he began vocational training at a technical school of ceramics in Karlovy Vary. He was attracted to the military profession; his decision to join the army was also significantly supported by the model of his brother in uniform. He entered the military academy in Mladá Boleslav in 1949. From 1953-1954 he served in a fortress battalion supporting the border protection guards in Znojmo. In 1954, after a conflict with the chairman of a local Party organization, he was transferred to the Auxiliary Technical Battalions (or military technical units, which were gradually replacing the cancelled ATBs). Here he served as a first-lieutenant till 1955 when he had to transfer to the reserves for medical reasons. Afterwards, he worked as a roof tiller and in other professions. He is finally retired.