Captain (ret.) Bedřich Utitz

* 1920  †︎ 2017

  • “The two years in Cuba were some of the brightest years in my life, and also in the lives of my wife and son.” Interviewer: “What kind of work were you doing there?” – “Well, that’s the thing. I was in the Cuban radio, in the American department of foreign broadcasting service, in the English-speaking section, and after a short time I discovered that my stay there was absolutely needless. Because they were receiving comments, news, speeches, they translated them into English and broadcasted them. There was no editorial work at all.”

  • “There was a line of some eighty to one hundred of mostly young people, winding all the way around the corner, and they were waiting for the bookshop to open. I was standing on the other side of the street, and when the buyers were then leaving the shop and showing to each other what they had bought and browsing through the books, I wanted to cross to the other side and talk to them. And I was not able to. I was so moved I wouldn’t be able to speak to them, it was so touching.”

  • “Both of us (Bedřich Utitz and Adolf Müller – ed.´s note) were known to have been active in the Prague Spring. They were still exhorting some of us from the exile: ´Do something. Found a political party or some association.´ But somehow it occurred to us that in Germany there were authors whom we knew and who were not able to publish in Czechoslovakia at present, and that there were even more authors living in Czechoslovakia, who were not allowed to publish their works. They are people who already have partly completed manuscripts or they are working on them. So what if we began publishing them here?”

  • “After the Nazi occupation, many people were considering emigration. One day I met a classmate of mine on the street and he asked me: ´So what about you? Where are you going?´ I replied: ´Well, I don’t know. We don’t have any place to go to.´ So he grabbed me and led me to the Black Rose arcade on Příkop Street and on the first floor there was an office where one could apply for an illegal transport to Palestine.”

  • “One night at midnight, Geminder summoned me to the central committee and he gave me a report that I was to broadcast immediately. It was information a secret meeting of British, American and French ministers of foreign affairs, and about what they had discussed there. I said that this had to be some mistake, for I knew that at that time the French minister of foreign affairs couldn’t have been there, he had been somewhere else at that time. But he started shouting at me: ´This is a verified report! It is true! Stop reasoning, take it and go broadcast it!”

  • “The sun was shining at noon when we were walking towards the houses, and while we were in the middle, we saw that the houses were not empty and that Germans in long coats began jumping out of them. The two of us, who were in the front, were knocked down, and they opened fire at the soldiers who walked with us and who were behind us. Then they took us to Dunkerque, to the town.”

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    Praha, 15.02.2010

    (audio)
    duration: 03:29:57
    media recorded in project Portraits of Prague citizens
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My life has been both interesting and happy. I have always had friends, my family, my wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What else could I want?

Bedřich Utitz, the siege of Dunkerque
Bedřich Utitz, the siege of Dunkerque

  Captain in retirement Bedřich Utitz was born November 20, 1920 in Vienna in a Jewish family of Czech origin. In 1931 the family moved to Prague. At first, Bedřich spoke only German and he attended a German school. On April 30, 1939 he learnt about the Black Rose from his classmate, and the whole family thus got to Palestine via the Danube River and the Black Sea. He wanted to apply for the Foreign Legion there, and later for the Czechoslovak army which was being formed, but he was turned down in both cases. He was admitted to the army only in 1942, and with the 200th antiaircraft regiment he participated in the defence of Tobruk. Thanks to his having graduated from a secondary school, he was admitted to an officers´ school in Haifa, and following his admission he did not take part in the fighting for Tobruk any more. Together with other Czechoslovak soldiers he sailed to England, where he was assigned to the Anti-tank battery and later he took part in the siege of Dunkerque. In January 1945 while on a scouting party, he was arrested by Germans and taken to a prison in Dunkerque, from where he was released only in April through the International Red Cross in exchange for German prisoners. In 1946 he began working in the Czech Press Agency and he was appointed as a correspondent in the Soviet sector of the divided Berlin. In 1949 he transferred to Telepress, led by Bedřich Geminder, and as he himself says, “it was merely a disinformation department.” After its breakup in 1952 he was unable to find employment for half a year due to his Jewish origin, and he eventually found a job as a librarian and documentalist in the Institute for Experimental Surgery in Prague-Krč. Thanks to his friend he then got employed in the Czechoslovak Radio in 1954, where he became the head of the German broadcasting service of the foreign department, and the chief of the central department of foreign broadcasting. In 1963-1965 he was working for the foreign broadcasting department in Cuba, where he was absolutely unneeded, as he says. After his return, his name was on the GDR´s blacklist due to the “socialism with human face” which was then in progress and due to his journalistic involvement, being in the position of the head of German broadcast. Thanks to references from friends, fellow journalists, in 1968 he got to Cologne, where he together with politologist Adolf Müller founded a samizdat publishing house Index in 1971. They published over 200 books, and although their mutual collaboration later became complicated, Index kept publishing till 1989, when it lost its primary purpose as a publishing house for samizdat works. After the Velvet Revolution, Utitz was working for the newspapers and magazines Svobodné slovo, Lidové noviny, Přítomnost, Listy or Týden. In 2005 he returned to the Czech Republic for good. In 1998 president Václav Havel decorated him with the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Bedřich Utitz passed away on February, the 12th, 2017.