A War Time Experience

On this day when we pause to reflect on the victims of the wars this country has fought, I have chosen to post a recently translated letter that I received in the mail the other day. It was written to my father-in-law from his mother shortly after World War II. It is the only letter of hers known to have been preserved. She writes of her war-time experiences in the town of Mistek-Frydek on the Eastern border of what was then occupied Nazi Czechoslovakia.

…we have a baker across the street and so we did not suffer from hunger like others. Fat, soap and meat were the most scarce. There are many potatoes grown here and people mostly ate bramborachku (potato soup). But you can’t make a rue for soup without fat. And if you do have fat and use it for rue, there is not left to put on the potatoes. Everything was purchased with ratio coupons. For three weeks we received 20 dkg (ten grams) of meat and in the fourth week only 15 dkg. Soap was rationed at 3 centimeters for one month. This was like a toy size for a doll.

Those who had pigs were required to give 4 kilo of fat. Those who had hens had to give 65 eggs. If anyone killed a hen for the black market, they would be shot immediately.

We did not think of the food much because there was no certainty that we would live to another day. Five workers walking home down from Paskov from the iron mills were hung in the railroad station as a warning example to others.

After Heydrich [Gestapo head assassinated by Czech partisans in 1942) was shot, it was a nightmare. In the newspaper they report each day how many people were killed in retaliation for that killing. Sometimes it was 50 people at once. Most of them were intellectuals. People walk around sad and tearful. During another year they punished the Jews. That was also a horror, how they treated them. They chased them out of there homes, the Jews had to leave everything behind and could take only that which they could carry, even those who were 80 years old. Then they killed them all in the gas chambers, and day and night burned their bodies in Auschwitz. Those who were taken to Auschwitz never returned. It was plagued with typhoid fever. …We did not have the will to live. We were emotionally destroyed by this.

[The most important event of the resistance was the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (SS leader Heinrich Himmler's deputy and the protector of Bohemia and Moravia) during the Operation Anthropoid. Infuriated, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs, but, after consultations, he reduced his response.[4] Over 10,000 were arrested and at least 1,300 executed. The assassination resulted in one of the most well-known reprisals of the war. The village of Lidice and Ležáky was completely destroyed by the Nazis; all men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered and the rest of the population was sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all the children were killed. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhard_Heydrich]

Novosad [son-in-law] is at home, but you never see him smile. Ne he feels like he cannot eat enough to feel full. When he was locked up in Breslow he was not that hungry because he worked in printing shop and received extra rations. But Karel Hutak [son-in-law] became sick from the hunger….

The year in January when the Russians were very close, the Germans tried to transfer them all to Germany. This was a 50 kilometer walk, again with heavy labor and extreme hunger. They received 16dkg of bread each day, and only water. They said that if it had lasted one more month, they would have all died from hunger.

…We were afraid of the army coming. We took everything from up in the house into the cellar, because we were afraid of fires. We boarded up our windows from the outside. On Wednesday morning Mara [daughter] opened the door, and a German soldier immediately aimed at her. So we stayed hidden until Friday afternoon…and then for three days we sat is the cellar. Mara said she heard screaming outside and that certainty someone had been killed. But when she looked outside, she saw flags waiving and all the people were hugging and celebrating the end of the war.