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Mr. Rostislav Holub did not tell his family much about Norway. His daughter, Mrs. Milada S., from Pivín in the Prostějov region recalls: “As children, we knew that he was in Norway. We even bragged about it, but we thought he was there on vacation. We didn't really know anything. "He adds:" When it came to Norway, Dad always changed the subject. Only after he suffered a stroke did he occasionally shout something, even shout "bride him". In Norway, he had to experience something with the Russians. His memories came back to him, out of nowhere he sometimes flew out of bed, cried and called, "I want to go home."

For him, his stay in Norway was a trauma that no one should have learned about. The daughter adds: “Dad was a very good person. He didn't want us to know about the horrors of war and to burden ourselves with that. "

Rostislav Holub was born on Skalka in 1923 into a working-class family with two children. He went to a municipal school and trained as a carpenter in Prostějov with Ing. J. Nedělník. He received an apprenticeship certificate in March 1942 and was called to work in Norway in November of that year. He was assigned to Herman Schaffer in Narvik. From there, in mid-1943, he was transferred to the Arge Theo company to work in Trondenes to build a fortification at the Theo artillery battery.

In 1943 he got home on vacation. He did not want to return, but was reportedly imprisoned for about three months in Ruzyně Prison, and then sent back to Norway.

He was repatriated to his homeland on September 2, 1945. When he returned from Norway, his birth house was destroyed because a front led there at the end of the war. The family was forced to move elsewhere.

Upon his return, he began military service in Slovakia. Then he worked for the builder engineer Josef Nedělník in Prostějov. In 1950, he married Jiřina Laštůvková and they had three children, Rostislav, Milada and Alena. From 1948 he worked as a carpenter, later as a construction manager in Czechoslovakia. construction plants in Prostějov, until retirement.

He liked going to nature, fishing and loving mushroom picking. He was happy in the woods.

In Norway, he had to say goodbye to his Norwegian girlfriend. When she wanted to go to Czechoslovakia with him, he decided to end the relationship. As his daughter recalls, "He said he couldn't imagine her at Hana in a field of beets." He adds that his friend from the deployment contacted a Norwegian daughter in the 1990s who sought him out.

Ms. Milada goes on to say that her father developed strong ties with Soviet soldiers in Norway. "No one has suffered as much in Norway as the Russians. At the end of the war, no one cared about the Czechoslovaks, and according to his memories, only the Russians helped them secure the return of ships home. This experience shaped him in the future, and even later, for example, in 1968, he would not have heard a bad word against them. "

He died in 1995. His descendants live in the Prostějov region.

With the kind permission of the family, we publish a part of Mr. Rostislav Holub's diary here. It describes a departure from his native village, a trip to Berlin, waiting in camps, a cruise across the sea to Oslo and a trip and a several-week stay in Trondheim until the beginning of 1943.

Unfortunately, the story of traveling further north to Narvik and his work outside the Arctic Circle has not been preserved. His mother burned the manuscript in the stove after the war. She did not want him to occupy with war memories any more.

We thank Mrs. Milada for her friendly welcome and hospitality. Many thanks especially for allowing me to share this powerful family story.

We are also grateful for lending the diary for further research and for the opportunity to share it with other interested parties and families.

Source: Family Archive, Pivín.

On 22 May 2021 at 20.05, ČRo Plus broadcasts the premiere of a program about Czechs in Norway during the Second World War. You will get acquainted with a number of contemporary contexts and you will also hear a touching reading of letters written by workers from Norway to their families. The reaserch team will accompany you and at the end the Norwegian ambassador to the Czech Republic will speak.

The one hour-long program was prepared by documentary filmmaker Lucie Kopecká.

The rerun of the show can be heard the next day, on Sunday, May 23, 2021 at 11.05.

Forced Czech workers who managed to escape to Sweden found help in the country, both from the Swedish authorities and from diplomats and officials of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile who worked in Sweden semi-legally. The Swedish authorities cooperated with them unofficially and, for example, tolerated Czechoslovak passports and certificates issued on behalf of exiled Czechoslovak authorities.

Refugees from forced deployment had to submit to military conscription if they were interested in the help of Czechoslovak officials. It was not just an administrative formality, as over time a way was found to transport the recruited volunteers to Great Britain, where Czechoslovak military units operated.

Sweden, as a neutral country, maintained sporadic air links with the free world throughout the war. Of course, only to the extent that both warring parties were willing to tolerate. Thus, soldiers, members of the secret services, couriers and merchants competed for rare tickets. Nevertheless, this way managed to get to Britain about a hundred volunteers for service in the Czechoslovak army.

Among all 95 Czechoslovak volunteers documented so far, transported by air from Sweden to Britain during the war, 25 persons registered in the Organisation Todt file in Norway were documented.

The first five arrived in Britain in October and November 1944. After the necessary administrative actions, they were all enlisted in the Czechoslovak army. They underwent basic training, followed by assignment to specific units. Two of them, Jan Jansa and Mojmír Genzer, were selected for service with ground personnel of the Air Force at the very beginning of January 1945, the other three reached the Czechoslovak Republic in the spring of 1945. a separate armored brigade (ČSOB), which besieged the besieged German garrison of the port of Dunkirk on the shores of the English Channel. The remaining 19 "Norwegians" arrived from Sweden to Britain at the end of April and during May 1945 - too late to catch up with the combat deployment.

After the war, the "Norwegians" in the ranks of their troops gradually returned to their homeland, where most of them were released into civilian life by the end of 1945.

 

List of Czechoslovaks from forced labor in Norway who was deployed to Czechoslovak army in Britain.

Příjmení Jméno Rok Místo narození odlet ze Švédska do Británie prezentace u čs. armády zařazení k operační jednotce
Bastl Rudolf 1922 Řevnice, okres Praha 28.4.1945 7.5.1945
Bayer Václav 1922 Bernartice nad Odrou, okres Nový Jičín 8.5.1945 16.5.1945
Berný Josef 1922 Vysoké Veselí, okres Nový Bydžov 29.11.1944 14.12.1944 ČSOB, III. artillery troop; 5.3.1945
Čejka Miloslav 1910 Kolín, okres Kolín 10.5.1945 19.5.1945
Genzer Mojmír 1923 Tichá, okres Místek 26.10.1944 13.11.1944 Air Force group; 311. peruť, 7.3.1945
Houska Václav 1921 Žehušice, okres Čáslav 28.4.1945 7.5.1945
Houska Vojtěch 1919 Tučapy, okres Tábor 12.5.1945 28.5.1945
Jansa Jan 1923 Cizkrajov, okres Slavonice 24.10.1944 8.11.1944 Air Force group; 311. peruť, 7.3.1945
Jirásko Ladislav 1922 Nová Paka 8.5.1945 15.5.1945
Klč František 1921 Břeclav, okres Hodonín 1945 19.5.1945
Kolář Karel 1922 Michálkovice, okres Frýdek 9.5.1945 24.5.1945
Kozler Václav 1920 Zderaz, okres Podbořany 12.5.1945 28.5.1945
Kučera Josef 1922 Brno-Židenice 5.5.1945 15.5.1945
Matuška Josef 1920 Rodov, okres Dvůr Králové nad Labem ? 1944 13.11.1944 ČSOB, Engineer company; 18.4.1945
Orság Rostislav 1922 Žádovice, okres Kyjov 5.5.1945 15.5.1945
Ožana Miroslav 1923 Michálkovice, okres Frýdek 5.5.1945 15.5.1945
Pačes Vilém 1911 Vyžlovka, okres Český Brod 9.5.1945 24.5.1945
Plavec Jaroslav 1914 Kněžice, okres Jihlava 8.5.1945 17.5.1945
Polák Lev 1923 Opava, okres Opava 10.5.1945 24.5.1945
Sluka Antonín 1906 Syrovín, okres Kyjov 8.5.1945 19.5.1945
Šustr Karel 1921 Křetín, okres Boskovice 5.5.1945 15.5.1945
Václavínek Ludvík 1926 Ostravice, okres Místek 5.5.1945 15.5.1945
Vaněk Antonín 1922 Bělice, okres Benešov 29.11.1944 14.12.1944 ČSOB, III. artillery troup; 5.3.1945
Voler Josef 1921 Líně, okres Stříbro 4.5.1945 24.5.1945

 

Photo: Václav Bayer with other volunteers during training in England at the Replacement Body in Southend-on-Sea (archive Chronicle of the City of Bernartice nad Odrou)

Other materials and resources:

A record of the service of Genzer Mojmír at Czechoslovakia. Air Force (so-called Air Card). Military Central Archive.

Noraci.cz website: “Jan Jansa from his deployment in Norway to Czechoslovakia. Army in Britain ”July 26, 2020

Biographical data Václav Bayer. Website Noraci.cz, Database of persons, 2021.

 

Edited by: dr. Zdenko Maršálek

On June 23, 2021, Mr. and Mrs. Weil visited us at the Faculty of Arts. Mrs. Věra is the daughter of Benjamin Šíma, originally from Písek, who was set up in the small village of Skibotn, about 120 km from Tromsø in the Lyngen Fjord, in the north of Norway. He worked for the German company Ohlendorffische Baugesellschaft in Hamburg as a port worker and temporarily helped out in the kitchen. He was in this area from the beginning of 1943 until the surrender and did not get home until the beginning of September 1945.

He brought a lot of period postcards, brochures and photographs of friends and Norwegian friends from Norway. Part of the war correspondence has also been preserved. Mr. Šíma was a great narrator and told his experiences from Norway in the Písek Protestant Church, of which he was a member, and also published them in the press body of the Our Victory Church (1947). Concepts of speeches and small notes on living in northern Norway have been preserved.

The photos also surprise the company of Norwegian girls, with whom the Czechoslovaks in Skibotn became friends. Several of them allegedly helped in Organisation Todt's field kitchen. Mr. Šíma learned Norwegian during his almost three-year stay. Correspondence written in Norwegian from later years has also been preserved.

In the birth house in Písek, the descendants have so far exhibited imported Norwegian war souvenirs, namely knives with carved handles from reindeer antlers, wooden pipes and even after the war paintings inspired by romantic pictures of Norwegian nature. A curiosity is also a tin box with engraved Norwegian motifs, which a friend made for him from his dinner plate. We were probably most surprised by the news that they still keep polar fox fur at home! Mr. Šíma brought it from Norway and later donated it to his dear - future wife Věra. She still lives in Písek at the blessed age of 95 years.

Thanks to the Weil family for lending and scanning the materials. We are glad that their acquaintance from Písek - a great admirer of Norway - drew their attention to our project and connected with us. The new materials will help us to describe another fragment of the forced labor of Czechs in Norway, in the area of ​​Skibotn, about which we did not know much yet.

Source: Estate of Benjamin Šima, Písek.

The last visit from the 10-day journey for the descendants of the deployed led to Eastern Bohemia. The son of Ladislav Moravec lives in Borohrádek in the district of Rychnov nad Kněžnou. In the family house, after his father, he preserves an extensive photographic and written legacy from the war behind the Arctic Circle. Ladislava Moravec, originally from Rohozná near Boskovice, was assigned to work in Norway at the beginning of 1943. His journey led to Narvik, where he and 15 other Czechoslovaks were assigned to an assembly company. They worked mainly in Harstad and Trondenes.

The estate contains a diary entry of the journey from the protectorate to Trondheim, a memorial with a dedication from friends and a number of period forms - postcards, tourist brochures and two hundred period photographs. They show places and workplaces, group and individual portraits and moments. Some of the pictures are from the period after the liberation in Narvik, when the Czechs waited for many weeks for repatriation. Another part of the pictures consists of purchased photographs documenting the naval battle of Narvik from 1940 (torsos of planes, sunken ships, destroyed buildings, etc.).

We thank Mr. Moravec and his wife for a warm welcome and providing research materials.

In the family archive, Borohrádek.

 

Edited by: Vendula V. Hingarová

At the turn of 1942 and 1943, over 1,300 deployed Czechs passed through Trondheim in central Norway. Part of it remained in the Strinda passage camp for several weeks and went further north, past the Arctic Circle.

One third of Czech workers, ie about 300 men, were assigned to work in Trondheim. They worked on construction sites in the port. This was also the case of the Czechs assigned to the company Sager & Woerner, involved in the construction of the submarine base. The largest object of the base became the bunker Dora I. Reinforced concrete dock, which could provide shelter for up to sixteen submarines.

We have the most information about a group of Czechs who worked for the German company Georg Wendell. She performed electrical installations and provided welding work for other constructions. In addition to the German boss and several German masters, 22 Czechs and several Russian prisoners of war worked in it. From the documents and photographs provided to us by the four families of descendants, we can well reconstruct their life there.

The Czechs worked one ten-hour shift here, living in a labor camp Strinda III., where they also ate. They were allowed to move around the city freely after work. Life in Trondheim offered young workers many other social and cultural activities, which deprived those who were assigned to work outside the city. The Czechs established contacts and acquaintances with local Norwegians, went to the cinema and occasionally could buy food and small items from their salary in the city. They also organized their own parties.

They probably experienced the greatest danger in the bombing of the city, which also killed several workers.

Several times a year they were sent on several weekly assemblies to the surrounding ports. They also lived there in camps.

Some of the workers were withdrawn from Trondheim to the Empire in the autumn of 1944, most of those deployed until the end of the war in the city. The group from Wendell left for Oslo immediately after its liberation. Here she did not wait for a joint return to Czechoslovakia, which was organized by Czechoslovakia repatriation officials, but joined the Soviet repatriation transport on its own. After two months of arduous journey through Russia, they returned home. When they returned, many corresponded with Norwegian friends.

Period photographs and documents come from the estate of Mr. J. Lébl, J. Pták, J. Řehoř and others.

In March 2021 - the last day before the lockdown - Mrs. Švecová in Havlíčkův Brod handed over to our team the documents of the Temporary Secretariat of "Noráci", which she kept in the estate of her husband. Mr. Ivan Švec, although himself a generation younger, organized meetings of former workers forcibly deployed in Norway in 1995–2005. He kept a detailed archive of all correspondence with Noráci and materials from the organization of events. In 2019, Mr. Švec and I managed to see each other twice (see report). However, in the autumn of the same year, Mr. Švec died. His writings arrived at Charles University, thank you Mrs. Švecová for handing them over!

 

The documents include a total of four files of correspondence and one box of other materials.

These materials are:

After studying, we will hand over these documents to the National Archive in Prague.

Hard work, harsh climatic conditions, poor security and a reluctance to serve the Germans have led many to be forced to escape. Only individuals were released legally, especially by dismissal for serious health reasons. Several dozen took advantage of the holidays they were forced to flee after half a year of work.

Another way to desert from work was to escape directly in Norway. The forced deployments could count on the active help of the Norwegian population, who could not provide them with longer-term shelter. However, the relatively close border with neutral Sweden has become a great attraction. Some disembarked on Swedish territory from a train or ship in an unguarded moment, transporting them to new jobs on the Norwegian-Finnish border, but such an opportunity arose for only a few individuals. Most crossed the border on foot, which was a very risky business. The Germans guarded the Norwegian-Swedish border along its entire length, and the fugitives were threatened with severe punishment if they were detained. Although the difficult terrain made it easier to hide, the march, especially in winter conditions, placed great physical demands on the daredevil, and sometimes it was literally about life.

Not all escapes were successful. Some fugitives failed to cross the border, either running out of energy or getting lost. If they were lucky, they returned and the Germans did not know of their intention. However, some were captured and subsequently sent to a disciplinary camp in Falstad for an attempt to escape.

The first escapes to Sweden took place as early as 1942, but in the following year they were rather exceptions. Most of the conscripts decided to flee across the border in 1944. Memoirs and diary entries of the conscripts show that after a long job they were exhausted, and in the escape they sought a way out of long, stereotypical and hard work in deteriorating conditions. Undoubtedly, however, the general international situation also played a role, when it was already clear that Germany would lose the war.

Forced deployments usually fled across borders individually or in pairs. However, the mass flight of ten Funke & Co. employees who were deployed in the construction of the railway in the Mo i Rana areas is also documented. They deserted on December 5, 1944 and reported to the Swedish authorities (for reasons not yet known, however, the Todt Organization did not record the date of their escape until March 26, 1945).

The file of Czech workers of the Todt organization in Norway includes data on a total of 30 registered escapes. Many other such cases have been documented from other materials. We now have confirmation that of all Czech forced laborers in Norway, registered in the Todt organization's file, 57 people fled to Sweden.

 

List of Czechoslovaks who fled to Sweden:

Surname Name Year Place of birth transit to Sweden according to OT card files transit to Sweden according to other documents
Anderle František 1921 Holašovice, okres České Budějovice 29.5.1944 ?
Bastl Rudolf 1922 Řevnice, okres Praha-venkov escape not registerd ?
Bayer Václav 1922 Bernartice nad Odrou, okres Nový Jičín escape not registerd IX.44
Bedřich František 1923 Karlín, okres Kyjov 26.3.1945 5.12.1944
Berný Josef 1922 Vysoké Veselí, okres Nový Bydžov escape not registerd 3.4.1944
Blaha Miroslav 1922 Crhov, okres Boskovice 12.5.1944
Brada Miroslav 1922 Holice, okres Olomouc 6.12.1944
Böhm Emerich 1922 Brno 26.3.1945 5.12.1944
Buchnar Karel 1921 Brno 26.3.1945 1944-12-05
Buriánek Miroslav 1923 Praha escape not registerd 1945-02-06
Čejka Miloslav 1910 Kolín, okres Kolín escape not registerd 1944-08-
Čepa Antonín 1921 Bratislava 26.3.1945 1944-12-04
Daňhel Jindřich 1916 Brno 26.3.1945 1944-12-05
Ficnar Eduard 1922 Hamburk-Altona, Německo (přísl. Zábřeh, okres Zábřeh ) escape not registerd 1945-01-12
Genzer Mojmír 1923 Tichá, okres Místek escape not registerd 1943-09-07
Houska Václav 1921 Žehušice, okres Čáslav escape not registerd
Houska Vojtěch 1919 Tučapy, okres Tábor 20.5.1944 1944-05-19
Chmelař Oldřich 1923 Koryčany, okres Kyjov 26.3.1945 1944-12-02
Jansa Jan 1923 Cizkrajov, okres Slavonice 26.2.1944 1944-02-24
Janů Peter 1919 Rovensko, okres Zábřeh 24.9.1944
Jetelina Miroslav 1924 Hodonín 8.10.1944
Jirásko Ladislav 1922 Nová Paka escape not registerd 1944-07-
Juchelka Jindřich 1921 Svinov, okres Bílovec 24.9.1944 1944-09-25
Klč František 1921 Břeclav, okres Hodonín escape not registerd 1944-10-01
Kolář Karel 1922 Michálkovice, okres Frýdek escape not registerd 1944-
Kordina Petr 1902 Olešnice, okres Trhové Sviny escape not registerd 1944-09-
Kowarik Franz 1914 Vídeň, Rakousko 10.9.1944
Kozler Václav 1920 Zderaz, okres Podbořany escape not registerd 1944-08-20
Kučera Josef 1922 Brno-Židenice 5.8.1944 1944-08-05
Kukla Antonín 1922 Brno 25.9.1944
Kupčík Karel 1920 Moravská Ostrava 24.9.1944 1944-09-25
Matuška Josef 1920 Rodov, okres Dvůr Králové nad Labem 5.9.1943
Mlčoch Zdeněk 1923 Český Rudolec, okres Dačice escape not registerd 1944-07-20
Müller František 1912 Hrabenov, okres Šumperk escape not registerd 1944-10-14
Musil Milan 1922 Vanovice, okres Boskovice escape not registerd 1944-11-11
Novotný Karel 1923 Kobylí, okres Brno 30.12.1944 1944-12-05
Nowotny Boris 1922 Brno 25.9.1944
Odehnal Ludvík 1921 Brno 26.3.1945 1944-12-05
Orság Rostislav 1922 Žádovice, okres Kyjov 15.7.1944 1944-07-
Ožana Miroslav 1923 Michálkovice, okres Frýdek escape not registerd 1944-
Pačes Vilém 1911 Vyžlovka, okres Český Brod escape not registerd 1944-04-
Pilnáček František 1920 Bohutice, okres Moravský Krumlov escape not registerd 1943-09-
Pišan Jan 1904 Brno-Židenice 26.3.1945 1944-12-05
Plavec Jaroslav 1914 Kněžice, okres Jihlava escape not registerd 1944-08-06
Polák Lev 1923 Opava, okres Opava escape not registerd 1944-08-20
Romany Václav 1920 Jičín, okres Jičín escape not registerd 1945-02-03
Ságner Josef 1922 Kyjov, okres Kyjov 26.3.1945 1944-12-02
Schettel Rudolf 1919 Loděnice, okres Mikulov escape not registerd 1945-02-05
Sirotek Jaroslav 1922 Solopisky 5.8.1944
Sluka Antonín 1906 Syrovín, okres Kyjov 16.9.1944 1944-
Šindelář Jan 1910 Brno escape not registerd 1945
Šťastný Václav 1921 Polná, okres Německý Brod escape not registerd 1944-09-20
Šustr Karel 1921 Křetín, okres Boskovice 5.8.1944
Václavínek Ludvík 1926 Ostravice, okres Místek escape not registerd 1944-08-
Vaněk Antonín 1922 Bělice, okres Benešov escape not registerd 1944-04-03
Voler Josef 1921 Líně, okres Stříbro 5.9.1943 1943-09-
Zoubek Franz 1923 26.3.1945

The names highlighted in red have a click-through on the runaway's story.

 

Prepared by dr. Zdenko Maršálek.

 

Since mid-September, the Czech team has been on a business trip in Trondheim, Norway. Together with their Norwegian colleagues, they set out to find the places where the Czechs were forced to live and work.

During the war, the Trondheim labor camp was used to house up to 5,000 foreign workers from occupied European countries. It was located near the town in the district of Strinda. The camp had the same name and was divided into 12 smaller barracks camps. Over one thousand five hundred Czech workers passed through this place (especially the transfer camp No. 12, the so-called Durchganglager).

Today, Strinda is one of the districts of Trondheim and is called Strindheim. There are practically no visible signs of the wooden labor camp. Only residential houses of German soldiers have been preserved. The area has been completely converted into a residential area in recent decades.

We were accompanied to the place of the former Strinda camp by Norwegian colleagues, historians prof. Hans Otto Frøland and dr. Gunnar D. Hatlehol from the local NTNU University.

Several hundred Czechs worked in the port of Trondheim on the construction of the submarine dock Dora I. and Dora II. The most physically demanding work took place on the excavation of the submarine bottom, where the workers were lowered in an iron caisson below sea level. The submarine base Dora I. was completed in mid-1943, and then continued at the base Dora II., which, however, remained unfinished. The monumental bases, which had concrete walls up to 3.5 m wide, served the Norwegian Navy after the war. Efforts were made to remove it, but demolition work was not successful for the unbreakable reinforced concrete structure. Part of Dora I. was sold to private operators in the 1960s and part is being used as a city and district archive.

The outer part of the former base is accessible to visitors. In the near future, there are plans to convert part of this port into a modern technological-industrial zone. Discussions are currently taking place between city officials and developers on how the site's war history should be preserved.

For most people in Trondheim, the former German base of Dora is associated with a number of myths. It is said that the bodies of POW are concreted in the foundations.

 

Vendula V. Hingarová

At the end of February 2021, Dr. V. Hingarová visitied grandchildren of Mr. Holub, Eva and Václav, in the village of Luka nad Jihlavou. They talked about their "grandfather" Antonín, who spent the war years in and around Trondheim. Right at the beginning, they boasted two pairs of knitted gloves with a Norwegian pattern, which Antonín brought from Norway and allegedly wore them long after the war.

Through family memories and a dozen photographs, correspondence and official documents preserved, we can reconstruct another story of a Czechoslovak in Trondheim.

The Norwegian story of Antonín Holub began with a call-up order from the Jihlava Labor Office dated November 3, 1942. Three days later, a twenty-three-year-old room painter was sitting on a train to Berlin, where he found out that he and his recruits had been assigned to work in Norway. He left his girlfriend Růženka at home. He send her  postcards and photographs after another two and a half years in Norway.

Mr. Antonín was assigned to work in Trondheim for the painting company Hans Hemmer. In 1943, for several months, he became an auxiliary worker on the construction of the Dora submarine bunker - the largest German submarine base in northern Europe. The work consisted of deepening and strengthening the seabed. Other Czech workers also described hard work and dangerous working conditions.

During 1944, he was sent by Organisation Todt to work around Trondheim and then further north to Mo i Rana. During his stay, he twice got home to the Jihlava region as part of a several-week vacation. He lived to see the end of the war in Norway.

In the family album we find unique pictures, especially from the end of the war. The Germans capitulated in Norway on May 7, 1945, and ten days later, on May 17, a national holiday was celebrated throughout the country. To this day, it is celebrated in each village with a procession with the participation of representatives of public and civic institutions, schoolchildren and especially children, decorated in local costumes with Norwegian flags. As the celebration of the national holiday was banned during the war, the first post-war celebration also became a celebration of the end of the war and freedom. In Trondheim, where Mr. Holub found himself after the liberation, representatives of Allied troops and foreign workers and other people in attendance also took part in the procession. The Czechoslovaks, who at the end of the war may have been around two hundred in Trondheim, carried Czechoslovak flags and a banner with the inscription Czechoslovakia in the procession.

The journey home from Norway after the war was much longer than the arrival itself. It lasted three to four months. Foreign workers were gathered in concentration camps in Norway (the former Strinda labor camp in Trondheim), where they awaited repatriation. It was organized by Czechoslovak repatriation officers who arrived in Norway at the end of May from Great Britain. The Norwegian Red Cross provided accommodation and food for the repatriates, and the liaison officers, in cooperation with the Allied Command, compiled their inventories and organized transports from Norway.

The group that included Mr. Holub left Trondheim on July 3, 1945, after almost two months of waiting. At first, they took a train to Oslo, from where Allied planes transported two hundred Czechoslovaks in groups to Brussels. The American Douglas Dakota plane, flown by Mr. Holub, brought Norwegian prisoners of war from Germany to Oslo, and took the Czechoslovaks on board on the way back. From Brussels, it led a repatriation pilgrimage by truck to France, then trains to Munich, until August 2, 1945, they arrived in Pilsen. Here the returnees received the so-called repatriation cards and each then individually took the train to their place of residence.

The series of images from the "air" repatriation, which has been preserved in the estate of Mr. Antonín Holub in Lukach in the Jihlava region, is absolutely unique.

I also record the story in the family memory that the flight of Czechoslovaks to Brussels allegedly helped negotiate an American captain of Czech origin, who wanted to help his compatriots. For Mr. Holub it was the first in his life and according to his grandchildren also the only flight by plane.

Let us add that most Czechoslovaks were repatriated a month later, by mass transport on a German ship from Oslo to Bremen. From there, they traveled by train throughout Germany, and returned to their homeland at the turn of August and September 1945.

We thank Mr. Holub's family for the friendly reception and provision of materials for further research.

In conclusion, it is worth adding that we got to the estate of Mr. Holub thanks to the initiative of Mrs. Jarmila K., daughter of J. Lébel, who was also deployed in Trondheim. She found 28 addresses in her father's notes. She wrote to her friends in January 2021, and Mr. Holub's family was one of several who responded to her call.

Source: Family archive of Mr. Holub(Luka nad Jihlavou).

In Určice in the Prostějov region, Mr. Lošťák's family showed us pictures and official materials from the deployment in Norway.

Here we bring a biographical medallion of Mr. Lošťák and a sample of period sources, from Norway and later from Czechoslovakia.

Lošťák Jaroslav (1922 - 2001)

Jaroslav Lošťák was born as the youngest of three children of a tailor's family in Určice. He studied at the Business Academy in Prostějov. He was sent to forced labor in Norway in the autumn of 1942. At first he worked for Sager & Woerner, later he was assigned to the tailor's workshop of the Organisation Todt's equipment center in the Strinda camp in Trondheim.

After a year of commitment, he got home on vacation. He decided not to return and hid. After his discovery, he was imprisoned for several months in Prague at Ruzyně, and then sent to a military court in Berlin. After serving a three-month sentence, he was sent back to Norway in early 1944. At the end of the war, he was released from service for health reasons. On the way home, he experienced air raids and bombings in April 1945.

Delighted that he survived the hardships of war, and with faith in building a new society, he joined the Communist Party upon his return home. After the war, he started working as a miner in the mines in Ostrava, later he worked in the clothing industry in Prostějov, and he worked as a tailor until he retired. The post-war reality disappointed him greatly, especially the events of the 1950s. "How can Czechs do this to Czechs?" He said then. In 1962, he was drawn on a trip to the Soviet Union, from where he returned completely disappointed with the conditions there. He left the Communist Party in 1968 and, as a result, his children had difficult access to education. After 1989, his former employer apologized to him for the approach he had encountered since 1968.

In 1947 he married Jarmila Pospíšilová. They raised two daughters together, Lidia and Jaroslav. He lived his whole life in Určice near Prostějov. Descendants live today in Určice, Prostějov, Hradec Králové and also in Slapy.

He found friends in Norway with whom he had corresponded for a long time after the war. He also kept in touch with friends from forced labor. In the 1960s, he even considered moving to Norway with his family.

Source: Family Archive, Určice u Prostějova.

Josef Knap's son preserves, in Vrdy near Čáslav, a unique legacy from his father's stay in the northernmost part of Norway. Samples of the materials he and his daughter sent us by e-mail already indicated that they kept enough of them at home. However, it was only on the visit that we were surprised by the range and immense variety of the  materials.

Josef Knap was deployed in the northernmost corners of the Finnmark region (falling into the area known in our country as Lappland, in Norway under the name Sápmi). In Berlin, he was assigned, together with twenty Czechoslovaks, to the German company Otto Conrad in charge of building infrastructure in the northernmost part of Norway on the border with Finland. The journey to the destination took almost three months, with a number of waits in German transit camps, in Oslo, in Trondheim and after a long journey by boat along the Norwegian coast.

The company built roads in the interior of Finmark and Troms, around Karasjok, Alta, Hammerfest and Nordreisa. Compared to other Czechoslovaks deployed, the workers were constantly relocated from place to place. They mostly worked in small, remote locations. They stayed the longest in Sappen, Okself and Repparfjord, and in the last year the company moved them to Lønsdal in Nordland.

Josef Knap was a trained carpenter and used his craft in Norway both at work and for his friends. He found a diploma from his friends in the estate, where they thank him in the recession for making the necessary tools and other things for them, especially suitcases.

Mr. Knap wrote a diary about the first part of his stay in Norway. A manuscript of his notes from the 1990s has also been preserved, in which he summarizes his experiences from his stay in Norway. The estate also includes a number of printed publications, a Norwegian-German war dictionary and a conversation guide for Wehrmacht soldiers. He imported tourist brochures, maps, postcards and lithographs from Norway. The collection of drawings by his friends is also fascinating.

The photographic estate documents about a hundred unique pictures from work and leisure life in Norway. There are also portraits of friends and locals. The images are especially valuable in that they capture the environment in which the deployments moved - construction sites, camps and various buildings and their surroundings. These places disappeared forever after the war.

The pictures of the inhabitants of Finnmark are also fascinating. These were local residents - Sami and Nora, as well as war-torn people - prisoners and foreign workers. The images of the Sami, to which the negatives have been preserved, capture their everyday life in particular. The Sami lifestyle associated with reindeer husbandry and distinctive clothing, as well as their characteristic physiognomic features, were a frequent subject of interest for deployed Czechoslovaks.

The estate is unusually extensive, which indicates that the visit to the Knaps, who carefully prepared the materials, lasted over 4 hours. Its processing will take some time. Here he publishes part of it.

We also send unique images to Sami and Norwegian historians. We believe that these unique materials will appeal to them just like us.

We thank the son and granddaughter of Mr. Josef Knap for a warm welcome, help with documentation, especially for permission to share materials on this portal and use them for further research.

Source: Family archive of Mr. J. Knap, Vrdy.

The Benc brothers in Postřelmov in the Šumperk region keep a wonderful photo album with pictures from Narvik and Engeløya, period official materials and war souvenirs. It is a memorial to their father, Mr. Benc who he did not tell much about his three sons and daughter about being forced to live in Norway. They did not receive most of the information until shortly after his death in the mid-1990s, when an invitation to the Norwegians met came.

There they learned from their father's friends about their fate in Norway. Mr. Kunštátský, who worked at the same workplace in Engeløya, described the place and work environment to his sons in detail. He even drew a living room in a wooden hut where they had lived for almost three years, and marked the place on the bunk bed where Mr. Benc slept.

Mr. Bence's eldest son then searched for those deployed from Šumperk. He wrote several newspaper articles about the Noráci meeting and their memories in the local newspaper "Moravský Sever".

Mr. Jiří Benc came to Norway in December 1942. As a trained gardener, he was soon commissioned with gardening work at the workplace - this included the camouflage of completed military buildings. Secretly taking a picture captures his work on Dietl's battery. The image, preserved even in negative, is truly exceptional, as there was a strict ban on photography in the workplace. This is, among other things, the reason why most of the preserved photographs of Czechoslovaks show mainly the surroundings, nature, group photos, or conditions of accommodation.

In addition to period pictures from Engeløy, we can also find rich materials from meetings in the family estate. Furthermore, this estate preserves the correspondence with Mr. Kunštátský and the memories of another deputy, Karel Jirgl, on repatriation to his homeland. A video recording of the meeting in 2000 has also been preserved.

A surprise for the family was the content of the letters written in Norwegian, which we translated for them during our visit. Upon his return, Mr. Benc corresponded with his Norwegian girlfriend Erna Larsen from Ofoten. In the surviving concept, he confided in him his feelings and remembered the time they had spent together in Norway, but with the sad statement that they would probably never meet again. Who wrote the concept written in Norwegian is not entirely clear to them. According to them, the father did not speak Norwegian.

With the kind permission of the family, we are publishing a photographic legacy from Norway. Thank you for your helpful reception and provision of materials!

Source: Family Archive, Postřelmov.

Edited by: Vendula V. Hingarová

The database of forced labourers in Norway is intended as a living database which, in addition to the basic data and the employee registration card in Norway, also contains other information. We would like to gradually publish here short biographical stories of the forcibly deployed workers, as well as period photographs and materials from the period of their deployment in Norway and from their life after the war.

If you want your father, grandfather, great-grandfather or uncle to have his story in the database, contact us. We usually ask the family for basic biographical, professional and family information. Based on this information and our data, we will process the text of the biography, which we will enrich - if available - with photographs and other documents from Norway.

You can be inspired, for example, by the following published personal stories (as of April 2, 2021):

Antonín Holub (* 1919 - † 2010) was born into a Catholic family with five children in Luka nad Jihlavou. In 1935 he entered the apprenticeship of a painting company, where he worked until 1942. He was temporarily unemployed, and for this reason on November 3, 1942 he received a summons from the labor office in Jihlava to retrain for the Third Reich. In three days he was on a train to Berlin, where he was assigned to work for Organisation Todt in Norway, Trondheim, the German painting firm Hans Hemmer.


Josef Lébl (* 1922 - † 1991) was born as the fourth of six children to a peasant family in the village of Řitka (Prague-West District). In 1939 he trained as a business guide and worked in a shop near Čumrdy in Černošice. On November 2, 1942, he was called, like many of his peers, to work in the Third Reich. One week later, he found out in Berlin that he had been assigned to the German company Georg Wendel to work in Trondheim, Norway. He arrived there a month later and worked as an auxiliary worker, later as a welder and air ventilation fitter. The company, which employed four German masters and twenty Czech workers, sent him on short-term bunker construction work around Trondheim, but also to Hemne, Kristiansund and Ålesund. He worked in Norway for almost two years before being deported from Norway to Berlin at the end of October 1944 together with other Czechoslovaks. He returned home, hid temporarily, and found a job as a forest worker. He apparently found himself at the interrogation in Prague at Pankrác for a statement.


Václav Bayer (* 1922 - † 1987) was born in Bernartice nad Odrou near Nový Jičín. He trained as a painter. His birthplace was annexed to the Third Reich after the Munich Agreement. In April 1942 he went to work in Norway. He was assigned to the company Adolf Betzel operating around Narvik. In September 1944, he crossed the border into Sweden, where he joined the Czechoslovak. authorities. On May 8, 1945, he flew to Britain and later joined the foreign army. He returned to his homeland at the end of September 1945. He was released from military service in January 1946. He then worked in Vagónka Studénka and worked as a successful volleyball coach. In 1977, he was paralyzed by a stroke. He died in 1987. His descendants now live in Studénka.

At the end of September, we received several photos from Jan Novotný's relatives. It is a memorial album, which this forced labourer established after his return to his homeland. The images come from the vicinity of Mosjøen, from the Mo i Rana area in central Norway. This place was strategically important especially in terms of the construction of the Polarjernbanen polar railway, however, specifically Jan Novotný and his working group were sent on a "shift" especially to the local forests and the port. The album contains both joint pictures and profile pictures of individual friends of Jan Novotný, as well as photographs of the surrounding nature. Many thanks for lending this unique materials go to family.

(From the private archive of Jan Novotný's relatives)

 

After long negotiations with the National Archives in Oslo, we bring the opportunity for families and other interested parties to look into the work cards of forced Czechoslovaks in Norway. The cards are scanned from the file of foreign labourers in the archives of Todt's organization stored in the Norwegian National Archives and published here in the database of persons.

In the profiles of individual persons, you can now view a scan of your relative's labour card. You can also look through labour cards of his friends and other Czechoslovaks working in the same locations in Norway.

Due to technical difficulties as of March 20, 2021, the database lacks about 8% of cards that could not be imported in bulk. We gradually add these cards to the database manually. We believe that the file will be complete by the end of March.

In the event that some family members do not wish the relative's labour card to be published on this portal, we will respect this wish and remove the card scan from the database. (The application can be delivered in writing by e-mail or post). According to the expert opinion of Charles University staff, personal data can be disclosed without the prior consent of persons who are no longer alive.

During April 2021, we mailed about 180 letters to the descendants deployed. We ask them if we could look into the family estates and look at period photographs and materials from Norway, which many still keep at home after their father or grandfather.

We write to the addresses we found in the archives of the Temporary Secretariats of Norák in Havlíčkův Brod and also to the addresses recorded in the diaries and memorials deployed. It is clear to us that many of them are no longer valid, but we believe that some of the descendants still live at the same address as their father or grandfather before. We focus especially on the age group that uses traditional forms of communication.

We sent out fifty letters in mid-April. We received a response from twelve relatives, while twenty letters returned to Charles University. In the following weeks, we sent out another hundred letters. We will send the last part of the letters at the beginning of May.

We will soon bring samples of materials that come to us.

Thank you to all the families who contacted us by phone or e-mail.

During research in the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague, we found a list of Czechs working in Storvollen and Bjøllåness (north of Mo i Rana) from January 9, 1945. They were employed there on the construction of a railway in the Fauske area at Funke & Co. From this company we record the most escapes to Sweden.

The list was compiled by a Czechoslovak military agent in Stockholm, based on interrogation letters from fugitives from Norway. He sent it to the Central Command in London. This office handed him a copy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The list also includes the names of so-called unreliable Czechs. This is the first report which shows that even among the deployed Czechs, there were not always strong friendly relations, clear pro-Czechoslovak attitudes and discipline (or indiscipline).

The Czechoslovak exile authorities learned about the deployed Czechs with great delay, and only through reports from fugitives from Sweden. In fact, until the end of the war, they had only vague ideas about the number of Czechs in Norway.

The document is stored in AMZV in the collection London Archive - Confidential, card. No. 94. (Ref. 91 / secret H.V. 2nd department 1945). With the kind permission of AMZV, we publish this document here.

Source: AMZV, collection: London Archive - confidential, card. No. 94.

On 15.2. 2021, the family from Prague-Stodůlky provided us with photographs of Mr. Jan Herian, who was deployed to Norway. He first worked for Hermann und Schafel in Narvik and after six months was placed to work in Harstad on the Trondenes fortress. There the Germans built a battery of Theo and bunkers as part of the Atlantic Wall. Hundreds of workers from occupied Europe, as well as Russian prisoners of war, were deployed to build this fortress. After the war, foreign workers returned to Narvik, where they celebrated the end of the war and the Norwegian national holiday on May 17. They were repatriated to their homeland at the end of the summer of 1945.

We thank the family for the materials provided. Here we share photos, including the names of friends with whom Mr. Herian spent almost three years in Norway.

(Source: Inheritance of Ing. Jan Herian, CSc., Prague)

During May 2021, we sent another 80 letters to the then military and later addresses. We heard over 15 offspring. Thank you for your information, materials, photos and interest!

As part of our cooperation with the descendants of those deployed, dozens of new biographical stories of the forced labourer in Norway were created. It's great that they call and write to us - sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and other relatives. Families connect and look for shards of their relative's life in Norway.

Here we bring the results of cooperation with offspring.

Biographical stories:

Václav Vlach (* 1921 - † 1996) deployed in Trondheim. Unfortunately, his dream of looking to Norway after the Velvet Revolution did not come true.

Josef Touška (* 1921 - † 1996) worked in Kirkenes as a tailor, and with the money he earned from Norway he bought a house on the border after the war.

Václav Houska (* 1921 - † 1998) deployed in central Norway, fled to Sweden. Medallion published at the request of his grandson on the day of his late grandfather's hundredth birthday.

Zdeněk Opl (* 1922 - † 1987) deployed in Tronheim, then at the Brettingen fortress, then in Hattfjelldal. For health reasons, he managed to get out of work for the Empire at the end of the war.

Antonín Ševčík (* 1921 - † 2002) deployed in the northernmost part of Norway near the border with Finland.

Lošťák Jaroslav (* 1922 - † 2001) did not return to Norway from vacation and was tried at a military court in Berlin.

Jaromír Rabušic (* 1921 - † 2003) sent to the northernmost part of Norway to Alta to the German company Gebr. von der Wettern, where he worked with several other Czechoslovaks as a tailor.

František Halačka (* 1921 - † 2007) butcher, he was retrained as a chef by the Todt organization and got to Kirkenes and Skigapura, Finland, where he cooked in a field kitchen for German soldiers. It is not registered in our database..

Josef Knap (* 1922 - † 2010) deployed in the northernmost part of Norway near the border with Finland. He brought home Lapland slippers, and the family still keeps them.

 

we prepare:

František Šac: deployed in central Norway to build a railway line. His suitcase has been exhibited at the Norwegian Bloody Road Museum (Blodveimuseet). In this area, thousands of Russian prisoners of war deployed to build the railway died.

 

 

Thanks to families for their willingness to share a family story!

For our team: Vendula V. Hingarová

The topic of forced deployment of Czech workers in Norway was elaborated by student Gabriela Králová in her bachelor's thesis, which she successfully defended during the final state examination at the beginning of September.
The topic of Czech "Norwegians" is set in the broader historical context of World War II, the work provides a comprehensive picture of pre-war and Nazi-occupied Norway and presents the basic terminology of forced labor and total deployment. Furthermore, on the basis of archives, available and newly discovered sources and especially ego documents, it tries to analyze the living and working conditions of these involuntarily working Czechs, which is the focus of attention mainly in the final part.
The work (Češi totálně nasazení na nucené práce v okupovaném Norsku za druhé světové války) will soon be available in the digital repository of the Charles University.
Due to the great potential of the issue, the author will continue in her dissertation.

In October 2015, Gunnar D. Hatlehol defended his doctoral dissertation "Norwegeneinsatz 1940-1945. Organization Todt's workers in Norway and the degrees of coercion" at NTNU. It received a very good rating from the committee and was the end result of over three years of work, where much was based on archival studies in Norway, Sweden and Germany. The dissertation was the first comprehensive presentation of the workforce that Organization Todt used in Norway. In the meantime, Gunnar has visited new archives and is now working on a comprehensive book that will address all of Germany's prisoners and forced laborers in Norway during the war.

One of the chapters in the book deals with the Czechs. Although he has already dug up quite a bit of documentation about the Czech forced laborers, he hopes to find even more. Because Gunnar wants to make a Norwegian audience better acquainted with the men who called themselves Noráci, he will therefore be happy if someone out there will make him aware of unknown stories about the Czech forced laborers.

On June 16, 2021, Mr. Josef Hofman's grandson (born 1921) brought war letters and notes from Norway, which lay in the attic of a family house. They were written by his grandfather from northern Norway (Kirkenes) in the years 1942-1945. These are 113 letters sent to parents and 12 letters sent to his dear Agnes, his future wife. Mr. Hofman himself did not know about the letters on the ground and did not find them until the 1980s, after his mother's death.

The estate also contains three diaries from the trip to the North and back, a memorial with messages from friends, 80 photographic pictures, period postcards and a photo album from the battles of Narvik. It is also worth noting the invitations and photographs to the first meetings of Norwegians in the 1980s at Lake Rozkoš. We saw many pictures for the first time.

Thanks to these valuable materials, we can refine further information and look into the fate of another Czechoslovak deployed in the northernmost part of Norway. The materials are also important because Jan Hofman, who was managed as an internal employee of the Organisation Todt, is not registered in the file of foreign workers. This is proof that the number of Czechs in Norway will increase even more. It is a challenge for us to include in the database of deployed and profiles of employees who are not registered in the OT file.

We thank Mr. Pavel Hofman (grandson) and his wife Daniel for providing the materials and for helping to scan them.

We will publish Josef Hofman's biographical story later.

 

Mr. Oldřich Svoboda was born on April 19, 1921 in Třebíč. We were recently contacted by his now grandson from Adamov near Brno, who wished that we would publish his short biography on the occasion of his grandfather's unborn centenary of his birth.

Mr. Svoboda and another 404 young men in 1921 were sent to Norway for forced labor. It was in the autumn of 1942. He was assigned to work for Conrad and went to the northernmost parts of Norway.

Mr. Svoboda wrote a diary during his stay. He described in it the cruel but breathtaking polar nature, but also relationships in the workplace, contacts with the local population, and above all a number of painful experiences of deployment and forced labor. He suffered from a lack of food, once he and his friends were saved from starvation by a reindeer bought from Sámi herders. In his memoirs we can also find sketches of the landscape, dedications from friends or a description of various small adventures during the hard war.

While he was in Norway, his son was born in Moravia, and when he came home after a year on vacation, he married his lovely Agnes. His holiday was prolonged by medical complications, and on his way back to Norway he fell ill again, and officials in Berlin sent him back home for a small bribe. He preferred not to return to Norway, and hid with his brother (who also escaped from deployment) on his parents' farm, where they waited a year for the end of the war.

Mr. Svoboda left unique written memories of his painful stay in Norway. In the 1980s, he supplemented his diary with memories and had it rewritten. He wanted to share his stories from Norway with the public, and at the end of the 1980s he sent the newspaper to Brno Radio. The publication failed at the time, so he sent at least one copy to the depository of the Union of Forced Persons, of which he was a member. The archive of the Union of Forced People later took over the National Archive in Prague, where Mr. Svoboda's diary is stored to this day.

Mr. Svoboda's grandson would like to publish his grandfather's memories in print. We believe that this intention will succeed - the diary is really worth it!

Mr. Svoboda's family provided us with a typescript of diaries for further research, as well as other period materials and photographs. Thank you!

Below we publish some selected parts of the estate and a biographical medallion of Mr. Svoboda.

Period photographs and materials: Archive of the family of Mr. O. Svoboda, Adamov.

Edited by: Vendula V. Hingarová

On 2.2. in 2021 we were visited by a Prague collector who has in his collection a photographic legacy of František K., who was deployed around Narvik, on the island of Engeløy. With kind permission, we publish here group photos of Czechoslovaks and snapshots from the wartime Narvik and local forced labour.

The photos show the bombed-out of Narvik (from the Battle of Narvik in 1940).

Moreover, interesting are the moments from work on the island of Engeløy, where several dozen Czechoslovaks worked on the construction of the background of the coastal fortifications, the so-called Dietl battery.

The Dietl Battery was one of the three most powerful artillery batteries built by the Germans to defend the European coast within the Atlantic Wall. The firing positions of the three 406 mm heavy cannons were to protect the mouth of the Vestfjord and thus access to the strategically important northern Norwegian port of Narvik. Due to its importance, the battery was one of the priorities in Todt's construction efforts in Norway. Up to two thousand Soviet prisoners of war (of which almost five hundred died) and hundreds of other forced laborers took part in the construction.

(Photo: Private archive, Prague)

On May 6, 2021, we began a 10-day trip to 10 families of witnesses who responded to our call for materials from Norway. The first visit took place with Mr. Antonín Marek in Vraný nad Vltavou.

Mr. Marek found old photographs in the shed of his father's total commitment in Trondheim. He was assigned to the largest employer of forced Czechoslovaks, the company Sager und Woerner. He worked in Trondheim for almost three years.

He did not return home until September 1945. His sister and mother, who had had no news about him for a long time, thought that he would not return from the war and had him declared missing and rewrote the family property. Mr. Marek went to the Sudetenland to start a new life.

Here we select photos of Czechoslovaks from Trondheim, their Norwegian friends, as well as pictures from the work environment and leisure activities.

The photos originally come from the archives of Mr. Antonín Marek, son, Vraná nad Vltavou. Thank you for lending them.

We plan to scan them as well, but only in the upcoming publication about Norwegians, which should be published in autumn 2021.

After the end of the war in Norway, Czechoslovaks were concentrated in concentration camps for so-called displaced persons. They waited for instructions from Czechoslovak repatriation officials, who, in cooperation with local and allied authorities, arranged for their transfer to central Norway, and later to Oslo. The Czechoslovaks, stranded in the north of Norway, waited for repatriation for two months and got home in September 1945, five months after the end of the war. Many have spent almost three years in Norway.

The list of repatriates confirms that 235 Czechoslovaks worked in and around Narvik at the end of the war, half of whom worked even further north in Moen near Bardurfoss. Some of these were experienced German evacuation from the northeastern part of Norway before the advancing Soviet army.

The list of transports from Narvik and Moen comes from a private archive in Havlíčkův Brod.

On May 11, we visited the daughter of Mr. František Šak in Rýmařov. At home, he preserves a rich photographic legacy from his father. Mr. Sak was deployed to build a railway in the Mo i Rana and Mosjøen area. He spent almost three years in Norway.

He brought home a rich collection of unique photos, views, brochures and Norwegian publications. In the 1990s, he regularly drove his treasures to Norák meetings in Havlíčkův Brod.

Here we publish a selection of pictures from Norway and from Norwegian meetings.

Source: Family Archive, Rýmařov.

Czech Radio Plus (Český rozhlas) is preparing a program about the forced labor of Czechoslovaks in Norway. The almost hour-long program will be shown at the turn of April and May 2021.

The shooting cooperation at FF UK were attended by researchers dr. Vendula V. Hingarová and dr. Zdenko Maršálek, who presented new findings from international project cooperation. The picture shows a publicist L. Kopecká from the Czech Radio and Mrs. J. Kodýmová, whose father was deployed for two years in Trondheim.

In Norway, there is a good part of documentation about the so called Czech Noráci. The vast majority of the papers are stored at the National Archives and then in the Organization Todt archive (RAFA-2188), which comprises almost 450 shelf meters. Here is an archive box with the designation E3e L0013, where Organization Todt's correspondence about the Czech workers is gathered. In addition, there are index cards of all 1300 Czechs in two archive boxes, with the archive references O7 L0042 and O7 L0043. These are the main sources. The Organization Todt archive is large, but not as well organized. Therefore, there may still be more material about the Czechs that we have not yet discovered in this archive, because in that case it is a little bit scattered.

A good number of papers also document the repatriation of the Czechs in Norway, which was carried out quickly during the summer of 1945. These materials can be found in other archives at the National Archives, in the Flyktnings- og fangedirektoratet, Direktoratets forløpere på sentralt hold (S-1682), Da, L0001, i Flyktnings- og fangedirektoratet, Repatrieringskontoret (S-1681), Db, L0008 og i Den norske militærmisjon (RAFA-3988), D, L0020a. We expect that it will also be possible to find some documents about this repatriation in the archives of Norway Resistance Museum (Norges Hjemmefrontmuseum).

Emil Tůma from Nová Paka returned from forced labor in Narvik with a new suitcase. The original one fell apart, so he made a new one in Narvik himself. The missing metal chateau and hinges were sent to him by the family from Czecoslovaquia beyond the Arctic Circle. Mr. Emil's son still keeps a Narvik suitcase in a family house in Nová Paka (Northern Czech Republic). The suitcase is full of war documents, photographs and family correspondence. Mr. Tůma Jr. went to Narvik himself a few years ago. He wanted to see and know exactly where his father worked and which places were in the photos.

At the end of January 2021, he invited us to visit so that we could use the materials for further research. With the permission of the family, we can therefore bring here a sample of selected photographs and documents.
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We also send photos and documents to our Norwegian colleagues to help clarify some details and places.
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Photographs and documents: family archive M. Tůma, Nová Paka.

At the end of January, the son of Mr. Zdeněk Opl visited us at the Faculty of Arts in Prague. He brought us pictures of his father's forced stay in Trondheim and Hattfjeldal for research purposes, as well as period materials, personal notes and post-war memories. Fascinating and rare written legacy!

Zdeněk Opl (born in Prague in 1922) was assigned to work for the Empire from November 1942 and worked in the port on the construction of the submarine dock Dora I. in Trondheim. After a few weeks, he was transferred to less physically demanding work as an auxiliary staff to the Strinda labor camp on the outskirts of Trondheim for health reasons. In mid-1943, he was transferred as a food supplier to a labor camp, 100 km from Trondheim. The Germans built bunkers there in the former Brettingen fortress and 80 civilian workers (besides the Germans, Norwegians, Belgians and Czechoslovaks) as well as 60 Serbian prisoners of war were deployed there.

In 1944, Mr. Opl was transferred to a labor camp inland, to the settlement of Hattfjelldal. Here the Germans were preparing to build a factory for wood gas fuel to drive cars. Mr. Opl arrived with a group of 11 Czechoslovaks who, together with 60 conscripts from Poland and France, and later with other prisoners of war, were building a factory.

Hattfjelldal is located near the Swedish border. Dozens of deployed workers tried to escape. Mr. Oplo did not manage to escape, fortunately the Germans did not find out about his one-day disappearance. He suffered from a number of health problems due to physically demanding work and frosts as low as -42 ° C and was treated for several weeks in a remote military hospital in Mo i Rana.

In November 1944, Mr. Opl was sent home on medical leave. From there he was again called to forced labor in the Third Reich after a month. He never returned to Norway and spent Christmas at his new workplace near Berlin. At the beginning of 1945, he managed to negotiate a return home with the Todt authorities for health reasons.

The information comes from the post-war notes of Mr. Opl that he wrote in 1952 for the chronicle of the village of Vrané na Vltavou.

We publish the photos with the consent of the family.

Source: Private archive of sons of Mr. Opl

On the anniversary of the end of the war, on 8 May 2021, we met in Velké Meziříčí a witness to the war events, Mrs. Maria Halačková (born 1927). She experienced the war as a young girl. In 1948, she married František Halačka, who spent the war years in Norway and worked there as a chef.

Mr. Halačka's story is also interesting to us in that his name is not registered in the Organisation Todt's file. This is the first meeting with the family of a worker deployed in Norway, about which no archival records have yet been found. According to our estimates, the records lack several hundred names of Czechoslovaks deployed in Norway.

Mrs. Halačková and her daughter Hana welcomed us to her house and for a colorful story they both provided us with period photographs and a manuscript of memories from Norway.

Here we interpret the story of Mr. František Halačka (born on September 29, 1921) originally from Záblatí near Velká Bíteš.

Mr. Halačka trained as a butcher and devoted his entire life to this profession. As a vintage in 1921, he was assigned to work for the Nazi Germany. In Berlin, he was assigned to the Organisation Todt, where he was retrained as a chef. He left for Norway in December 1942 by ship Urundi along with several hundred Czechoslovaks. He traveled through Oslo, Trondheim, Narvik and then in a small group further along the coast to the Norwegian-Finnish border, to the Finnish cities of Inari and Ivalo. There he was assigned along with 11 Czechoslovaks (chefs, tailors and shoemakers) to work for the German army. He also experienced the Arctic winter here, -42 C. Afterwards, Mr. Halačka got to Kirkenes and Skigapura, where he cooked in a field kitchen for German soldiers. After three months, he was moved with his entire unit and supplies to Børfjord (Sørøya Island near Hammerfest), where he remained for almost two years. German seaplanes flew from this bay to bomb Murmansk.

He cooked together with three chefs for 160 Germans. According to memories, mainly eintopf and fish. In 1944, he got home for a month's vacation, and the extra journey took two months. When he returned to Norway, the Germans were already withdrawing from this area. He spent Christmas 1944 in Alta and surrendered in May 1945 in Narvik. He did not return to his homeland until September 1945.

Upon his return, he completed military service, married in 1948, and raised a daughter, Hana, with his wife. Until his retirement, he worked in Velké Meziříčí as a butcher. He met a friend from the deployment, Bohumil Horký from Třebíč. In the 1990s, he and his wife took part in three meetings "Noráci" in Havlíčkův Brod. He died in 2007.

The materials are in the possession of Mrs. Halačková, Velké Meziříčí.

Thank you for lending and for a friendly chat.

 

The answer is yes. However, only those who survived the compensation paid after 1999. Applicants for compensation had to apply in person, and it was not possible to apply retroactively for family members who died before February 1999.

At the beginning of the research, we were not clear on the question of whether compensation was given to those deployed in the occupied countries, and not directly in Germany within its pre-war borders. We got the first mention of compensation for forced labor in Norway thanks to the archives of the Temporary Secretariat of Norwegians, which organized meetings of those deployed in the 1990s and provided survivors with information on compensation for all those forced to work during World War II.

A clear answer came only after we established cooperation with the Czech-German Fund for the Future, a foundation fund that was responsible for receiving applications and processing compensation for Czech citizens.

In the years 2000–2003, the Czech-German Fund for the Future supported 38,564 applications in the category of forced labor. These applicants were deported from their home country to the German Empire, including the occupied Czechoslovak border, and were forcibly deployed in the war industry or agriculture, but also in German construction projects of the Todt Organization and other so-called paramilitary organizations. Among the applicants were workers sent by the German occupation authorities to work in the occupied countries - for example, Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and finally Norway.

Among the applications concentrated in the archives of the Czech-German Fund for the Future, we found 239 cases in which applicants listed Norway as a place of forced labor.

Compensation for forced labor was financed by German companies and the federal government as a moral gesture to the long-neglected victims of the Nazi regime. The earmarked funds were invested in the German Reminder, Responsibility Foundation (EVZ Foundation). It then distributed them among the victims from various countries of the world through its partner organizations, which also included the Czech-German Fund for the Future. States where forced laborers worked during the war did not participate in compensation.

In determining the amount of compensation, the EVZ Foundation distinguished between so-called slave and forced labor. The slave labor mainly concerned the prisoners of the concentration camps - they were in a practically lawless position, in appalling conditions, without the right to a wage, with minimal hygienic and medical security. In this comparison, the conditions used for forced labor were better, they were paid for their work, they had secured access to medical care and they also enjoyed certain, albeit limited, rights. However, neither prisoners nor forced laborers had the opportunity to influence the type or place of work, and they could not freely leave it. Slave and forced labor were a manifestation of the will of the occupying power.

During the compensation procedure, the Czech-German Fund for the Future collected in its archive a number of period materials, which used the deployment to document forced labor. Some of them were subsequently used in publications and exhibitions, which acquainted the public with the extent of forced labor of the inhabitants of the protectorate.

The Fund allowed our research team to look into its non-public archive and obtain period materials for research that document the fate of Czechoslovaks in Norway. Photographs, correspondence and official documents will make it possible to reconstruct the fate of Czechs forcibly deployed in Norway.

Due to the origin of the protection of personal data of applicants, the Fund does not disclose in any case the names of the compensated. Therefore, all materials were made available to us for research in anonymized form. Here is a sample of photos from a work deployment in Norway.

We will continuously publish captions for the photos.

Photographs: © archive of the Česko-německý fond budoucnosti (Archive of the Czech-German Fund for the Future), an endowment fund

Resources:

Compensation 2000-2006. Czech-German Fund for the Future and Payments to Victims of Slave and Forced Labor. Prague: CNFB, 2007

Archive of the Czech-German Fund for the Future, an endowment fund

Photo:

© Archive of the Czech-German Fund for the Future, a foundation fund

The Future Fund approved our project on the basis of a written agreement with the publication of period photographs and other materials. These materials may not be further disseminated or published without the consent of the fund.

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