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|
|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|
|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|
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
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|
|Buriánek||Miroslav||1923||Praha||escape not registerd||1945-02-06|
|Čejka||Miloslav||1910||Kolín, okres Kolín||escape not registerd||1944-08-|
|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|
|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-|
|Kozler||Václav||1920||Zderaz, okres Podbořany||escape not registerd||1944-08-20|
|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|
|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-|
|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|
|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-|
The names highlighted in red have a click-through on the runaway's story.
Prepared by dr. Zdenko Maršálek.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
We also send photos and documents to our Norwegian colleagues to help clarify some details and places.
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