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.
During the summer holidays we are preparing a book about "Noráci" called Sent to the North. Czechs for forced labor in Norway during World War II, which will be published in the autumn of 2021. In more than 200 pages, we describe in nine chapters the story of forced deployment to Norway - from occupation, waiting in German transit camps, to a trip across the sea and divisions to companies. Furthermore, working conditions and desertions on vacation and escapes to Sweden, to the post-war home repatriation. We also mention coexistence with the Norwegian population and also contacts with other foreign workers or Soviet prisoners. There is also the fact that they remembered their stay in Norway after the war and organized common meetings. The text is accompanied by rich photographic and period material.
The author's pair dr. Vendula V. Hingarová and dr. Zdenko Maršálek working on the text of the publication.
Without materials and information from the descendants of the Norááci, however, the book would not have been created to such an extent. For each picture and information we find in e-mails, diaries and period correspondence, we realize how exceptional our cooperation with offspring is. Thanks again for your help and for keeping the materials at home!
A challenge for those who are still searching for materials: contact us as soon as possible. The last materials can be included in the book during August.
In September, we submit the manuscript to the Pavel Mervart Publishing House (Červený Kostelec), which will prepare the publication for publication.
If everything goes according to plan, we will introduce the publication to you in November 2021.
We consult with our Norwegian colleagues from the University of Trondheim about the information in the upcoming book and the selection of pictures. Due to the pandemic situation, the possibilities of international cooperation are limited, which we try to replace at least with online video conferencing. Here is a picture from our last pre-holiday meeting.
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|
|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
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.
In mid-October 2021, we received photos from Karel Pekař's grandnephew. The great-uncle was childless, and his extensive family left a photograph of Norway in the cottage inhabited by his nephew Lumír after his death. He responded to a letter we sent to the war address in the spring.
Karel Pekař was deployed behind the Arctic Circle in Mosjøen County and was assigned to Arge Stallmann. Another 90 Czechs worked with him in this company.
The photographic collection documents in detail the workplace in central Norway, the work on the northern railway, the so-called Nordlandsbanen, as well as auxiliary forestry work in the mountains. The picture shows that they got to Bodø.
The collection contains a number of portraits of other Czech workers. At the beginning of their stay, they visited a local photographer in Mosjøen, who created portrait photographs for Czech workers in the uniform of the Organisaton Todt. It is good to add that the workers were handed out the fur hats in Berlin and sewed a red and white ribbon on their own. This set them apart from other Todt foreign workers.
We thank Mr. Jeník for his warm welcome and willingness to share photos on this website as well.
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|
|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.
Until the end of this week, you have the opportunity to see the exhibition in Prague at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, then it will move to the Research and Study Library in Pilsen.
The opening of the exhibition will be on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 from 5 pm.
On this occasion, Dr. Vendula V. Hingarová guided tour of the exhibition.
The opening is open to the public without the need for a reservation or invitation.
You are warmly invited!
Address: Smetanovy sady 2, Plzeň
The whole of November is an exhibition on display at the Regional Museum in Teplice. There are 12 information panels in the castle foyer. You are warmly welcome.
From December 2021, the exhibition will be held until the end of the year at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, where a portrait collection of descendants is still on display.
In January and February 2022 it will be on display in the Research Library in Pilsen.
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
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
Today, 17th May, Norway is celebrating the National Day. We bring you photographs from the first post-war celebration of 17th May 1945 in Narvik and Trondheim, where the Czechoslovaks also took an active part in.
On this occasion, we greet our Norwegian friends and colleagues in Trondheim, Narvik, Oslo, Trondenes and Engeløy and in Prague. Gratulerer med dagen!
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.
We cordially invite you to an exhibition at the National Library in Klementinum. The panel - traveling exhibition can be seen until Friday, November 12, 2021. After that, it will be presented in Brno - in the Moravian Regional Library, from November 9 to December 17, 2021.
The panel exhibition, prepared by the Norwegian Embassy in Prague, documents a century of mutual diplomatic relations. Two mentions of Noráci will definitely pleasantly surprise.
Jaroslav Ševčík's grandson contacted us in the summer of 2021 and offered us his grandfather's photo album for research. Jaroslav Ševčík was deployed in the Alta, 200 km from the northern border with Finland, at the Hamburg company Ohlendorff'sche Baugesellschaft, together with twenty Czechs.
When the album was handed over, his grandson Petr said that he did not have much information about his grandfather's deployment in Norway. No one in the family who remembers anything is alive today, so he search in the archives.
The preserved and well-preserved album tells a lot about the work of Czechs in Alta, illustrates the relationships in the workplace and beyond, as well as documents the strong friendship between Czech friends.
Photographs from the period after the surrender are also unique, when the Czechs spent their free time exploring the beautiful surroundings and in company with Norwegian girls. Unique are pictures from the detention camp in Bardufoss, where Czech workers were also visited by Czechoslovak repatriation officers who came from Britain in June, as well as pictures from the repatriation process, for example boarding the repatriation ship Spree, which transported the largest number of Czechoslovaks at the end of August 1945 from Oslo to Bremen.
We received some of the pictures from Mr. Ševčík's grandson earlier by e-mail and used them at the Sent to the North exhibition. Now we have been able to scan all the images in high quality and with the consent of Mr. Ševčík's grandson we are publishing them here for you as well. We will also use another one in the forthcoming publication Sent to the North, which will be published with a slight delay in the spring of 2022.
(Legacy after Jaroslav Ševčík, Nový Bor).
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.
We bring you other medallions deployed in Norway, which were created in the summer months with the help of families and relatives of Noráci. Thank you for your kind cooperation, amazing stories and materials. And also for your patience. We have gathered a lot of inspiring materials in recent months!
Benjamin Šíma (* 1921 - † 1990) was born in Čekanice near Tábor and grew up with his two sisters in a Protestant family. A firm faith in God has accompanied him throughout his life. In October 1942, he was fully deployed to Organisation Todt to work in Norway. In one of his first letters, he wrote: "My final destination is about 1000 km beyond the Arctic Circle. Where I go, there is only aurora borealis, ½ a year of darkness and ½ a year of light… ” In the port town of Skibotn, he worked as a laborer, mine finder, ambulance, helper in the kitchen.
Jaroslav Buchtík (* 1920 - † 2010) was born as the next-to-last of 13 children. His parents provided him with an education at the Archbishop's Grammar School in Kroměříž. Then they determined the path of his priestly education at a theological seminary (his two sisters were nuns). The German occupation began and in November 1942 began the occupation of the labor office as well. Jaroslav was designated 250 km behind the Arctic Circle to Harstad - north of Narvik to the construction company Hermann Schaefer. He became a friend with a Norwegian girl called Ingrid Kristoffersen, who later married family Strøm. Jaroslav visited the Strøm family with his wife in 1965. From this visit, he also brought an accordion, which he bought there during the war and which had been waiting for him with the Strøm family for 20 years. His son then learned to play it as a child.
Jiří Mlíka (* 1921 - † 1951) was born in Horní Jelení. Like all born in 1921, he was totally deployed to work in the Reich. On December 7, 1942, he left by transport via Berlin to Szczecin, from where he took the Urundi ship to Oslo. From there by train via Trondheim to the administrative center of Mo i Rana. Here he was assigned together with dozens of Czechs to the German construction company Arge Stallmann. He worked as an auxiliary worker and later as a baker. He remained in Norway until the end of the war.
Václav Vlach (* 1921 - † 1996) was born in Dolní Rozsička. At the age of seven, he moved to Velké Meziříčí with his aunt - she and her husband adopted him. He trained in coppering and plumbing. In October 1942 he was called as many of his peers to work in the Reich. It was difficult for him to go there then, because he left his great love Anežka here. When he came home on holiday after 8 months (in September 1943), they got married.
Jaroslav Kadlec (* 1922 - † 2013) came from 12 siblings and began to learn to be a butcher. In 1943 he was called to work in the Empire. He did not get to his workplace in Harstad behind the Arctic Circle until March 1943. There he came into contact with the French and Norwegians, with whom he later corresponded. In 1944 he went home on vacation, from which he did not return. He managed to prolong his sick leave, thanks to a willing German doctor in Letovice, who was later arrested. He hid at home until the end of the war. After the war, he joined Augustin Konrád's lemonade factory in Olešnice, Moravia, as a driver.
Karel Novotný (* 1923‒ † 1971) was born in Kobylí na Moravě (Břeclav district). After training as an engineer in 1940, he was assigned from the labor office to the Reich at the age of seventeen. From 1940 to 1942 he was assigned to Funke & Co in Dresden-Freital for the construction of a motorway to Salzburg, and after six months to the Bryansk region in Russia. He was then transferred to work in central Norway for the same company in Mo and Rana. Working and living conditions were quite demanding. On December 5, 1944, he and ten Czechs fled his workplace to Sweden. According to him, the crossing in the mountains was very difficult and they suffered from hunger. In Sweden, he was employed in the Nyvogn mines. At the Czechoslovak Legion in Stockholm, he enlisted as a volunteer in the Czechoslovak foreign army in Britain.
They who escaped from forced labor in Norway in a circle of friends, Sweden.
From the archives of the Karel Novotný family, Kobylí.
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.
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.
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
Jan Kreysa from Horní Kamenice in the Plzeň region reacted promptly on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition in Pilsen, bringing his father's suitcase, photo album and labour card to the exhibition. His father was deployed in central Norway in the Mo i Rana area at Stahlman. Interestingly, Mr. Kreysa himself visited Norway several times and took his father there in the 1990s. They also visited places where he spent the war years. Dad also met an old Norwegian friend, with whom he corresponded quite a long time after the war.
We thank Mr. Kreys for providing materials for further research and for the opportunity to exhibit them at the Study and Research Library in Pilsen. They can be seen at the exhibition until the end of February 2022.
Pictures from the photo album of J. Kreysa from his stay mainly in Mosjoen and Nesna in central Norway. See the photo gallery:
(Photographs come from the estate of J. Kreysa, Horní Kamenice)
We warmly invite you to a lecture on Thursday, February 24, 2022, at 6 pm, with a discussion of forced Czechs from Norway. It will be in Czech.
The lecture is organized by the Study and Research Library in Pilsen.
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.
The exhibition Posláni na Sever was opened more than twice, at the residence of the Norwegian Ambassador for the Descendants of Noráci and at the Hybernská Campus in Prague for the public. We bring pictures to the participants in memory of this event.
The ceremonial meeting of the descendants of Noráci and the opening of the exhibition was attended by 112 people. Most were families of descendants. We were very pleased with the descendants portrayed themselves, who came with their loved ones to the opening of a photographic exhibition - located in the garden of the residence. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, the Czech-German Fund for the Future (an endowment fund that mediated compensation to those forced at the turn of the millennium), and researchers from Charles University.
The exhibition was opened by Norwegian Ambassador Robert Kvile and his wife Erna. The authors of the exhibition Vendula V. Hingarová and Zdenko Maršálek gave a speech. The artist Vojtěch Vlk, the author of the photographic collection Portraits of Descendants, was also present.
An extensive catalog for the exhibition was also presented.
Snímky z vernisáře výstavy v Kampus Hybernská, 7. 9. 2021
On March 10, 2022, the ceremonial opening of the exhibition Sent to the North took place in the Jiří Mahens Central Library in Brno. Mrs. Gabriela Obstová gave an introductory word on behalf of the library and dr. Vendula V. Hingarová, Nordist from the Faculty of Arts, Charles University and his Excellency Robert Kvile, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to the Czech Republic, both deliverd a speech. The opening of the exhibition was attended by 50 guests. Among those present were six families of descendants of Noráci, and some of them lent period photographs, letters, diaries and other memorable artifacts from their relative's stay in Norway for the exhibition.
After the opening ceremony, Dr. Vendula V. Hingarová gave a lecture on the forced Czechs in Norway and provided an insight into the behind-the-scenes research on this almost forgotten war story.
Photographer: Marek Reinoha. (Thank you!)
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)
František Vaněk (1914) worked in Kardašova Řečice in South Bohemia as a carpenter. He got a job to work in Nazi Germany as an older one. During our recent visit to Jindřichův Hradec, his daughter Jitka Ondráčková told how, as a child, she viewed her father's five albums of photos and views from Norway. She usually looked at them secretly when no one was at home.
His father did not tell his family about the hardships of the war, not even his son-in-law, who asked him about Norway. He always changed the topic. The same was repeated in the case of his wife, who was deployed in Nazi Germany. Only during the common family meals, sometimes were said that they cooked "terrible mashes" in the Nazi Germany. Jitka still remembers how dad scraped his plate to the last crumb and said that "during the war, it was important for every bite to survive."
He brought from Norway a dozen painted color pictures depicting breathtaking Norwegian nature, fjords and mountains. These pictures appeared hidden in the closet until his adult daughter. At that time, they were arranging their own house, so they had the pictures framed and exhibited them at home. It hangs on the walls to this day.
When asked why their parents did not tell them about the war experience, Jitka says: “It was probably not pleasant, so they did not want to talk about it. They wanted to forget it, push it out. ”
In the late age of her parents, various things were solved, but she never thought of asking her parents more about the war.
In the spring of 2021, she received a letter from our team sent to her father's old address, where the family cottage is now located. The request to provide materials for the research led Jitka to examine her father's estate in detail. She read her father's diary from Norway for the first time. She summed up its contents with the words: "Actually, he doesn't write anything terrible there. But it was probably not pleasant. He writes what they did, what they had to eat. Where they went, where they were in the camp. Maybe they didn't write the worse things in that diary. "
Jitka and her son Jan made the estate available to our team and showed us other artifacts - a shaving set (a razor) and daggers - that father brought from Norway and which they still use at home. She decided to transcribe the diary on a computer so that other family members could read it as well.
With the kind permission of the family, we publish here the photographic legacy and examples of the diary.
František Vaněk was deployed in central Norway in the Mosjøen area - first in the city, later working on the construction of a railway and as an auxiliary worker far from civilization in the forests. The images also show other places of deployment: Nesna, Nerlien and Hattfjelldal.
Photos comes from the family estate, Jindřichův Hradec.
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.
On the occasion of Sámi National Day, we publish war images from the Sámi regions in northern Norway. From several estates, we received images documenting the local Sámi from the vicinity of Alta, Karasjok and Kautokein.
The images come from private family estates in the Czech Republic, which are only now - 80 years after their creation, falling into the hands of researchers.
We consider it important that these images reach the current inhabitants of these areas. At the end of the war, northern Norway was almost razed to the ground and the local population was evacuated. It is possible that the preserved images, taken by amateur photographers from the ranks of the Czech Republic, may help to clarify fragments from the life of that time.
The pictures document, for example, a Sámi wedding, local dwellings, children playing and reindeer herders, as well as random passers-by.
We would like to return these images, at least in this form, to the places where they were taken 80 years ago.
The Sámi National Day falls on 6 February and commemorates the remarkable culture and heritage of the Sámi, who have inhabited the northern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula since time immemorial.
We believe that the pictures will bring the same joy to the people of Sápmi as they did to us in finding them.
Happy Sámi National Day!
The pictures are from the estate of Jar. Malý, Jar. Buchtík, Josef Knap, Karel Voškeruš and Ant. Ševčík.
Thanks to the descendants for allowing these images to be published on this portal.
At the end of September 2021 we were visited by the grandson of Mr. František Hejda from South Bohemia. His grandfather was deployed in Trondheim. As a child, he gave him a taste of fried seagull eggs in order to know what he ate in times of need during the war in Norway. He and his friends also caught and ate muskrats.
František Hejda originally from Pohoří was born in 1904, and therefore two decades older than most Czechs in Norway. He allegedly went to forced labor as a substitute for another boy from a wealthier family in the village. He was a carpenter by profession and was based in Sager und Woerner in Trondheim. He also made coffins for the dead.
According to family memories, František did not comment much on the deployment in Norway. However, they still remember the story of how grandpa gave bread to a Russian prisoner behind barbed wire. He told him not to run. However, he ran and the guard shot him. At night, he carried the dead man to the morgue while glowing. He worked with phosphorus. (In Trondheim, there was allegedly a workplace where phosphorus was used to describe devices that were mounted in bombers for night flights).
Mr. Hejda's grandson brought a collection of about 100 photographs. He managed to identify most of his friends from the photos. Here we bring you a selection of them.
We thank Mr. Hejda's grandson for his willingness to share with us his grandfather's story and his photographs.
The photos from Norway mention the following names: