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From the Region Čáslavsko to Sápmi (Lappland) - the Story of Josef Knap

31. 5. 2021

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.

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