Case of the students from Roudnice n. L.
In June 2012 it will have been already 70 years since a group of 84 students, boys and girls from Roudnice nad Labem, appeared among the inmates of the Gestapo police prison in the Small Fortress. Let us view the events of that time.
The school year of 1941/1942 was the third year of the war. As we can read in the chronicle of the grammar school at Roudnice, that year was again full of anomalies – long winter holidays, changes in curriculum, lack of textbooks. In the main summer holidays students became involved in agricultural work. The chronicler recorded changes in the general direction of the grammar school didactic aims, which mostly concentrated on “practical life“ and orientation of Protectorate youth towards the Empire. The number of German language lessons increased while teaching and marking history had been stopped before, etc. To become familiar with daily news, the school subscribed to the German daily Der Neue Tag, and Die Wehrmacht and Böhmen und Mahren magazines. Portraits of prominent German and Czech men were decorating the corridors and classrooms. Strict discipline was required, and political talks of both professors and students were strictly prohibited. The school got much involved in collecting activities again.
In early 1942, an Oberlandrat order led to the establishment of anti-aircraft defence with 50 members – professors and students. The winter holidays were really long and lasted up to 3rd March 1942. Therefore in February it was eventually decided to call students once a week to school, assign homework and keep checking it.
The Spring brought two new anniversaries observed only since 1939: 15th March – Establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and 20th April – Hitler’s birthday.
On 27th May, on the day of Reinhard Heydrich’s assassination, there were final oral examinations going on in the school. After Heydrich’s death, the headmaster along with the board of professors sent a letter to the Minister of Education, in which they expressed deep regrets about that shameful act and assurances of loyalty to the government.
The main intention of the Nazi was to gradually eliminate the intelligentsia of the nation, including the youth. In the autumn of 1939 colleges were shut down, the number of secondary schools was reduced, schools were being closed, and the quantity of school students was decreasing. The nation was terrorized by all means. After the assassination of Heydrich, succession of actions and measures against the Czech population began, and even young people did not escape persecution.
On 20th June 1942, on the basis of fabricated charges, a total of 84 young people including 16 girls were arrested in two schools at Roudnice – the State Real Grammar School and the Higher Technical College. Students were accused of planning an attack on Alfred Bauer, the head teacher of German primary school at Roudnice nad Labem, an active Nazi. In addition, students were suspected of being a resistance organization, and students of the technical college allegedly led debates against the empire and greeted each other with “clenched fist“.
After the arrest, which took place during a class and was from outside observed by some parents of the arrested young people, the students were transported to the Gestapo remand centre in the Small Fortress. For hours they were standing at the wall there, and one after another taken to interrogations. All was accompanied by orders, beating and torture. Then girls and boys were gradually placed into cells. Girls came into the new women’s courtyard, some boys first into solitary confinements and later all of them ended up in the cells of the Small Fortress prison.
Boys were assigned to inner labour commandos from the very beginning and most likely experienced more horrors in the fort than girls and witnessed more of the brutal behaviour of guards. They once became direct victims of sadistic guards when they made a little break during haymaking and were seen by warden Storch. They were subjected to cruel beating by guards while running, rolling barrels, doing push-ups and squats. After a fortnight, the boys began to be placed in outdoor commandos, which allowed them to get out of the fort, thus escape the attention of guards and sometimes even catch a sight of their beloved, their parents who kept coming to the fort or places where students worked and tried at least in that way to find out whether their child was „all right“.
Girls worked since summer 1942. In their memories we can read that in spite of all terror and homesickness, they tried to make their stay in prison more pleasant by singing, telling book contents, etc. One of the students – Ema Blazkova for example painted pictures depicting the life of girls in the cell.
Students could also get packages and send laundry home, in which they managed to hide secret notes.
Two students died already during the imprisonment in the Small Fortress, first Miroslav Lacha of pneumonia in July 1942 and a month later Zdenek Kubes in the Litomerice hospital. In September 1942 boys and girls started to be gradually released after being deprived of a possibility to study any school in the Protectorate. After their return from the prison, they had to report to the Gestapo and were given work assignments. Within 3 – 6 months most of the students were released, however, twenty of them (19 boys and a girl) were not set free. Starting September, they were gradually deported to other concentration camps, to Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Flossenburg.
Nine of them later died in Auschwitz and two in Buchenwald. A total of 13 students did not return home.