Miloš Volf

25.10.2019 | 16:07
Miloš Volf

When hell reigned on earth
This story we did not write lightly at all. Especially because Mr. Miloš (Milouš) Volf, who it is dedicated, died in early 2014 at the age of 88 years. This is a free narrative, which is based on his memories and interviews.

He was born on 2nd June 1924 in Tábor to Josef and Marie Volf, the owners of a general store. He had two younger brothers, Josef and Vladislav, with whom he spent his childhood in Blanické předměstí. Miloš finished elementary school and was given a place at the eight-year real grammar school in Tábor. The 1938–39 school year was a particularly unusual one for him as he began as a student of the First Republic, continued as a student of the truncated Czechoslovakia, and ended as a student of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
In May 1939 he met František Knotek, a civilian member of the illegal military organisation known as the Nation’s Defence and also the secretary of Tábor Post Office, who offered him the chance to collaborate. In 1940, however, the Gestapo arrested Knotek and other members of the resistance group, as it was under new leadership, headed by Jaroslav Vacek, superintendent of Tábor prison and a legionary. Miloš was given the task of supplying the prisoners’ families with food. His father worked with Vacek and as time passed they hid people sought by the Nazis in their little attic room. At the end of January Vacek had an operation in Tábor hospital and straight after, on 2nd February, just two days after the operation, the Gestapo arrested him. They then arrested Miloš, his father, his mother and grandmother that same afternoon.
He was transferred from pre-trial detention, where he spent three months and lost 34 kilos, to the Small Fortress in Terezín along with other prisoners at the beginning of May 1943. After entering the gate they had to stand facing the wall and after a while they began to be called to have their personal details checked. After going through the doors marked “Kammer” they changed into prison attire and were taken to the men’s courtyard, where they went through a gate marked “Arbeit macht frei” (Work Sets You Free). Miloš was placed in Cell No. 1 and assigned to the Storch-commando, which worked in front of the Small Fortress dismantling the front ramparts. Soon, through the intercession of a friend, he joined a squad of bricklayers commanded by a Sudeten German called Soukup, who hated Czechs, especially those who were well educated. He was a sadistic ignoramus, who Miloš had to visit every Sunday to beat out his carpet and help out in the garden.
In mid-June Miloš was transported first to the Gestapo headquarters in Kladno, then was taken from there to Poldovka to unload wagons, and in January 1944 was transferred to the “Pečkárna” – the headquarters of the Gestapo in Prague. There he came to be known as Rückkehr unerwünscht (the returned unwanted). He and his father were put on a transport which took them to the prison in the German town of Hof, where they were divided into two groups. One was destined for Buchenwald, while Miloš’s group were taken to the Flossenburg concentration camp near the Czechoslovak border. The transport arrived on 7th February 1944 in temperatures of more than minus twenty degrees Celsius. They had to strip naked, wait around 20 minutes, then go in the shower and then stand naked again in the freezing cold until an SS officer in a white coat had examined them all and written a number on each of their bodies: one – capable of hard labour, two – is able to work, or three – unfit for work, which essentially meant being sent directly to block 23 and from there to the gas chambers. Miloš was given number one – “Vernichtung durch Arbeit” (Extermination through Labour).
He was issued with a shirt, paper underwear, a rag, a tunic, trousers, a hat and shoes with a high wooden sole (clogs) and was placed in block 21, where the clerk allocated everyone a prison number with a coloured triangle. As a political prisoner Miloš received a red triangle with the letter T (Czech) and the number 3377 (his father was 3370). He started working in a quarry, labour he had no chance of surviving. Fortunately, at the beginning of February 1945 he was transferred to an aviation workshop, where he fitted wings onto Messerschmitts. On Friday 20th April, after destroying all the evidence, the Nazis gave the order to evacuate the camp. So it was that 14 500 prisoners set off accompanied by the SS on the infamous Flossenburg Death March. The remaining 1 500 sick men, 179 of whom were Czechs, were left in the camp to the mercy of fate. The march, on which some 5 000 prisoners died, ended on the morning of 23rd April near Tierlstein Chateau. Those who had stayed behind in the camp were liberated on the same day. From 1938 until the liberation of the camp, 73 296 prisoners were killed in Flossenburg, 3 784 of whom were Czechs.
It’s incredible that the Volf family was finally reunited in Tábor. Miloš finished grammar school and enrolled in the Faculty of Law in Prague, but had to leave for political reasons. His father was accused by the communists of concealing assets, for which he was sentenced to forced labour in Slovakia. Miloš completed his military service as a “Black Baron”, where he got into army broadcasting. After the war he worked in radio; he was later offered a job in television, where he worked as an editor on shows for children and young people. After the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia (1968) he had to end his career in television and made a living as a warehouseman, later in advertising. He spent the rest of his long and colourful life with one of his two daughters; he had three grandsons and constantly talked of what he had lived through until his recent death.

For the Terezín Memorial, Luděk Sládek

Small Fortress Terezín Concentration camp Flossenbürg Concentration camp Flossenbürg Obrázek č.4

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