They wanted to talk to Jerry. Luckily our good friend the policeman found out what was happening and was waiting for him at the station where he changed trains. He warned him not to go home. The Gestapo waited all afternoon. About 6 o'clock, when Jerry didn't come, they left. Finally, about 9 o'clock, Jerry came home. I told him what had happened.
"Oh, it's a big complicated story. I cannot tell you about it," he said.
And he didn't. I didn't find out about the things Jerry had done until the war was over when everyone started telling these stories. Only then did I learn that he had been part of the guerrillas for three years, from 1942, until the end of the war.
Jerry always took the train to work, from Kralovice to Pilsen. A Luftwaffe general from Kralovice usually took the same train, because there was a big military base in Pilsen. That day in 1943, the general was on the train, in the same car with Jerry. He put his briefcase on the seat next to him and fell asleep. While he slept, Jerry picked up the briefcase and threw it out of the window. Of course there was a big investigation right away to find out who had been in that coach, and that's why they came to search our house.
One night near the end of the war, Jerry and his guerrilla friends blew up the bridge between Zihle and Pilsen. As a result, a train trying to get to Pilsen, in German territory, was forced back to Zihle. Inside this train were Russian, Yugoslav, Belgian, and French prisoners, packed into cattle cars like animals. Mr. Feder was one of the prisoners.
The night of April 19-20, 1945--it was still winter, snowing, and cold--about forty-five people escaped from that train, running off in every direction. But they didn't know where they were and some ran back toward Germany, and were killed. A few days later three of them were found in the Czech forest, dead.
Our policeman friend called Jerry that night. "Come over here and I'll give you a coupon for a pair of shoes."
That was special because during the war we had ration coupons for everything--shoes, clothing, salt, sugar, flour. Jerry went off on his bicycle to Potvarov, a village just before Zihle. The policeman told him about the escapees. When he came back home Jerry said to me, "I saw something terrible tonight. Tomorrow morning I have to hire a wagon from the farmer."
Instead of going to work the next morning, he hired the wagon and a pair of horses, and filled it with a lot of straw. Then he went back to Potvarov. He came back with Mr. Feder, carrying him into the house in his arms like a baby, he was so weak--he only weighed about eighty pounds. He was wearing a striped suit from the concentration camp with a number on it, the same number that he had on his arm. His arm was broken, his leg was broken, his body was covered with lice.
I'll tell you something about how I felt. If somebody needs help, you have to help, so you do. I don't think everybody does that.
But you don't know what it's like during a war: one family is okay--you can trust them--another family maybe is not. We were afraid to call the doctor because you never knew who might betray you. So many people were traitors. We bandaged his wounded leg ourselves. Jerry made crutches for him. I fed him dumplings, chicken soup, and roast pork. It was a mistake. He liked it, but it made him sick. After that, I was more careful.
We didn't know who he was or anything about him, but he said he was Polish, so we decided to call him Pavel (Paul) Plotzk. To me he is Paul, still today.
Jerry gave him his new shoes. He really needed them himself, but he felt that Paul need them more. Before Jerry picked him up, the priest had given Paul a beautiful red wool turtleneck sweater. When I saw all the lice I knew I would have to burn it. Still, I thought what a shame to throw away such a beautiful sweater. I threw it in a bucket and covered it over with slivovice and soaked the sweater in it. Pretty soon the lice were dead, and I could wash it. Slivovice is something like vodka. We made our own during the war.
The second time I ever saw the Gestapo was a few days after Paul came to our house. As if from heaven, our policeman again came to warn us that the Gestapo was looking for the escaped prisoners. The S.S in Kralovice was sending a big truck to Sedlice to find them. We had to get him out of the house.
Near our house was a big farm with its own little park, a small forest they kept for hunting rabbits and other game. Quickly I helped Paul get dressed, checking his clothes to make sure there was no address, nothing in his pockets. I gave him a sandwich, and told him to run over there as fast as he could, lay down in the woods, and cover himself with leaves. He hopped away on his crutches across the fields.
But some of the "nation-guests" who lived in the house across the road saw him. "Nation-guests" were what we had to call the high class German people who had been evacuated to Czechoslovakia when the Americans started bombing Germany. We were not allowed to call them Germans. The Czech people were required to take them in, give them a room, and feed them.
The Gestapo were already in Sedlice. Everybody in the village was standing in the square while they searched the houses. Those "nation-guests" went straight to the square and told the S.S. what they had seen. We knew what was happening because my mother had sent my brother to the village to find out. When he realized that the Gestapo were at the entrance to the village and on every road, he ran back to a big meadow where he could see what was going on. The Germans saw him there and screamed, "Stop! Or we will shoot!" They put him on their truck. Meanwhile we were waiting and waiting. Finally my mother said, "I have to find out what's happened." As soon as she left the house she saw the truck coming down the road with her son on it.
She screamed at them, "What are you doing? Where are you taking him? He's my son!"
He didn't have the right identification card for Sedlice because he was only visiting us. My mother explained to them that he came every month to help her with the house, and they let him go. But one of the S.S. got off the truck with his machine gun and went over to look in the little woods where Paul was laying on the ground. It was snowing.