Fridrich Fritz (1928)
“We can forgive, but we must never forget.”
Fridrich Fritz was born on March 4, 1928, in the town of Prešov. He spent his childhood and youth in Prešov and in Bardejov. In 1944 when German troops were in retreat, he was abducted to the forced labour camps in Germany, though he was just sixteen. He went back to the village of Granč Petrovce because their flat in Prešov was strafed. His family had to find a new house in Levoča where he finished grammar school and passed school-leaving examination. Then he decided to study theology. When he was in seminary, he witnessed abduction of nuns, secret ordaining of bishop Barnáš, occupation of seminary by the State Security, and finally its dissolving in 1950. He got a draft notice, but he ignored it. In summer he secretly delivered counterfeit identity cards to priests who were detained in Podolínec. In autumn on September 26, 1950, in Bohemian Forest he tried to illegally flee across the border with an intension to continue studying theology abroad. While the train was in the border area, however, he was detained by the border guard. Investigation followed, then imprisonment in Český Krumlov from where he was transported to České Budějovice and later to Levice. He should have been convicted there. At that time the State Security revealed the group that was responsible for making counterfeit identity cards and people smuggling. It influenced all the follow-up events. Fridrich Fritz was transported to Prešov, where he was investigated. It took five long months, which he considered to be the most difficult time period of his life. He was involved into “Martin Hritz and co.” process. On July 4, 1951, together with another thirteen accused men, he was put on trial. He was found guilty of the offence of high treason and sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment, got a penalty of 30.000 Czechoslovak crowns, his entire property was confiscated, and he was also deprived of his civil rights for ten years. Imprisonment followed. Firstly he was in Leopoldov prison, then in Ilava and finally in Mírov. Thanks to the hard work and influence of many precious men, he regarded his imprisonment as an important life lesson. He spent nine years, nine months and thirteen days in custody. In 1960 he was released by the general amnesty of Antonín Novotný, President of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR). After coming back from prison he had to demand recognition of his rights from the President. His life destiny influenced also lives of his daughters who despite their excellent academic achievements couldn’t have studied at universities.
Occupation of Seminary
“And then, when the school year was about to finish, probably one month earlier, the State Security forces had occupied the seminary. We weren’t allowed to go out or home, we had to stay there. And it would be interesting for you to hear about the situation in seminary. It influenced us a lot when they had abducted nuns because they cooked for us, laundered everything, and then we stayed alone without them. We did our best to keep the seminary operating as usually. I don’t want to talk about it more. But we definitely knew that if something like that happened once, it would continue. We knew that we had been watched and that the whole seminary had been monitored as well.”
Delivery of Counterfeit Identity Cards
“…meanwhile, Mrs. Dudinská, you probably have something written about her in those your records, asked me. She arranged crossing the border for chaplain from Levoča. She managed to do that thanks to one agent Palkovič who was executed then. You know, Mrs. Dudinská's mother lived in Prešov and agent Palkovič stayed in her house for some time. So she asked me to deliver some identity cards, actually counterfeit ones that were made by Martin Hritz. I was supposed to deliver them to some priests to Podolínec where they were centralized. She apparently trusted me, so she offered me to do that and this way I was told that she arranged the border crossing for chaplain Precner. And since that time I had known the system and the way how to reach a foreign country…”
Tortured by Walking in the Solitary Cell
“When they had realized that I didn’t want to state in evidence, that I didn't speak the way they spoke, they forbade me to sit in the cell. At first, I didn’t mind it, but later on I realized that it was worse than beating. At five in the morning, when we used to get up, they came and brought black coffee and a piece of bread for breakfast. Then I was walking in the room from morning to evening, from five in the morning to ten in the evening, indeed. I did the same over and over again. I almost got mad. I couldn’t sit down, just in case they brought me lunch, but otherwise I wasn’t allowed to. When I wanted to have some rest, I sat down on the floor, but the guard who was on duty there on the corridor, knocked at the door immediately. I had to stand up and it went this way from December to January and after then even to June. This was the worst experience I ever had in that Prešov, I am sure. Maybe I would get mad, but fortunately I have had five fingers. As I was walking in the cell, I was also saying rosary. That’s what I was doing there.”
“On July 4, they gave their judgement, so the first one was Martin Hritz. I think Hritz was sentenced to twenty-four years. Vršan was sentenced to thirty and I got twenty years of imprisonment and it continued this way. Then I didn’t notice what the others said. I heard them speaking, but I was still thinking about those twenty years… All I had in my mind were words: twenty and twenty again. I didn’t know if this was the truth or not, if I were dreaming or not. Twenty years.”
“Then I came to that cell. It was a great room, the biggest one in Leopoldov prison. There were about fifty people in one cell. There were no beds in that huge room; there were just some pallets in one mound. We spread those pallets on the floor and we used to sleep that way. Toilet was in the corner of the room. However, those were just four or five containers enclosed with wooden grating or wooden deck. So, the new prisoners were always placed near that toilet and I was there as well. It stank there for the whole night because men used to go there all the time. Fortunately, there was one lamp lighting even at night. On one hand, it was bad that a man didn’t sleep in the dark, but on the other, since there were no corridors between the pallets, if somebody had gone to the toilet without the light, he would have stamped on the others.”
“After the school-leaving examination, my older daughter wanted to study at the university. We went to Bratislava for the entrance examinations at the Faculty of Natural Sciences. But they didn't admit her. Her father had been imprisoned once, so she was not reliable person, it was obvious. She learnt very well, she had just A grades. And when my younger daughter also passed the school-leaving examination, she wanted to study medicine, so we went to Martin. She was at an entrance exam, too. She had learnt very well, but we again obtained the letter, that they didn't want to accept her. She wouldn’t have taken it so hard if they hadn’t written there that her study results were dissatisfactory at the grammar school. My daughter then cried all the day because she had just A's during her whole study at the grammar school; moreover, she passed the school-leaving exam with the distinction as the best student; she got the diploma and notice that she had good study results at that school as well. She felt bad about it back then and even today she regrets it.”
The story and videoclips of this witness were put together and published thanks to the financial support of EU within the programme Europe for Citizens – Active European Remembrance.