Martin Hritz (1923)

Photo: Martin Hritz

Biography

“A man couldn’t even believe that Slovaks had a relationship in which they acted one against another.”

Martin Hritz was born in 1923 in Levoča. He grew up in the family of manual workers and though he inclined to technology, since 1940 he had worked as a clerk at various places. After the liberation of Levoča he continued working as a clerk at the Local National Committee (MNV) and since the year 1949 he had been watched by the State Security not only at work, but also in his privacy. As he had reservations about how priests and nuns were treated at that time, he openly expressed his disagreement with the Catholic Action. Later he tried to help the group of priests by issuing them counterfeit identity cards. On December 14, 1950, he was accused of anti-state activities and taken into custody; he was also excluded from the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS). Following the interrogation and torture, on July 4, 1951, on the main trial, he was found guilty of offences of high treason and espionage and subsequently he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. He served his sentence in Leopoldov prison where they usually employed him and other prisoners in various works. Based on the decision of the Regional Court in Nitra, 7 years after passing the judgement, on May 29, 1958, he was finally paroled. After being released from the prison he got into many troubles because of his past, for example when he tried to find a job.

Attitude to the Catholic Action

Martin Hritz - Attitude to the Catholic Action (data format Flash Video)

“We had a session at the Municipal Office, in the conference room. There was a chairwoman, who pointed at me because I didn’t sign the Catholic Action, you know, I didn’t agree with what they were doing. I witnessed as they took priests, moved orders to Podolínec and when I went there I saw the way they treated nuns and priests, it was rather heartless, they drove them to Podolínec by bus staying in front of Vojtaššák’s institute in Levoča, in that back alley. On the above mentioned session I expressed my attitude openly because there were people of various nationalities, national and religious confessions, and I only said: ‘Well, I didn’t sign the Catholic Action because I think when it’s catholic it should be up to them to deal with it.’”

House Search – Gathering Evidence of “High Treason”

Martin Hritz - House Search – Gathering Evidence of “High Treason” (data format Flash Video)

“We went up, I opened the door and suddenly he was yelling at me: ‘Hands up!’ I had to hold my hands up, go to the corner and they threw everything out of my wardrobes. ‘Where is the transmitter?’ ‘I haven’t got any transmitter here. No, I haven’t.’ One of them grabbed the knife and was about to shred my duvet. So I said: ‘Please, don’t do that! You see, if you scrabble in my duvet you can make sure that there is no transmitter.’ They took away everything, all my photos, personal things and papers as well. I had all in front of me because formerly she and Precner asked me whether I can get some identity cards. I responded: ‘Certainly.’ And I added: ‘But they are not valid yet.’ ‘It doesn’t matter.’ So I said: ‘How many do you want?’ ‘Five or six.’ And I told him: ‘Right, it would be advantageous. I will take them with me when I will go home to see my parents, so come up to me and take them out of my pocket then but don’t write priest there, it would be better to use words private clerk.’”

Refusal to Sign Fabricated Testimony

Martin Hritz - Refusal to Sign Fabricated Testimony (data format Flash Video)

“I had been in custody for two months. I wasn’t allowed to sit for the whole day. Once, the guard opened the small window and told me: ‘Hritz, lie down!’ ‘I can’t, commander. I had to pace.’ I had completely grazed heels, because we had nothing there, not a pair of socks. Man was fed up with all those circumstances. One couldn’t believe that Slovaks had a relationship in which they acted one against another. Well, as I already said, when I came there, he investigated me and said: ‘Put your name here. Sign it.’ ‘I can’t sign it because those weren’t my words at all.’ The door opened and somebody hit me in the head with truncheon. When I fell down on the floor, they started to kick me, my head; they bullied me and after all they took me to my cell. Actually, they threw me there. ‘He will come to his senses.’[they said].”

Proceeding

Martin Hritz - Proceeding (data format Flash Video)

“The proceeding was held on July 4, 1951, when we swapped with Czechs. And he gave our names. So we stood up, officers were awaiting us, took down our handcuffs, and then from all the accused men they made me the leader of the group, even though I have never met those eighteen men before. There was the prosecutor from Písek and he read the clauses of law in accordance with the offences we were charged with and in the end he said: ‘I propose the death penalty.’ I said: ‘Well, murderers are usually given only few years and you are about to brand us this way for political reasons?’ So, they adjourned the trial. And I said: ‘I disagree with it.’ Then they adjourned it. They went to their office and after coming back they claimed: ‘So, the change, you will be given fifteen years, but you mustn’t lodge an appeal.’”

Arrival to Leopoldov Prison

Martin Hritz - Arrival to Leopoldov Prison (data format Flash Video)

“After I was condemned, they transported me and some other men to Leopoldov, to the fort of Leopoldov. They sorted us there, we stood in the corridor, hands up and they called us one by one. Then they sent us to old, it was called solitary, the old solitary. On one pallet there slept about four, five or even six men and we turned on command, yes we did. Because when we were five men on one pallet, we had to turn and then something woke me up, I was scared, so I ran to the window to look what had happened. I saw prisoners with fetters and balls which weighted about 22 to 33 pounds. They hauled the balls over the concrete floor, it made horrible noise. I was afraid that it was waiting for me as well, but fortunately there were not enough places for us in the new solitary, so we stayed in that old one for few more days.”

Treating the Prisoners

Martin Hritz - Treating the Prisoners (data format Flash Video)

“We got about four pounds of some fat or margarine. We were hurt, hungry, so I said: ‘Commander.’ ‘Dig the hole and the rest of the meat which they didn’t eat.’ I interrupted him: ‘We could share it.’ ‘Dig the hole and bury it.’ And when about 13 gallons of soup were left, we had to pour it to sewer, he didn’t give it to us, no, he didn’t. They treated us this way, though we behaved ourselves, we had never had troubles, we greeted them, and as we wore caps, we had to give a salute just like in army. If we didn’t, we were forced to squat, let’s say, two hundred times. Once I witnessed when that officer ordered the Greek Catholic Bishop Gojdič to perform hundred squats. He fainted, so they doused him with water. They treated prisoners that way, and it was said that there was no older man than sixty years in the prison. They were lying on stretchers, outdoors, I saw them.”

Stricter Regime after the Escape of Some Prisoners

Martin Hritz - Stricter Regime after the Escape of Some Prisoners (data format Flash Video)

“They managed to escape thanks to their bed clothes. They tied them together and roped down. And blankets too. They used them to cover the holes where we knocked window into the wall. They went out through it. They jumped out of it. The window was about 20 – 26 feet high. I should recall their names: ‘There were Jan Chvasta, Hajdúk, Bureš, Kavenda, Jozef Hermanovský and Jozef Chalupa.’ They managed to escape, but subsequently a huge fuss arose there because they couldn’t count us. When we returned back to prison, I mean indoors, they tried to count us till half past seven, but they couldn’t. Moreover, some inspectors arrived by plane from Prague. They counted us, we weren’t allowed to go to beds, we got only half portions of meals and everybody had to line up in the corridor and show his hands. They controlled them because supposedly one of those men didn’t have a finger. However, we had all the fingers. We had eaten only half portions and lain on the floor for three months.”

Situation after Release

Martin Hritz - Situation after Release (formát Flash Video)

“When I came home, I wasn’t able to find a job. So I was only a kind of auxiliary worker. I painted the house of my parents, repaired it, and finally I managed to submit an application; however, I couldn’t report to work because the chief, chairman of the District National Committee Ondrejčák used to threaten me with sending me back to quod. Later I had an opportunity to work as a workman in Rudňany. I was in Spišská Nová Ves and waited in the corridor while they discussed it. Suddenly the trade union’s chairman Antal told me that they had to lay off: ‘We can’t admit you.’ I came home and I did just some ordinary works. Later on, I met a man, who told me that there is a need for potatoes, so we went to Spišské Vlachy, took potatoes, put them into sacks and those we brought and loaded on trains. I came home after eight o’clock; I worked from four in the morning to eight in the evening. Those two weeks were enough for me because once at night I felt sick, so they took me to first-aid station and a doctor forbade me any activity. I could only stay in bed, my heart was too weak.”

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.

logo Europe for Citizens
Print