My grandmother Marie Velingerova, the daughter of a Czech industrialist, was 27 years-old when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in March of 1939: like most Czechs, she was filled with dread. Married, a mother of two, she worked as a clerk at her family's store, and for some time life went on as normal. Then came the assassination of the Nazi "reichsprotektor" Reinhard Heydrich by Czech patriots. Here she recalls the mood that day and some personal events that followed.
"The day that Heydrich was assassinated my husband and I were coming back from Prague's Stromovka Park and the first thing we noticed was absolute silence everywhere. Deathly quiet, everyone's blinds in the windows drawn, us wondering what had happened. Within days police searches began, including on our street: police entering buildings and searching from apartment to apartment for weapons, and for the assassins of course."
"Night was falling as we looked out from the balcony wondering what would happen. There was reason to fear. My husband actually had a short-wave radio hidden behind a cupboard where we had often listened to foreign broadcasts - Jan Masaryk - and if it had been found I don't know what would have happened. We were terrified. At the last minute, by some miracle, the patrol was called off."
"When the war ended I learned from my husband that his radio hadn't been all there was to uncover. He told me that a transmitter had also been hidden in our building, above the servants' quarters in the back. It belonged to a man who used to teach him English. My husband knew this and he knew it all along. I suppose the man was British but posed as an Estonian or someone from the Baltic States. Then he disappeared."
"After the war ended the reprisals against the ethnic Germans began and we were contacted by our former nanny, Louise, who asked my husband to write a letter in her favour. You see, she was a German, from the Sudetenland herself. Now, she needed to prove her loyalty to the Czech state. In the letter she points out that she too had known about the transmitter in the courtyard. She could have betrayed us at any time, but didn't. Had she had a change of heart, it would have been the end of us all."
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