Postelberg (now Postoloprty), in the province of Saaz (now Zatec) in Bohemia, about 60 kilometers northwest of the capital, Prague, had been a German town since the 12th century. The Postelberg massacre was one of the largest planned murder of German civilians. When the Soviet army pulled out of this newly “liberated” area, soldiers of the 1st Czechoslovakian Corps moved in and mounted attacks on the region’s trapped ethnic Germans with help from civilian Czechs anxious for their anticipated real estate. Most of the Bene’s Decrees are still in effect, so Sudeten Germans can NOT repossess their family homes. It is also still legal for a Czech to murder a Sudeten German with no punishment.
At the end of May 1945, there was a special unit of the People’s Army in Postelberg (the 1st Czechoslovakian Corps). They had the job, along with the associated guards the city and surroundings to “clean hostile elements”. The commands for this to the commanding officers – Captain Vojtěch Černý, Upper Col Jan Zicha (called “Petrov”) and Col Jan Čubka – have Brigadier General Oldrich Španiel and the head of military intelligence OBZ, Bedrich Reicin, edited personally. Lieutenant Čupka explained in his testimony during the investigation in Saaz on 31 July 1947 concerning the Postelberg massacre on the question of who gave the shooting commands:
“I gave the order not. Yet even if it were so, we – Captain Černý, Lieutenant Zicha and still a lieutenant – were at General Španiel who told us: “Go and clean it the rayon, so that the Division move . The general then told us: “I envy you, here you have a great possibility and remember that a good German is a dead German. The fewer of them are left, the less we will have enemies. The less of them get across the border, the less we will have enemies.”
The largest mass grave, containing almost 500 bodies of males executed in stages by soldiers (with enthusiastic backing from the local population), was later discovered in a former pheasant farm out of town. To hide their actions from the world, in August 1947, several mass graves were dug up by soldiers of unit No 2142 from Theresienstadt, and hundreds of bodies were removed and cremated in a top-secret operation. There is little doubt that there were many more victims whose bodies were never found. Any official documents about “the events in Postelberg” disappeared into the Interior Ministry archives to the relief of the post-war residents of Postoloprty and Zatec, who now lived in the houses of the murdered or displaced Germans with all of their possessions.
There were other mass graves in Postberg for murdered Germans: 34 corpses in one, 103 corpses in two others, 4 corpses in another in Weinberg, 26 corpses in a sand pit, 349 corpses at Lewanitzer, 10 corpses in another sand pit by Kreuz, 7 corpses in one house, 225 corpses in a grave at the school and 5 corpses at the military barracks.
David Hertl, a Czech reporter stumbled upon the crime in the mid-90s and with a collegue, began investigating. They soon met with violent resistance and threats. Since, then there have been requests for some sort of memorial, but residents insist that if one is erected, it must be worded in such a way that the victims “deserved what they got.”
When the regional newspaper printed a couple of articles on the matter, with headlines such as “Where are the thousands of Germans from Zatec and Postoloprty?” and “We know the names of the murderers,” the threats started pouring in. Anonymous letters with swastikas scrawled across them arrived at the editorial offices, and every morning the answering machine was full of insults like “You’re going to hang for this, you swine.”
Some things have changed in the time since then, Hertl says today. “More people now know that this crime really took place. Nonetheless most still believe the Germans deserved it.”
People would prefer this dark chapter of their past to finally be forgotten once and for all. After all, what if the former inhabitants began returning and claiming their houses back? Hertl calls this fear “a kind of paranoia.” Yet it persists — which is why the project to erect a monument is such a touchy issue.
Czech prosecutors have blamed policeman Bohuslav Marek and Vojtech Cerny, an army captain. The two men are long dead, so the boys’ murders will remain unpunished. And yet this was only one chapter in the brutal massacre of some 2,000 Sudeten Germans in the space of a few days in 1945 in Postelberg and Saaz, “This was undoubtedly the worst in a series of tragic events that took part in Bohemia in May and June 1945,” wrote Czech historian Tomas Stanek in the mid-1990s.
This coming from a Czech? That speaks volumes on how bad it actually was!
Peter Klepsch was an eye-witness to the shooting of the five German boys in Postelberg on June 6th 1945. The boys’ names were Horst, Eduard, Hans, Walter, and Heinz. The oldest was 15, the youngest 12. They were flogged and then shot dead — in full view of the others, who were held back at gunpoint. The Czechs didn’t use machine guns, but their rifles, so it took a long time to kill all five. Seen carrying a wreath (below) in a ceremony in Saaz in 2002.
He now lives in Germany like so many other expelled Germans but travels to his former home once or twice a year.
“Mr Marek wanted the boys to be flogged,” recalls 81-year-old Peter Klepsch. “But Captain Cerny, the commander of the Czech troops, said the boys should be shot.”
“Stripped of pants and then they were beaten. The blood running down the legs.
One of the boys who hadn’t been mortally wounded by the gunfire ran up to the marksmen begging to be allowed to go to his mother,
“I want my mother.” And then they shot” recalls 80-year-old Heinrich Giebitz, another eye-witness. “They just carried on shooting.”
A memorial plate has finally been erected on the Postelberg cemetery through the Frankfurt-based development association of the city of Saaz / Žatec,
The Czech and German inscription reads: “To all the innocent victims of the events in Postelberg in May and June 1945.” It is only a small aknowledgement of the atrocities committed against the Sudeten German civilians, but at least an aknowledgement.