False Idyll

On 20 September 1945 a large deputation of local politicians, officials, army officers, media and photographers came to the internment camp in Kolín. The visit was organised by the camp administrator Bedřich Kárník. Its purpose was to disprove the information spreading among the inhabitants of Kolin which mentioned horrible conditions in the camp, the torturing of interned Germans and Czechs (members of so-called “Vlajka” movement) and deaths resulting from torture. One can see almost an idyllic atmosphere on the pictures that were taken during the visit – musicians from among the interned, clean and tidy kitchen and the accommodation rooms. The Kolin internment camp could, according to its administrator, serve as “a good example for all other similar camps in our republic”.

However, public concern soon turned out to be justified. During the night of 22–23 September an event took place, later called “St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre”, in which the interned were tortured and beaten. The main initiators behind this were Bedřich Kárník and Jan Hála, the administrator of the women’s internment camp in Kolín. During this act of violence one interned person (maybe the violinist from the pictures below) had to play Fibich’s Poem, Dvořák’s Humoresque and other pieces including folk songs. As consequence of these events both administrators were withdrawn from their offices and arrested. Nonetheless, they were later released and granted amnesty according to the Act No. 115/46 Coll. The conditions in the former internment camp were investigated by the Ministry of the Interior in 1947 on the grounds of newspaper articles and an interpellation of the Minister of the Interior launched by the MP Ota Hora. Although the concept of the Minister’s reply states that some deaths in the camp could have been caused by torture, this information was not included in the final version of the reply. It needs to be added that both Kárník and Hála were imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Nazi occupation.

(fond Ministerstvo vnitra – Správa internačních, sběrných a pracovních středisek Praha, E – 6, Inv. No. 87, Box No. 104; fond Sekretariát Federálního ministerstva vnitra, A 2/1, Inv. No. 1765, Box. No. 58)