Erik Tabery, a historian and journalist, noted that in , Czechoslovakia was carved up by the Nazis, with Western connivance, and the Czechs did not fire a single bullet. After the communist coup in , Czechoslovakian democracy perished with barely a struggle. But doing nothing was never an option for Paumer and his four boyhood friends, Paumer said. After the communists gained power, Paumer said, the five began to engage in small acts of sabotage in their hometown, Podebrady, about 50 kilometers from Prague, burning fields and defacing posters of Stalin.
View all New York Times newsletters. Determined to get weapons for their struggle, Paumer said, in , they broke into the local museum and stole several guns that were on display, then realized that the weapons lacked firing pins. Frustrated, they decided to rob a police station. Paumer recalled that they had used an ambulance as their get-away car: He helped hijack the vehicle by feigning a broken leg.
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When a policeman at the station refused to open the safe, Ctirad Masin subdued him with chloroform, before cutting his throat. The three fled with six submachine guns and eight pistols. We wanted to show the communists what could be done, that we could kill, that we could fight back too. With weapons at their disposal, Josef Masin said, the friends needed money. Masin said he and his brother held up the van by dressing up in militia outfits and holding up a red stop sign when the van passed by a bend.
When the cashier in the car refused to hand over the money and pulled out a gun, Masin said, Masin lunged at the man, pressed the gun into his shoulder blades and pulled the cashier's index finger twice on the trigger. After the holdup, with the authorities oblivious to his role in the violence against the regime, Paumer was drafted into the military. Before long, he received a telex message from the Masin brothers, saying, "The wedding is next Saturday" - a coded message that the time had come to escape.
In October the five friends set off for the border with Germany.
We were desperate to get to the Americans so we could help fight the communists. Paumer said the most harrowing part of the escape had come just days before they reached West Berlin, when he was shot by a policeman as he trekked through a forest. Within sight of the lights of West Berlin, he said: "I nearly gave up the last few miles of the journey, I was so tired and weak.
But Joe aimed a gun at me and said, 'Either I will kill you or they will kill you - you choose. After arriving in the American zone of West Berlin, the three remaining Czechs turned themselves over to the police. Paumer was put in a military hospital. All three joined the U. Paumer served in the Korean War and then went to Miami.
Josef Masin moved to Germany and then Santa Barbara, California, where he started an aviation business and became a millionaire. Ctirad Masin moved to Cleveland and sells heaters. Josef Masin said by telephone that he and his brother had refused to return to the Czech Republic because the communist party had not been outlawed. Paumer finally returned to Czechoslovakia in and lives in a tiny, sparsely decorated apartment in Podebrady, its only adornment a beer poster and his medal displayed in a glass case.
Determined to inform the new generation about the past, he gives lectures in high schools and scrapes by on a U. There has been talk of turning the escape into a Hollywood film. While the Americans never went to Czechoslovakia to fight a war against the communists Paumer and Masin said they harbored no grudges against the United States.
They always have some damn excuse. Tell us what you think.
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Please upgrade your browser. See next articles. The cops that showed up the next day were a different breed. When they saw that our car had USA Army Europe plates on it you could see the dollar signs in their eyes! They immediately informed us that we were parked in an illegal parking spot. When I pointed to the sign that indicated that the parking spot was perfectly legitimate they discussed this among themselves and then informed me that it was fine for me to park there but that it was illegal for me to be driving on the street we were on.
Of course it is impossible to prove a negative so I could not point to a sign indicating that we were on a legal street because no such sign exists, only signs that indicate that it is illegal to drive on a street. This made no difference to these cops. They insisted that I pay them Krone on the spot.
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This was a new experience for me because generally speaking you can't haggle over prices when you have broken the law. Of course I had to reject this counter offer on the same grounds that I rejected their first proposal, namely that I did not have any Krones on me and only Euros. They then informed me that they would, just this once, accept Krones. They didn't like this and once again entered into a heated discussion among themselves.
When they broke out of the huddle they told me to follow them and, assuming that we were going to the police station where we had found our escorts the previous day I was more than happy to comply. We didn't go to the station like I had thought we would. We went to a Thai massage parlor. I know that sounds like something from the Sopranos but it is the truth. When the male office and I entered the massage parlor it was obvious that they were used to doing business with him and somehow knew exactly how many Euros I needed to exchange to regain possession of my passport. When I tried to hand the money to the officer inside the massage parlor you would have thought I was trying to get him to take a dead cat from my hand.
Only when we were once again outside did he agree to take the money and leave us to find our way out of Karlovy Vary, down the very streets that we were only minutes before prohibited from driving on but were now apparently the proud owners of a krone day pass to drive the streets of Karlovy Vary, a toll stamp that we very eagerly declined to use for more time than it took for us to point ourselves in the direction of the German border and put the greedy, corrupt Karlovy Vary police in our. The people you describe were obviously not police! There are warnings about 'fake' police officers and you obviously got done by some of them.
As you found out on the first day, the Czech Police Force is generally very helpful with some exceptions, though - they are a lot better than they used to be. But anyway - driving in the Czech Republic is not always the best idea. Did you take any details of these people? If this ever happens to anybody else, the best idea is report them to somebody that you know to be a 'real' officer and get it done properly. When I first moved here I had foreigner number plates on my car yellow on blue and I was hit up all the time.
Just last week the police wanted to fine a German friend of mine because his motorway sticker was not valid and he was on Wencelas Square! Honestly I could tell you 10 storys about corrupt police here and I am surprised you don't know any yourself I have been fined here more times than I care to remember and in Slovakia , and mostly in Austria for stupid, petty things. However, I have noticed that they have got a lot better in recent years not Austria, though - they have got worse - in this neck of the woods, anyway - maybe Karlovy Vary is different what with all the wealthy Russians, etc!
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And behaviour such as that should definitely be reported - once I got in a similar situation in Bratislava when driving a UK-registered car , but I scared them when I spoke to them in Czech and started writing down their ID numbers. They were very quick to wish me a safe journey then. I can see them coming a mile off nowadays, and maybe that is why my percetion of them has improved :. AAADawg, what a horrible experience for you. I know it's a diffenent story for those of you that live there, but most rental car companies usually don't let you take them into the Czech Republic anyway.
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If Antonio Vasques-Olivares is still on base there, please say hi to him for me. We will try to make the Cannstatter Volksfest again this year. What a dreadful experience! So sorry to hear about it. We are so fortunate not to have had any problems at all each time we have been to the Czech Republic. We almost always rent a car in Europe and have been very lucky. I still cannot imagine not renting a car! I would like to think that these guys were not real cops or off duty or something but when we went to the Police station where we had been the day before to complain about our treatment the officer, who was again extremely nice and spoke excellent English, told us that the policemen that gave me the ticket worked for another police department.
I suppose that they were city police where the guys who showed us the way to our hotel were state police. This is not unusual. I think they were definitely real police officers but I doubt seriously if there is any record of our "transaction". One of the things I love about Europe is that you absolutely don't need a car because the trains and buses go everywhere, and fairly frequently.
I've never driven a car in Europe and hope I never have to. I've never paid any kind of fine in 5 years, and never had any trouble with any police, except once in Italy , where I was just walking down the street and some Carabinieri made me empty all my pockets for no reason whatsoever. After they looked at everything, they left. But I got the feeling there's really no freedom in Italy. You're right - it is not the most car -friendly of places - the cities, anyway, in the countryside it is a breeze, and the same is true of Austria , Slovakia and Hungary. I have lost track of the times I have been fined in these countries, but it has not put me off one little bit.
It was my own silly fault for driving in those places in the first place :. I don't agree that you can get anywhere in Europe with public transportation - my husband and I have been to many, many places in the countryside and little villages inaccessible by public transportation. We prefer getting off the tourist path to cities, though.