The Mezilesní moor – the secluded place Torfstich
168, Šumava National Park, 385 01 Nové Hutě, Czech Republic
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The end of the secluded place Torfstich

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In the 1950s, Eduard Steun was a boy living in a gamekeeper’s lodge in Zlatá Studna, near Horská Kvilda in Šumava. Among other things, he witnessed the events associated with the last “hunt” for the so-called “King of Šumava,” Kilian Nowotný. After he had been attacked by the police at the bridge over the Teplá Vltava River near Kvilda, the wounded Kilian managed to flee to Germany. His accomplices, however, were captured and arrested. On the run, they sought help from the family of Franz Pösl that lived in a remote and secluded area called Torfstich on the outskirts of the Mezilesní slať. Although their visit in Torfstich ended with a short conversation in the window and maybe the passing of a little food, the whole family was arrested and their home plundered and burned during one night. Eduard Steun, who at that time lived in nearby Zlatá Studna, recalls: “The next day, my brother as usual went there to get some milk. When he arrived there he was shocked. The house had been devastated, the residents and the cattle gone, and drunk police men and soldiers were lolling around in the beds. However, one of them even brought him some milk at the order of his commander. He then sent him away saying 'and don’t ever come back here again, nothing’s ever going to grow here anymore.'" The soldiers and the police soon appeared at the Steun family as well: “I and my sister had to sit in the kitchen on the couch and the police agents were searching the house. They went to see around the house with my mother, my father was not at home at the time. We were guarded by a soldier with a machine gun. Not that he would directly point the gun at us, but he just had to watch us. The court yard was full of soldiers and police men and these secret agents. Even they were dressed as if wearing a uniform. They wore a leather coat, a hat - both were dressed the same way. They came to our place a couple of times. They always wanted to know something. They asked if anyone had been to our place, asked for direction to the border, etc. They also wanted to know if anyone had slept at our place. We had a barn next to the lodge. It was permanently open because we had a couple of tamed deer who would come for hay there. So my parents were afraid that the police might find a trace of somebody sleeping in the hay in the barn. Luckily, they didn't find anything of the sort.”

Eduard Steun

Eduard Steun

Eduard Steun, (1946), spent a part of his childhood in the 1950s in a gamekeeper’s lodge in the former Bohemian village of Zlatá Studna, later in the nearby Horská Kvilda in the National Park Šumava, where his father worked as a forester. These were busy times for the area surrounding the Iron Curtain where people smugglers shook hands with western intelligence agents or with unhappy Czechoslovaks who longed for a life in the western free world and thus tried to escape across the border. Night visits by state security agents searching for saboteurs were no exception. At night, the families living in the area sometimes had to put out the light or put shades on the windows in order to make the orientation of saboteurs more difficult. Among other adventures, the witness recalls the last “hunt” for Kilian Nowotný, the famous people smuggler, called the “King of Šumava.” Mr. Eduard Steun recalls these events using his own memories as well as the memoirs of his father Robert. Kilian, (Franz), Nowotny was born on December 1, 1905, in Staré Hutě, (formerly Kaltenbach), near Kvilda, in a Sudetenland German family of a famous smuggler. He was trained as a butcher but in 1938, he had to join the Wehrmacht. After the war, he returned home to learn that his family had been deported to Bavaria, although their loyalty to the Czechoslovak Republic of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk brought them considerable trouble with the German occupiers. Kilian opened a lumber wholesale shop in Röhrbach but would soon begin to also smuggle people across the border. His activities didn't escape the attention of the U.S. intelligence service CIC, which began to use his services, namely smuggling its agents into Czechoslovakia and important Czechoslovaks out. Some sources say that in the years 1946-1950, Kilian organized about 2,000 border crossings and smuggled over 15,000 people, although others maintain that these figures, or at least the first one of them, is greatly exaggerated. Controversies also persist over whether his true civil name was Kilian or Franz and whether he used the second name only as a code name. In any case, he became a living legend and has earned a tremendous reputation as the King of Šumava. The Czechoslovak security forces obviously very much sought to apprehend him and they were very close to this at the beginning of May 1950. Reportedly, they were able to get their agent into a refugee camp in Bavaria, where he was able to learn from the refugees important information about the circumstances of their escape and the people who had helped them. It is said that this was common practice at the time and it become fatal for a number of agents of western intelligence services. So the secret security forces waited for Kilian and his accomplices in Františkov nearby Kvilda. The rest is described in our story. They managed to inflict a shot wound to Kilian but he was still able to make it back to Germany, where he then spent the rest of his life in relative peace. Even though he abandoned his smuggling activities, he continued to be a living legend and as thus remained a blot on the prestige of the communist regime. Therefore he became the subject of an assassination attempt which, however, failed. Thus, the regime had him finally shoot at least in the movie “The King of Šumava,” whose main character Kilian had but nothing in common with the real smuggler, just like most of the other aspects of the film had with reality.

The Mezilesní moor – the secluded place Torfstich

Available in: English | Česky

A peat bog in Šumava near the former settlement of Zlatá Studna between the villages Horská Kvilda and Churáňov. On the outskirts of the settlement, there used to be the house of the Pösl family that was razed to the ground on a single night in May 1950.

The Mezilesní moor – the secluded place Torfstich

On this place

The end of the secluded place Torfstich

The end of the secluded place Torfstich

Eduard Steun
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