České Velenice
Vitorazská 154, 378 10 České Velenice, Czech Republic
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The last off-duty pass of a Slovak reservist

Available in: English | Česky

In August 1961 on the Czechoslovak-Austrian state border near České Velenice, two meters from the gates of the electric wire fencing, the body of the Slovak worker František Babič (* 5. 6. 1931, † 11. 8. 1961) was found. Reserve soldier Babič was undergoing military training in the town with his sapper platoon, and the evening before his death he did not return from his time off duty. The thirty-year-old Babič was born in Richnava near Gelnice, Slovakia, but he completed his basic military service in Ostrava, and later returned to work in the New Iron Works of Klement Gottwald. In the summer of 1961 he took part in a military exercise in České Velenice. On 10 August 1961 he went on pass to the cinema together with other members of the sapper platoon. He did not return. In the early morning of the following day he crept up to the border barrier and managed to crawl under the first fence. The second fence proved lethal, however. The Slovak’s dead body was found by a patrol at four a.m. Considering the frequency of these patrols, it is likely that he died at about ten to four.

České Velenice

Available in: English | Česky

České Velenice, (formerly also Cmunt), is a town situated in the south of Bohemia close to the Austrian border and the town of Gmünd. Until 1919, it was actually a part of Gmünd. Since the 19th century, the town flourished as an important railway junction. This became the very reason for its bombing at the end of World War II, which left large parts of the town in ruins. After the war, the German population of the town was forcibly displaced. The irony of their expulsion of the Germans is that Gmünd served as a transit camp for Hungarian Jews during the war. Despite its post-war reconstruction, České Velenice was unable to regain its former status of an important railway hub, partly due to the presence of the border guards who would carefully screen all incoming visitors until 1989. The border-guard company in České Velenice fell under the 15th brigade based in České Budějovice.

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