Hrabětice, Czech - Austrian border
Pohraniční 359, 671 68 Hrabětice, Czech Republic
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A naïve Pole tragically attempting to overcome the border barrier

Available in: English | Česky

In mid-August 1962 close to Hrabětice in the Znojmo District of Czechoslovakia, an attempt to cross the border into Austria proved lethal to the Polish citizen Tadeusz Bernard. Together with another Pole of his age, Jan Wois, they crossed the distance between the Polish-Czechoslovak and Czechoslovak-Austrian borders on foot. They managed to overcome the first signal fence of the border barrier, but Bernard was hit and killed when climbing through the middle fence. Thirty-year-old bricklayer Bernard and professional chauffeur Wois entered Czechoslovakia in the area of Kladsko in late July 1962. On foot and with the help of a compass they proceeded in the direction of Brno and Hrušovany nad Jeviškou until they arrived at the border zone. There they hid in a haystack. Their journey took them twelve days, and another two were spent in their hideout. When they mustered the courage to approach the border, by a stroke of luck they were able to overcome the first signal barrier without setting off the alarm. Bernard’s luck changed, however, and when tackling the middle barrier he was hit by a lethal dose of electricity. Wois was only affected when he touched Bernard’s body, he was not wounded. Border guards arrived upon the scene led by a guard hound and Wois surrendered himself to them, was taken into custody and a few weeks later was deported to Poland. The young Poles were badly equipped to cross the closely guarded border as they had no tools to help them overcome the barriers.

Signal barrier

Signal barrier

A signal barrier is barbed wire fence built several hundred meters to several kilometers away from the border, approximately three hundred meters high; its function was to stop or slow down persons attempting to cross the state border. Each of the barbed wires were also live with a weak current, and if cut, grounded or touched together, they sent a signal, a so-called short circuit, to the patrol or border guard company, thus informing them of an attempt to overcome the barrier.

Hrabětice, Czech - Austrian border

Available in: English | Česky

Hrabětice, (Grafendorf in German), is located in the southeast of the district of Znojmo, near the railway line to nearby Hevlín, on the border with the Austrian province of Lower Austria, to which the village belonged until 1920. The part of the village lying on the border is called Travní Dvůr and the Thaya River passes through it. Among the local attractions is the late-Baroque church of St. Anthony. The village hosts the traditional feast that takes place each year in June. In the 1960s, the village was still recovering from the consequences of the expulsion of the vast majority of its indigenous population to Germany and Austria. The village was the seat of a border-guard company falling under the 4th brigade based in Znojmo. The company was moved to nearby Hrušovany nad Jevišovkou in 1966.

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