Knížecí pláně Plains
Šumava National Park, Borová Lada 1, 385 01 Borová Lada, Czech Republic
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The customs officer was unarmed, he had only a dog and a whistle

Available in: English | Česky

After Karel Fořt and his two priestly brothers had learned that the secret police was going to arrest them, they didn’t wait a second to head for the border on their motorcycles. They hid their bikes in the woods and proceeded on foot in the direction of Germany. They chose the area of Knížecí pláně Plains for their crossing. “One of us went ahead, so if he was caught, the others would still have the chance to escape. I was the one who went ahead and I arrived at a stream that actually formed the border. A doe jumped out of the bush and thus we knew that there were no border guards around. So we crossed the border and on the evening of that day we slept at Mauth at the Americans' place,” he recalled. While crossing the border in the woods near Knížecí pláně, it sometimes was a problem to know whether one had already crossed to Germany. Karel Fořt recalls that the three refugees recognized that they had reached their destination when they spied a German matchbox lying on a pile of timber: “We tried to get as far away from the border as possible. Suddenly someone whistled and it was a German customs officer who was unarmed – he only had a dog and a whistle.” He accompanied them to Mauth, where the Americans interviewed them and then they could stay at the local parish. They left the oppression of Czechoslovakia far behind.

Karel Fořt

Karel Fořt

The catholic priest and editor of Radio Free Europe, Monsignor Karel Fořt, was born on November 8, 1921, in Rožmitál pod Třemšínem and spent his childhood in Vodňany and Horaždovice. He attended grammar school in Strakonice and České Budějovice. In 1940, he was arrested by the Gestapo and briefly imprisoned. In 1941, he joined a Catholic seminary. The following year, he was taken to forced labor in Linz, where he met face to face with Adolf Hitler. After the war, he completed his theological studies and in 1948 he was ordained a priest. He worked at the rectory in Vimperk and toured the secluded and abandoned parishes of Šumava. At the last moment, he was warned about the intention of the secret state police that wanted to arrest him and stage a trumped-up show trial in connection with a murder that had taken place in the area. He escaped on a motorcycle across the border. He served as a priest in Algeria, where he experienced the anti-French uprisings and civil war. Eventually, he settled in Munich, where he served as a priest to his Czech countrymen and also worked as a journalist for Radio Free Europe. After 1989, he lived alternately in Munich and in České Budějovice. He died on January 21, 2014, at the age of 93.

Knížecí pláně Plains

Available in: English | Česky

Knížecí pláně Plains, (Fürstenhut in German), used to be a village in the Šumava national park, located just on the border of Bohemia and Bavaria. It was founded by the prince of Schwarzenberg at the end of 18th century and it was mainly German throughout its existence. The main source of income for its inhabitants was timber production. The village counted almost 700 inhabitants at the time of its greatest expansion. A church and a rectory were added to the village in the 19th century. There was also a post office and an office of the municipal authority in the era before WWI. After the German population was displaced between the years 1945 - 1946, the village became depopulated and dilapidated and shortly afterwards it disappeared completely from the map. This was also partly owed to the fact that the village was located on the state border where no people were allowed to live. The Church of St. John the Baptist was demolished by the army in 1956. The local cemetery was also demolished, but it was restored by the former German inhabitants of the village in 1992. The only building that’s been left standing is a gamekeeper’s lodge that presently serves as a restaurant and a hotel.

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