Occupation and World War II
The occupation of the town in 1938 - 1945 is certainly the darkest time in the entire history of the town. Although Klimkovice was a purely Czech town in Silesia, it became suddenly and unexpectedly part of the German Empire. It was the afternoon of October 6, 1938, when Czechoslovak Radio heralded the unbelievable news that Klimkovice are incorporated into the fifth zone of occupation.
In 1938, there were 973 families with 3,564 inhabitants in Klimkovice. Out of these, only 289 persons reported to the German nationality. Until the mid-thirties, the German minority lived in relatively good agreement with their Czech compatriots. The Germans had their own German school, newspaper, trades and were represented in the city council. The advent of Nazism in Germany sowed the seeds of hatred in our country, which has been deliberately disseminated and nurtured by the German Nazi propaganda, especially Sudeten German Party, led by Konrad Henlein. The desires of the Sudeten Germans were fulfilled by Munich treaties, occupation of the Czech border areas and their connection to the German empire. German troops came to Klimkovice one beautiful, sunny, autumn Sunday of October 9, 1938. Column of military vehicles arrived at exactly 12 noon at the square and it was enthusiastically welcomed by the gathered German population led by their ortsleiter Josef Rotter. After the celebratory speeches, troops continued to advance on Polanka to occupy territory up to the river Odra. The territory was occupied and was incorporated into the German Reich, the so-called Sudeten County, based in Liberec.
Immediately after the occupation of Klimkovice, the Germans began to enforce new law. Klimkovice was renamed to Königsberg", German became the official language, all Czech inscriptions were removed, the Coat of Arms disappeared from the facade of the town hall and was replaced with the "Stadtgemeinde Königsberg" sign. Czech mayor Frantisek Vavrečka was removed from his office and replaced with ortsleiter Joseph Rotter, a former official at the estate of Wilczek. School leadership was passed into the hands of German teachers, sports organization Sokol was dissolved and renamed to the "Deutsches Haus". The Worker's House was renamed to "Turnhalle". Hundreds of Czech citizens were forced to flee their homes and move into the inland areas.
From the beginning of the occupation, a planned settlement of Klimkovice was being carried out. The number of German people rose from 289 to 990 in just over three years. Among the immigrants, there were Germans from the Sudetenland, but also new settlers from the South Tyrol. They occupied the farms of expelled Czech peasants of Klimkovice Lagnova, whose property, including live inventory, was confiscated and handed over to German settlers.
In an effort to win over the Czech population, the new leadership of the town, including mayor Josef Rotter, agreed to some structural modifications of the town. The Town Hall ("buduněk") which stood in the middle of the square was absolutely insensitively demolished in 1939. The whole square was then paved with granite blocks.
In other areas, development of the town nearly froze. Perhaps the earlier rich cultural life suffered the most. For the entire period of occupation, the Chronicle of the town does not mention any important cultural events, except for leader's birthdays or a victory celebration. Germany started World War II by attacking Poland on September 1, 1939. The first military successes further boosted confidence of the local German population. However, disappointment came very soon - after introduction of the first war measures, rationing, conscription and mainly the first reports of casualties. There were already 12 local casualties on November 1, 1942. The behaviour of the Germans changed significantly after the defeat of German armies at Stalingrad, which is when all the dreams of the millennial kingdom began to melt away.
Under the influence of increasingly frequent raids and air attacks on German cities, civil anti-aircraft defences were established in Klimkovice in June 1943. Danger of air raids increased in the summer of 1944. By then, columns of German refugees from the east passed through the town, and soon after, even a motorcade of German troops passed through. On January 20, 1945, sounds of cannons of the approaching front were clearly heard and helplessness of the German population reached its peak. In February 1945, there was the first evacuation of German women and children to Mohelnice in Moravia. Men were assigned to "volksturm" and were prepared to defend the city.
In March 1945, first Soviet aircraft appeared over Klimkovice, and dropped several bombs on the village of Janovice. Operation Ostrava was about to start.
On Thursday, April 26, 1945, the Soviet army launched an attack against the town. At about three o'clock in the afternoon, 9 Soviet aircraft attacked and dropped bombs on military positions in the town. Three houses were demolished and seven people were killed. The raids would continue during the next few days and nights. The worst of the worst was the night of April 30 to May 1 1945. Throughout the night, there were shots fired, more and more houses were burning and the town was slowly changed to ruins. Last German troops left the town shortly after midnight. On Tuesday, May 1, at about five o'clock in the morning, first units of the Soviet Army penetrated the town and fought their way to the centre through dense smoke of burning houses. Liberated people came out of hiding and welcomed the liberators. Music was played, people were dancing and then the square was suddenly filled with smoke again. The castle building burst into flames. The Castle fire was started by local Germans and completed the work of wartime destruction of the city.
There is relatively little known that alongside the Soviet Army, 1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade (established in Buzuluk and participated in the battles of Sokolov, Bílá Cerekev, Kiev and Dukla and also Ostrava operations) also participated in the liberation of Klimkovice. The combat encounters of the brigade is described in the war diary of 1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade, and it states that on Sunday, April 29, 1945, tanks of the 3rd tank battalion advanced along the road from Čavisov and then along the forest path to the top Mezihoří and at dawn reached the village Hýlov (in today's spa area). Hard fights continued throughout the day, until 21 o’clock when 2 tanks penetrated into the village and liberated it. On Monday, April 30, 1945, tanks of the 3rd battalion attacked the town of Klimkovice and reached the western edge of town. Here, at 10.30 am, they received orders to proceed to Vřesina, Janova and crossed the river Oder and liberated Zabreh and Vítkovice during the same day.
The war significantly damaged Klimkovice. Out of 578 houses, only 43 remained intact, 39 houses were completely destroyed either by bombing or fighting in the town, and another 38 houses took so much damage that they had to be demolished. 457 houses were only lightly damaged. 78 families lost their shelter and another 23 families lost all their possessions. The cost of war damage was estimated to be 50 million crowns. 13 local people died.
In the battle for liberation of Klimkovice, 30 Red Army soldiers were killed, including 26 privates, the captain of Health Services, a Lieutenant aviator and 2 sergeants. They are not the only victims though. During the occupation, 19 citizens experienced torture camps and prisons and 8 of them did not survive. 13 citizens of Jewish origin became victims of racial persecution.