Private First Class (ret.) Viktor Wellemín

* 1923  †︎ 2020

  • "[It was a sunken ship] that was carrying supplies for NAAFI, which was the English canteen where you could actually occasionally buy something, a compote maybe. Our boys set out there, because I guess just a part of the ship was sticking out above the water, and they fished for the tins there which were something extraordinary for us. But the bay of the Tobruk port is pretty large, and our half-platoon was on the opposite shore. So we didn't get to it."

  • “Suddenly an order came in: ‘A convoy will be set up under the command of sergeant mayor Benát whose son will serve as his deputy. You will be transporting crates which need to be protected well.’ We drove through the whole of Germany. When at some town one would stand up on the deck of a lorry, one could see the whole country. It was completely flat with but a church remaining here and there. There were no houses left. We arrived to Prague, to Růžová street. Into this streed lead the rear gate of the state stamp- printing office. We unloaded those crates there. They were probably full of Czechoslovak banknotes printed out in England.”

  • "And when we passed through the Dardaneles, we were picked up by an English warship. They forced the Turkish crew to transport the almost-wreck to Haifa, where we stood anchored for two days, looking at the hill opposite us. In the evening the lights would come on, it was a lovely sight. But after all, it was getting rather constrained on the ship."

  • "Well, and that was, I should almost say that it was a lucky injury, because I remained kneeling on the mine which was jumping out, which then had a much greater dispersion, which was actually more effective than if it would explode straight away in the ground, like the other mines, the landmines usually were. And because I remained kneeling, the main force went right into the ground, and it threw me away some ten fifteen metres into a hedge, and I lost consciousness for a moment. By the time I'd crashed through the hedge, I was conscious again. Well, and I saw Grünbaum, he was one of the boys, and he was heavily injured. So we wanted to get him to the field ambulance that was set up some five hundred metres right behind us. Unfortunately we didn't manage to get him there."

  • “During the Dunkerque offensive of 28 October 1944 I was unfortunately seriously wounded. I remained kneeling on a mine. In front of me was a man named Grünbaum who dashed and lied down exactly as prescribed in regulation A1.1. The mine tore out his intestines so he ended up on the battlefield. Behind me was Ebl who lied on a mine and it blew off his leg. He was brought to a medical station at the battlefront but there he bled to death and therefore also did not make it. I wore rubber boots which I found in a fisherman’s hut, and a longer coat. Since I remained kneeling on the mine, I was blown some ten, fifteen metres up in the air. I fell through a hedge and thus regained consciousness which I previously lost. I even managed to reach Grünbaum, helping to load him up on a stretcher. But that was already unfortunately all completely useless.”

  • "So we were transferred to Jericho to sort of acclimatise ourselves, and unfortunately I got the boils. That is I had boils on my hands, on my neck and variously on my body. And our regimental doctor said that under the combat conditions there were there, and what with the level of hygiene, I wouldn't lose it, so he sent me to Jerusalem to our hospital. Our hospital in Jerusalem was one little wooden house with one room with about ten beds."

  • “Water was scarce in Tobruk. When I wanted to do my laundry, I took a petrol can, filled it half up with petrol and in it I washed my laundry. One would only need to hold it for a while before the laundry got dry and clean.”

  • "So he said: 'So you have your commander there, report to him.' When I came to him, he said: 'So you go find yourself lodgings somewhere and you'll be here, you'll replenish the crew members.' So I found a discarded Italian car, immobile of course, and that's actually where I made my lodgings."

  • “One day I went bathing into the bay near Tobruk and found a Czechoslovak ten-heller coin in my purse. With a small saw I cut the lion out, made a little hole above it, drew a cord through it and wore it on my neck as a sovereign sign of Czechoslovakia. One day, the cord had torn in two or untied. I was returning to the half-platoon which was stationed at a small hill when I found out I did not have the lion anymore. Because it was getting dark already, I thought I had to part with it. The next day I got to the place I was bathing in and sunbathing at previously and in the yellow sand I eventually found the yellow lion. For me, it was quite a miracle.”

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In Tobruk and Dunkirk with the lion round my neck.

Viktor Wellemín
Viktor Wellemín
zdroj: archiv Viktora Wellemína

Private (ret.) Viktor Wellemín was born on the 24th of March 1923 into a Jewish family in Prague. On the 16th of October 1939 he left with his brother Adolf across the River Danube, through port Sulina and Turkey to Haifa, Palestine, where he was imprisoned in Camp Sarafand half a year after his arrival. After his release he worked in a kibbutz, but on the 14th of May 1942 he joined the army. He underwent infantry and anti-aircraft training, he took part in the defence of Haifa with the 200th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, but he subsequently fell ill with boils and did not join the fighting at Tobruk until after convalescing in a Jerusalem hospital. After the fighting in the Middle East was finished, he left for England on HMS Queen Mary, where he was joined to a motorised unit. Together with the Czechoslovak Independent Armoured Brigade he landed in the second wave of the invasion and took part in the siege of Dunkirk. Viktor Wellemín volunteered for the attack of the 28th of October, during which he was injured. He was treated in the hospital in St. Omer, and after being transferred to England, in Hammersmith and Swansea. While in England he joined the Reserve Entity, and the end of the war found him in London. He then returned to Czechoslovakia, worked at a paints and varnishes company and at the Gramophone Company. Apart from his brother Adolf who served on the Western Front, none of his close relatives survived the Holocaust. He currently lives in Prague. Viktor Wellemín died on 19 August 2020.