Stanislav Zámečník was born on November 12, 1922 in the Moravian village of Nivnice (Czechoslovakia). His father was a janitor in a school where his mother was a housekeeper. After the end of compulsory schooling, he becomes an apprentice pastry chef. On March 16, 1939, when he was 17 years old and the Nazi troops occupied his native Moravia, he was a member of the resistance group against the occupier. Arrested by the Wehrmacht at the end of 1939, he was imprisoned in several prisons, escaped and tried to leave his country, but was caught, taken back and deported by the Viena (Austria) Gestapo to Dachau where he arrived on 22 February 1941 (registration number 23947).
First placed in the "scabies block" of the Revier, he is then assigned to the "plantation / herb garden Kommando". He managed to heal his hand wounds, and then, in the autumn of 1944, becomes a nurse in the Revier. with twenty young Polish detainees. With the help of the head nurse Heinrich Stöhr, a German Social Democrat detainee, he was not sent to Auschwitz, remains at first clandestinely in the Revier, then officially as a nurse until April 29, 1945. With Heinrich Stöhr and the Czech surgeon František Bláha, Stanislav Zámečník tirelessly tries to help his deported companions. In particular the deportees subjected to atrocious pseudo-medical experiments, to which he secretly administered drugs in order to cure them. At the risk of his own life, he hides fellow prisoners threatened with "selection" - and thus sentenced to death by SS doctors.
Stanislav Zámečník was one of the links of the resistance against the Nazi terror in the Dachau camp. Without his courage, dedication and commitment, many deportees would have not survived: among them the polish Kazimierz Majdanski, future archbishop of Szczecin, the Dutch member of the resistance Carel Steensma, who had an amputated foot, and whom he managed to hide during long months (from autumn 1944 until the arrival of US troops April 29, 1945) or Professor Karel Feierabend, aged 84 (grandfather of Vladimir Feierabend) who was able to live the liberation and return to Prague .
Image: archive kz gedenkstätte Dachau
After four years and two months of detention in Dachau, Stanislav Zámečník returned to Czechoslovakia where he entered the St Charles University in Prague to study history. He would certainly have wanted to study medicine and was planning to work alongside his deportation colleague František Bláha. But his family did not have the means that would have allowed him to study for so many years. Stanislav Zámečník married in 1950 with Alena Bernátová. They had three children: two boys and a girl. After obtaining his doctorate in history, he worked at the Institute of Military History and his research on the Czech resistance during the Second World War began in 1960. Let’s mention his book published in Prague in 2006 (in Czech) on the Czech resistance and the uprising in the spring of 1945
But his interest lies primarily in the history of the Dachau concentration camp. His unwavering and rigorous commitment to Dachau's memory guides his career. After the defeat of the "Spring of Prague" where he commits himself for more democracy and freedom and for a "socialism with a human face", he is punished with a professional ban and loses his position at the Institute of Military History . He is forbidden to consult the archives, to go to the libraries, to publish and continue his historical research. From August 1968, he had to work on roadworks. The family members were also affected: his son who wanted to become a pilot, was not allowed to do so. His daughter emigrates to Italy. It was only after the changes of 1989/1990 and the "velvet revolution" that he could officially resume his research. However by the end of the 1980s, somewhat illegally, he was able to continue his work as a historian, thanks to the help of Barbara Distel, then director of the Dachau camp memorial, who managed to send him documents to Prague, through diplomatic channels while he was working as a surveyor, which gave him a little more freedom. For more than 45 years a deep friendship united Stanislav Zámečník and Barbara Distel.
His mission and the purpose of his life are the safeguarding of the memory of the Dachau concentration camp and the human beings who were murdered there. He fully devoted himself to it starting 1990 when he retired, after he had been forced to stop for more than twenty years, because of the political situation in his country. Stanislav Zámečník has committed himself tenaciously and successfully to the Scientific Advisory Board for the redevelopment of the Dachau Memorial and the new concept of the permanent exhibition in order to bring it in accordance with the historical reality and reflect the latest results of scientific research. As a historian and witness he marked with his personal touch the memorial work, for example in the elaboration of the catalogue of the permanent exhibition, leaving an indelible mark on the Memorial and the International Committee of Dachau.
Particularly since 1965 Stan is active in the international committee, in the museum committee. In 1968, he was one of the three members of the commission's committee with full powers to investigate all museum-related issues and make proposals to the Executive Committee. In 1967 he was also part of the reading commission of Paul Berben's manuscript on Dachau. After the political turn in Eastern Europe, Stan. Zamecnik could officially resume his place within the CID. Czech delegate to the General Assembly of the Committee since 1991, the CID again benefits from his experience and valuable advice for more than two decades now. He can perseveringly and consistently impose his point of view while facing the administrative hassle or the Bavarian authorities. He contributes, by his articles, to the "Cahiers de Dachau": Memoirs of the Revier, a study on the order of Himmler that no detainee was to fall alive in the hands of the enemy, appeared in the first issue of 1985, article on Karel Kašák in 1995 etc.
We owe him for a major work: "That was, Dachau", an essential reference work on the history of the Dachau camp that he realized by overcoming great difficulties, thanks to the cooperation of Barbara Distel, the collaborators of the Memorial and not to forget the director of the National Library and the University Library of Prague.
In agreement with the author, the Dachau alumni represented in the IDF -Foundation of the Dachau International Committee commissioned him to write a manuscript in Czech language on the history of Dachau. A contract is signed in 1997. The International Foundation of Dachau (FID), whose main mission is the publication of this book, is responsible for editions in German, English and French.
In 2002, St Paul publishing house in Luxembourg published this monograph in German (later published by the Fischer publishing house in 2007 in pocket size). His Czech version "To bylo Dachau" was published in Prague in 2003 by Paseka Publishers. Guided by his almost exacerbated taste for precision, his concern for accuracy, patient, always pertinent and vigilant, Stanislav Zámečník continues to refine his work, reworking and enriching his text by always providing new remarks during the translations, resulting from the most recent historical research, including the number of dead prisoners in Dachau (central camp, outer camps, convoys, death marches). Always ready and happy to interact with the translators. This is notably the case for the French translation where a relationship of exchange, trust and friendly understanding contributed to the success of this book. IDF published this essential work in English and French at the Cherche Midi (2003). These English and French versions are available since May 2004 at the Dachau Memorial. "Fruit of hard work, patience, stubborn research of classified archives or of those who escaped destruction as well as testimonials throughout Europe for several decades. This work is in the first place a scientific study, particular however, which gives its originality and its value. In this book his experience as a prisoner and his qualification as a historian are associated "(André Delpech, President of the CID, 2003).
At the end of April 2011, everybody regretted his absence at the Dachau Memorial during the presentation of the Memorial Book, a tribute to the dead of the Dachau concentration camp. Being sick, he was hospitalized. Without his tenacity, his hard work, this capital work could not have been carried out by the archives of the memorial. Stanislav Zámečník was very modest and never displayed his courageous behaviour. In 2011 his friend Max Mannheimer said: "A truly courageous man who really embodies the notion of civic courage. He saved many inmates at the concentration camp by putting himself in grave danger. " On June 7, 2011, the Dachau City Council approved the decision to award him the Civic Courage Award. The Award was presented posthumously on December 10th. This prize, awarded every two years, has been in existence since 2005 and honors those "who have committed themselves with courage, imagination and commitment to the rights of persecuted and discriminated minorities". The city of Dachau is extremely grateful to him and expresses his deep respect. Through Stanislav Zámečník, this prize of civic courage keeps alive the heritage of the victims of the concentration camps and the multiform resistance against the Nazi regime, as pointed out by the then mayor Peter Bürgel who also declared, "This prize must be a symbol against silence, indifference and the tendency to close one’s eyes.
Stanislav Zámečník died on Wednesday 22 June 2011 in Prague at the age of 88 and was cremated on Monday 27 July 2011 at the Strasnice Crematorium. The Dachau memorial was officially represented by its director Gabrielle Hammermann and the archivist Albert Knoll, loyal companion of his research on Dachau.
Great figure of the International Committee of Dachau, historian recognized by all, committed man in all circumstances that have marked his career, we miss him and he will remain in our memories.
(For the CID, Sylvie Graffard)