Researcher seeks US veterans and others with information about Romani WWII veteran from Czechoslovakia
It all began with an interview filmed by Czech Radio during a panel discussion on Roma Genocide Remembrance Day last summer. One participant, a Romani woman, was there to speak about her family and their fate during the Second World War, and she recalled her uncle, Imrich Horváth, telling her how he fought for the freedom of his homeland, first in the ranks of the Soviet Army (for example, during the Battle of the Dukla Pass) and then how, as a scout, he made it across the front lines to the US Army.
Mr Horváth reportedly told his niece that the US Army took note of his military capabilities and brought him into their own ranks. As a foreign member of the US Army, according to his niece, Mr Horváth then contributed to liberating one of the Nazi concentration camps for women.
When the US Army division he was fighting with returned from a liberated Czechoslovakia to the USA at the end of the war, according to his niece, they brought Mr Horváth along. After some time he returned to Czechoslovakia and was given at least three military honors by the Czechoslovak Army, and according to those who have survived him, he was also given an American military medal which has since been lost.
Czech Radio made a video recording of the interview with his niece, broadcast it online, and was then contacted through e-mail by a listener who called her a "liar" - without providing any evidence for that assertion. She has not given up and has visited her relatives in order to document her understanding of their family history.
While she has not yet found any written documentation about her uncle's military service, she has discovered several medals, metal military ones with ribbons - a Commemorative Medal of the Czechoslovak Army Abroad and a 1939 Military Cross - that are said to have been in his possession. She first met her uncle during the last three weeks of his life.
Mr Horváth did not manage to tell her much, as he was already seriously ill at that time. When he died in 1977, his relatives found his documents and his medals in his apartment in Plzeň.
His sister, the mother of the woman interviewed last year, promised the rest of the family that she would never discuss her brother with anybody. During communism the family was afraid Mr Horváth might have problems with the State Security Forces (StB) of communist Czechoslovakia if they learned of his US service.
When Mr Horváth's relatives learned recently that his grave was about to be demolished because they have not had the financial means to pay for its upkeep, they asked the Plzeň Cemetery and Crematorium Management not to demolish it and to wait for a decision by the City of Plzeň about the family's request to have the grave declared one with state honors so ownership of it can be transferred to the city. At the same time, the family is investigating whether the Czech Defense Ministry or the Embassy of the United States of America in Prague have any interest in contributing toward establishing a modest memorial to his memory.
Call for any witnesses who remember this veteran
Mr Imre (or Imrich) Horváth - *12 February 1912, Seňa, Slovakia, † 28 April 1977, Plzeň, Czechoslovakia
We call on anybody who might contribute to clarifying the story of Mr Imre (or Imrich) Horváth to contact us by e-mail at the contact listed below. If you were a resident of Plzeň, where Mr Horváth lived and worked (for example, at a brewery) after the war, or a fellow fighter of his at the Battle of the Dukla Pass, or somebody in the US Army who knew him, or a fellow prisoner of his (after the war he was imprisoned for many years, probably unjustly), or if you were a friend of his from either Slovakia or the USA, we would like to hear from you.
We are looking not just for verbal testimony about him, but for newspaper articles, objects from his estate, photographs or writings. Please contact Markus Pape at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone number (+420) 724 288 076.
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