Jan Horal

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Jan Horal

Lt Col Ing. Jan Horal, MBE
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(1923-02-23)February 23, 1923
Straz, Czech Republic
DiedNovember 3, 2011(2011-11-03) (aged 88)
Prague, Czech Republic
CitizenshipCzech Republic
  • Businessman
  • Hotelier
  • Philanthropist

Jan Horal, original name Hoffmann (February 23, 1923 Stráž pri Čope - November 3, 2011 Prague) was a Czech war veteran, manager, businessman, hotelier, initiator of cultural life and philanthropist.


He came from a Jewish family of a legionnaire and a military doctor. As a five-year-old, he started going to Sokol. He went to a burgher school and then his parents enrolled him in a Czech grammar school in Uzhhorod. At the age of thirteen, Jan Hoffmann became a member of the Masaryk Aviation League. It was a military school, where young people were preparing for military service in the Air Force. Here he boarded a plane for the first time and has been enchanted by these machines ever since. Later, Hoffmann's family was forced to move to Brno due to growing anti-Jewish sentiments.[1]

World war II

Escape from homeland

In 1939, with a group of six officers of the Czechoslovak army, he fled the Nazi-occupied homeland. Jan Hoffmann knew the officers, they were instructors from the disintegrating Masaryk Aviation League. The soldiers asked him for help because he spoke excellent Slovak and Hungarian. They wanted him to go with them to France, where they intended to join the fight against Nazi Germany. They planned a trip through Slovakia and Hungary, so they needed Jan Hoffmann's language skills. Jan Hoffmann's officers persuaded him, he himself was excited that he could be beneficial. He told the family nothing of his intention to escape. He telephoned his father on the run from Bratislava, his father accepted his actions. The group traveled through Slovakia, Hungary to Yugoslavia. He got from Belgrade on a vague road to Palestine.[2]

Operating in the middle east

According to military documentation, he was enrolled on September 28, 1941, in the British 462nd RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) unit in Palestine. These were supply units. In September 1942, Jan Hoffmann wrote a letter addressing a Czechoslovak military mission in the Middle East. The letter was entitled "Request for transfer from the English to the Czechoslovak army". He wrote in the request: "I reported to the General Consulate in Jerusalem on October 14, 1941. I received an answer that the number of conscripts from Palestine in the Czechoslovak unit in the Middle East cannot be exceeded. Four days later, I enlisted in the English army. Please help me into the Czechoslovak army. I am a Czechoslovak member and I have my family in Moravia. My relatives serve in the Czechoslovak army. I would like to answer you soon. Thank you in advance, Dr. J. Hoffmann. ”(Note: Jan Hoffmann was not a doctor, he had two years of the Uzhhorod grammar school without a high school diploma). His request was heard by the command and he was drafted into the Czechoslovak army in Jerusalem on April 27, 1943. The units were commanded by Lt. Col. Karel Klapálek. In August of the same year, probably after basic training, he was transported by the ship named Mauretania to Liverpool, England, like almost all the soldiers of this unit.[3]

Operating in europe

He arrived in England on August 12, 1943. Jan Hoffmann was included by the Czechoslovak command in England among tank drivers in the 14th Armored Brigade. The commanders appreciated his assembly and driving skills from the British Army. At the beginning of October 1944, they were given the first combat missions, taken over by the Canadians near the French city of Dunkerque. Their task was to completely cut off the city and keep in it the Wehrmacht, which was trying to break the line. There were disproportionately fewer Czechoslovaks than Germans, but they were quite well equipped. Moreover, their determination to face the Germans was enormous. The offensive event took place on the occasion of the anniversary of the national holiday on October 28. The attack began at half past six in the morning of October 28, 1944. At half past eight, heavy fire from the Czechoslovak artillery began. The campaign was successful and Czechoslovak troops penetrated deep into enemy positions. 183 Czechoslovak soldiers were killed, the number of wounded soldiers was in the hundreds. Jan Hoffmann was among them. During the invasion, Hoffmann's tank hit a mine, and Hoffmann ended up injured in a hospital in Saint-Omer. It saved Jan Hoffmann's life that he disobeyed the order, and when he could not see through the periscope on the road, he sat in the tank tower with the hatch open. When the tank hit a mine, an explosion throw Jan Hoffmann out of the tank, the rest of the crew in the tank burned down. He was released from the hospital a week before the end of the war. After recovery, he returned to the unit at Dunkerque, which was besieged until the end of the war. From Dunkerque he traveled around Nuremberg to Czechoslovakia, crossed the border and stayed with his unit at Stříbro. The tanks had to remain standing in the American zone. Soldiers could go to Prague only as individuals, not as a military unit. Immediately after the end of the war, Jan Hoffmann requested demobilization.[3]

Return to czechoslovakia

After returning to Czechoslovakia, he sought out his family again. Jan Hoffmann changed his name after the war and chose a name of non-German origin - Horal. He experienced a happy period after the hardships of the war. He received money from the army, was given an apartment and could go to study. He enrolled at the University of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague, at the Department of Aircraft Construction and Instrumentation, headed by an aircraft designer and later professor at the Czech Technical University, Dr. Ing. Miroslav Hajn (note: according to his words, Jan Horal graduated in England, in the Czech Republic it was correspondently nostrified). Jan Horal's dream was to become an aircraft designer. With the changing political situation in the country, there was a determination to emigrate again. At this time, he experienced disagreements with his brother Jiří, who studied medicine and was a staunch communist. In 1948, immediately after the communist coup, he decided to leave Czechoslovakia. Although he originally wished to live in England, chance and circumstances led him to Göteborg, Sweden, where he found his new home.[4]

In the media


  1. "ZL 24 (1) (1) - Pražské centrum židovských studií - Sochařství". doczz.cz. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  2. "Jan Horal" (in čeština). Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Nejdůležitější v životě je štěstí - Historicky Kaleidoskop - Historicky Kaleidoskop". www.historickykaleidoskop.cz. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  4. "Český rozhlas - Příběhy 20. století (2011-11-20T10:10:00Z)". prehravac.rozhlas.cz (in čeština). Retrieved 2020-05-09.

External links

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