Sudeten-German Inferno: the little-known tragedy of the
Sudeten Germans

Ingomar Pust

The Mass Dying in the Elbe River
n unbelievable fate struck thousands of Germans in Aussig.

Herbert Schernstein, a Communist, had been in the concentration camps Theresienstadt, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück from 1938 to 1945. He recounts: "On July 8 I returned from the concentration camp to Aussig, where the Czechs had just deported my mother. One day near the end of July, already past 4:00 p.m., members of the Svoboda Guard drove all the Germans from the surrounding blocks of houses out of their homes and hounded them en masse into the Elbe River. I saw women and children vanish among the waves. Czech groups with submachine guns had set up on Ferdinand Heights, whence they shot at the Germans floating in the river. I would estimate that some 2,000 Germans were killed that way. The Czechs proceeded especially severely against German anti-Fascists, who were made to wear red identifying armbands."

Another eyewitness remembers: "The wildest groups raged near the market square and the train station. Women were thrown into the Elbe along with their babies in their prams, and the soldiers then used them for target practice, shooting at the women until they no longer surfaced. They also threw Germans into the water reservoir in the market square, and pushed them back underwater with poles whenever they tried to come up for air."

Konrad Herbertstein saw the happenings at the Elbe bridge: "I saw hundreds of German laborers from the Schicht works being thrown into the Elbe. The Czechs also shoved women and children and even baby carriages into the river.

"It was not until about 5:00 p.m. that some Russian officers tried to stop the raging mob, and a few Czechs in uniform were helping them. The Czech mayor of Aussig at that time - his name was Vondra - had tried his best to stop the murdering mob, who had come from outside Aussig, and he was almost thrown into the Elbe himself for his efforts."

Another account shows how the Czech military also participated in the murdering. Josef Grössl has testified:

"I was arrested, tied hand and foot, beaten unconscious three times in a row, and then thrown into a one-man bunker in the Welpert camp. Eleven men from the farming community had already been shot there by Lieutenant Anton Cerny's unit. By a lucky coincidence I escaped the same fate, and stayed in the camp for 14 days as the lieutenant's batman. Every day I saw people being abused, shot, or beaten to death with a hammer. The lieutenant himself saw to the shooting. I personally witnessed the executions of about 20 people. Afterwards I was forced to lick the lieutenant's blood-spattered boots clean."

Heinrich Michel recalls the concentration camp Lerchental: "One day - I do not remember the exact date - a father and his son, who had returned to his parents' home from the battlefront only the evening before, were brought to the camp. Just outside the gate to the concentration camp the son tried to flee. He was mowed down with a submachine gun. The father was forced to cart the body of his murdered son into the camp in a wheelbarrow, and was brutally beaten all the while. A gruesome funeral procession."

Elisabeth Böse attests: "On just a single day, twelve men were put to a gruesome death in Wichstadl. After their noses and ears had been cut off, they were beaten and thrown into the water, and then they were hanged from the trees surrounding the church. Among them was a Czech who had made weapons for the Volkssturm. We inhabitants of the town were not allowed to leave our houses while this tragedy was going on. One neighbor (a farmer) had to dig his own grave before being shot."

F. Fiedler attests: "In Haida 60 prisoners, including many women, were forced to strip to the waist and take off their shoes. Then they had to kneel on the pavement of the market square and were grossly beaten on the chest and the soles of their feet by Czech tormentors until they collapsed unconscious. Cold water poured on the heads of these victims brought them to again so that the torture could be continued. This maltreatment went on until daybreak, and then these poor people who had been tortured to the brink of death were shot in the market square."


The Baby's Head in the Latrine
rau M. v. W.'s observation about her stay at camp Pohrlitz go also for all the other camps: the most terrible and humiliating thing of all were the constant beatings.

"Beatings were administered by fist, by whip and by rubber cable. Beatings happened day and night; no night went by without beatings, screaming, and the crack of whips and bullets. At night, Czechs from outside the camp forced their way in, and the prisoners were dragged out of their bunks and beaten until they passed out.

"Night after night the women were raped - even the sick and the elderly, even the 70-year-olds. The partisans let the soldiers in, and each of the women were abused several times a night. I once saw a soldier trying to rape a delicate eleven-year-old girl. The horrified mother tried to fight him off with the superhuman strength of desperation, and offered herself to the soldier instead, to save her child."

An account from Modrassy:

A mother whose newborn had starved to death committed suicide. One of the gendarmes ordered: "Throw the dirty pig and her bastard into the latrine!" Three women had to throw the bodies of the mother and her dead baby into the open cesspit. Partisans then forced the inmates of the camp to use this cesspit as toilet so that "the dirty sow and her bastard disappear as fast as possible," as they put it. This continued for days, and even weeks later the baby's head and one of the mother's arms could be seen sticking out of the filth.

In one barracks a young mother of four children, the youngest of which was three years old, suddenly died. The Czech physician who came to do the post-mortem barked at the dead woman's sobbing mother: "What are you howling for, you German bitch, at least one more German pig has kicked the bucket!"

Frau Martha Wölfel reports about Klaidovka:

"In our camp all the toddlers four years old and younger died of malnutrition. There were more than 200 of them. My child died there too, on April 12, 1946, at the age of 15 months. Three or four days earlier the child had been taken to the children's hospital ward, where even the Czechs were horrified at the shape the child was in. They notified me in the camp when the child died. But when I asked where it would be buried, one of the guards gave me such a blow to the head that I collapsed unconscious. To this day I don't know where my child is buried. It was the same for other women.

"One pregnant woman was tortured especially badly. When a Czech soldier entered the room and spat there, she had to kneel down and lick up his spit. If she had refused, she would have been beaten to death. Sometimes she was beaten until she vomited blood, and then they forced her to eat what she had thrown up.

"Czech doctors refused to treat venereal diseases resulting from rape; the German women literally begged them for medication. Wounded German soldiers whose open abscesses were crawling with worms and who were covered all over with sores were simply left to their fate. People who did not yet have dysentery were forced to lick the soiled clothes of people who did. Anyone who refused was beaten unconscious.

"A 15-year-old boy whose father had managed to escape was beaten daily until they found his father, who was then tied by the hands and doused with boiling water. His son was also tied up, and forced to watch.

"The screams of the poor man thus tortured to death pushed many camp inmates to nervous breakdowns.

"Nervous breakdowns were the order of the day anyhow, and the Czechs regarded that as a perfectly normal condition. It is impossible to describe all that happened. I can only pick out a few examples."

German slave laborers in Prague.
Prague, May 1945: Germans as slave-labor road crews. The forced laborers were often at the mercy of acts of violence from the vicious mob.


Crucified on the Barn Door
he affidavits about the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans were all sworn by persons living in Germany. They had been questioned by the Ministry for Displaced Persons in Bonn. All the more significant, therefore, are the statements of Austrians, which have not found their way into any published documentation.

Frau Johanna Huber of Klagenfurt is one of many. She cannot recall those days without shuddering:

Johanna Huber.
Johanna Huber
Photo from the days of Wellemin.
"Together with the Russians, Czech partisans arrived in our almost entirely German town of Wellemin, near Leitmeritz. We stayed on our 125-acre estate, even though Jim, our British prisoner-of-war [farm laborer], pleaded with us to leave with them. He wanted to take us to safety. But we had a clear conscience, and besides, we had never had anything to do with the National Socialist Party. We had no idea what was in store for us. First the Czechs exercised lynch-law on the Party functionaries. One of them, a master carpenter whose name I don't recall, was beaten half to death and then thrown into the eleven-meter-deep well. The local group leader, senior primary school teacher Kurzweil, was beaten to death in a basement together with several of his friends.

"But the orgy of hate was not directed only against Party functionaries. Very soon we realized with horror that all of us Germans, without exception and with no regard to our attitude towards the Party, had become fair game, literally overnight. We had to wear white identifying armbands, were forbidden to use the sidewalks, and were driven with beatings and clubbings to clean the latrines in public office buildings. Other women had to carry heavy grenades and shells. My 58-year-old mother suffered an abdominal rupture doing this. Through my desperate pleading I was able to obtain permission from a Russian in Milleschau to take her in a hand-cart to the hospital in Leitmeritz, 17 miles away. But once we were there they did not want to admit her, because she was German. A German senior physician had the suicidal courage to insist on her admission and to operate on her. And she was almost recovered already when all German patients and the senior physician himself were killed by Czechs. I never saw my beloved mother again.

"On my way to the Russian command post in Milleschau, I had seen with horror how Czechs dragged wounded German privates and Blitzmädchen, girls who had been assistants to the Wehrmacht, into Count Milleschau's castle, whose cellars had been turned into day-and-night torture chambers. I still hear within myself the bloodcurdling screams that came from the depths of this building that had once been an architectural jewel of our region. As I learned later, the people were first beaten half to death and then hoses were pushed up their rectum and their intestines forcibly filled with high-pressure water. Of course the Count himself had been the first to be killed.

"The road from Milleschau to Wellemin was a highway of horror. The dreadfully battered bodies of German soldiers lay everywhere. Many of them still wore dirty, bloody bandages - they must have been wounded who had tried in vain to crawl for their lives. I was unspeakably afraid for my 14-year-old daughter Marlene, who had hidden herself and a friend in the working quarters of the neighboring house, where a Russian officer was quartered. That way the house was safe from the Czechs.

"But Marlene suffered weeks of psychologically devastating terror in her hiding place.

"Three days after my mother was admitted to the hospital, all the young women in Wellemin were rounded up. In groups we were led into the basement of the town hall. Wooden blocks had been set up there. Under the greedy eyes of 'Revolutionary Guardsman' we had to undress and lie down on the blocks.

"Then the young Czechs stepped up one after the other and beat us with wooden bludgeons on our backs, buttocks and thighs, but especially on the kidney area. The weakest among us did not survive this torture. Those who had proved to be the toughest were then also raped, even though they were only semiconscious and whimpering in pain.

"I was locked up, alone, in the dark bathroom of the town hall. For hours I still heard the gruesome screams of the tortured women in the basement. In my despair all I wished for was a quick death."

Johanna Huber recalls that news of further horrors arrived frequently from the surrounding villages. In Katzauer the farmer Malik was nailed head-down onto the door of his barn. Then wooden matches were driven under his fingernails, and lit.

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Sudeten German Inferno
The hushed-up tragedy of the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia