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

Ingomar Pust

Toddlers Buried Alive
e that hushes up a crime," says engineer Helmut Gold of St. Georgen on the Längsee, "puts himself on the same level as the criminal and thus gives rise to the danger of repetition. A crime ever remains a crime, regardless whether it be the victor or the vanquished who committed it.

"I was a boy nine years of age when I came to know the hatred of the Czechs.

"I soon forgot the blows and kicks that I received in those days whenever I - a child identified as German by the 'N' ('Nemec' = 'German') on a white background, and later with a light-colored armband - encountered any Czechs... What I remember very well, however, is the constant fear that we children lived with, namely that the Czechs might kill our mother. Among my recollections of the Czechs' cruelties there also remains the memory of their standard name for us: 'Nemci Svinja' (German swine). They left us nothing at all of our estate in Moravia. But we were lucky - we got off with our lives. How much more humane than this western Slavic people of the Czechs the Russians are, is shown by the fact that the Russian soldateska spared children, and mothers with many children. To protect herself from being raped by Russians, my mother would carry a toddler in her arms when she had to go outside. But the Czechs felt no stirrings of humanity at that sight either. Honek, the Czech General and parliamentarian of the First Republic, together with his daughter, reported in their publication Bloody Prague that in the first days of May 1945 several hundred German children and toddlers were locked into an underground room. The only exit was bricked up.

"Never in my life will I forget the sight of one dead child in the concentration camp in Moravian Weißkirchen (today called Chranice). We were locked up there with our mother before being transported off to Germany in cattle cars filled with 50 persons each.

"A young guard soldier had shot a toddler who had wandered near the barbed-wire fence. I will ever remember the sight of his grinning face as he continued to send burst after burst of submachine gun fire into the dead lump of flesh. The pathetic remains of what had been a child continued to jerk under the impact of the bullets that drove into the shredded body.

"In Brünn a district farmer was stripped naked, tied up with wire and locked into a cell together with some rats. He suffered for a whole week until death finally released him from his torment. It was said that the rats had chewed his belly open, and his intestines were hanging out."

Frau E. Waller will never forget one tragic concentration camp fate: "Every day we were threatened that we would be shot. These threats suddenly ceased when we repeatedly begged them to really do it and release us from our martyrdom. One day it was announced that all Austrians should report for immediate release. Among them was a young woman, who reported immediately. She was beside herself with joy. When she had been driven from her home, her six-year-old daughter had been away, and the poor woman had worried and fretted about her child the entire time she had been in the camp. Her husband had fallen in the war, and so she had had more than her full share of troubles and we were only too happy for her release. However, some documents that she had to present were missing, since of course she didn't have them with her, and so she was sent under guard to her home to fetch them. Unfortunately the guard found more than he had been looking for, namely various evidence that she had used to work as typist in a Wehrmacht office. From that point on her fate was sealed. The dream of release was over. What that poor soul had to endure from that day forth is simply indescribable. She had to clean dreadfully filthy latrines with her bare hands, without any tools or water; she was locked into a dark basement for days and nights on end; they smashed her head into the wall. Several weeks later, when we finally started off on our death march to the train station to be shipped off to Raudnitz, to the slave market, we tried to save her by keeping her, who could hardly even still walk, as much towards the middle of our group as possible. Someone had lent her a large sort of shawl so that she could disguise herself a bit. Nonetheless one of the henchmen recognized her, and she was beaten to death before our eyes."


Theresienstadt: Living Corpses
n March 1979 the President of Austria placed a wreath in Theresienstadt in memory of the dead Jews. Did he also spare a thought for the Germans and Austrians who had been tortured to death there?

Very few survived the Theresienstadt camp of post-war days. Physician Dr. Emil Siegel reports: "Gassing failed to work for technical reasons, and so what remained for us was a slow torture-to-the-death. In the first weeks no-one was granted the mercy of a quick death. Already at the admission we were told that we would be slowly tortured to death. 'No-one who comes here will get out alive.' And that's how it was. It was not until the Russians intervened that things got better."

This physician is one of the few who survived that death camp. We shall not repeat all his descriptions of the gruesome torture here. But the following account of Dr. Siegel's is representative for Theresienstadt.

When typhus broke out in the camp, he was sent to serve as doctor in the 'sick cells': "The ill were crowded so closely together that they could not lie on their backs, only on their sides. Among them were many who came from the last battles and who had only just been amputated; most of them were leg ie. upper-thigh amputees, some were also missing an arm. Almost all of them were young fellows aged 16 to 18 - allegedly SS-men. They lay on the bare concrete floor squeezed together like sardines, bumping into each other with their amputated stumps. The bandages were wholly soaked with pus, stank horribly and crawled with fly maggots. On some, the bandages had fallen off and the bare, pus-covered wound or bone stump showed. They begged to be bandaged, and I will never in my life forget their faces, lined with dreadful pain and endless despair, as they lay there squashed together on the floor and constantly bumped into each other's wounds. These poor souls were the biggest joy of camp commandant Prusa and his accomplices, who reveled in their agony.

"In my role as doctor I was forbidden either to apply a bandage or to speak so much as one word to these young fellows. While checking their wounds I was restrained by the arm, and I was told that if I said even a single word to the amputees I would join them there on the floor. The martyrdom of these poor souls lasted several weeks. I saw them one more time - as dead bodies, showing evidence of having been beaten, especially on their amputated stumps. I don't know whether they were beaten to death, or strangled 'Theresienstadt-style'.

"Everyone in the typhus camp suffered from raging fever. In their stupor they would be forever leaving their pallet, they did not react to being spoken to, and in a very short time the entire room and the lavatory were smeared all over with diarrhea, as were the straw sacks that constituted the pallets, and the patients themselves as well. Added to this were the hordes of fleas and flies that came over from the mortuary opposite, where many corpses were often left lying around naked for days. There was no end to the bedbugs. Since there was nothing to drink the patients would totter out to the water toilets where they drank the water out of the toilet bowls.

"The commandant's daughter, Sonja Prusova, was a sadist. I was told that she had personally helped to beat 28 people to death. She tore women's hair out, beat them in the face or belly with her fists or feet, and flogged them; women who had suffered at her hands told me this themselves. I always knew, when I saw her running to Yard 4 with glowing eyes and greedy mouth, that now there were more people being tortured, and that blood would flow again."


"Murder Factory" Theresienstadt
nurse who later died told Dr. Emil Siegel in the camp: "During the registration process I was beaten to the point where they knocked out one of my teeth. The wife of an SS-man was beaten together with me. I was taken away, and the SS wife was shoved rear-down onto an SS dagger. I heard her scream dreadfully as the sharp knife cut into her intestines.

"In my cell I had to strip naked in front of everyone, and was beaten again. Since I was covered all over with blood, I was given some water to wash up. Naked as I was, I had to stand on a flag all night long. The next day we were given prison clothing.

"Every day for four weeks I received 25 blows with a truncheon, cane, strap or whatever else the guard happened to get his hands on. He was a very young fellow, and he constantly tried to rape me; but because I desperately fought him off, I would always end up being flogged by him instead, until I collapsed unconscious. After these four horrible weeks I was put into a group of SS men (I was the only woman among them) and put to corpse-carrying duty. They were the bodies of typhus victims.

"I was beaten during this work, and also had to watch how SS-men were beaten until they died. Whenever I passed out from the stench of the dead bodies, a bucket of water would be poured over me, and I had to dig on. In this way I repeatedly fell into one of the mass graves, onto the bodies. On one of my feet I had a wound that became badly inflamed. They gave me a shoe, and I had to dig on. With bare hands and no protection whatsoever we had to dig these bodies out and place each into a coffin. It is beyond me how the body toxins didn't kill us."

Eduard Fritsch reports about Theresienstadt: "One day, I and some others were ordered to clean up the single-cells where the bodies of those lay who had been beaten to death. Clotted blood was layered several centimeters deep on the floor; cut-off ears, knocked-out teeth, chunks of skin, hair, dentures and the like lay everywhere. The stench of the blood etc. soon made it impossible for us to continue washing the cells and hallways. After two or three days many of us developed terrible swellings on our back, neck, head and arms. I was ordered to report to the sick-ward, where I saw something terrifying: patients were stripped to the skin and laid on a stretcher and the doctor then injected them with a fast-acting poison. These people died within one minute."

Eduard Kaltofen recounts: "One day another 100 Germans were brought to the camp. First they were plundered of all their possessions (wedding rings, watches, money), and the guards descended on these things like a wild horde. Among these 100 people was a leg-amputee with crutches, a war invalid. He was beaten with his crutches until he lay dead. Some days later all inmates had to line up behind the barracks. 100 feet away from our spot there was a sand pit. Four Germans had to place their coffins at the ready there, then the first two were killed via a bullet in the neck, and then the others as well. At first we had to watch. In this way hundreds of German men were murdered by being shot in the neck. Every night we heard the shots from that sand pit. There was no end to the transport of bodies out of the camp."


Cucumber Salad With Glass Shards
ne terrible aspect of Theresienstadt is the constant starvation. The battle for a spoonful of watery soup grows more and more embittered. Racked by hunger, an inmate one day attempts to sneak an extra scoop of the bland liquid into his bowl.

"The overseer sees him do it. He proceeds to force the prisoner to gulp down the lukewarm dishwater in such quantities that the soup runs back out of his mouth. The prisoner dies that same evening. The excessive quantity of liquid has burst his insides.

"Another inmate steals his fellow-prisoner's daily ration of bread. That very same evening the thief is ordered to dinner by the yard commandant. There are fried potatoes with cucumber salad and glass splinters; asparagus with potatoes and minced coal; followed by a dessert containing cobbler's nails - all of it in incredible quantities. The inmate has to eat it all. He too is a dead man later that same evening.

"The cases of famine oedema increase alarmingly. In August 1945 the mass graves dating from the German concentration camp days are discovered. We criminals from the single-cells are drawn on to make up the infamous corpse-commando. The bodies in the graves are covered with chloride of lime, black and rotting. A choking gas, a mixture of chloride of lime and decomposition gases, rises acridly from the pits that have been uncovered. Driven on with whippings and kicks, we have to retrieve the bodies from the depths with our bare hands. We lift them up carefully so that they will not burst and let the decomposed insides run out. The press is there en masse. Movie cameras whir. The entire thing is turned into a large-scale propaganda project. In the bright late-summer sun the bodies are lined up on the ground. In the evening, we inmates are forced to kiss the rows of corpses. Many subsequently die from the body toxins.

"Eventually, towards midnight, the group of guards on duty - they are drunken fellows aged 19 to 25 - make their nightly rounds to the single-cells. It is an unspoken rule that an inmate is to be whipped to death with a wire whip on these occasions. For the Czech guards this is perhaps no more than a lark to pass the time, but for the victim it is painful torture indeed. Sometimes it lasts half an hour, sometimes longer. During this time the entire single-cell block rings with the desperate screams of the tortured, with the angry barking of the dogs excited by the commotion and the smell of warm blood, with the whistling crack of the blows raining down on the inmate's body, and finally we hear the victim's death rattle, growing ever fainter.

"SS truck driver Matz is among the beaten every day and every night. But they don't beat him to death - they want to force confessions from him instead. And one day they have worn him down. He makes the confessions that his tormentors want. They beat more than a hundred confessions of having murdered Czechs out of him. He had not actually participated in even one of them. Every night I hear him groaning. The concrete floor is so hard, and poor Metz doesn't know which way best to lie on it. Flesh hangs off his back in shreds, and his sides are raw from the floggings. He is covered all over with bloody marks from blows and kicks. One morning, after a terrible night, one of his eyes is burst and drained, and the other so badly swollen that he cannot see with it.

"One of the many open wounds on his body gives rise to blood poisoning. Sepsis sets in. One morning one of his thighs is puffed up to the size of an elephant's leg. The rest of his body is as thin as an eight-year-old's. On their nightly visit, his tormentors discover his deformed leg. They force him to do one-hundred squats. His tortured agonized body cannot manage even one. The guards shake with laughter. Then they beat and kick him, that he flies around in his cell like some coffee bean in the grinder. Two days later, Matz is dead. One of countless many."

German prisoners in Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Condemned German prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

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