Report No. 40
the march to the border, and rapes
Reported by: Dipl.-Ing. Eugen Scholz Report of June 28, 1950
My family and I left Brünn on April 21, 1945, and after a 12-day train ride we ended up near Kladno. Our refugee group, which by then had grown to about 2,000 people, was distributed over several towns, most of which also already housed Silesian refugees. My family was quartered in the Katschitz town school.
Due to a severe lung injury accompanied by pneumonia, I had to be transferred to the District Hospital of Kladno on May 4, 1945, the second day after our arrival in Katschitz.
One afternoon all the male German patients of the hospital were brought into our room. Several German members of the Wehrmacht, who had also been here as patients, were separated from us, and after that there were about 30 of us left - mostly children and several teenagers, and the only adults left were an old man and I. Czech partisans which had been hidden in the hospital up until now appeared in our room. Accompanied by much yelling, they beat the children crying for their parents, then ordered two older boys to stand close to the wall and proceeded to punch them so hard in the backs of their heads that their faces were repeatedly knocked hard into the wall. It goes without saying that on this occasion we were also relieved of all our valuables. I myself had the honor of surrendering my things to a Czech "police inspector" who resided here as patient and had even shown up holding a pistol, with which he tried to impress primarily the children. We weren't left in peace even at night. Among other practices, the lights were turned on and off at brief intervals all night long, with the intent that the recurrent harsh light would keep us from our badly needed sleep.
The next morning we were loaded under police guard onto a truck and taken to a sports field in Kladno. On the way we also stopped at a Czech clinic, in front of which stood a young Silesian refugee woman with her baby and six other refugee children aged 2 to 7 years, whose parents were somewhere in the surrounding towns. These children, who were suffering from inflammation of the middle ear and still had thick bandages around their heads, had been driven out of the clinic. Instead of returning them to their parents, they were simply abandoned to an uncertain fate. Already the very next day their bandages were soaked through with pus and we had no way of changing the dressings. With a great deal of trouble we finally managed to bring in a captured German military doctor, but he could not help either because he had no medicines or supplies. Thanks to his energetic intervention the children were at least transferred to a sort of minor infirmary on the Kladno airfield. Before they left I had hung a little sign around each child's neck, stating his or her name and other information, insofar as I was even able to find this out from them. On one of these signs I could only write the first name of the child in question, as it was barely old enough to speak.
So, after this refugee woman and the children had joined our group, our trip went on to the aforementioned sports field. When our pathetic group arrived there, we saw the following. Huddling in the middle of the square under strict Czech guard (Národní Výbor) were some 150 German civilian men, including some war-disabled ex-servicemen from the first World War, who had been rounded up in Kladno and its environs. I was able to briefly speak with some of them during the next hours. They assured me that they had committed no crimes and had only done their duty as employees in various offices etc., since they were unfit for military duty.
We were admitted by the Czech guard commandant, an older NCO, whom I informed of our place of origin and specifically pointed out the sad shape we were in. To be fair, I must mention here that this Czech was an exception among the others who worked here. He really felt sorry for us, and also assured me with reference to his own family that he abhorred everything that was being done to the innocent people here. But being a Czech ex-soldier, he had had to comply with doing duty here. Even if this man couldn't help us very much, we did nonetheless feel his clandestine efforts and I personally know that he went as far as he could without endangering himself. In any case I owe him my life as he let me stay with the women and children; probably the very bad state I was in contributed to persuading him to this decision. I would not have survived this terrible day if I had had to share the fate that was visited on my fellow-countrymen here. We were ordered go to the edge of the sports field to join a larger number of women and children who had been brought here before we were. It is probably not necessary to mention that we were deprived of even our last valuables here. Several of the women told me that on their way here they had first been taken to a barrack square where they were forced to watch young members of the Waffen-SS being beaten to death. These young men were stripped to the waist, tied up with their arms pulled up, first beaten unconscious, then doused with water and beaten again after they had regained consciousness. This process was repeated until these unfortunates had breathed their last.
In the afternoon of this excessively hot day we and our comrades on the square got black coffee to drink. On the occasion of this distribution of coffee some comrades passed by near us, and from their blood-encrusted faces we could tell that they must have endured terrible things already. This was our only opportunity to exchange a few words with them. During the day things were relatively calm, and the only disturbance was the appearance of one Czech partisan who acted like a madman and was respectfully called "Ivan" by his buddies. But in the late afternoon an ominous disquiet began. All sorts of Czech rabble congregated behind the wall surrounding the sports field. The German men were ordered to line up in rows of three and then to lie down on their stomachs, and then there began a spectacle that is no doubt unique. Under terrible blows from about 20 Czechs, these unfortunates had to crawl once around the entire sports field. They were beaten with rubber truncheons, wooden clubs, bullwhips and rifle butts. Anyone who did not keep to the crawling pace or tried to find some relief by raising himself up was beaten mercilessly, and it was primarily the back and the kidney area that these Czechs targeted. There were only few who got through this procedure without being hit. The Czech people behind the wall, who were inciting and agitating more and ever more viciously, tried time and again to get inside the sports square to participate first-hand in these atrocities, but the guards prevented them from entering. Any of the beaten men who stayed on the ground exhausted or unconscious were dragged into a corner of the sports field by two of their comrades specially appointed to this task - and these were not permitted to treat the victims half-way gently, but had to simply drag them by the legs across the square, where they and the other victims were left to lie until night. This procedure took about an hour and escalated into an ever more vicious frenzy.
Then the already totally exhausted men had to line up close by us in rows of two and to punch each other in the face, taking big swings at each other without holding back, alternately left and right. Anyone who did not beat his opposite hard enough was treated to punches in his own face from the Czech guards. Additionally the Czechs constantly ran up and down the lines and beat the victims from behind. This ensured that no-one could go the slightest bit easier on his opposite. These men could hardly keep on their feet, staggered, fell down, were forced with kicks and blows to get back up and to continue beating their opposites, and those who could not get back up were dragged away in the manner described above.
The last part of this performance went off similarly; for about 15 minutes the victims had to kick each other in the rear.
We, as spectators, were not allowed to avert our eyes even for a second from this scene. Among us there also were women and children whose husbands and fathers were among those being tortured.
Then the men were herded back to the middle of the square, where they were left in peace but under spotlights and heavy guard for the night. The rest of us were locked into a room that was so small that most of us could only spend the night standing, crowded closely together. I happened to stand near one of the two open windows, from where we could see clearly that the victims who had been beaten unconscious or to death that evening were taken away on a truck. It took the truck several trips.
The next morning a car with several Russian officers showed up. We saw that they were talking to our fellow-countrymen, and from their gestures we could tell that the Russians were asking them about what had taken place. As a result the Czechs were given a strong dressing-down by the Russians, and further maltreatment was forbidden. The valuables that had been stolen from us also had to be returned, insofar as they were still around and had not been taken away yet. I was not able to see to what extent the ban on maltreatment was actually observed, since the rest of us left the sports field that same afternoon and the German men remained behind alone. I don't know what happened to them after that.
In the afternoon the rest of us were herded onto a nearby airfield, where there already were many other refugees, divided into several groups. Here I saw a German woman who had allegedly worked for the Kladno Unemployment Office and whom the Czechs had beaten so badly that she was no longer able to get up from the ground. She tried several times, but she could not manage more than to crawl a little way on all fours before collapsing again, groaning. We received a bit of bread here, our first rations since leaving the hospital. And here we also heard that each of us would have to return to where he had last lived in 1939. Since I was eager to get out of this hell as quickly as possible, and as I also assumed that my wife would wish to do the same, I joined a group of others who were to return to Germany proper.
At intervals the various groups of refugees left the airfield under guard. Our group had to depart in the late afternoon, and we were taken to Karlsbad. There were 68 of us, mostly women and children. One man from Troppau - who would be shot by Russians the following day before the eyes of his wife and two children, on the request of a Czech partisan woman - and I were the only two men in the group. With constant blows we were herded from town to town. Often we also had to cover long stretches at a run. In the towns the Czech inhabitants were already waiting for us and literally made us run the gauntlet. The guards herding us along relieved each other in every new town we reached. Our way also led past Lidice, among other places, where we were received with particularly vicious hatred and were treated accordingly. On the way we also picked up a white-haired old woman whose head was basically only a bloody lump. Her face had turned every imaginable color and was totally disfigured. We took her in our midst and tried to help her along. But since she could not keep up the forced pace for very long, we soon had to leave her behind again. Since everyone was afraid of collapsing and being shot, it was already during the first leg of the trip that people began discarding one piece of luggage after another, to have enough strength to drag themselves and the children along. Later on we were not even allowed to drop our things of our own accord; if someone wanted to discard a burden, he was forced to still bring it to the next town, where it was then easy for the Czech inhabitants already lying in wait, to carry it off. And especially the first day we were deliberately prodded along at such a speed that there was hardly anyone among us who was not forced to throw away heavy bags just to be able to keep up. It is known that the weather was unusually hot during those days, and this caused us great suffering especially since we were forbidden to stop anywhere where there was water. The first day we were herded along almost without any pause, until finally near midnight we stopped in a town where we could stay the night in a school. It was here that the first baby in our group died of hunger and thirst, and others soon followed. We had a kind soul to thank for our first real meal here, which had been prepared in a Russian field kitchen.
The next morning had hardly dawned before we had to move on again. On the whole, this day passed like the day before. The only change was that on the way Russian soldiers dragged women and children out of our lines and into the bushes where they were raped, often up to 15 times. Sometimes they were brought back to the group on a truck. The younger girls in particular showed the effects of this treatment. Along the way I met a Silesian refugee who was on the road with a horse and cart. His 14-year-old daughter had been so severely raped by Russians that he had to leave her behind, dying, in a hospital. His two older daughters, about 18 to 22 years old, had gone through the same ordeal and went into convulsions whenever Russians even came near. This family spent the following night with us in a barn in a Sudeten village. It was the day we had reached the Sudeten German region. Here the Czech guards who had accompanied us thus far began to grow afraid, and finally let us go on alone.
To protect the women and girls from being raped any more, we spent the following two nights in the outdoors, and on the fourth day following our expulsion from Kladno we reached Karlsbad. But we were kept from entering this city, as it was already very overcrowded with refugees. Our group, which had grown very much in number by this time, split into smaller groups here and I myself went on with such a smaller band, via Joachimsthal to Saxony, where I first spent several weeks searching in vain for my family and then moved farther west. It was not until Christmas 1945 that I got back in touch with my family again. My wife had traveled the same route from Kladno to Karlsbad with our 3½-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. She had then managed to take the train from Karlsbad to Brünn. At that time the Germans were forbidden at grave penalty to use the trains, and my wife had to take great pains throughout the trip to keep the two children from talking, since that would have given away their German ethnicity. She managed to keep them silent only by threatening them repeatedly that she would throw them from the moving train if they so much as said one word. And indeed they succeeded in reaching Brünn, but had to leave the city again in the evening of the same day and, along with many other fellow-sufferers, had to endure the infamous Death March of Brünn, which cost so many of our countryfolk their lives.
Reported by: Erika Griessmann Report of January 29, 1946 (Kladno)
I was born on October 4, 1927 at Masshaupt and I have always lived with my parents at Kladno. On May 5, 1945, the revolt of the Czech underground movement started at Kladno. Armed members of the Národní Garda [National Guard] blocked all the streets, cleared the billets of the German army and the military hospitals and turned the wounded out into the streets. I saw how these wounded soldiers were stoned by the mob. On May 6, 1945, the so-called house-searches, in the course of which all German apartments were looted, began. My father, an official of the "Poldihütte" (iron works), was arrested on the evening of the same day and we never saw him again. I myself got a box on the ears from a Czech soldier during the first search of our house, allegedly for not having told him where we had buried our jewelry.
Next Monday the wave of persecutions of Germans ran particularly high. We watched from the first floor of our house how innumerable German men fled across the fields, endeavoring to escape from their persecutors and how they were machine-gunned like rabbits. This was the fate of every German, without distinction whether he were a civilian or a soldier, a party-member or not.
The Russians marched into Kladno on Wednesday and within the hour all German dwellings had to be evacuated. I heard our Czech neighbor weeping in the street. She said that soon it would be our (the Griessmann's) turn and nobody would be able to help us. 15 minutes later, members of the Revoluční Garda [Revolutionary Guard] entered our house. The leader, a tall fellow covered with blood, threw a hand-grenade through the window. When he found my mother, my 15-year-old brother and me alone in the house, he pushed me onto the ottoman and said: "I won't rape you, the Russians will do that!" The Czechs plundered our house, threatening us awhile; my mother and my brother escaped through the front door, whilst I jumped through the window. We had to run the gauntlet through our own street, the Wras-Gasse. Crowds of Czechs rushed at us, striking us violently. I saw only a few of our neighbors, who were looking out of their windows in tears.
Without any possessions, in the same condition in which we had fled from our home, we joined up with a number of other refugees, who came from the surroundings of Unhožd. Most of them were bleeding, for the Czechs had thrown hand-grenades at them. We were driven into the yard of a factory where we had to stand against the wall with our hands above our heads. First of all my 15-year-old brother was lashed; after that several Czech women seized me and my mother. My mother's head was already bleeding. They took off my earrings and my hair ribbons, for they intended to cut off my pigtails. While all this took place, a Czech appeared and shouted over the heads of the crowd: "The attractive ones are for the Russian officers!" We were then driven off and repeatedly struck on the way. One man finally caught me by my hair and dragged me into a car. I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I was lying on a sofa with bandages on my head and hands. About five Russian officers of high rank stood around me. One asked me if I were hungry, and where I wanted to go. I told him that I would like to go to my mother. He then ordered me to be driven by car to the football field, where I met my mother and brother right at the entrance. When my mother saw the condition I was in, she fell on her knees and screamed out that the tortures should be stopped and that they should just shoot us. After that she broke down, unconscious. All this took place at Kladno during the morning of May 9, 1945.
Shortly after noontime we were driven up to the edge of a pit and told that we were now to be shot. However, a Czech officer appeared and said that it was too soon yet. We were loaded on a truck together with many other Germans and taken to the market-place of Masshaupt. After the mob had stoned us and spit upon us, we were taken back again to the football field of Kladno. Many German soldiers were lying on the ground, suffering from bullet wounds in the head and the abdomen. Nobody took the slightest care of these seriously wounded men. Here my mother fainted for the second time. A German doctor, whom I had asked to help her, was knocked about by Czech guards. Later on we had to undress on the open square until we were wearing nothing but a chemise, and were searched by the Czechs. Afterwards we were again loaded on cars and taken to the military barracks in Kladno. There we saw a terrible sight: Civilians and soldiers lying in their own blood, to whom no one was allowed to render assistance. Many escaped from their tortures by committing suicide. I saw several small children whose throats had been cut by their parents, in order to spare them further tortures by a quick death. A Czech surgeon, who arrived with a nurse, bandaged up some of these. During all the time we received nothing to eat.
In the afternoon of May 10th the seriously wounded were put into ambulance cars. Those less seriously wounded prepared to march. In the meantime a howling mob gathered in front of the barracks and began to throw stones at us. A Czech read a proclamation from a large piece of paper, in which all Germans were accused of being criminals. He shouted that we should have to atone for everything now when we left the barracks. Suddenly hand-grenades were again thrown into the crowd of German prisoners, causing terrible carnage. A Czech priest appeared and administered extreme unction. But many of the wounded men and women rejected his services. My mother succeeded in getting us into the ambulance car. A nurse gave me a DRK-cap [German Red-Cross cap], which afforded me some protection. On the way out of Kladno we were stopped by Russian guards. A soldier of the Red Army opened our ambulance car and ordered me to follow him, since I was not a nurse. But the wounded interceded for me. The Russian then declared that they should either give him all their watches or surrender me. The seriously wounded German soldiers delivered up all their watches and rings and I was set free.
Our column then drove to the western part of Bohemia. Very soon we had to leave the
cars and to join crowds of refugees, walking in the direction of the American occupied zone. We
received nothing to eat during all the time. We mostly slept in the open field and were often
molested by Czech and Russian soldiers during the night. Several of
the DRK-nurses, who escorted us, were raped by Russian guards outside Petschau. Together with
my mother and my brother I finally arrived at my grandparents' house at Hermannshütte
near Mies, where I succeeded in getting employment on a Czech farm. In November 1945, when
the Americans withdrew to Bavaria, they took me with them.