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Reichenberg
(Page 1 of 2)
Report No. 78
translation by Gerda Johannsen.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
Report about the events of 1945-46
Reported by: Emil Breuer Report of July 1948

location of ReichenbergOn May 9th, 1945 the Russians marched into Reichenberg. About noontime, without any reason, Russian aeroplanes bombed the town and machine-gunned the columns of refugees and others on the roads. Russian soldiers forced their way into the houses and looted stores and apartments.

The Czechs, who in the meantime had arrived at Reichenberg, participated in the lootings. They drove up to the solitary villas at night, in their trucks, they threatened the residents with pistols and carried off whatever seemed to them of value. At the same time the Czech Revolutionary Guards (RG) started their pernicious activities. Germans were stopped in the streets, on their way to and from work and their watches and jewellery taken away; they were assaulted and locked up in cellars. In some cases they were even shipped off for forced labour. Sometimes they were obliged to take off their shoes and stockings and to walk barefoot to work. One day towards the end of May, at 7 o'clock in the morning, everyone was stopped at the Tuchplatz in Reichenberg; they were driven out of the street-cars and then deprived of their shoes and stockings. Many of the men were placed against the wall and two of them were shot. The others owed their lives to a Russian officer who intervened and stopped this Czech "justice". Germans had to dig mass-graves and to fill them up again. More than a thousand men had to make a so-called hunger-march, starting from Gablonz/Neisse, for several days, during which many of them collapsed from exhaustion or hunger and died in the ditch. A Russian officer had been shot in the town and the Germans were being punished collectively. Later on a Ukrainian was identified as the culprit. On May 24, at noontime, two Russian soldiers and an interpreter seized me at my apartment. Together with other Germans I was put into the Russian section of the local jail at Reichenberg. Next morning we had to march to Ratschendorf. There we were all briefly interrogated by a Russian major; about noontime we were allowed to return home. Our treatment was absolutely correct.

On the afternoon of June 7th, 1945, after my apartment had been searched, I was taken to the office of the Revolutionary Guard. From there I was driven by car to house No. 22 in Gablonzer Str., where I was led to the second floor. The door was scarcely shut behind me, when I received violent blows in the face; my glasses were knocked off and a part of my false teeth was broken. Notwithstanding my age of 60 years, two men struck me with rubber-truncheons and [bullwhips] on my head, chest and back. In tearing off my tie they almost choked me to death. Each question by Dr. Rokos, who interrogated me, was accompanied by a blow. A typist watched this maltreatment, smiling. I was ordered to give him the names of members of the "Werwolf-organization", but first I had to take off my jacket and my shoes and lay myself on the table; in order to extort a confession they used instruments of torture on my back and the soles of my feet. Since I was unable to name members of this organization, the ill-treatment was brought to an end with the threat that my whole family would be shot before my eyes at 8 o'clock next morning, unless I gave the names required. I was then flung down the steps into a cellar, where I landed on a heap of straw. I was lacerated and exhausted. I found myself in the company of fellow-sufferers who had preceded me.

Many severely maltreated persons lay there in the cellar. Thereafter, day after day, inmates were taken out into the cellar-passage and abused in such a way that they returned half-dead and covered with blood. Even those among us who were war-invalids were not spared. The number of the imprisoned persons in the cellar soon exceeded 50, among them 2 women. There was not enough room for all of us to lie down at the same time, we had to sleep in turns.

On June 10 Dr. Fritz Werner, a physician from Reichenberg, Johannesthal, was brought in. Through the cellar-door we could hear every single word of his interrogation, which took place in the passage outside. He was being confronted with some of the other prisoners. We heard his cries of pain and his prayers for mercy, but the maltreatment continued. Whenever he collapsed cold water was poured over him and as soon as he came to the torturing began again. Finally his cries ceased - for ever.

Following is a translation of the record of an examination, as made in the police department of the Revolutionary Guard at Jung-Bunzlau, to determine the cause of death of Dr. Fritz Werner:


Reichenberg, June 10th, 1945
Record of examination:
On June 10th, 1945, at 7 p.m. I examined the corpse of a man, 164 cm. (5' 5"] tall, about 60 years of age, a little stout. It was Dr. Fritz Werner, physician at Reichenberg, in whose possession a document was found, dated August 1st, 1944, recording that as an officer he had received from Adolf Hitler the cross for distinguished services to the German nation (Verdienstkreuz II. Kl.)
I noticed blue marks on the chest and the face, the results of a contusion, as well as a gaping wound on the left side close to the spine. The chest was undamaged. [Pupils dilated, pulse not palpable], no breath reaction on mirror.
[Cause of] death: Commotio cerebi propter apoplexiam cerebi ac. Vulnus contusioni lacerum regionis occip. lat. sin.
Signed Dr. Rocus m.p.


Policejní oddĕlení R. G.
Velitelství Ml. Boleslav.

On June 10, 1945, after being brought in for confrontation, Dr. Fritz Werner, physician at Reichenberg, died of apoplexy of the brain. The cremation took place at the crematorium at Reichenberg on June 11th, 1945. The record of examination is attached.

Reichenberg, June 21st, 1945.

Local judicial commission at Reichenberg
July 12, 1945.

To Mrs. Liese Werner, Reichenberg.

Your demand of June 26th, 1945, for delivery of the urn containing the ashes of your husband, who was cremated in the local crematorium on June 20, 1945, will be met, provided that the urn be interred in the family vault at the local cemetery.

The director of the office
Čapek

The Chairman
(stamp and signature)


On June 13 almost all of the imprisoned persons were briefly interrogated and divided into groups. About 11 o'clock in the evening I was taken to the district court building at Reichenberg together with 21 other prisoners. We were forced to kiss a defaced Hitler-picture and then, completely naked, to kneel for hours in the cold and draughty gangway with our hands above our heads, while the [thugs] who had brought us in beat us with steel rods, rubber-truncheons and [bullwhips]. All this happened in the presence and with the co-operation of the wardens of the district-prison. The marks of the ill-treatment were visible on us for weeks. I myself had an effusion of blood in the left eye as a result.

Night after night Germans were brought to the prison and abused in the same manner.

Our cell No. 59 was intended to house five men, but at the beginning of our imprisonment there were nine of us and soon afterwards twenty. We slept for weeks in our light summer-clothing on the rough boards. Finally we received a few blankets and palliasses which we used as pillows. Our daily diet consisted of a thin soup, coffee and 150 g of bread. It was absolutely insufficient and we became enfeebled within a short time. Inside a few weeks we lost up to 30 kilos (66 pounds) in weight. The only thing of which we had an abundance was maltreatment. Especially during the so-called "walks" in the prison-yard, which were combined with gymnastics requiring great muscular strength, we were regularly beaten. Whenever, as a result of the enfeeblement, anyone failed in the exercises, the wardens had a welcome reason for abusing him. On Sundays, in addition to the wardens, men of the Revolutionary Guard participated in the atrocities.

At the end of August the soup became a little bit better and the daily bread ration increased. Furthermore the relatives of the prisoners were allowed to deliver every week a parcel of food, weighing not more than 2 kilos (4.4 pounds). Those German women cannot be sufficiently praised who, in spite of the small rations for Germans, were able to save their husbands and sons from starvation by these additional food-supplies. Some of the women had to carry their parcel as much as 30 kilometers (20 miles), since no Germans were allowed to use the railways. But in many cases this help was already too late. Cases of death in consequence of starvation or enfeeblement or of insufficient medical attendance are reported not only from the district-prison at Reichenberg but from all other camps and jails.

Even before I was arrested at the end of May, it had been announced that all Germans, who had arrived in Sudeten German territories after the 1st of October 1938, would have to leave Reichenberg and could take only 30 kilos (66 pounds) with them. Anyone not observing the order promptly would then be allowed no more than 20 and later on no more than 10 kilos (22 pounds). The local authorities confirmed by word of mouth to those Sudeten Germans who had moved to Reichenberg that this order would only concern the so-called Reichs-Germans who had not lived in the Czechoslovak Republic before 1938.

My second daughter, who had been sent for four weeks to an absolutely Czech region for agricultural labour, had just returned when she was forced to leave her homeland without having the opportunity of bidding farewell to her 60-year-old father in prison. All she was allowed to take was a rucksack containing underwear. The same thing also happened to other relatives of ours. Before they had even reached the border they were deprived by the Czechs of a number of their personal possessions; their savings-bank books and personal documents were destroyed; they had also to take off their shoes and stockings and to continue the march across the border barefoot. Sheets and mattresses were torn out of perambulators and the milk for the babies was poured out on the ground.

My imprisonment at the district-prison at Reichenberg left me in a state of complete exhaustion. Probably as a result of my condition I was transferred to the camp at Reichenberg. I was so enfeebled that even the short march from the prison to the camp cost me a great deal. At the camp I received more food. The larger rations - food which was given to me by fellow-prisoners working outside the camp, and also supplies which my family had smuggled into the camp - quickly strengthened me. The out-of-door activities in sun and open air did the rest. A few days later I, too, had to start working. At some of our places of work we received additional meals. The only exceptions were the local administrative authorities who either gave nothing or distributed to the Germans the leavings scraped together from the plates of the municipal employees. The pilots sometimes gave us only a thin soup and other times so much food that we were able to take a great deal of it back to the camp for our comrades.

At the aerodrome there were dust-bins near the billets. These dust-bins had to be emptied from time to time. We always looked forward to this moment, since we often found pounds of bread and pastry as well as cheese, still wrapped up in tin-foil. On these days we were able to carry home additional food for ourselves and, more important, to bring our fellow-sufferers, who were [unable to] work, the necessary food. Those who were able to work, were for the most part forced without distinction to do heavier and heavier work, shovelling coal, digging out foundations, felling trees and loading trucks. The women were sent to restaurants and to private households for cleaning or laundry work. Besides this, many were ordered to farms, to quarries, mines and to unhealthy occupations in the interior of Czechoslovakia. Germans were sent to the mountains, to saw-mills and for felling timber. Only during the summer of 1945 ill-treatment took place generally. Thereafter only infrequent cases of maltreatment were reported from camps and work places.

In spite of my age I was also among those who were sent to heavy work. I fell ill twice. The first time I contracted an inflammation of the throat as a result of being compelled to trail logs in the hilly woods, even though I was suffering from fever. The second time I contracted articular rheumatism through digging drains during a long period of rain. I was incapable of work for several weeks. I wish to express my appreciation of the medical treatment I received from the camp-physician Dr. Pott, a fellow-prisoner.

After 13½ months of imprisonment I was correctly interrogated for the first and last time. This was finally brought about by the representations of my wife and took place at the police-station at Reichenberg on July 24th, 1946. I was promised a quick decision and an early transfer. But things turned out differently. A supplement to the law regulating the infliction of punishment, which was issued at the beginning of August 1946, established that in the case of "Foreigners" sentence could be commuted in favour of transfer, if the State were more interested in the transfer than in punishment. But at the same time the power to initiate a prosecution before the People's Courts was withdrawn from the police authorities and entrusted to the district attorney.

The district attorney based his case against me on Article 3 of the Edict of Retribution, issued by the State President. On October 30th, 1946 I received the bill of indictment. Again I was told that the trial would take place within 8 days. But in fact I was not summoned before the Special People's Court until November 21st, 1946. The ex-offo-counsel for the defence did not get in touch with me and - as far as I know - was not present at the trial. After the day and the hour of my arrest had been established, the court withdrew and then pronounced judgement. I was sentenced to 17 months imprisonment in consideration of the extenuating circumstances as laid down in Article 16 and especially of the fact that I had never made any National Socialist propaganda. The sentence was considered as already served in view of my 17½ months of imprisonment on remand. The whole trial lasted no longer than 10 minutes. Since I had been brought before the court from the camp, I was taken back there. I was still detained and not released to my family, although my sentence was already terminated.

Shortly before my sentencing, that is on November 14th, 1946, the last large transport from Reichenberg left for the American zone of Germany. Soon afterwards the Czech Government had the effrontery to declare publicly, even though they knew that more than 200,000 Sudeten Germans were waiting for their transfer and their reunion with their relatives in Germany, that the transfer of the Sudeten Germans was [complete]. My wife was living together with our two younger daughters and a grandson in a humble little apartment at Reichenberg-Rosenthal. The entire furniture of our apartment had been taken away from her, they had removed my considerable library and she herself had been forced to clear out of the apartment. Hoping that I would soon be released, she had waited for me in 1945 in spite of the chicaneries of the various authorities. In 1946 she was no longer able to leave, since as a result of an American protest families could not now be transferred without their bread-winner.

In 1947 the conditions in the camp improved considerably. The number of inmates was diminished. Each one of us had his own bed. After the People's Courts had been dissolved we were no longer prisoners, we were only Germans to be transferred. But the barbed wire around the camp still remained; only that round the individual huts was removed. One was allowed to visit acquaintances in other huts. We had more liberty to move within the camp and sometimes we were permitted to go out on Sundays. The diet, too, improved. Working clothes were distributed in cases of necessity; in the workshops which we set up ourselves shoes and clothing were repaired free of charge. The percentage of our wages, which all factories, undertakings and households employing camp-inmates had to pay to the camp-administration, was increased from 2 to 10 Kčs per working day. Cigarettes and sweets could be bought in the camp.

Since in view of my articular rheumatism the doctor had certified me not fully capable of work, I was sent only to light work after I had been before the court. In March 1947 I was called for as a specialist on liquidations, in connection with the liquidation of the German banks. I remained in this job until my transfer. But even as a specialist I received no more than 10 Kčs for each working day as salary besides the food in the camp, although the camp-administration demanded higher wages for my services than before. In March 1947 we accidentally heard about an order which had been issued by the Minister of the Interior on December 1946 and according to which during the temporary suspension of transfers transports could take place via Taus and Furth i. Walde for the purpose of reuniting divided families. Since my elder daughter had found shelter in the neighbourhood of Detmold-Lippe since November 1945, I made efforts to be transferred via Taus. But even when I could show offers of work in Germany, my application was always put back with a reference to the fact that my wife and four members of my family were still living in Czechoslovakia and we were therefore not considered as separated. Families only came into question, when wife and husband were separated or children divided from their parents. So 1947 passed.

By December 1947 the conditions in the camp became worse. We were only rarely allowed to leave the camp on Sundays. Even at Christmas families might only be visited on a single day for a few hours. It was not advisable to speak German on the streets. At the end of February 1948 it became even worse when the Communists usurped the Governmental Power. Those Germans who were still employed in individual undertakings as irreplaceable specialists had to be fired. It became dangerous to speak German at all. We were scarcely ever allowed to leave the camp except for work. An English course, which inmates of the camp held among themselves and only during the evening hours, was now forbidden.

The People's Courts were re-established and were ordered to review all the previous cases which had come before them. Germans who in 1947 had been released after being in prison on remand for 1½ and 2 years without ever having been tried, were re-arrested and were sentenced to at least 5 years imprisonment. The extenuating circumstances of Article 16 were now never applied to Germans. Even those Germans who had formerly been acquitted were re-arrested and new prosecutions ended with heavy sentences. Those, too, who had been already sentenced were brought back before the Communist People's Court, which always raised the penalty. I myself, before I was transferred, had knowledge not only of the case of a German who had never been prosecuted and who was now sentenced to five years, but also of two similar cases. In one the punishment of 18 months, served long ago, was increased to 15 years, in the other case the former sentence of 10 years was changed into 20 years. These three sentences were passed by the renewed People's Court at Reichenberg on May 19th, 1948. The sentences were published in "Stráž severu".

But not only Germans were threatened by new perils, the Czechs and especially the partners in mixed marriages were endangered too. Lawyers who had successfully defended Germans in the proceedings before the People's Courts were suspended from the legal profession as [being] unreliable; Czech witnesses for the defence were to undergo an investigation.

At this time first of all the inmates of the camps and then all Sudeten Germans were informed of the possibility of being transferred at our own expense. For transport-charges to the border the inmates of the camps were required to pay 1,000 Kčs and all other Sudeten Germans had to pay 1,500 Kčs per head. After the first sentences had been passed by the new People's Courts, everybody attempted to escape as soon as possible. I had now to pay 6,500 Kčs for my own, my wife's, my two daughters' and my grandson's transport to the border (one of my daughters was also a camp inmate, but worked for a farmer). Friends of mine helped, as I alone would have been unable to meet the cost. But again I was set back from the first transport and we were assigned only to the second one. Our luggage was cleared by the customs and on May 26th, 1948 we climbed onto the truck, together with 51 other Sudeten Germans. Our luggage was put on a second truck and its trailer. We drove via Prague, Karlsbad and Asch to the border, which we crossed in the morning hours of May 27th, after our small luggage had been passed by the customs.

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