Report No. 85
Reported by: Dr. jur. Franz Freyer, district judge Report of March 3, 1951
In the morning hours of May 9th, 1945 Russian tanks drove into Saaz. Uncertainty as to what the near future would bring lay heavily upon the inhabitants. Women were raped, a number of persons were shot and some disappeared, of whom no one ever heard again. Many lost their nerve and hanged themselves or opened their veins.
At the end of May it became known that an edict had been issued by President Beneš, putting all German property under "National Administration". Many Germans expected that the Anglo-Saxon Powers would intervene and that, after some time, a bearable co-existence between Sudeten Germans and Czechs might be achieved. On June 2nd, the Russians left and the troops of the Czech General Svoboda occupied the town. On June 3rd, a Sunday, disaster overwhelmed Saaz. This was the day on which the male Germans of Saaz were expelled. Czech gendarmes and soldiers forced their way into the houses and drove men and boys to the market-place. The streets echoed with screams and shots; soldiers on horses and bicycles hunted the people into the centre of the town. Many were obliged to run for their lives. The men of Saaz were herded together there: some were elderly and ill and had been examined and rejected ten times over by the Wehrmacht, the Reich Labour Service and the Todt Organization; at their side stood boys scarcely out of childhood. Some 5000 were assembled there. Many of them were knocked about by the soldiers there and then; any who were particularly noticeable or who, as a result of clumsiness or weakness, did not stay properly in line or who provoked the Czechs by wearing German national costume, were severely maltreated. A straggler was shot down. The treatment was so inhuman that three Germans who watched the incidents from their apartments committed suicide in order to escape a similar fate. In the course of the forenoon men and boys were then driven in three columns to the little town of Postelberg, 15 kilometers distant from Saaz. On their way they were knocked about further.
Postelberg seemed quite deserted - later on the forlorn condition of the place was explained: the inhabitants had already been driven out of the town before the men from Saaz arrived. In Postelberg are situated the cavalry barracks, a rectangular building about 100 years old. The men and boys of Saaz were led into the court-yard of the barracks, were ordered to sit down and not allowed to move.
In the meantime, but hidden from the eyes of the public, another tragic scene took place in the district court building at Saaz. Czech personnel had been on duty there for several days. The prisoners were illtreated, Czechs entered the cells at night and vented their fury on the defenceless inmates. The Czechs maintained that a number of them committed suicide. Now the 150 prisoners were examined and divided into those who were about to die and the others who were minor offenders. The treatment of the former was such that it made it easy for them to die. They stood in the court-yard of the prison in scorching heat, their heads bare, their hands raised, until one after another collapsed. Czech police and soldiers walked down the lines and chose their victims. These would receive a jab in the stomach from a club a meter long, and when they doubled up they got several blows on the head. Many of the men so maltreated vomited blood and were hardly able to stand. In the evening soldiers entered the yard; they had whips in their hands and hand-grenades at their belts. They laughed and jeered at the prisoners. Marek, the captain of the police, gave the order to march. A prisoner stepped forward and reported that he had a serious disease of the heart. A punch in the face drove the man back to his line-up and soon afterwards the prisoners marched in rows of eight out the gate. The market place was deserted. The column passed the town hall, reached the Priestertor (gate of Saaz). Here the soldiers lifted their whips and lashed the prisoners until the column arrived at the outskirts of the town. At midnight these prisoners, too, reached the little town of Postelberg, while at Saaz thousands of frightened women waited in vain for the return of their husbands or children.
June 4th was the day of lootings. The prisoners had spent the night lying in the dirt of the barrack-yard. No one was allowed to leave. The Czechs threatened anyone who moved with death, even if he only wished to relieve himself. Then the order was given to come to attention. Some of the prisoners got up, while others remained sitting. Immediately afterwards shots rang out. Dead and wounded men lay on the ground, the wounded were dragged towards the ditch, one of them lifted his hand and said: "Farewell, comrades, it will soon be over." The prisoners were forced to throw dead and wounded into the ditch, several shots with automatic pistols followed, and all of them were out of their misery. The ditch had served as a latrine for thousands. Now the latrine became the grave of many men of Saaz.
New commands were given. All had to surrender their money and valuables. "Anyone who attempts to hide anything will be punished with death," said the Czechs. Nobody doubted the reality of this threat. Watches, money, rings and other articles were surrendered at once. The money stolen filled whole boxes. Afterwards the prisoners were thoroughly searched, shoes had to be taken off, articles which were of no value to the Czechs, such as letters, documents and medications, were destroyed. Meanwhile Czech soldiers went up and down the lines and the insults and blows went on without a stop.
In the evening of the same day certain classes of persons were allowed to leave the courtyard of the barracks. These included: physicians, apothecaries, priests, men with important professions, indispensable artisans, half-Jews, husbands of Jewish or half-Jewish women as well as former German inmates of concentration camps; but not all of them were long able to enjoy their freedom: on his way home one of the Capuchin monks, who was a poor walker, was simply shot down, the majority of them were taken to the camp at Saaz. The prisoners at Postelberg spent the night from June 4th to June 5th in the stables. They were naturally unable to sleep, the confinement was oppressive in itself and they could hear shots all night long in the yard, in the town and from the surrounding country.
On June 5th the killing began. The doors of the stables were opened and the order was given: "rychle, rychle!" (quickly, quickly). Anyone who moved too slowly was shot down. No assistance was given; in essence, any injury was fatal. Many of those who bled to death in the course of the day could have been saved by proper attention. The dead and the wounded were again thrown into the latrine and the customary shots, which Captain Marek called "mercy shots", were fired with automatic pistols.
Later on Captain Marek examined the prisoners. Members of the SS, SA, NSKK (affiliated organizations of the NSDAP), of the Wehrmacht, and also the functionaries of the NSDAP and former members of the SdP (Sudeten German Party) had to report. The chaos and the misunderstandings were immense. Should one report that one had been in the Party if one had also been in the Wehrmacht? It is difficult to describe what took place in the yard of the barracks on this and the following day. In order to obtain a clear and trustworthy picture, it would be necessary to investigate hundreds of people. While one was struck here, another one was shot down there, here a corpse was dragged away, there the Czechs were examining Germans for their capability as workers, finally marching them off; there some Germans were put behind barbed wire, others were locked up in the stables, the whole yard echoed with commands, screams, insults, violent blows and shots. By sunset probably most of the prisoners - who on this as on the previous days had received no food at all and who were now rounded up in the stables or were forced to lie down in the barrack-yard - had given up all hope of their lives and were ready to die bravely. The victims of this day were not counted up. At night the constant fire of automatic weapons could be heard from near and far.
June 6th was the day of child-murder.
At first there was again the endless dividing and forming up of labour groups. Close to the gate, as on previous days, there sat 120 boys between 13 and 18 years old. They, too, had received no food for three days. Five of them unobtrusively joined up with a labour group in order to escape from their confinement. But when they got to Postelberg, they were seized and brought before Captain Marek. The other men and boys, shaking with horror, witnessed the dreadful scene, which was introduced by the following threats: "Any objections and we will shoot at once!" The five boys were led to the riding-school, where they had to take off their trousers and then the corporal punishment began. It was revolting to see how the Czechs crowded round eagerly in order to land their blows. The merciless beating with sticks and whips wrung from the boys heart-rending moans. Blood ran down their thighs. Afterwards the Czech "soldiers" dispersed. The boys remained standing with their faces towards the wall, a sentry placed himself besides them. After a while the distraught spectators calmed down. Everybody believed that the boys' ordeal had come to an end. But after half an hour a number of Czechs armed with guns placed themselves behind the boys. One of the guards called out: "Anyone who attempts to escape will be shot as these boys are going to be shot!" But this man himself could not have believed that the threat concerning the shooting was meant literally. The boys looked round fearfully and then turned. Two Czechs trained their guns on the first boy at point-blank range, shots cracked and the boy sank to the ground. His blood reddened the wall. The other boys screamed: "Captain, we won't do it again!" The second boy ran towards his executioners, intending to push up the muzzles of their guns. But the murderers had already reloaded and the second boy also fell. Plaster flew into dust and again the wall was reddened with blood. The rest of the boys bravely submitted themselves to their fate. The third one cried for his mother before he collapsed. The fourth remained standing after the first salvo, looked silently at the lifted rifles and only sank to the ground after the second salvo. The fifth was also shot down. The boys were perhaps 15 years of age. The grown-ups watched the murders, unable to do anything. Resistance would have caused a real massacre, since machine-guns were posted near the gate.
But the mental tortures had not yet come to an end. Those who were about to die were lodged in the stables at the other end of the yard. Every hour, punctually as the clock struck, a group of Czechs armed with sticks and whips would enter the stables and then for the next ten minutes the sound of blows and the cries of the tortured men was to be heard. This lasted until evening. Even the shootings were not such a strain on the nerves as the sounds of this maltreatment.
Then there was another spectacle. About twenty of the prisoners were led out of the back gate. They carried spades and hatchets. They were followed by a troop of gendarmes and soldiers armed with submachine guns. We all expected executions. But we waited in vain for the salvos to follow. After an hour had passed the prisoners and the soldiers returned.
At noontime on the fourth day we received food for the first time - one loaf of bread to 10 prisoners. In the afternoon the fury of the Czechs increased. Again no single observer could fully comprehend what was going on in the vast yard. Here one was cuffed, there another one was trampled under foot, here a savage dog was being set on the prisoners, there a number of prisoners were being thrashed on the naked buttocks with rubber truncheons; next to these, prisoners were being forced to crack each other over the head with sticks, while guards saw to it that the blows were not too light. Now and then Czech women would walk across the yard and gloat over the spectacle.
In the evening hundreds of prisoners were rescued from their mental and bodily pains - at least for a short period. Buses drove up in front of the barracks and fetched "material", that is to say forced labourers, for the hydration plant at Brüx.
At dusk as many people were thrust in the small and low-roofed stable as could stand there. The doors were closed and a guard was posted in front of the stables. The men who had been locked in - 275 of them, as a later count revealed - found themselves in a room, the ceiling of which they could almost reach with their hands. The only window, that above the door, was closed. They were almost unable to move, let alone lie down. Soon the lack of oxygen became noticeable, everybody began to drip with sweat and those suffering from heart disease collapsed one after another. All of a sudden yelling began, which reached a pitch of madness. The sentries threatened to use their hand-grenades and finally several of the cooler-headed men succeeded in calming their frenzied comrades, so that they could parley with the sentries. They asked for permission to open the door, which was at first refused; but later the guards relented and one left in order to consult their superiors as to whether the door could be opened. The request was again refused. The raving and screaming started again and the soldiers threatened the men once more. Soon some of the tortured men showed signs of mental disorder. One was of the opinion that he were at home, he searched for his keys and invited the men around him into his apartment. Another one began to talk to Americans over the telephone and then calmly announced that American tanks were in the vicinity and that the hour of our liberation would soon strike. At midnight the sentry opened the door for a short time. The fresh air of the night revived the tormented men. Soon afterwards the door was closed again and the tortures began anew. Again the raving, again the threats, again men sank to the floor or went out of their minds. At 7 o'clock the hour of salvation had struck for the men in this torture chamber.
The victims of this night were never counted. As the survivors ran out, their eyes were immediately drawn by new incidents. The first one, who rushed out of the stable, threw himself upon the sentry and attempted to tear away his automatic pistol. He was shot down immediately. Many of the men cast themselves on the ground, their eyes starting from their sockets, their faces twisted; some shouted insults, others attempted to speak but were unable to do so. One came out, completely naked, dancing on the tips of his toes like a ballet-dancer, swaying his hips. How on earth did he manage to get undressed in that crowded stable? A German Wehrmacht Captain asked Captain Marek if he might die like a German officer. Marek drew his pistol, asking: "You want a shot of mercy?" Then he led him to the ditch, told him to kneel down and shot him through the neck. But the German Captain turned round: "Shoot better!" he said. A second bullet sent him to the ground, but only the third brought relief. This was the introduction to day 5 at Postelberg.
The following day was the day of mass-murder. The day on which the place was cleared out. Larger groups of up to 80 men were assembled and led outside the barracks. The men knew what was coming next. They marched, holding their heads high, and with stony faces passed those who remained behind. Not one begged for his life. They marched in the direction of the Lewanitzer Busch. There has been no report of witnesses to the executions, but new mass graves were found later on, in the neighbourhood of which hats and caps were lying about.
The incidents in the jail of the court building at Saaz and those of June 4th, 5th and 6th I
witnessed myself. The descriptions of the other events have been made based on reports by