Report No. 129
Reported by: N. N. Report of May 23, 1946
Together with my wife and two sons, I lived in a three-room flat in Bodenbach. Until September 5, 1945 we were spared any persecution - aside from comparatively minor harassment. I had already lost my job earlier, since the firm with which I had been employed for many years had been dissolved. I had found temporary employment as construction assistant, as had my younger son.
On the aforementioned date - none of us happened to be at home - an Investigative Commission of the "Svoboda Army", led by a Captain, broke into our home. Their house search was still in progress when I happened to arrive home with my wife. Beds, closets and chests were turned upside down, their contents in an unholy mess, trampled, crumpled, dirtied and scattered all over the floor. Immediately they began interrogating us. I was accused of being in cahoots with a Captain J. (I'd never even heard the name before) and of having hidden jewelry, gold and Persian rugs for him. I tried to demonstrate the groundlessness of these accusations - in vain! They searched night tables and sewing kits for the hidden Persian rugs, which were their main concern. They spat on me, hit, punched and shoved me to try to coerce me into revealing the hiding place of the rugs. How could I have! I had no idea who might have hidden rugs where. The Captain himself, in other words a higher-ranking officer, spat in my face, cursed me crudely, kicked me with his boots and even demeaned himself so far as to stick his tongue out at me. Since all torments still led to nothing, they arrested me and my wife. But first my old mother-in-law also had to succumb to a wild house-search in her home in K., which ended just as unproductively as the one at our place had. Since I and my wife were dragged along on this search, it was only natural that I was subjected to renewed maltreatment. The Captain's chauffeur particularly distinguished himself this time. No Persian rugs were to be found at my mother-in-law's either. Now my wife and I were put into the Captain's car. Neither of us were dressed warmly enough to stand the chill of the drafty drive to Böhmisch Kamnitz, a town about 20 km from Bodenbach in the District of Tetschen. That's where the Svodoba troops were headquartered. We were taken to the Villa Hübel (property of a textile manufacturer). I found out later that this villa had gained notoriety as a GPU dungeon.
Meanwhile evening had come. There was much bustling activity in the villa. The officers dined in the sumptuously appointed rooms. NCOs caroused in adjoining rooms. After about an hour the Captain handed me over to two inebriated NCOs, both of them of colossal stature. While my wife had to continue to wait, these two ordered me to go down into the cellar. What took place down there is almost impossible to describe. When I replied "yes" to the first question, whether I was a German, one of the NCOs punched me in the face. Punches and blows hailed down on my nose and mouth. I lost almost all my teeth in my lower jaw during this treatment. Several times I collapsed, was jerked back on my feet and beaten some more. Blood was running from my nose and mouth. Blows with a rubber truncheon all over the back of my head, neck and back knocked me unconscious for several minutes. Kicks, punches and thumps brought me back to consciousness. Now I had to undress. The two NCOs then went at my back, loins, thighs and calves with leather belts, rubber truncheons and whips. I could hardly speak any more, but I kept trying to tell them that I could not possibly know what they wanted to know from me because I had never seen and never owned the Persian rugs. Finally, after I was beaten half-unconscious again and my body was covered from top to bottom with welts suffused with blood (as my wife observed later), the two monsters left me alone. A few minutes later they shoved my wife into the cellar with me. She had been forced to stand on the cellar stairs and listen to me being tortured. Now we had to spend the night in the dark, dank, cold cellar, without a pallet to sleep on, without light, without a bite to eat (we had not eaten since noon), and without blankets. I was so badly beaten that I could hardly move. My wife was not warmly dressed, and got very cold in that cellar. Further, we were tormented by the uncertainty of what had become of our son. Possibly my persistent claims that I did not know anything of the rugs had been convincing; for the next morning we were taken out of the cellar, put back into a car and driven back to Bodenbach, albeit not to our home but to the police prison. I had to spend seven weeks there, my wife three. Even the police repeatedly stated that there had been neither any charges brought against us, nor even a statement taken down. We were never questioned. Also, no trial had been instituted, and therefore there was no conviction. Under the circumstances, the treatment and food we were given in the police prison can be described as good.
The police themselves confirmed to me that I had neither committed any crime nor become guilty of any kind of political activity. To free some space in the prisons (in B. there were more than 70 prisoners crowded into 3 cells that had been designed for 2 prisoners each!), the police sent those against whom no crime could be proved into the inner regions of Czechoslovakia to serve as harvest laborers. That included me. Before we were transported off we were told that we would not need any food stamps, blankets or dishes - we would find plenty of all we needed where we were going, and besides, we would only be there for 10 to 14 days and then we would be free and could go wherever we liked. We were also promised that we would be quartered in vacant houses, and that for the duration of our assignment our families would enjoy safe quarter at home.
Once we arrived at our destination, a sugar factory in V., we realized right away how hollow these promises had been. Pistols and rubber truncheons were the accessories of choice that our "supervisors" had put on for our reception. We were assigned quarters beneath all human dignity in a damp cellar room. Straw sacks without blankets had been thrown onto iron sugar transport cars. Water dripped from the ceiling, ran down the walls and collected in puddles on the stone floor. The door was locked behind us, so that once again we were confined like prisoners. Our protests were dismissed with the scornful comment that we were Germans and so anything was good enough for us. In the morning we were herded to work at pistol-point and urged along with rubber truncheons. For 10 to 12 hours every day we now had to dig sugar beets. For most of us it was unfamiliar work, and too hard. The food we received, while good, was enough for a three-year-old child at best. Later on, our treatment, housing and rations improved a bit, and by the time our assignment there ended they could almost be described as adequate. After three weeks our work at the sugar factory was finished. Now we were supposed to be released to go home. We were already packed and ready to go, when suddenly we were told that we would have to do one more job, a special case. Allegedly it was a matter of only eight days. We had to help out on two dairy farms that were behind in their beet harvest. Without much ado we found ourselves loaded onto the usual trucks, and off we went. Together with five other fellow-sufferers I was taken to Vlacice. Already on the way there, we heard from Germans returning from field work that Vlacice was hell on earth. But we thought that it couldn't be any worse than V. had been.
In Vlacice there was a concentration camp for German internees that was under the charge of a partisan. The six of us were assigned to this camp. The accommodations defied description. The pallets were crawling with bed bugs and lice. There were armies of fleas! Our pallets were located in former stable buildings. Doors and windows were missing, and stoves and lamps would have been luxury items. Almost no-one had a blanket, and my coat was my only cover when I slept on the half-rotted straw. Water was a precious commodity; its only supply was a puddle in the yard, which served as open-air bath for the geese and ducks. Nonetheless the people also used it for cooking and washing. Women and men had to answer the call of nature side-by-side in the open fields. Our rations consisted of 200 g bread a day, at noon some potato soup or dry potato without any condiment, and some very questionable excuse for black coffee in the evenings and mornings. We had to work 12 to 15 hours every day, regardless of the weather. After three weeks my weight had dropped to 46 kg [101 lb] - my normal weight was 66 kg [145 lb]. What was most shocking about this camp was the fate of the German women that had been banished here. It is impossible within the scope of this brief report to describe what had taken place in the concentration camp of Vlacice before our arrival, and what consequences we were able to observe. Without proper clothing of any kind, dressed only in rags and odd uniform pieces they had found here and there, stripped of their rights, defenseless and at the mercy of anyone's whims, fair game for physical and psychological cravings - that's how these poor women lived here, always hoping that even their time of suffering might come to an end.
Our stay in Vlacice lasted three weeks. Today I am safe among the hospitable
Hessian people and am slowly beginning to regain my humanity.