Report No. 187
Prevented from recovering own law office
Reported by: Dr. Rudolf Fernegg Report of June 21, 1951
A fellow-member of our alumni society, Dr. Bermann, a lawyer from Friedland, was detained in the Little Fortress at Theresienstadt during the Third Reich. After May 9th, 1945 he paid me a visit and told me that he was trying to get back his house and law office at Friedland. His wife had had to sell the house during the past years and had gone to Prague. Several days later he returned and told me that he would have to go to Prague too, as all his attempts had proved to be in vain.
Report No. 188
Reported by: Franz Simon Report of July 4, 1950
On June 12, 1945 at 5 o'clock in the morning there was a knocking on our door, and we were told to open up. I opened the door and immediately found myself surrounded by a gang of partisans, who ordered me to get dressed and to come with them. While some of them, I don't know exactly how many, rummaged through closets and cupboards and threw everything into a mess, another one never let me out of his sight and urged me with cynical remarks to hurry up. When my wife tried to give me something to eat, to take with me, she was shoved aside with the comment, "he won't need anything". Outside on the street there stood a bus at the ready to take us in; some fellow-sufferers were already in it, and several others were still picked up. Some of the partisans were drunk. They threw pictures of Hitler around the bus, and then claimed that they were ours and we had tried to get rid of them. Our first stop was the secondary school in Reichenberg, where we had to stand facing the wall in a room on the third floor. After a while someone walked along our row with a whip and beat into us. We had to say "Heil Hitler". Then we were taken one by one into a room where we were supposed to make a statement. When I said that I had not been with the NSDAP my interrogator gave me a powerful slap about the head, followed by many whip lashes. With satanic cunning someone had slipped a knuckleduster into my ID book. Following this "interrogation" we had to stand in the hall for half an hour, holding our arms out front, i.e. extended and raised to chest-level. Anyone whose arms drooped was beaten. Then I and one fellow-sufferer had to wash a room and a hallway, after which we were locked into a dark hole which seemed at one time to have been a tool shed or the like. Victims from the previous day were already there. In the afternoon we were taken to Laufergasse Street (the police prison), but it was already overcrowded and so we were brought back to the barracks on Langen Weg [Street]. Coarse laughter, curses and kicks into our backs were our constant companions. The kicks to our backs worked especially well on the steps leading into the police prison, as anyone who was not expecting them and holding on to the handrail fell down the steps. In the barrack on Langen Weg we had to stand facing the wall and keep our hands raised, for an entire hour. If anyone lowered his arms even the slightest bit, or turned his head a little, got special attention - slaps, and blows to the back with rifle butts - from the partisans marching up and down the hallway. This was again followed by individual interrogations, during which everything except our eyeglasses was taken from us, every morsel of bread and every cigarette we might have had in our pockets. The interrogator first asked me where I was from. "From Friedrichswald", I replied. With the words, "don't you know that's Bedrichov now," he boxed me about the head so that lights flickered before my eyes like fire. The camp administrator beat me from behind. After all of us fellow-sufferers had been relieved of our possessions in this humane manner, we had to line up and, knees deeply bent, hop once around the barrack, and then crawl around on all fours. And in this way the first day concluded. So far we had not been given anything to eat at all, but now we were divided among the barracks and received a bowl of bitter, black coffee and half a slice each from an average-sized loaf. This amounted to about 20 to 30 grams [2/3 to 1 ounce] but that was the entire day's ration for us. We continued to get this amount in the mornings and evenings, and a bowl of watery soup with no nutritional value at all at noon. One day a week our relatives could come to pick up our laundry, and on this occasion food parcels were also brought in, but when we received them after inspection they had usually been raided. We had to transport cabinets, wash floors and do similar work. The camp administrator, a Czech who was said to own an inn (a German estate) between Reichenberg and Gablonz and who had been an innkeeper in Reichenberg during the war, seemed to have made it his self-imposed duty to ensure that his camp inmates were always kept moving. Anyone who could drag his emaciated body only slowly to "dinner" was hurried along with the whip, as the administrator was all for "speed". One man from my home town found an opportunity to escape; that was on a Wednesday. As punishment all the bread that our women brought on Friday was confiscated. The escapee was captured, and I will spare myself an account of how he was tortured.
Towards the end of July we were put on a transport into the Czech interior. We had to make the trip standing in cattle cars, and anyone who sat down was beaten up for it by the guard. In Jungbunzlau we had to get out. In order to avoid "meetings" we had to stand facing the wall while waiting for the other train. My journey ended in Schumbor, a dairy farm in the District of Nymburk. Utterly emaciated, weak and covered with bruises, we were now expected to assume the roles of strong farmhands. My hope, that here we would at least be able to eat our fill, had been in vain. The very first day we were told that there was very little food here, and only peas for us. The first day I had to chop wood, while my companions in misfortune had to clean toilets. From the second day on I was to drive a team of two horses, but I couldn't because I had never before in my life driven horses. And so I had to take care of the horses for the driver, and work on the fields during the day. The morning feeding was at 4 o'clock. One horse had kicked me so badly in the leg, on my varicose veins, that I could hardly walk. As I could not comply with the overseer's order to move faster, he beat my back black and blue with his cane. His complaint to the partisans who came by to inspect us every day prompted them to thoroughly box my ears.
In late September I got my first chance to write, and it was not until then that I could inform my wife that I was still alive, and where I was. There was no opportunity ever to take a bath. The only bathtub there was, was constantly in use by the women, who had much to suffer from the Russians. There were veritable scenes of despair. We were louse-bitten, starving and ragged. That was how my daughter found me when she suddenly stood before me one fine Sunday morning. I found out that both my daughters had also been forced to do labor in the Czech interior, one of them in Nymburk District, and also that my wife was ill. She suffered from great depression and was getting weaker and weaker. My ulcerated varicose veins had gotten worse, to the point that I could not always go to work in the morning. The administrator threatened to whip me, and did so several times. In my despair I wrote a postcard to the concentration camp in Nymburk, stating that due to my ulcerated leg I could not work. Then the administrator was instructed to take me to the Nymburk camp, where I was sent to the hospital. The treatment was humane there. One of the patients to share my hospital room was a German (64 years old) who had to have one leg amputated after it was excessively frostbitten. On February 3, 1946 we were sent back to the camp in Reichenberg, that is, to the resettlement [expulsion] camp in Habendorf.
I do want to mention that after my two daughters found out where I was, they were able to send me some food. I say this in order to acknowledge that even here there were people whose heart had not turned to stone. My family did their best to obtain permission from the local Národní Výbor that I could come home even for a single day; I would have liked to see my home one more time, especially as I was only two hours away by foot. But all pleading was in vain. When my wife joined me in the [expulsion] camp she was physically and psychologically destroyed. She was unable to recover, and on July 7, 1947 she died in Kaufbeuren.
Report No. 189
Reported by: Maria Pichl Report of June 22, 1950
During the expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia, even Germans who (according to Beneš's Decrees) would have had the right to remain in the country were also expelled. I would like to give some examples of how these Germans were treated. I will start with my own experiences:
I was born in old Austria, trained at a Catholic institute to become a teacher, taught for a time in Austria and then in Czechoslovakia, and in 1923 I emigrated to the United States (Chicago, Illinois). On my American citizenship papers I declared: "It is my bona fide intention to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty and particularly to the Czechoslovak Republic of whom I am now subject; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein: So help me God." Proof attached: citizenship paper dated October 13, 1923.
Since the American labor market was affected by a great depression in 1932 and I had to keep changing jobs, I returned to Czechoslovakia and worked again as German teacher in the German region of the country. In other words, I had not even been in the country during the 1929 Census and could not have declared myself to be a German, but rather I had at that time declared allegiance to the American state. I still have my original citizenship paper today, and in 1945 after the Revolution I also showed this paper to the Swedish Consul Harden in Karlsbad, who represented the American interests. He told me that this document protected me and my family and property against the effects of the Revolution, and that I should report this to the Czech Commissars, which I did. At that time a certain Sokol came to my house and told me that I need not fear, since Czechoslovakia was going to be restored to the way it had been before the war. Since the American document lapsed after 7 years, I had actually remained a citizen of Czechoslovakia, and could not return to the United States. Now the partisans came and urged me to reapply for Czech citizenship. I was to work as English teacher. But this was made conditional on my joining the Communist Party. I asked: "Can I keep my property?" (My family owned 2 very nice houses.) I was told that I would have to give up this property and go where I was posted to work. I asked: "What is to become of my 84-year-old mother, my helpless invalid brother and my retired sister?" (Up until then I had taken care of my mother and brother.) The partisans (gendarmes) told me: "They're all going to be resettled to Germany!" I found that all this was very inhumane, and applied to the Ministry of the Interior in Prague with the request to arbitrate my case. I was told that it would be investigated. But very soon hereafter the partisans returned, searched my house, helped themselves to anything they wanted, and said: "Get a move-on across the border, so that we can finally be rid of you." When I realized then, in 1946, that the country was going to be restructured along entirely Communist lines, I finally told the partisans that I was prepared to share the lot of all the other Germans and that they might resettle [expel] me as a German. In late August my mother, brother, sister and I were all resettled [expelled] to Bavaria.
The baroness Nina Riedl-Riedenstein, of the Dallwitz-Karlsbad Castle, went through similar experiences. She had been born in Greece and her husband was Austrian. They had great land holdings and were considered to be very wealthy. Her mother-in-law was an American. Russian officers billeted themselves in her castle, stole whatever they liked, and smashed anything they could get their hands on when they were drunk. Since they knew that the Baroness wanted to keep her properties (her husband was already deceased), they stole all the documents that would have proved her ownership, and took off with them. One time I appealed to the Swedish Consul in Karlsbad. He was the director of a bank in Karlsbad. At that time he told me: "Now the Czechs have taken over my bank, fired me, and confiscated the houses belonging to my wife, who was born in Germany. In this way I have been deprived of my livelihood, and I will have to go to some other country and start all over from scratch."
A Slovak lady of my acquaintance, whose husband had been a German physician, worked at the Commissariat in Gießhübl-Sauerbrunn. I often discussed the various cases with her, as well as my personal affairs. One morning she told me: "It's sad, we are governed only by Communists, and they decide who is to be dispossessed. They don't ask if the people are foreigners or Germans, they just want their property, that's all!"
Everything I have said is the truth, and can be substantiated in part with original documents.
Report No. 190
Reported by: Margarete Poppa Report of July 7, 1946
During the luggage inspection in
Graslitz in the resettlement [expulsion] camp
I was robbed of my entire hand luggage, two blankets and a pillow. When I
objected to this, the inspecting official threatened that I would be sent into the
Czech interior for hard labor. I am 73 years old and now I have to undergo the
several days of transport without even a blanket to cover up with.