By Courtesy of Ernst F. Kriesner – http://www.danzigfreestate.org/
Maiden Name: Kriesner
Time in History: March of 1945
Zoppot/Free City of Danzig
Evening on March 23, 1945
Place: Famous Baltic Sea-side Resort, Zoppot/ Free City of Danzig
For several weeks, under constant attack from Air Bombardment by the Russians, but also by British and American Planes, had we been cooped-up in our Air-raid shelter. The Air Raid Shelter was located in our house, sheltering several families, about 50 people, neighbors from across the street, also some Refugees. They had come for shelter in our cellar to seek protection from the ravages of War now menacingly near and upon us.
To some extend our cellar provided, if not protection, but togetherness, at least some human comfort, much needed in times of bleakness and stress.
Horrible Tales of atrocities committed by the Russians we heard, as told to us from all the Refugees passing through our Town in order to find a way out, by any means, of the dire predicament we all were in now, so everyone was desperate, full of foreboding.
Since the middle of January, Refugees had come from the East, from East Prussia. They had come through Ice and Snow, in every kind of Weather, on foot, some had Horse drawn Wagons full of Household goods, filled to the rafters with Kids and Grandparents.
In ever increasing numbers they came, a haggard lot, depleting our already meager food situation. Some had managed to find passage on a Ship, not caring to find a watery grave in the depth of the cold Baltic Sea as the tragic Tale of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, formerly a luxury Liner with the loss of 7, 000 civilian Lives, was already known, but there were more desperate People than there were Ships. *(the actual casualties of this sea tragedy of all times, was much higher) Others continued towards the West, wanting to escape from the Soviets, as everybody had been warned about the doom awaiting the civilian population, should Stalin’s Hordes ever get their hands on innocent Women and Children. In this situation it was no wonder, that we innocent civilians, manly Women and Children, all without any protection from our capable Men, the War had already devoured them all before, had very good reason to worry for our lives. After all, that’s what the Nazis had told us; the Soviet Army had a fearsome reputation of rape, murder, and other atrocities.
Events at a place called Nemmersdorf in East Prussia some Month earlier, the Bolshevists, the Red Army had massacred the entire Peasant population of that Village in the most bestial fashion. The Russians had gone as far as actually crucifying nearly all the Villagers, whilst still alive, nailing a number of Women, Babies even, to Barn doors and like. Thus, leaving nobody alive, after rape and mutilation. Such horror stories had given us a taste of what was possibly in store for us poor females of all ages. We were all scared and jumpy.
Frightful as we were, however, we had rejected all warnings from the Nazis, had rather listened to our Patriarch, our Grandfather, who made us stay put, never to leave our Home and Soil. Grandfather had pointed out to us, as Catholics, and as Anti-Fascists, (Our Father, a convinced Communist, although serving under sufferance in the German Army, had been jailed by the Germans for his political activities, for his participation in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the International Brigade, as sponsored by Stalin himself) Grandfather also believed that we, citizen of the Free City of Danzig, would be spared any violation by any occupying forces on account of International Law, and on account of the status of the Free City of Danzig under the Law.
Russians and Poles are human beings, just like us, they will never harm us. Especially not us; we are Catholics, anti-Fascists and Pacifists ‘. That was that! The issue was settled!
Grandfather had assured us that nobody was going to harm us! Where could we have gone anyway? Join the desperate refugees clogging all roads to the west? We had no relatives or friends in the west, except around Danzig.
As it turned out however, Grandfather was dead wrong with his prediction, his assessment of the situation and his confidence as to the humanity and fairness of the Soviets and Poles! But who was to know the brutal destiny awaiting all of us. Nobody did. The horrors that followed would have been beyond any dreams.
And so it came to pass that we stayed in our hometown, in our houses, looking after our houses and property, Grandfather on his, property and we in our house, miles apart, and no communication! We therefore did not join the mad rush, the panic of the refugee’s from East-Prussia, passing through, nor did we join our own people from Zoppot/Danzig, trying to escape in order to save the naked Life.
We should have known better, but we loved our homeland, our Town, so we stayed on, regardless, against better judgement, common sense and sound advice. With much fear and axiety in our hearts, but we stayed put! Yes, we should have known better, should not have listened to our patriarch, but with no able man to help us, it was just too much for mother, burdened by 3 children. So we stayed, nevertheless. What a mistake that one was. The biggest mistake in our lives! But who was to know that Foreign Propaganda, especially coming from the BBC in London would cost us so dearly. It was a habit in our house to listen to foreign radio broadcast. The BBC, American Forces Network, Radio Moscow, etc., my elder brother was hooked on it, in spite of the danger. Listening to enemy propaganda was strictly forbidden by law, was perilously dangerous as the penalty; was death! We knew therefore that the front, the war was coming closer and closer. Even the Germans had to confirm this, had to admit that the War had reached the bitter end.
Therefore, we then had to take most seriously a call by the Soviet Poet Ilya Ehrenburg, who addressed to the Red Army, thus; “The Soviet Soldier’s duty was to smash and kill all Nazis. ” Tot den Deutschen Okkupaten!” Death to the German Occupants! And the victorious Soviet soldier was under direct Order to break the spirit and dignity of all arrogant Germans, the German Woman in particular. Only total victory would do, therefore, the German Frau would have to pay the price! ‘Rape’ therefore was the Order of the Day! Rape was the weapon! Rape, Rape, Rape, regardless of age, the arrogant German women was free to be taken, was just an animal, therefore, an object of lust, free to be raped. No mercy was to be given! Death to the German Occupants”! That’s how the broadcast always ended! We knew what to expect! And Rape, as a Weapon of Warfare, as we had already seen on Film from Nemmersdorf, was used unmercifully against all German speaking Females of all Ages!
On March 23, 1945 then, a gray, but otherwise beautiful day, towards the evening, when the noise of the constant howling of the Stalin Organ and other Artillery barrages had stopped and an eerie silence had descended over our charming town of some 36, 000 inhabitants; I ventured out, poked my nose out of the Air-raid-shelter because it had been very stifling under-ground in the Cellar, and as somebody had spread the rumor that somewhere, food and milk was available, I took some courage and stepped out. No, it was not courage alone, but I was hungry, very hungry, that’s why I had to try, had to check things out. Hunger was the compulsion, that was the reason, very, very hungry, all of us, we were. For too long already had we lived on a few calories per day, had survived a hand to mouth existence for the last few month, our belts we had tightened to the last notch already.
“Don’t go, child”, my mother was saying, trying to stop me. But not even fear could stop me; I wanted to have something to eat. Wanted some fresh air, just wanted to breathe, to escape the claustrophobic conditions in our cellar. The claustrophobic cellar full of misery, crying, hungry children and near hysterical women.
We had been cooped-up for far too long in our cellar hideout. Gun fire and daily air-raids had driven us underground. The terrible howl of “Stalin Organs” had demoralized us, had frightened us out of our wits. Low flying enemy aircraft’s also had given us the rest, had terrorized us to such an extent that we did not dare to poke our noses outside as they were shooting indiscriminately at anything.
When I got out and looked around, up to the sky first; there was no Aircraft in sight, no person around, no noise of any kind, no more gun fire, no missiles or any other racket, everything was quiet. Off I went into the unknown, the dangerous world outside not knowing what to expect. The outside world was an immediate shock; the street we lived in was under water. Water-hydrants had been opened and in places the water was above my ankles. What was coming next? I was to find out, very soon. Had not gone very far, about 250 m to the bottom of upper Zoppot, to Haffner Strasse. That was when I saw them, a group of Soldiers, definitely Soldiers.
The colour of the uniform I could not quite make out, dark-brownish, something like it. ‘They must be ours, must be our Volksturm, because they didn’t have proper, ordinary Uniforms, coming down the hill. ‘Nothing to worry anymore’, so I thought, and started to move towards them.
‘Urrah, Urrah,’ I suddenly heard them shouting; ‘Oh my dear God’ they are the Soviets,’ and then I panicked. Run, run, I did, and how! How fast did I fly? If there was any water, I didn’t feel it, did not feel anything, nothing could slow me down as I heard some bullets whizzing past my head. How I made my way into our shelter, how fast, I do not know, I was so terrified and shaken. “The Russians are coming, Ivan, Ivan Ivanovich, is coming, the Soviets, the Communists are here”, I was shouting hysterically to all the frightened people hidden in the Air-raid-shelter, causing panic and consternation. They must have thought me completely out of my mind, crazy, didn’t want to believe me, I was just too hysterical and would not calm down.
Screaming my head off had scared the daylights out of everybody in the Cellar, and that was enough to stupefy, panic and frighten them all. It didn’t take very long, when after dark, a devilish face appeared. It was some kind of an Asian, did he come out of outer Mongolia? We let out an almighty scream and yell, and did not stop to cry out loud in anguish. Our cries and screams must have agitated the Victors, they started to shoot at once, spraying us with bullets indiscriminately, killing and wounding several of us. But, if anything, the shooting made us scream out even louder.
The commotion was indescribable, all the noise and screams we gave off must have been loud enough to wake up the dead, must have frightened the Russians into panic, whereupon they throw a Hand grenade down the stairs, causing more chaos and pandemonium, causing us to whimper, not to howl anymore. And then, the Hero’s of the Soviet Union stormed the cellar, hordes and hordes of them. Dirty, drunk and disorderly the were, Asians from Khazakstan, as we found out later, were looking around, and the very first words they uttered was: “Komm’ Frau, Komm!” That was an Order, an Order to be obeyed! We knew then that the Germans, that German Propaganda, had told us no lies. Knew that we were in for the slaughter, for rape, terror, and terrible assault, by the Primitives. The German Frau, the German Child, however put up a fierce struggle, did not want to come. That did not stop the Savages from using force, from using their weapons, Guns and Knives.
My mother who could speak Polish adequately, and therefore a little Russian. Tried to save me by offering herself, and by pointing out that I was only skin and bone, undernourished, underdeveloped Kid of just 14 years of Age; to no avail, She was brutally pushed aside, got a rifle butt into her face and ribs. Our screaming, now quite hysterical, had reached a high pitch. The filthy and stinking Soldiers seemed to get wild, seamed to enjoy the orgy even more, became more and more vicious, brutal and impatient. “Frau komm, Frau komm” so they were shouting, still no Frau was willing to come, so they shot Frau Mueller, who was yelling loudest, smack between the eyes. All hell broke loose and that was the signal for the orgy to begin in earnest. The just grabbed us by the hairs, one by one, dragged us out of the cellar, or just fell over us like wild beasts. Nothing could stop them. Before our eyes they picked on very the young first, picked on toddlers, even, the younger, the better. Resistance was out of the question, they made that abundantly clear, they just shot a mother trying to defend her 10 year old daughter like a tigress, stone dead, riddled with bullets.
And they threatened to keep on shooting anyone resisting.There was no escape, such was the naked terror, hell on earth it was, much more than just a devilish nightmare. “Frau komm, Frau komm” will for ever be in our ears, my dreams, my nightmares, and my system. I do not know how long the orgy of hate, the enjoyment of the Hero’s went on, there were just to many of them, and they kept on coming, more and more came, in ever more, and even greater numbers.
‘Frau komm’, was the cry, every Frau, and every young child, was dragged into a dark corner, or dragged outside, raped on the spot. Wild animals, the scum of the earth, the primitives, had descended onto us, the very devil had his evil pleasure. A disgusting nightmare it was, a disgraceful slaughter. It was just too much to witness, unfortunate mothers, fighting for the honour of their daughters, getting tied up with their own clothing, forced to watch in horror the rape of their daughters. If that was not enough, the mothers got raped afterwards as well, and in one case, because she kept on struggling and crying, the animals killed both, Mother and Daughter, for the had got tired of their screaming and kicking. And, on and on it went, all night, the raping did not stop, did not stop until the early hours of the morning. It was a scene out of damnation, out of Dante’s inferno, but much, much worse. Nothing did stop them as apparently they had the license to do what ever the wanted to do with us, poor creatures.
To make things worse, although not invited by the Soviets, a Polish mob and Polish Militia had joined the Orgy. Where the Poles came from only God knows. Whereas the Asians were brutal and murderous, the Poles out did them by far. They would beat us, rape us, insult us and then spit on us, even piss on us.
Names they would call us; Nazi Dog, Nazi Schwein, Nazi Sow, Hitler Sow, German Whore. In the Polish language, the Polish mob would call us; Kurwa, Kurwa! No need to understand the Polish language to know what that kind of obscenity means. If we dared as much to protest, they would beat us, green and blue! And they gave orders that none of us Nazi pigs were to enter our private home anymore! Or else! The purpose of the inhumane order was to keep us handy and locked up as Sex Slaves.
Sure enough, they all came back, night after night, the Asians and the Poles. The evil Poles, to be sure of, would join. In even greater numbers they came. And as the Russians had to move on eventually, or were restricted by their leadership, it was the Polish mob totally taken over. To treat us worse than one would treat an Animal, at the ready, not just for the night, but by day as well, day after day, after day. Bad enough what happened to us in our air-raid-shelter, but my friends and schoolmates had to tell me afterwards more gruesome stories. How they had suffered humiliation on an greater scale. My very good friend Gisela got raped up to 30 times in the first night alone, in the most violent fashion imaginable. Not just by one, or two, or three, but by many, by the multitude, what seemed to be a whole Regiment. And how the mass-orgies continued, day and night. Just as in our experience, the whole of Asia had come to punish and humiliate us, in their wake the Polish scum with all of their relatives.
Whereas the Soviet Soldier would be primitive, brutal and aggressive in satisfying his sexual appetite, the Pole on the other hand would be devious, bestial, depraved, vicious, corrupt and perverted. And the Pole would show no mercy to his victim, but abuse and insult the poor victim in most vicious manner after the animal act. And apart from the animal desire, all of them; Russians and Poles, both unclean, both filthy; had brought with them all kinds of illness and diseases, sexual diseases. All kinds of sexual diseases, all unknown to us innocent Virgins, unknown to our Society. And the filthy Victors brought vermin with them, vermin of all kinds. Vermin, like Lice, Bedbugs and Fleas! That was their payment, their presents to us.
Plenty of Lice; all kinds of lice, head-lice, body lice and genital lice, lice galore! We had never before experienced any lice or flies, but the primitive victors had given their culture to us, for free! After the first encounter with our Liberators, I had to be hidden. So they hid me, in the darkest corner of the cellar, under the coals, and placed a bathtub, a Baby Bath over the coals, just to make sure that nobody would detect me.
Claustrophobia gripped me, for hours on end I had to be hidden, in solitary confinement, in what was much worse than a prison, in the dark. There was no light, no food, no water, precious little or no air. Even now, nigh on 60 years thereafter, I am haunted, cannot go to sleep without the lights on and more often than not do I suffer from ugly nightmares! Nightmares of being discovered in my rat-hole by Soviets and by Polish Bandits. Mentally, I am a nervous wreak, have been like this all of my life, am a very much a disturbed person, still, and always suffering from trauma. A Trauma which has left me with the distinct hallmark, that of a frightened human vegetable.
When I eventually had to come out of my solitary confinement driven out by hunger, yes hunger drove me out, and thirst, that probably was the worst, I had developed a stutter. A stutter so bad I couldn’t put a sentence together, so terrible was my stutter.
This condition is still with me, even now, after all those years. Whenever I feel under stress, and in times of pressure, I simply cannot speak properly. If ever there is a tight situation, words will fail me, I start to stutter, go shy and retreat, words simply will not come out.
“Uri, Uri’ (their version of the German word for watch, which is Uhr) was another cry by the hordes from Khazhakstan. Any kind of watches they meant and demanded, and most keen they were on any kind of Jewelry or any kind of valuables.
If a Wedding Ring would not come off the finger quick enough, the Mongols, Pole or whatever they were, would not hesitate for a moment to chop off the whole fingers. Very often it was even the whole of the hand. And as every woman had at least a wedding ring, some had diamonds on their hands, it was a mad tug of war by the greedy animals. Earrings, they loved, Earrings, would simply be ripped off the ears. The animals would not or could not be bothered to wait for the woman to hand earrings over voluntarily.
The general looting carried out during all the chaos and the rape, was another thing none of us will ever forget, they searched and examined every inch of our bodies.
Among themselves, they displayed a lot of jealousy and envy, would fight each other for every valuable piece found. As to the looting and pilfering that followed, and which went on in our homes and houses, that was more than unbelievable. Greedy Poles, in particular, went on the rampage. They were hungry for virtually everything, valuable or not.
When, eventually, we managed to get into our homes, it looked like a battlefield.
Everything was overturned, everything was thrown about, every wardrobe was empty, all and every drawer they had smashed, broken and soiled. Soiled by urine and defecation. It was really no surprise to us to discover that the uncouth and uncivilized Victors did not know what an inside toilet with running water was good for. Still, it was a deep and devastating culture shock to discover that the glorious Victors had no culture at all! In their ignorance, utter stupidity, or whatever the reason was, they had smashed the toilet bowl, but not before fouling up the drainage.
That explained in part why they had disgustingly urinated onto the walls of every room, and had smeared excrements all over the place, onto the windows and even the ceiling.
Still, all the destruction of our House, all the wanton Vandalism of personal belongings, was nothing compared to the bestial rapes experienced.
Rapes that forever will be burned into our souls, hearts, and in our conscience.
That we cannot ever forget! Never! That, and the continuation of Rape by the Poles. And, that from the first moment they laid their eyes on us, their demand for females was insatiable. Whereas, after the initial onslaught by the Russians, their Officers tried to call them to Order, even stopped unrestrained bad behavior by their Troops on occasion, the Bandit of a Pole did not. As far as anything of German language was concerned the Pole, any Pole, was given free license. So, on and on it went, in front of our eyes, they didn’t bother to hide anything, like beasts they did fall over us, over all and every female. In the majority of cases and as the intensity of the Soviet Soldier’s initial sexual assaults, became more and more infrequent, it was the scurrilous Poles carrying on as Slave Masters.
Immediately, and at full blast later, when they had completely taken over full administrative duties over the former Free City of Danzig, and the indigenous Danzig population, which was from the very beginning; Poles made it clear the nothing short of total subjugation would do. The Poles then, set out to prove without any doubt, that from the start the Pole was the superior being over all Germans, the Master Race. Trouble was, the Pole proved to be far more bestial than the Soviets ever could be, in all and every respect. It was the Polish militia, well aided by the Polish mob, which had much pleasure to add to the weapon of rape, the weapon of terror and humiliation, and that of hunger and starvation against the defenseless, civilian Danzig population. Not only was terror, rape and hunger used to break the spirit and resistance of the females, but such terror also affected the rest of the population, the Elderly, the Sick and the Infirm, everybody. Terror, Rape and Hunger are crimes against humanity. The Pole knew it, just too well.
And started to starve the indigenous Danzig population, already weakened by Hunger to death. Deliberately, in order to drive them out of their houses and properties, eventually out of their homeland. That was their Plan. To implement their Plan, in true Machiavellian fashion, the ancient City of Danzig was burnt down, to at least 95%. The ancient Buildings, some 500 Years old, even older, made out of well seasoned timber, now dried out, burned down quite beautifully. Result: this wanton act destroyed the whole City. At once, the population was without shelter, was driven out into the open. Could be handled more easily from now on.
And it was to teach them a lesson, a lesson they indigenous people should never forget. That is why they had to be terrorized, to show them, the people of the Free City of Danzig, who was the Master. Indeed, the Poles made it very clear: ‘From now on a different Wind was blowing!’
Whereas the frontline Soviet Soldier had to move on, was replaced by a more humane type of Russian, and was now, by order and threat of severe punishment, even by penalty as harsh as death; no longer allowed to rape anymore indiscriminately; any such Order never did apply to any Pole! Polish militia and the Polish mob did not ever care to follow the Russian example.
On the contrary; the Poles made it absolutely clear that it was ” Holy Polish soil” Poland was occupying, and that we were outcasts, unwelcome, without any rights whatsoever. For this purpose Poland had established her own system of justice and terror for us in what they called; the People’s Republic of Poland.
The conquered Danzig civilian population was regarded not only as “fair game”.
Better still as “Outlaws” in their own country, and therefore: “there for the taking, for any Pole’s pleasure, without any ransom”! And Polish pleasure meant: Service, Obedience, do what you are told, but do not expect any pay or any food, before we had paid reparations for our crimes, our debts to Polish society. Which meant; Slavery on a grand scale; do or die for the Glory of Poland, there to work, to slave, a Sex object, to be punished, to be starved, starved to death! There, to be abused and punished, spat on, kicked around. Kicked by any boots, to be beaten, whipped, exploited, pissed on, and to be robbed, pillaged, intimidated, defrauded and deprived of all necessities of Life! All this by Order of Polish Officialdom and by anybody else!
This, they did, as promised, to perfection. And, to show us their real character, their superiority, there was Robbery on a grand scale. Did they ever forget to add insult to injury, add humiliation to their “Wholesale Pillage”, Laughter and Amusement at our helplessness? No, Sir, No! “A different Wind was blowing, too bad if we didn’t like it” that’s how they saw it. Besides, Slaves had no rights, no social or human standing whatsoever. To completely subjugate us, they used starvation as an additional weapon. Denial of food then brought illness and disease, just the right measure to decimate and liquidate us, in line with Communist doctrine. The Poles gave us nothing, no food of any kind, no Money, not even for working, for enforced hard labor, although that had lead us on with promises, promises. We would count ourselves lucky indeed if they gave us a few tablespoons of watery soup or a stone hard crust of bread. Sometimes! But that was rather the exception of the rule!
Starvation, therefore, was the end of all means to have us removed from our Home Soil. Did the Poles need any justification to get rid of the vermin, the civilian Danzig population? No, they did not! And as the Western Allies apparently had taken the Polish view completely, they had the go ahead, the moral support even; to have us removed from our their own, legal and rightful Home-Soil, by any means, by hook and by crook, by any cruel method!
Meanwhile, whilst I was still in hiding, my two brothers, aged 11 and 7, (eleven & seven) were a little more lucky with the Soviets in way of sympathy and understanding. Indeed the young boys discovered very soon that the Russian had a heart for Children. By now, the Russians would, more often than not, give food to the Children, even protect them against the ravages of the more than sadistic Poles.
With some small confidence, the boys would take some liberties to move around, all in search for food or anything, which might be palatable. Needless to say; we had no more food in the house, nothing at all, Cupboards were empty, the Cellar, storage of our Garden produce for the Winter, was cleaned out, in Spring. Therefore, we had absolutely nothing, had gone without eating anything for many days. The chalk on the wall was our only menu.
The boys then did a lot of scavenging and foraging. They foraged for any scrap, food or otherwise, as anything at all had to do, that’s how desperate the situation was.
My eleven-year old brother Hans, Hans, the Adventurer, did save our lives in those days, no doubt about it! Time and time again, He would be bringing little bits of eatables, little morsel from here, there, and from everywhere! An Angel, a real Magician! How he did it? I did not know. But he did, when it mattered most. We will always be indebted to him for the rest of our Lives. Our Boys would venture to the nearby Racecourse (3 km away) came back with a few kilos of rotten, stinking fish-meal, animal feed or fertilizer, to be sure off, but Mother managed to make for us fish-patties. For the taste we didn’t care, we cared more for a rumbling stomach, regardless of any consequences. The boys made the pilgrimage to Neufahrwasser, the entrance to the Harbour of Danzig.
There was a sugar-warehouse burnt down. Many others had been there before them, but the dirty syrup that there was, backed to the floor was scrapped off. That was most welcome, added a few more calories to our meager and scanty diet.
The trip to Neufahrwasser, some 12 km away all along the beach was not without danger. Mines and Ammunitions littered the Beaches, as well as many dead bodies washed up on the Shore. The Russians who controlled the Beaches would not mind the Children to proceed, the Poles, however, proved to be a real menace. They would stop anyone, Child or not, at every opportunity, for the purpose of body search. to And, if they found any food, anything eatable, anything of value, anything fanciful, anything they liked to be confiscated, they would do just that. Having taken it, would either keep it, or thrown into the Sea. At any rate, the person caught would be abused, beaten, sent to jail, or to be threatened of transportation to Siberia.
As mentioned; the beach too was a very dangerous place. A lot of war material was scattered there, alive-munitions, hand-grenades and mines, as well as many dead Soldiers and Civilians. Fascinated by all the debris on the Beach, the Boys, not having any other Toys to play with, would pick up play Hand-grenades and other War rubbish, would not only play with it but would bring it home to show us. Mother would be horrified, worried and very angry, that kind of joke she had no time for. Her anger, and her tears, however, had no effect, and in the end she could not ever be too hard on the boys, as they kept us alive with food they found and brought home.
There on the beach my brother Hans would recover a broken down bicycle.
He repaired it, and then proudly rode the bicycle, down the street, perfectly balanced, without using his hands.
A Russian Soldier, much intrigued and much impressed, stopped him. The Russian then, offered to my brother a Horse in exchange; under condition to teach him the same trick, riding the bike free handed. The deal was done, and at long last we had something really to eat, had some real meat to feed on, to get our wobbly teeth into. A lot of delicious stakes and hamburgers mother cooked, for us, and for all of the neighborhood, everybody was invited, we were just too happy to share our good fortune with all hungry people. More luck came our way, we found some very old and dried-out cheese, some canned milk, and some rancid margarine in the cellar of a house which was once a dairy-shop and outlet.
Then, somebody had the bright idea to get the bakery going at the other side of our house. The Baker was still around, Mr. Heidemann, a Gentleman already over 70 years old, but he was sharply watched by Poles because of suspicion regarding an alleged Nazi past. A Nazi he was not, we knew for sure, but the truth did not bother the Poles. With the help of the Russians, and the Baker Heidemann we got the Bakery going. Coal there was aplenty, some flour too. The Russians loved it, the Poles on the other hand tried to stop us getting food, tried to make trouble for the Russians. The Russians would have none of this, would allow my brothers to take away a loaf of bread home every now and then, later, twice a week.
One day, Hans came back with 2 rabbits. What a joy that was, and it did not spoil our appetite when we had to discover that one of the rabbits was a doe, was pregnant, we were just too hungry to indulge in any kind of sentimentality. In our search for food we ventured out further and further afield.
I had to come out of my dark prison in the cellar, lonely that I was, depressed that I was, now that the sexual assaults by the Russians had become more and more infrequent. Indeed, the situation became to weird, now, it was the Russians who protected us against the inhumane excesses of the Poles. I discovered how lucky we have been in living in the lower part of our Town Zoppot, which in peace- time had a population of some 36,000 indigenous citizen. It was a further shock to discover corpses still hanging from branches of trees, from Lampposts and the like, a great number of corpses, left there to rot, to intimidate us further. That was the job of Poles, of Communists Blood thirsty Poles, had taken revenge on the Nazis! That how the Propaganda went, but in fact they had indiscriminately, on suspicion only, murdered innocent civilians.
Not all of the hanged people were males; females were hanging there too. Nazis?, All of them? How could that be? Why? How did the Poles dare to convict and execute civilians, women at that, without due process of law, without any proof of guilt?
By asking the question, it came to our mind; was it not the fascistic Polish Republic, which had harassed and frightened us Danziger, frightened us since 1919? And that from 1934 onwards the political situation surrounding the Free City of Danzig had become intolerable when Poland had threatened on many occasion to take Danzig by force. Poland was the Aggressor then, and Poland was the Aggressor now!
The Danzig population was only some 408,000 strong in numbers, unarmed, demilitarized and peaceful, whereas Poland had a population of some 35 million and bullying us poor people all the time. And, Whereas, a belligerent Poland, a Fascist State, was armed to her teeth, the Free City of Danzig was demilitarized, was forbidden by her Protector, the Geneva League of Nations, to carry no Guns, not even Handguns, nor to produce any.
In terms of population the Pole had outnumbered the Danziger to the tune of 80 to 1.
That, under the circumstances, Poland dares to speak of the civilian Danzig population being a menace, a threat to Polish existence and security, is a grim perversion of World History.
How treacherous, nasty and perfidious the pious, catholic Poles could be, we, now learned from much bitter experience. According to eyewitnesses, it was perverted Polish Militia, Polish spies and pimps, who had urged the Russians to have an orgy in our Church, the catholic Meeressternkirche. It was the Poles who had rounded up all the Nurses from the Hospitals, all the Nun’s and Sisters from the Catholic Convent, the “Grey Sister’s. For good measure, the Poles recruited any other Females, Catholic and Protestants alike, all suspected to be Virgins, anyone belonging to any of the various religious Orders and Organizations.
They drove them to the Church, to have some Fun! And Fun they had! Some blasphemous and diabolical fun! In the aisles, on the benches, on the floor, in the pulpit, on the altar, the tabernacle, in every corner of the Church, and everywhere else; they had some fun. The screams of the terrified Victims, the Virgin’s, could be heard throughout the whole Town. The Grey Sisters in particular suffered unbelievable humiliation and abuse, the blasphemous, catholic Poles always leading the way. For many nights the orgies and subsequent murders continued. One cannot imagine that a Catholic Nun would surrender her Honour easily, and surrender, they did not. The number of innocent corpses carted away nobody counted, but there were many. Alas, and as the survivors had to suffer deportation by the Poles, not too many Nuns afterwards did tell the gruesome tale of what did happen in the Church of Mary in Zoppot/Danzig. The Sanctuary of the Church, a catholic Church meant nothing to the Poles, and as far as the Catholic Nuns were concerned, to Hell with them. Heaven was preserved for any Pole who took revenge on any German, for that matter, their God spoke Polish, not German.
After all, the Poles only followed the example set by the blood thirsty Soviets.
One only had to find out what they did to the wounded German Soldier in all the Hospitals in Danzig, in all the Suburbs, and in Zoppot, our Town.
Zoppot as a Spa and Sea-side Resort had been chosen as a place for recuperation for wounded German Soldiers. Every posh Hotel, and the Lyceum for Girls, had been converted into Hospitals. More than 10,000 wounded Germans had a bed in Town, and with the Russians coming in, their wounded Soldiers had priority over wounded Germans. What followed is another horror story, a sordid story, if ever there was one. Fact is that not one wounded German Soldier did survive. The Soviets killed them, without much ado. They were shot in their beds, in some cases even thrown out of windows, and carted away. End of story!
The fate of Danzig is another sorry Tale: On March 24, 1945, one day after Zoppot, our Town had fallen into the hand of the Soviets, Russian Planes had dropped Propaganda leaflets from the air. In the propaganda, Marshal Rokossovski had been asking for total and unconditional surrender of the Garrison. Lives and property of all Soldiers and that of the civilian population were to be spared. That was the solemn guarantee by the Soviet Marshall. Thereupon, Danzig was declared an open City, was not contested by the German Forces by their withdrawal rather than surrender, the Soviets never kept their word. Whereas, the City of Danzig fell into Russian hand March 30, after not much of a struggle, after having suffered combined Air Attacks by British and American Planes, the ancient City was damaged but more or less intact. Immediately, the civilian population suffered immediately under the brutal assault by the Red Army, was vigorously set upon. Well after the complete capture of the City, and as the story goes according to the devious Poles; it was a bunch of drunken Soviet Soldiers, who, by celebrating too much, had nothing better to do, than to set the whole City on fire, at every corner.
Russians, however, tell the same story differently. They say; it was the work of crafty, scheming, fanatical Poles, disguised in Uniforms, who, in an attempt to drive the civilian population out in the open, in order to deprive them of any kind of shelter and protection had set the City on fire; deliberately! Drunken Soviet Soldiers? Not very likely! Supported by Polish militia and other Polish Bandits, more to the point! In any case, it was done systematically as it was well planed beforehand and even better executed did not benefit the Russians, only the Poles who created for themselves this God-given opportunity!
And as the great fire was going according to plan, from every corner, the whole of the City burnt down to Ashes, most beautifully. The fire raged for many days, destroyed the 800 year old City of Danzig almost totally, razed it down completely, to something like 95%. (The whole extent we learnt only many years after)
The burning down of Danzig was witnessed by my brother’s, and some other people. From the roof of our house they had watched, it is only 8 km away in a straight line, using binoculars! Yes, we still did possess Binoculars, then, Poles stole them afterwards! The witnesses, still alive today, will swear to the date in History, and that there was no war-related noises or military action going on in Danzig anymore at that time.
The beginning of “ethnic cleansing”! The total eradication of anything smacking of German Culture, Language, or Heritage, and brutal eviction from our rightful Home Soil, the Free City of Danzig.
With the promise of payment for work in Zloty’s, which meant the ability to get, at long last, some much needed food, the Polish Administration, nevertheless, felt obliged to force us to work. Orders went out to every citizen of age 14 to 80 years of age for Slave labour, to clear up the mess the war had created, and other dirty work. The hunt was on! Already from the beginning of April of 1945, not the Russians, but a Polish Administration was in charge, and this Administration had created laws to deal with the enemy, the indigenous, German speaking population of Danzig.
Laws designed for the purpose to subjugate, to humiliate, ergo, use of the German language was forbidden, forthwith!
This decree affected Everybody, as even in time of Peace there were only a small number of Poles living together with us in the Free City of Danzig.
Next, were asked in no uncertain manner to opt for Poland, or else, take it or leave it! No Food Rations otherwise. In the face of this kind of blackmail, we all refused! Refused, in spite of being very hungry, down and out, in spite of our misery, our predicament, certainly not out of National pride, but rather in defense of our human dignity, we refused. The Poles reacted immediately, turned on the heat, by letting us know, that from now on no Mercy would be given. From the Poles, therefore, we got nothing, and did not expect anything, other than violence and chicanery! Indeed, the Polish Administrators, contrary to their promises to pay for Work done had made it their policy not to pay any Zloty’s to Us, None Poles. Food was from thereon only to be had for their Money, not for the German Reichsmark, our Money, only for the Zloty, the new Polish currency. A vicious circle it was; Zloty’s one could only get for working, but did the Bastards pay us for our Slavery? No, No, No, not at all! No Zloty’s = No Food. Not even for any back breaking Pick & Shovel work lasting sometimes up to 16 hrs., did the Poles pay us. Instead, we got paid in Riffle butt kicks, and abuses.
Consequently, we couldn’t perform to their satisfaction as such was beyond even the relative health some of Us, and real healthy no one was anymore. About the rest of the population, the old and infirm, and the very young, the babies, in particular, with hunger a daily battle, in a most miserable, hopeless situation?
More and more people resorted to taken their own lives! Some Mothers even took all their Children with them! Seemingly, there was no other way out, starve to death, or else, become a Polish citizen, a Polish subject, a Communist, never a free Person.
Whilst I was still sweating it out in my dark prison, ever so fearful of betrayal and to be caught, then, fearfully punished; it was our Mother, the first to be called up by the Poles to do hard labor. And what kind of a job she had to do? Looting, stealing, plain Robbery! “Recovering” the Poles preferred to call it. What the Poles had in mind was to remove Property from our Compatriots Houses, who had either fled the Communist onslaught, or had already been driven out of their Houses; like Furniture, Household Goods, and every other valuable item “Recovery of Property”, what a colossal joke, as if private Property had always spoken Polish. In this regard, it has to be remembered; without exception: Not any one of the Poles claiming sole rights over Danzig Land and private Property had ever lived in the Territory of the Free City of Danzig. Not anywhere near it. In their choice of ” Recovery” Everything of value was to be recovered; meaning all the contents of the houses, right down to the last nail. The items then “found” usually ended up on the “Black Market” or finished up into the hands of Russian or Polish Apparatschiks. By the Truck load, the Poles carted things away, the private houses were cleaned out, pillaged. This kind of Robbery went on for month, our people got to do the dirty job. Polish twisted minds would then accuse our People of starting this kind of robbery in the first place. This is their claim to this very day.
Valuable items like Antiques, Piano’s, Grandfather clocks, Silver Cutlery, Jewelry, Furniture, Carpets, you name it, the Poles forced us to steal it, to clean out the Villas, Mansions, Houses, Hotels, Apartments. For the participation in this disgusting Robbery, Mother was given a small bowl of watery soup daily, and a small piece of stale bread. One had to swallow the piece of bread quickly otherwise some Pole would feel inclined to take it away, just for fun. Taking Food, any Food, home was out of the question, Polish guards made sure of it every time by strip body searching every Female. This kind of sadistic trick was played on all and every Female by the Poles, such was their wickedness, their perversion. This they did that on purpose, and had pleasure even in watching People cry. When mother returned from her hard and long hours work then, late in the evening, she was most depressed and crying.
Depressed about the thieving she was forced to do, and heart broken because she had nothing to give to us in way of food. Clearly if it would not have been for our two boys providing us with a few little morsels we would have gone the way of the others, gone to a mass-grave like other compatriots, very quickly.
In spite of this grave situation, claustrophobic, hungry that I was, I had to sum up enough courage to face the cruel outside world, had to come out of my prison.
By now we had managed, against explicit orders, to go back to our Rooms in the House. What a sight that was, a horrendous mess stared us in the face.
This we had to clean up first. It was a job and a half, very heart breaking to see our belongings, either missing, or smashed to pieces.
Safe, however, we were not anymore in our own homes, as from the word go; we had to leave all doors unlocked! Unlocked! By Order! Poles wanted to walk in unannounced, at any time and every opportunity, by Day, and by Night
Our Mother, fearing for my safety came up with the idea of a hideout! Behind the massive Kitchen Cupboard was the right place for me. There I had to spend most of the Days and the nights. That, however, was a hell of an improvement compared to the dark solitary and claustrophobic cellar confinement where I had dwelled the last few weeks, indeed, as weird as it might sound, it was heaven! The Poles, however, had been snooping around, had become very suspicious. Forever they were looking around for new Slaves to be pressed into Work Gangs.
By now, Slave labor had become compulsory for every one of us from the age of 13 onwards. That was Polish law now in force, no exception was made.
Only the Boys, because of their age, still had some freedom to roam around.
But people like my 72 year old Grandfather, however, had to slave under Polish tyranny. Slave for a handful of calories per day, and had to fight for that little bit if they wanted to keep it. To keep that little bit of hard earned food, however, was not always possible as the Poles had their own devious ways to steal the last little breadcrumb out of the mouth of the hungry Danzig population.
Roll-up was at 7 o’clock sharp, every morning, every Day, he had to be at work, wherever the location, whatever the job, whatever the weather.
Every one had a number, and there was a Roll call military style, every morning, midday and evening.
Failure to report was immediately punished by kicks from Army Boots, Riffle or worse. They had their own way to humiliate and abuse us, the Bastards.
Tools of trade for the job the Slaves had to supply themselves, and often the Slaves had to guess what the tool of the day would be. If the Slave did make a mistake, if he guessed wrongly, or if we could or would not turn up with right tools, worse still, not have any, there would be punishment, abuse, kicks, swearing, in the most profane manner, for breaking the Polish law.
But we could count ourselves lucky. Very lucky, in comparison to our more unfortunate Compatriots from the City of Danzig, they had no shelter at all.
The ancient City had been burned down, wantonly and deliberately!
Deprived of shelter, they became an easy prey for the Poles. The infamous Concentration Camp called Narvik, was the prison where the civilians of Danzig finished up. From this Concentration Camp, Poland managed to deported our Compatriots deep into Russia, into Siberia, or to somewhere else in the Soviet Union, probably into the Soviet Republic of Khazakstan. Gruesome tales of hunger, diseases, and of dying did we hear, daily. It was hard to believe, but People from Danzig came to Zoppot, in search of a little scrap of Food. The unfortunate (or fortunate?) would sometimes drop dead before our eyes. Just the same, many of our Danzig Sisters and Brothers told us about their ordeal, of the thousands and thousands of starving, dying People, falling over like flies Yet the Poles would make those people, those skeletons, work, and would punish them. Punish them for every imaginable little trespass. Trespasses, which only existed in the sordid minds of the Poles!
A typical example of Polish brutality is the case of my elder brother’s best friend.
Franz Plenert, was his name. Franz was just on 16 years of Age. He had been called up by the Germans in the last Months of the War to defend the Fatherland against the Communists. This, he did not like, had eventually managed to get away from the Germans by risking his Life. He had deserted, simply because, he wanted to be with his Family in time of need. His Sister, Gisela, (15) my very good friend and School mate, a most beautiful girl, as mentioned, was awfully raped by the Russians, and by the Poles. Was raped so many times in fact, that the poor kid was most distraught, nearly out of her mind. Naturally, Franz defended his sister, her honor, in every way he could. This, the Victors did not like. And, when Franz then further irritated the Poles by disobeying direct orders, they set out to kill him! In his own backyard, the Poles forced him to dig his own grave! They beat and kicked, him constantly, finally, executed him, G.P.U. style, a single shot to the back of the neck. His own Sister had to bury him, had to cover him with soil, in the grave he dug! With the perverts looking on!
For all her trouble, Gisela, then was to suffer further humiliation, got further raped by a number of demented, perverted Poles. After that experience the poor Girl was marked for Life. What happened to her later I do not know! The Poles than issued a warning to anyone; put up Posters in the Neighborhood; “This is how we deal with all enemies, all the Nazis, of the Polish State. Do not dare to raise your ugly heads.”
Yes, Poland meant Business, bloody, bloody Business! To make our misery complete and as there was no end to suffering to hunger and widespread starvation; Diseases broke out. Diseases; like Dysentery, Typhoid, Typhus and even Cholera spread like wild fire. Cause of the various diseases could be traced to; Lice, bed bugs, fleas and other vermin the noble conquerors had passed onto us. All of it due to nothing else but Malnutrition.
All around us people dropped Dead like flies; a stinking Death they died, the great Reaper had a great harvest. The Dead however could not be buried. The Polish Clergy would not allow us any Christian burials. A Christian burial was only for catholic Poles, never for any German speaking Person, Catholic or not. Month of May, temperatures were rising! We had to bury our loved ones in a hurry.
Had to bury them in Mass Graves, without any coffins. Poles insisted on Mass burials.
Unbelievable it may sound, but such was the Polish attitude all-round, not coming from the Communists, but from the Catholic Church, from the Polish Clergy! The just did not care about humanity, could not, or would not give a damn about sanitary requirements or hygiene! There is no way we will allow any Nazi to be buried in ‘Holy Polish Soil’. ‘No Sacraments for Nazis, holy Polish soil is reserved for Poles, Poles alone. It shocked us no end, that kind of attitude, as it was nothing short of criminal neglect, appalling to the extreme. To experience as much from the Polish clergy; for them to be so cruel, so evil and mindless, to fellow Catholics. (the Danzig population was mixed, half Protestant, half Catholic)
Yet they, the Polish clergy, had emerging from nowhere, had taken possession of all the Churches, of all the Wealth, of all the religious facilities, of the Protestant Churches, as well as the Catholic institutions. The Polish clergy had expelled even their own kind, our own catholic Bishops and Priests. Presumably they had been classified as Germans, or Nazis sympathizers, or because of being of Danzig origin, therefore of German culture. Ruthlessly the Polish clergy had converted the Protestant churches and other institutions, including all Cemeteries, immediately for their own purposes. The Danzig congregation thus, had no more God to worship to! Not that we ever wanted to warship such a cruel God any longer, or a radical God who, evidently spoke Polish, was Polish in outlook and of Polish in nationality!
During this time there was a dramatic incident involving our Baker, Herr Heidemann. Apparently some Pole(s) had denounced him to the Russian military as being a Nazi.
It was the same Baker Heidemann who, with the help of the Russian had got the Bakery going. At any rate, a high ranked Soviet Officer called on my Mother to investigate the Polish allegation, and to interpret on behalf of that old Gentleman.
Njemjez or Polacki ?, the Russian was asking my Mother.
So, Mother, very frightened, pretended not to understand German, only Danzig dialect, and a bit of Polish and Russian. Njet Polacki, was the answer.
Somehow he then was satisfied that our Mother was not a Polack, but a Danzig-German, but wanted to know if the Master-Baker, Mr. Heidemann was a Nazi.
When Mother stated that Mr. Heidemann was a good Man, never a Nazi, the Russian Officer got angry, made it clear the Poles had told him otherwise, got out his Nagan Revolver and poked it into our Mother’s chest.
“Tell the truth, (Pravda, in Russian.) You are a Capitalist! All of you are Capitalists”.
It was a dramatic moment for our poor Mother, the Russian did not believe her word spoken in defense of Herr Heidemann, but he let her go, angry that he was, the Russian let Mother go. As to old Herr Heidemann, they took him away for further investigation. We never heard of him anymore, in all probability, they might have taken him to Siberia, killed him, or starved him to death! We often wondered why the Poles had denounced the poor Baker, but it was typical of the paranoia which had gripped Poles and Soviets, alike; it needed only one single word to declare any one of us as Nazis or as Capitalist, that was enough. A Capitalist was an enemy of the People, enemy of the State, and Capitalists had to be liquidated! That was what Tovarich Stalin had told them, that all Germans are Capitalists, the Communist were convinced of that, had seen it with their own eyes that the German, every German, even the poorest had more than anyone in the Soviet Union, supposed to be the Paradise of Workers!
There was another typical act of craziness and paranoia we had to witness;
For some kind of Victory celebration they needed material for Red Flag’s; Red and White, (Poland), Red, with Hammer and Sickle, (Soviet Union). So, they hit upon the idea of collecting, confiscating all the feather-bed Inlets. Although the somehow reddish Inlets were not quite the right red color, it was nevertheless, considered good enough and near enough! But was to be done with all the feathers? And so it happened that in the middle of Summer in our part of Zoppot, our part of Town, was suddenly transformed into a Winter Wonderland.
White Feathers were flying everywhere, it was a scene out of a fairy tale.
We stood there in wonderment, marveled at the absolute madness, the insanity of the Communist. It was quite a non-violent show, weird as it was, crazy as it was, utterly senseless as it was; Sure we had lost our warm bed-covers, but it was Summer, and it was the first none violent experience we had encountered for a long time. We did not laugh, the sight was just too bizarre to contemplate, it’s a mad, mad world, and our world had gone completely crazy.
And then, in all that madness, in all of our despair, a little luck came along.
Mother had managed to get a real job! A job as a kitchen hand in a Russian converted Hospital, nearby! Within walking distance! This Hospital, a former place for secondary education for girls, and had existed as a Hospital for German Soldier before the Russians took it over. It was the same Hospital where so many wounded German Soldiers were massacred, but any of our sentimentalities were out of the question. Mother’s kitchen job in that hospital was directly supervised by a Russian Sargent, a Reservist, an elderly, very kind and good man. This Russian allowed Mother to take home some soup every day. Enough for us to have at least one warm and decent Meal. The Wolf was kept from the door, for a while, at least.
The Poles in the meantime, always snooping around, walking in at will into the House, certain Poles kept on looking for me. That I had eluded them for so long had bothered them, now they were out to catch me, wanted to punish me and beat me! Severely! But, the certain Poles had to catch me first. Mother tried her best to pacify them the best she could, but the Poles called my Mother a German slut, a German pig, a German dog, a German whore, and swore they would transport me to Siberia, just to teach me a lesson and to drum arrogance out of my body. “Kurwa, Kurwa” and other obscenities they would shout at me, ‘only very hard labor would cure me’, the beautiful “Zurka”. And they made it clear that they would take pleasure in shoving big pricks up my “piesdra mockra.” It did not matter that I had worked for some other bloody Poles already for the last few days, but, this was a different mob though, a really mean mob meaning business, dirty business. And, they caught me, no way out; I had to go with them.
Off we went the next morning, on foot, a column of haggard people. Old People, young people, some as old as eighty and above. Some couldn’t walk properly, Indeed, some did not ever make it to the Railway Station in Langfuhr, some 11 km away.
Polish guards, always armed to the teeth, drove us on, drove us on to Langfuhr.
There we stopped, at the Station, and there we heard the rumour that we would have to walk another 5 km to be transported to farms in the fertile plains of the Danzig Lowlands, some 50 km away, much too far to walk. As word filtered through later, as we found out, much later, many, many did not make it, fell to the way side, were never heard of again. Yes, they were made to walk the whole way, 50 km and more, and when they arrived, there was Raboti, Raboti (Work, Work in Polish)
It was a tale of hardship, of privation, dirty working condition, hunger, lice, fleas and bugs, of illness, punishment, and of ‘No Pay!’
Marching with all the others, I had a feeling, a very bad feeling, sensed the ill-fate awaiting me, and I was looking for an opportunity to sneak away, to escape.
With the guard standing next to me, I pleaded, in my best Polish: “Please let me go to the Toilet”. He was contemplating, considering, I could see, so I kept on begging, and finally he relented. A Public toilet it was, many people waiting, it took time, I took my time also. And when I came out, the column was just about to move on. How lucky I was! Now was the Time to disappear! High time to buzz off! There was only one thing to do; to run, run, run! And run I did, for my life, crouching down, looking for cover!
Zigzag, zigzag, zigzag, not ever in a straight line. They discovered me, and started to fire shots in my direction, I head to awful noise of the bullets whizzing by. I did not stop for any moment, didn’t catch my breath, my heart was pounding, with the Polish terror breathing down my neck, I ran myself to exhaustion, but what the hack, my heart was in my throat, I was still alive. Along the railway line I ran, luckily it was elevated a little and provided cover, and then I ran across the fields, direction home, to my Mother, to safety! The Poles never caught up with me, and on I went towards the Horse-Race track, past the Race track and went for Home.
But now the game of ‘hide and seek’ had started in earnest again. Again I had to hide, but to the dark cellar I couldn’t go anymore because the Poles had confiscated all the coal, that cover was blown for good, no more my bathtub either. The mighty Kitchen Cabinet, 3.5 meters wide, 2.7 meters high, and very heavy, was the answer, became now my prison, just the right place to hide behind. Neighbors had helped us to set this monster of a cabinet across two walls at an angle The space behind was big enough to hide me, to settle down and to store a few essentials. The Poles came to look for me but could not ever find me. They searched three weeks they came, every day, snooping around, looking everywhere, it was all too easy for the Poles to walk in and out as they pleased. After all the doors had to be kept unlocked at all times, that was the Order!
The Order originally designed to supervise us became an open invitation to rob us.
They came to steal the Bastards, steal that little that was left, and which we desperately needed to survive, to exchange a few personal belongings for a few Zloty’s to be used at the Black Market.The Poles also came to harass us, constantly, to beat us, clobber us, and to abuse us for no other reason than to show us their superiority, how the now wind was blowing. The, all ready ugly situation became more and more dangerous.Time and time again was my Mother prompted, urged to take on Polish Nationality. For her own good, for the sake of the Children, or so they said! She refused, point blank. Refused every time. Better Dead than Red! She had seen the real face of Poland and that was enough for eternity. Never to be a Slave of Poland, under any false pretenses and promises; that was not a life she had envisaged for herself and her Children.Time and time again did our Mother explain to us that we were citizens of the Free City of Danzig, That Danzig never belonged to Poland, and that Poland had no right to claim our Land, our Properties.
Surely, after War the time would come that the rightful international status of the Free City of Danzig would be restored. The Geneva League of Nations, England in particular, would see to it. Around that time mother started to write urgent letters of petition to the Vatican, explaining to the Holly Father, the Pope, our plight, and the desperate plight of our Compatriots. In her letters to a number of other Foreign Authorities did my Mother also complain about the unfairness of UNRRA, C.A.R.E. and Caritas Organization.
The Western World, apparently, had become aware of the chaos, the desperate shortage of Food in our part of the World. Accordingly, the above mentioned Organization tried to get much needed Food to starving People. To us starving, indigenous People? Never! As Poles would have it, the Food parcels were meant for Polish Nationals only! Not to any Nazis! And as, we and the majority of our Compatriots had refused to become Polish citizens, Food parcels were not for us.
Poles made us believe that, UNRRA, and the American Organizations in particular, had excluded us Danziger from all Charity on the ground that we had proved to be Nazis, beyond redemption! Food Parcels from America in the main would invariably turn up at the Black Marked. For us to buy! For Zloty’s only. Zloty’s we never had.
The Poles would tease, taunt, deride and ridicule us, poke cruel fun at us.
“Have a look at all the goodies, have a sniff, you Nazis”, they would say, “have a sniff at the chocolate, tins of food, instant coffee and all other merchandise from America.”
It was all there at the Black Market, well stocked, to be sold by the Poles at inflated prices. Much too expensive for us, we had very few Zloty’s anyway, although we had sold the last shirts of our backs already, the Black Market was out of reach for any of us.
Mother’s hopes to receive an answer from the Vatican, any kind of answer, or any kind of acknowledgement, was always dashed. Nothing came, no reply ever came, least of all from the Vatican! And as we had seen, the American Charity Organizations, and Caritas, the catholic Organization, all of them must have known that only the Poles, and the Black Market, in the end would the Beneficiary of their Charity, not the starving People! About the corruption going on, the “black marketeering” that we had nothing, the Poles on the other hand had plenty, the Yankees must have known, yet, they aided the Communists. Double Standard, two faced, unfair America; my Mother was not very impressed! Hypocrites, she called them, immature People with too much Money, Communist sympathizers!
I knew that My mother had no illusions anymore, and that she had lost complete faith in Religion, nevertheless, she never gave up hope, encouraged us whenever she could. She kept therefore kept on writing letters to Authorities and to the Pope, although it did cost us many, many Zloty’s, at a time when we urgently needed Zloty’s for buying precious Food. Writing letters proved a waste of time and resources, was all in vain, and we suspected that, either the Polish Authorities never passed on her letters, or that the Vatican couldn’t care less.
More and more greedy Poles came into the house now, they just walked in to take everything they fancied, and by now, nothing much was left, they had cleaned us right out. To escape the daily raids, the harassment by the dissatisfied Pilferers, their uncontrolled anger and viciousness, we decided to go to our Grandfathers place, at least for a while.There, in Schmierau some 4 km away, things were not quite so hectic, but equally grim as far as Food was concerned. Pragmatic Grandfather had opted to stay, he had taken on Polish citizenship. This he had done for reason of protection and self-preservation, nothing else! A naturalized Pole that he was now, that, however, did not help him in any way! If anything, his position was now the worst of both worlds! For his living, his existence, he had to work, had to work with his bare hands, the Poles made sure of that! By opting to become a Polish subject, Grandfather had hoped to hang on to his Land-holding, his Farm and other Properties. This proved to be a fallacy, the Polish State did not allow Private Property or Private Enterprise. Therefore, everything from now on was not his anymore, that belonged to the Polish State, the communist People’s Republic of Poland. He was also not allowed to work his own land, to seed it or harvest. The result; nothing was sown, nothing was harvested. Grandfathers physical condition was bad, he was suffering from a bad leg, a crook back and neck, half paralyzed he was, yet, he had to work! The Poles made him work, hard physical labor. His Daughters too, my Aunts: for the glory of Poland they worked from now on. If they wanted to eat, that was, if the wanted to earn a few Zloty’s.
My Aunts too, had experienced the whole fury of the Russian and Polish liberation.
They too, had suffered humilities and rape, and the rape of their young Daughters, by the multitudes. Dad to endure “revenge” from the Victors. But now, as Polish subjects, Life would be different, better. It was not! True, for their all their work, they earned a few Zloty’s, but that was that enough to get enough to eat? No, they were starving, just like us. Grandfather regretted the advice he had given to us to stay on very much, he felt sorry for it, very sorry! Sorry for us, and very sorry himself!
How wrong he had been in thinking that the Soviets and the Poles, the Communists, would behave like any other decent human beings. Cry he did, the old man, it was pathetic to see him like that, but it was all too late to cry about mistakes which had been made, and for having been so naïve! In Schmierau, Home of our Grandfather, my brother Hans found a job milking cows. The very cows belonging to Grandfather, now belonging to a Polish State, a Communist Pole in charge of our Farm. No pay for this job, and very little food. Milking cows, smart Hans, however, would find ways and means to divert the milk, not always into the bucket but his mouth. Until one Day, when he got caught. The Pole who caught him went berserk, he bashed Hans so hard, beat him blue and green, so hard that Hans would hear the Angles sing for 2 Month afterwards. So ended the non-paying job of milking. Hans, however, was carved out of harder wood, in spite of his injuries, this eleven year old Boy volunteered to accompany our Mother to Kokoschken, a place in the former Polish Corridor, about 25 km to walk to, in itself a very long way to go. As transportation for the expedition, the aim it was to forage for potatoes, was an old and broken down cart which had to be pushed.
The cart was repaired with some difficulty, and with our blessing and all our hopes, my Mother and Brother went, hoping to bring home something to eat! We were all in a bad way, had resorted to eating weeds of all kinds although we had real doubts about the nutritional value of what we gathered from fields, and from sides of roads. Among the weeds we ate was dandelion. Dandelion as a salad, cooked as a vegetable or have it as tea or coffee. Dandelion roots, (toasted) leaves and All. Awful to taste, but Hunger is a demanding Master. Stomachs too, do not like to listen to any sentimental reason. Grasshoppers and crickets we ate; snails and frogs, beetles, mice even, if we could catch any. We were neither proud nor fussy anymore!
In this situation, it was vital to find potatoes. My younger brother Klaus and myself had to stay behind, to keep my Aunts and Grandfather, company after work.
For our Expedition to come back we waited, waited and waited, we worried and prayed, for seven days. Surely, it would not take that long to walk 50 km in all? No sign of our Mother and Brother, we almost gave up hope.Then, a miracle happened, in the early morning of the eighth Day, they had arrived, very tired, very weak, but very happy, with a cart full of Potatoes. Mother and Brother had returned with 200 kg of beautiful, life-saving Potatoes. What a joy that one was! They had a lot of mishaps, a broken axle, among other trouble. And had the misfortune of having a load of potatoes confiscated by merciless Poles, twice, for this reason had to try again and again, turn around again. Coming back empty handed would have been just too devastating! As it had turned out, another Pole, this time a kind hearted Pole, had help them in their distress, had fixed the axle, and had accompanied my Mother part of the way, until he felt them safe. For this charitable Polish Gentleman we say our thanks, now and always. For many weeks to come we had something to eat, something to fill our bellies with. How wonderful it is to have some Food as with Potatoes one can have all kinds of dishes, even without any fat or oil. Just to eat properly, is wonderful, is the most satisfying feeling in the world! All of our Lives, however, became more and more precarious, more difficult, more hopeless, more desperate, by the minute.
May 8, 1945, Soviets and Poles wildly celebrate the end of the War. ‘Wojna kaput, Hitler kaput’, kaput, kaput, so they were shouting! There was a lot of shooting that day, shooting in anger, even! Shooting, a lot of it! This time, between the Russians and the Poles. From that moment open hostility broke out and the Poles and Russians were at each other throats forever. By tradition, and going back in History, Poles and Russians have always hated each other’s guts, now they had a go at each other’s throat!
As it happened, on occasion they would fight each other to the death! The now open hatred between the Poles and Russians would come to the fore, was there for everyone to see. In fact, has not abated to this very Day.
Middle of May, the entire Danzig population lined the Main-road from Zoppot to Danzig. Word had spread around that our Soldiers, – who had so valiantly fought until the end on the Hela Peninsula, had surrendered, would be marching down the Street. Had capitulated only on the Day, when Germany had capitulated, was forced to give up. It was a very emotional time for us, as it was for our Soldiers. For several days we watched and cheered the disciplined columns of German Soldiers marching by; destiny unknown.War Prisoners now, the disciplined German Soldiers were in good spirits, and singing. Singing, although they knew that they were on the way to Siberia, most of them never to return! Indeed, only 20% of all the German Prisoners of War ever came back from Russia. The rest found an icy grave in Mother Russia’s soil! Sad, and crying, we didn’t know about the fate of the German Soldier then, but had some idea of pending doom. We marched with them for a while, did not care for riffle-butts, machine-guns. Did not care for Nagaika’s and Whips, nor did we care for the curses and abuses of the guards!
Touched by the plight of us, by our misery, the German Soldiers would gladly part with their rescued Food Rations, and with other essentials. What ever they had they gave to us. They were hungry themselves, we could see, but parted with their Food rations, their valuables, clothing they gave to us, because they know only too well that the Russians would take it otherwise. In any case it was too evident to the German Soldiers that we were starving, were in desperate need. For any treasures, other than Food received, we would be able to get some Zloty’s, later on from the Black-market some Food. The clever and greedy Poles, however, exploited the situation we were in to the full, they would cheat us, never give us true value for anything valuable. And they knew how to bargain, knew that we could not eat watches, gold rings or diamonds, or other valuables. In the absolute knowledge that they (the Poles) could take anything away from us without having to pay for it, they played it tough! After all they could just report us to the Authorities. To have us then flogged in the bargain, for being in possession of things of value belonging to the Polish State. After all, theirs was a Class-less Society, and we were after all Dogs, Pigs, Capitalistic Swine and Nazis. At Grandfathers place we could not stay any longer. Grandfather, the Polish citizen was under pressure, under enormous pressure not to harbor Nazis in his House any longer. Thereupon, Grandfather had to throw us out! The old and pathetic Man was crying! What was he to do? As Patriarch had he failed the Family already. Now, he was to betray us again!
As a Pole he was under obligation not to fraternize with any German speaking person. That was the law! Polish law! And he as a Pole had to obey! Or Else! To hell with Relatives! What that ‘Or Else meant’ in a Communist State, everybody knew only too well! Anyone bucking the system was liquidated! So, he had to throw us out! It was all so confusing! We all cried! We had to go! Had to go quick! We would rather be: “DEAD THAN RED’, never ‘bloody Polish!’ Better to die today than to vegetate under Communism!
Tat was our decision! But where else to go? To our house, as dangerous as it was; that’s where we went. Where else could we have gone? But how it looked there? We could not believe our eyes! Every thing was a mess, a stinking mess. Every thing was broken, smashed to pieces Like Vandals of old, Poles had wrecked the place, wrecked beyond any recognition. Nothing was intact anymore! Even a fire had been stated, had burnt some furniture. Most of the window glass was broken, all the light bulbs broken or had disappeared. No Gas, no Electricity, no running water! Almost all of the furniture was smashed to bits and pieces. Insanity had manifested itself. The insane destruction witnessed boggled our mind! The Books, in particular, had become the target of vandalism.
The books, collection of classic German books, more than 1,000 books in all, all bound in leather most of them, very expensive, a heirloom of the family, we found destroyed, ripped to shreds. Apparently, the soft pages of the books must have been welcomed as toilet paper by the Vandals, who had no respect for Books, per se, but it was hatred of the German language causing this kind of vandalism. As for the rest of our Possessions; What a sight; the massive Kitchen Cabinet was intact but everything else was wrecked, all the glass was broken, the crockery was broken or stolen, and so was the cutlery, nothing of value had survived. Luckily, the dirty Poles had not moved the heavy Kitchen cabinet away from the wall, it was still in the same place, how very lucky! Lucky, because behind the cabinet, in the space, my former hideout, there was our emergency survival kit and some rations. All Documents and photos we had also stored there, and clothing, besides other odds and ends, also some warm bedding. Our Mother had prepared ourselves for the worst scenario, for more disasters to hit us. Had not forgotten to think, and to plan for all eventualities; Most important, therefore, She had hidden behind the Kitchen Cabinet ‘Emergency Ration’! We were still to find out that our lives very much depended on those Rations! Our Mother never told us that She had hidden some time ago to 2 loaves of bread, dried out and toasted, cut-up to small cubes, packed in little bags behind that Cupboard, as we might have been tempted to still our hunger beforehand.
Just as well she kept that a secret before anyone, as worse was to come, and as our Mother had predicted, and even more anticipated; that Poles would get nasty about our stubborn refusal to be Polish, would do something terrible about it. As predicted, so it happened! It happened on September 21, 1945, Polish Militia paid us a visit.
At 4 o’clock in the morning they came. The yellow bellied Bastards came, armed to the teeth! They came with Bayonet and Hand-grenades! “Njemnetzki, raus, raus, raus, Schnell, schnell, schnell!” That was the Order! They read us the riot act! In no uncertain manner!
The Polish animals gave us 10 minutes to get ready, ten minutes only, very little time, Very little time they gave us! 10 minutes, No more! How lucky that we always had enough discipline to listen and obey our Mother, had prepared ourselves. We just rubbed sleep out of our eyes, and we were ready. Not so our friend and neighbors from across the Street, rudely awakened, it took them longer to get over the shock, to rub sleep out of the eyes, and grab their belongings. It them took much longer, and for that they got beaten! The cowardly Polish Militia then went to work, with ruthless efficiency, with bayonets, curses and abuses, that how the Poles drove the rest of our friends and Compatriots out. For our own good we had to be persuaded with Bayonets. German swine and whores unfortunately must be prompted! Would not move otherwise!
Down on the dark street we were waiting for things to come! Already lots and lots of people, still sleepy and unsure of thing to come, had assembled down below. Mrs. Romschick, from the house opposite of ours was virtually dragged down by her hairs. She had 2 little children in tow, 2 young boys in a pram, to get them out of bed and ready took time. A Polish Bayonet made her hurry up.
The luggage she wanted to take was left behind, no time for that. Light clothing, that was all she had, and the Kids, packed into a Pram. Compared to her and others, our little outfit looked well organized, a nap-sack on our backs, our dried and toasted food-rations around our necks, a container with water and something to carry in our hands, also some bedding covers. To carry any more was not allowed. The heavily armed, armed to the teeth, very nervous Polacki’s, seemed to be prepared to shoot at us any minute. Mrs. Romschick turned to my Mother, showed her a piece of Bread, which she had backed out of Maize flour, which was the only Food she had.
“You’ll see, they will not harm us, this is only an exercise, they’ll let us go back. Look at the Children, they are just too small, and see what we got, surely they will let me get all my other things”.
Our Mother, however, knew better and she openly said so: “I am very sorry for you, but this is the end, we shall never return, shall never see our homes again.” How right she was! And then the Poles herded us together like animals. They drew the bayonets, (Bayonets, against helpless, weak and hungry civilians?) shouted at us, kicked us, swore at us, in order to make us move. Everyone not quick enough got the butt of a riffle in the back, or in the ribs, if that didn’t help a hefty poke with Bayonet was used to good effect.
For the very last time they gave us the chance to sign the papers; be Polish citizens immediately, and you can stay, refuse, and see what happens! “No, thank you,” we said and so said all the others. Two, very frightened Women, with young Children took up the offer, signed up. After having been promised the return of private property, and protection by the Polish State. Poor sods; the Promise was a damn bloody lie!
Poor things, in their misery they fell for such a lousy propaganda trick; The Poles, however, never kept their word, never intended to keep the word, and never returned any private property to any one, least of all to “newly nationalized Poles”
We know what happened afterwards: The People’s Republic of Poland simply outlawed the German language, custom and culture altogether, never gave back anything.
This awful and diabolical crime of outlawing the German language, a crime against humanity, remained in force until the beginning1990, the year of collapse of Communism in Poland and elsewhere within the Communist Block!
Down in the street, under duress, we had to register and sign papers too, but for a different reason: We had to declare that we had volunteered to leave our homes, properties and country on our own free will. Failure to do so would be punished! Terms of punishment were not spelled out.
What such punishment was in aid of was abundantly clear: Death by Starvation! Polish style! All the grown-ups signed, we were in no position to argue, had to give in to sheer weight of blackmail and political subterfuge! There was no other way to escape the Polish tyranny, as none of us would have survived otherwise! (Modern Polish Propaganda made the whole World believe that the People of the Free State of Danzig, had either abandoned their Homeland, or had left voluntarily what they considered ancient Polish property, anyway.)
After an appeal for the very last time (again!) to change our minds in favour of Poland, and as the Poles failed to get any more takers, they got real nasty, herded us together, like cattle. Panic broke out when the Polish militia drew their heavy Bayonet’s, in manners befitting the storming of Barricades. It was utter bedlam and chaos, everybody was screaming.
Children, who had been seeking protection under mother’s skirts had to feel the full force of riffle butts. That made matters worse and resulted in families getting separated.
That didn’t bother the Poles at all, they went to work even harder, hitting anyone, anyone who was to slow to move. To the Train Station they took us, not to the Railway Station proper, but to the Goods-train terminal, distance of 1 km. Nearly two hours it took to get there, and when we got there, there was no train. Only people, hordes and hordes of them; ” all Volunteers” according to the Poles! That is their version! Repeated over and over again! Proclaimed before the World. Indeed, Poland never gets tired to flog the lie.
That’s how the Poles have managed to fool the whole world in believing: “that there have never lived any one else but Polish nationals within the borders of the Free City of Danzig. As to German culture, custom and language, that is nothing but a Myth”.
The World believed! It was just to easy to close the eyes and condone everything that happened behind the Iron Curtain!
Arriving at the Goods-Railway-Station it was a sight to behold. Never, ever had I seen so many people before, they would have filled a whole football stadium. A giant ant-heap it was! More and more kept on coming, and still no train. The Poles then utilized the time for a final search! For security reason; so they said and relived the people of their last little essentials. They didn’t get anything from us but stole plenty from other unfortunate victims. Money they wanted. Zloty’s, for the train ride was free! We didn’t need any Money. On the other hand; Nazi Dog’s and Swine could not reasonably expect to get a free ride, or be treated like tourist!
Finally, at around midday, a train did arrive. Not a goods-train as we had expected but passenger-train with some 25 carriages. From now on it was a matter of; ‘Free for All.” Fight for it! The Ants started to move! Fighting broke out to get into the train because it was apparent to anyone that even the unusually long train with 25 carriages could not ever accommodate all the people congregated. In next to no time the Ants filled all the carriages, all the cavities within the carriages, all of them without any seats.
The clever Poles had ripped all the seats out. This was to provide more space, even though, there was never enough room for all the people.
To get into the carriages people did not just use doors, but open windows as well. That’s how we got into the train, somehow we got one in, through a window, the others followed. Amazing it was, even n their desperation, people did not forget to help each other. Always was a helping hand extended, even if it meant more discomfort for oneself.
They filled the train to the brim; in the end they were sitting on top of each other, on the roof, or hanging like grapes on the running boards, or anywhere else. Eventually the train started to move, not towards the West but towards the East, towards Danzig.
That frightened the daylight out of us; ‘ not to Siberia, for heavens sake, don’t let us be transported to Siberia!’
From the ” Heinrich Bridge ” they fired shots at us. Perverted and ill-tempered Polish Militia had some morbid fun and target practice. When word went around afterwards; the shots fired had found some victims among us. Off the City, being packad in like Sardines, we did not see much of all the destruction as the Railway Station alone had escaped the fury of War In Danzig, however, the train got shunted. Back we went, this time on a journey to the West. Westward bound we traveled until we reached Koeslin in Pommerania, now in Polish occupied territory. Destination Koeslin however was the end of our trip ‘in relative comfort’! Useless to dwell on how we all coped without any sanitary facilities for more than 24 hrs, it was all a blur. That we had a number of “dead people” among us was only discovered after we got out of the crowded compartments, out of ‘our sardine-tins’, at the end of the line.
We did not know it then what further was in store for us! That we were in for yet another extreme and rough experience, was yet in front of us. An ‘ EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME’, only schizoid Poles could have dreamt such up. An experience so evil and diabolical, only sick and perverted minds could have concocted such incredible sadistic inhumanity. To start of with, the Poles would not let us bury our Dead! We had to leave the dead in the carriages, so we never found out how many had actually died naturally or from the shooting. They would not allow us to relieve ourselves, no problem as people had nothing to pass out from empty bowels. Nor would they give us any food, or water!
For our further transportation they had a goods-train provided, open carriages, open platforms. Open platforms laden with goods already. Laden with timber logs, and all kinds of other solid material. We had to fit on top of it!
This train was very long. We could not see the head or the tail. Perhaps it was about 2 km long, or even longer, we could not tell. Again it was a case of; Every body for Himself, meaning, again, we had to fight for it to get on. That was most difficult with the logs on. Again, with more and more people coming, appearing out of nowhere, like ghosts, it became more difficult by the minute. All of the people that came looked gray and dirty, old and young alike, haggard and sick, some with a little baggage, others without. The Poles had taken it all, had relieved them already of all of their meager belongings, the usual story. There was little or nothing to hang onto on the open platforms. Nothing to grip on the logs. Hard enough when the train was stationary, dangerous when in full flight! And then the train started to move. Where was the Train going? We wondered? If we had our bearings right it was to the East and not to the West! Hell was awaiting us!
So began a trip to Hell. A trip to Hell which lasted an Eternity! A train ride we will never forget. Visions of Siberia came before our eyes as the train gathered more and more speed, then started to race, faster and faster it went! Cold it was, the draft from the speeding train, very soon the cold was biting into our bones. What was the purpose? What was the purpose of the speeding train, to blow us all off? More and more Sign post appeared which bore already Polish names, we had no idea where the journey was going to end. The faster the train went, and as the Train went faster People just fell off! Fell off, in bunches they fell off, the speed was just too much! We could not help to notice that, in spite of having our own problems, Problems of hanging onto the slippery logs.
Like leeches we hung onto our Mother, She was the anchor, kept holding us together with super-human strength. She was the anchor in this sea of utter madness. Her strength, more spiritual and mental than physical, her fortitude and courage did, time and time again, save us from the very worse. We did not pray, we could not, faith we had long abandoned, our salvation was our Mother!
All in all, this most hellish, bizarre, idiotic, absurd, lunatic and insane train ride, did last for 8 bitter cold nights and eight days. Did we know where we where? Not at all!
We have estimated that the train must have covered a total of some 3,500 km, (three-thousand-five-hundred) when in fact it should have taken us only about 400 km to somewhere near civilization. Yet, Back and forth, fourth and back, we must have traveled. In Circles? Yes, around, and around we must have gone, in circles we must have gone. Backwards, Forwards? What was the purpose? Suspicion was in our minds! Was it to get rid off us? To decimate and demoralize us further?
Most probably, that must have been the reason. There was no other explanation! In the drastic reduction of our number the Poles succeeded, succeeded just too well. That must have been the purpose then, to demoralize and to cut us down to size; no other conclusion is possible. Our spirits, however weakened, they could not ever break.
The first night was very, very cold and the wind was biting into every one of us. Our warmer clothing did help a little, and we had a blanket to cover us. Nevertheless it was cold, just the same. How the others, less protected people coped with the inhumane conditions was any bodies guess. The fact that we had some pieces of bread to nibble on and also some water, that did help too, but the cold did bite unmercifully nevertheless, made us feel miserable and shivering just the same. For our bodily functions there was nothing on our luxury train. What were people to do? Even though they had nothing in their stomachs, they had upset bowels, some had dysentery!
Mercifully the train stopped in the morning, in the middle of nowhere. We became aware of the carnage so far of this trip to Hell had taken. Looked around. What a sight! Where had all the people gone? Only half of the previous day passengers we counted. Had they all fallen off? That must have been the case, and then we saw people removing many dead bodies from the train, for burial to the fields.
We too then jumped off, and whilst other were pre-occupied in burying their loved one’s, in a fashion, they had no shovels or spades, had to use their bare hands, we looked around for anything eatable and to exercise our stiff limbs. There was little or nothing in way of food. Some rotten piece of turnip perhaps, or less than a handful of grain left over from last years harvest. For water we went to the front, to the stream-locomotives, to catch the condensation from the steam. Four engines the train had, what extravagance. It dawned on us; that must be the explanation, the reason why the train was able to speed. To drive fast, so people would freeze, would weaken, would die of exposure, and would fall off! How horrible! How devious!
For water we had to fight for, others had the same smart idea. We had a water-container able to catch some water, sometimes, and we would not be deterred by hostile Polish guards, or hostile Polish train-drivers. But we had to be very careful, because the train, without any warning, would suddenly start to move. Would leave anyone behind not quick enough to jump on again. This little silly, sadistic game, the train drivers played, over and over again, and would not ever care if anyone was left behind. Why had they stopped in the first place? Why that was done we were to find out very soon.
Not for humanitarian reason, not for the sake of burying the Dead, or to give the people a chance to stretch legs! No, the reason was more diabolical than we could ever imagine: A Game all too pre-determined and pre-arranged!:Out of nowhere Polish Bandits would appear to rob us unlucky passengers of anything we still had.
Obviously the train-drivers had made it their business to be in connivance with the Bandits.
Our suspicion became confirmed; it was uncanny; every time the train stopped; Bandits appeared like clockwork, with regularity they would appear, predictably, without fail. Bandits would be there, wherever the train did stop! The Bandits would pick on us too, but we would stick together, we would not fear being cut by their knives, we would not fear their guns either, would put up such a scream and fight every time, quickly the left us alone to concentrate on much easier pickings. On two occasions the train had to stop for repairs, there was always something wrong with either engine or rail-tracks.
This gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs, get our circulation going and look around for anything to eat.
Without little or no success, many people had been there before us, as we discovered.
Many dead bodies we found instead, bodies mutilated and often stripped of all their clothing, of their shoes, or had their teeth knocked out. Whenever we stopped for a period of time, more and more burials had to be carried out, as people were dying every day. By the hundreds they were dying, but the Poles would not ever give a damn. Burial meant just to cover the dead bodies up in a fashion, people had no tools, only bare hands.
On one of our longer stoppages, my brother Hans had disappeared. We could not find him. Only after long hours of search did we finally discover that the poor Kid had gone to sleep before an open fire. He was just too exhausted. On the ninth day we pulled into Frankfurt/Oder. Frankfurt/Oder was partly Russian occupied territory, on one side of the River, the other side was under Polish administration. We had at last escaped the horrors of the Poles, or had the Poles gotten rid of us? We did not feel any sense of elation. Our ordeal however, our hellish Odyssey, was not over yet, not by any stretch of imagination.
Yes, we had escaped from the clutches of the Devil, of Lucifer re-incarnated, had saved our bare skins from the Poles. But we were still under the Communists, and Communism reigned supreme in the Eastern part of what we discovered Germany, as well as in the Eastern Block Countries. For the first time however we found a little bit of humanity. Humanity did not come from the Russians, but from the Germans. Although the Germans themselves did starve, they shared the little that they had with us, it was not much, but for their humanity, their expressed friendliness we were ever so grateful.
In Frankfurt/Oder, we did not stay for long, we had to be moved, more and more people from the former German Provinces east of Oder?Neisse Rivers kept on pouring in.
Poland had thrown them all out under much the same brutal condition as we had experienced, and had dispossessed everyone!
Our fate and destiny was not unique, the fate and the horrendous suffering we shared with at least 10 Million of other people from the Eastern Provinces of the former Third German Reich. Unique in our case was only that we are born citizens of the Free City of Danzig, still under protection of the Geneva League of Nations, in accordance and terms of international Law. The world, however, didn’t care about us anymore, the World had let us down, had thrown us to the barbaric Communist hordes. That we are most innocent people, a small indigenous ethnic people, that the citizens of Danzig never had the means to be Aggressor. Yet, as we had to learn, Poland had turned and twisted, had re-written World History, had demonized us, had made us in the eyes of the World, Aggressors, wicked, incorrigible, died in the wool Nazis, War criminals or worse.
At the outbreak of the War, on September 1, 1939, the Free City of Danzig had a population of 408,000 people, was unarmed, was demilitarized, a neutral, independent State, under the protection of the Geneva League of Nations.
Poland on the other hand had a total population of some 35 Million people, all armed to the teeth, had surrounded Danzig on all sides, and had, since 1934, threatened on many occasions to take the Free City of Danzig by force, whenever necessary! And the intention of Poland was always clear, she had her greedy, beady eyes on our properties, our Industries, our beautiful ancient City, a Harbor City, our Territory, a most valuable “Piece of Prime Real Estate” and our private Properties and other private Belongings.
Our next stop was Halle/an der Saale, a Camp for Refugee’s. There we had our first decent meal, and got de-loused! They drowned us in DDT. We hated it, but it was the only way to rid us of the many lice the Poles and the Russians had given us.
How we must have looked like coming into this camp in Halle. Not very human like, looked like more of a lower form of Live, very wild and uncombed we looked, dirty, weak, hungry, haggard, stinky and much down-trodden. Our heath was not the best, indeed there was not anyone among us “voluntary Refugee’s!” with a clean bill of health.
Legacy of Poland, the legacy of “our hellish trip into Hades”, deep into Hades, and far, far beyond. Legacy of the times, when we could not wash, simply because there was no water, no soap and never a toothbrush. When we could not look after ourselves properly, when bare survival from the Communist menace was paramount, was more important than anything else.
We, the fastidious and pedantically clean people, obsessed with sense of hygiene and cleanliness, we had all varieties of lice on our bodies, given to us by courtesy of the Communists. Body lice, head-lice and the other type, boring into the soft tissues of the body, given to us so generously by Russians and Poles. Before the Russians and the Poles came along, we had never known any vermin. Lice and flies, such words we did not have in our vocabulary, did not know that such words existed. We had not known of diseases brought on by hunger, nor had we known any violence; Communists, Soviets and Poles had to teach us that. As to Cleanliness, that is our Religion. But now we had gotten rid of all the vermin on our bodies, but how to escape the Communists? That was the next question on our mind?
Halle was only a temporary stop, Refugee Camp Dessau in Saxony was the next station in our troubled Lives. Again they carted us around in cattle-trains, closed up this time, not very comfortable, not too bad, either as it protected us from the elements. Again, they de-loused us, but for crying out loud, failed to give us a bath. So, on and on it went, from one Camp to another, Wittenberg was next. Wittenberg, the Town made famous by the Monk Martin Luther, here he had posted his 95 Theses. Then it was onto Bernburg, that’s were we stayed for a while. As always, there was little to eat, always Camp condition and always depressing Camp-Psychosis. Too many people, too crowded, too cramped together, on top of each other, too much human misery there was, and NO PRIVACY!
The various Camps, where everybody had the same, or a similar a fate, the same depressing problem, the same sorrows. Where everybody was stricken with mourning, the same pain, the same grief, sadness and misfortune. To make the misery full; winter was on the march. In Bernburg, our Mother was always on the go, always on the lookout to get out of the vicious depressing cycle of Camp-psychosis.
After much exhaustive searching she found a small room. A single room, two single beds, one table, and three rickety chairs. We moved in, feeling very happy. But horrors of horrors, the roof was leaking. It rained often during that winter, the beds got soaking wet, the Landlord had no material to repair the roof. The next problem was to keep the room warm, there was no fuel of any kind to maintain a warm fire. A kind soul, a local woman, came to our help, she tailored some warm clothing for us, out of a horse-blanket. Very rough it was, not very pretty, but a Beggar can’t choose, it had to do, kept us a little warmer anyway.
Somehow we survived the grim, cold winter, in spite of the monumental difficulties, although altogether, a normal Life was nigh impossible, we emerged, bitter, but still in one piece from our hibernation. But the price we paid in the end for the stress on our bodies and our souls, was sickness. We fell ill, gravely ill, all of us. Sickness had caught us, with a vengeance! We all finished up being sick, very, very sick, indeed. The rigors of the past had finally caught up with us, with a vengeance. Our weakened bodies just rebelled, we just caved in, came down with high fever and much vomiting, and for many weeks we were down, almost out, a misery to ourselves. No help from anyone! No Doctor, no Medicine. Medicine, any kind of Medicine, we did not have. Medicine of any kind was either not available or we did not have money to buy expensive Medicine on the Black market.
The Black market was the only place to get any Medicine, such was the condition in East-Germany, then, in 1946. When Spring came finally, by miracle, the boys acquired a pair of shoes. With shoes they could go to School, for the first time since 1944.
In Communist Germany, however, we had to study Russian, a main requisite of the curriculum, without it, no pass in any grade. Study of the Russian language was hated by everyone, but both Hans and myself managed to complete German compulsory primary School Certificate, a big deal and a must, in all of Germany. Without such a paper one has no chance to advance in Life on any level. Myself, I was then forced to join the F.D.J. (Free German Youth). Joining the Communist F.D.J. was much against all of our grain.
Even under the Nazis was I never bothered to join the B. D. M., (Bund Deutscher Maedchen) but in East Germany, under Communism, one had no choice, the political pressure was just too much. ‘ Free ‘ was quite a joke. Nothing was free about it. The alternative, however, was simply Concentration Camp, not just for me but for all of the Family. That would have surly been the end of everything, I had to go!
As for Food, a little was available, but on Ration cards, and it had to be paid for.
Because of our prolonged illness we had no Money. Even if one had the Money, East German Money, worthless elsewhere, the chance of buying Food was always slim, more often or not there was no Food at all in the Shops.
Regardless of that, one had to fall-in-line, had to queue up, sometimes for hours, all in the hope of being lucky to get a mouth full. And often there was only one of two Food items available in the Shops, most of the time however there was nothing at all. It would happen that people had to turn back empty-handed, in frustration, after a long wait, after fallen-in-line lasting many an hour. There was only one thing to do in such a situation, go begging. Begging we did, more and more, very frequently.
We would go anywhere, to-out-of-the-way places we went, to small villages, to farms.
The farmers would get sick of us, they did not want to see our faces, did not accept our Money, German Money, East or West was absolutely worthless.
From day to day, we just vegetated, had no hope, no prospects, no expectation anymore, we had nothing.
At the end of summer then, at harvest time, we would try to get a job harvesting.
Potatoes we dug out, beets and turnips. We would scour the fields for any grain of corn left, for any scrap, for beans and peas. Farmers then would set their dogs free.
Apples, Pears and any stone fruit growing at the edge of road-ways we targeted, but in Germany that is ” Verboten ” and everything “Verboten” does involve the letter of the law. German law is very strict, the strictest in the world, they will punish you for the slightest misdemeanor! In this more than hopeless situation we certainly did not want to suffer yet another grim winter.
Our Mother was at the end of her tether and her endurance. I had watched her with a great deal of concern. I knew that she was worried but had put it down to the fact that we had failed to establish the whereabouts of our Father and of my elder Brother. We did not know anything about their fate. To the Red Cross we had gone, to all the Authorities, to any one there was. Communication in Germany-East however was still very primitive.
And although we had tried everything, we had no success in locating our loved one’s.
I knew that our Mother needed someone to take all the load of her shoulders, someone to lean on in troubled times. It had been all too much for her, the massive disaster which had befallen us had gotten her down, was just too much, too great for one person to bear. What I did not know at that time that our Mother had more worries than I did imagine. She never told us what was on her mind. Later on she revealed that she could not have ever breathed a word to us about her secret thoughts, about her plans. Out of fear of Spies, for fear of Informers. Many Germans, out of desperation and because the Communist Regime had manipulated their brains had turned Traitor on their Compatriots and had started to inform on their own kind to the Soviets.
Our Mother was also afraid that we might get too excited unnecessarily and spill the beans by dropping a wrong word here and there. With too many Spies were around, too many disturbed and disorientated Germans.
Mid-October then, our Mother gave us a signal, to be ready. We had packed our small bundles to be ready by darkness. To the Railway station we would go. As we found out to our dismay, many, many other people had the same idea, the Station was crowded.
We had to wait, wait for hours, and when the train finally pulled into the Station we got packed in like sardines, again. We did not complain, the mass of people kept us warm.
To the Harz Mountain we traveled, to a place called Werningerode. From there, and under cover of darkness, we wanted to sneak across the border, through the woods, into West Germany. We got caught! Germans had betrayed us!
Before the Soviet Commissar they brought us:“Try that again, and I will shoot you personally, or cut your throat! Which do you prefer?”But this grim faced Russian gave us something to eat and for us Kids there was even a piece of chocolate given by the grim looking Russian. He had seen it all before, this Russian, had seen all the desperados trying to make it over the other side. They had fortified all the border-crossings with barbed wires and had booby-trapped everything with personal Mines, Mines of all descriptions.
All to no avail! In spite of all the danger, of being caught, people kept on trying. Everyone wanted to escape the “Paradise of the Worker”. They did not mind getting killed or maimed, the people, all people were just too eager to gain real freedom, nothing could stop any of the desperados. Nothing could stop us either. Again, we tried! Got caught again! But as we had gone to a different place altogether, we came before a different Commissar.
Same problem for the Ruskies! They had to let us go, let us go, but not without another warning, though! Same story! Could they shoot all of the people trying to cross the border? They could not, that’s how we figured it, we had to try again! We had nothing to lose, our Lives we did not much value anyway. Third time lucky? We had to try again. We tried, but paid a terrible price for our freedom. In our haste, panic and desperation, crossing a Minefield and a deep ravine, Klaus, our youngest, got caught on barbed wire.
In a desperate attempt to free him, cut him off the barbed wire, our Mother must have panicked, and in her haste, the bundle with all of our Documents got dropped, and was lost. Documents, photos, identity papers, Birth certificates, Bankbooks, Free City of Danzig Passports! Everything got lost!
We did not even notice or realize our loss, that hit us much later, but by then it was impossible to go back and search for it. We had saved our miserable skins, had escaped the moronic world of the Communist madhouse, but had become ” Non-entities!
Date of our freedom: November 28, 1946 The end of: Slavery, Evil, Trauma, Privations, Torments, Hunger, Suffering, Anguish, Misery etc… We were free, free at last, had left the devils behind us, had escaped from the Soviets, and from Satan itself, from the “pious, holier than thou”, catholic Poles. We had escaped, but nothing would ever be the same again, our Lives would never be the same again. Would we ever see our rightful and legitimate Homeland, the Free City of Danzig? Would we ever see our Father and our Brother again? Would we never again enjoy a proper Family Life? We did not know.
Grandfather (at age 84) we would see again, twelve years later! Together with my Aunts, he joined us in West-Germany in 1957.
The Poles had managed to up-root Grandfather in the end with their evil methods. So miserable and unbearable had his Life become that in the end, the old man who wanted so much to die on his home-soil, could not stand to bear Polish chicanery any longer.
His properties he had left behind, in the same way as the Poles had forced us to leave our all our properties, and private possessions behind. Under duress, by way of force, by way of violence, chicanery and compulsion, that is how the Poles got the old man out.
Our elder Brother we met again 29 years thereafter. The fate of our Father, sent by the Germans to the Russian Front, is unknown. May the world know about Truth, the whole Truth. That is the reason why I have decided to record the history of our People from the Free City of Danzig, their trail and tribulations, and their sufferings.
According to true and reliable Statistics compiled by the West-German Bundesamt for Refugees:The indigenous population of the Free City of Danzig has lost some 27% or 105,000 people, all civilian Citizen. 105, 000 of our People, that many, they all did perish. That many! Out of an original population of 408,000. Not even the Jews people have suffered more in human lossess proportionally! On their behalf must I, raise my voice!
For the loss of our loved one’s, in the first place, we blame the over-zealous Polish Nationalist!
The Poles never had any right, nor do they have any justification or explanation to this crime against humanity, all of humanity. Indeed Poland has a lot to answer for all the crimes committed against the defenseless Danzig population! Therefore: Let the Truth prevail! Before Truth can prevail, Truth must be spoken! In Order that the world may know!
Therefore; I, Marianne J. Gieraths, maiden name: Kriesner born in Zoppot, in the Free City of Danzig on May 26, 1930, 14 years old, in March of 1945 at the time when Soviets, and the more than vicious Poles, did violate our Bodies, our Souls, our Integrity, our basic Human Rights, and subjected us innocent People to all kinds of indignities and bestialities, with great intent! As both, the Soviets and the Poles; violated, humiliated, raped us, by force, so brutal, so inhumanly, again and again; showing no mercy at all not even to Infants.
That it was the Pole, not the Russian Soldiers, who had instructions and Orders from the “Provisional Polish Administration”: to carry out “Genocide” by any means, primarily by starving many of us to Death, many others to near Death, with intent; in order to break our resolve, resistance, and our human spirit; so that we could finally be removed more easily; by Force of Terror: from our Homes, Properties and all of our other private Possessions, including our rightful and legal Home-Soil and State, the Free City of Danzig!That we shall hold responsible all of those; who killed our loved Ones, as if they were wild Animals; responsible for all the brutal killing and chicanery, which they subjected us, during and under their Military occupation, an illegal occupation, still ongoing
We further accuse the “Provisional Polish Administration” for the “wholesale Hunger Terror”, unleashed, and brutally imposed on the indigenous Danzig Population, which consisted at the time only of innocent Women, Children, the Elderly and the Infirm, never any Combatants. Furthermore, the “Provisional Polish Administration” had outlawed German language, custom and culture from 1945 right up to 1990,
And, in a most successful attempt to pervert and twist the Truth in re-writing World-History through false, but skillful, relentless Propaganda campaigns, the “Provisional Polish Administration”, managed to demonize, vilify, libel, besmirch, sully, taint, and contaminate the memory of the entire indigenous, autochthonous Free State of Danzig Population, so much so, that even the International Court of Justice, as Instrument of the UNO, has judged us to be thrown onto the rubbish heap of World History.
The message is all too clear; the whole World has no doubt that we must carry a stigma. A stigma for Ever and Eternity, because: “all of us deserve our fate, without exception”, Are People of the most evil kind, judged to have committed all sorts of Crimes, War Crimes unspeakable, against the Polish Republic. In this, the “Provisional Polish Administration” has succeeded only too well as the Family of Nations has swallowed Polish lies and deceptions, has condemned us, poor People to Oblivion.
That the World may know the Truth of the matter, the real Truth about the Free City of Danzig and her People, reluctantly, and as we have never been able to raise our voices and our heads; I must speak the Truth. With my Testimony I do not stand Alone.: Danzig’s Maidenhood, Danzig’s Womanhood has recorded and documented; Grief, Sorrow, Distress, Tribulations, Suffering, Degradation, Humiliation, Human Rights Violation, Accusation and Indictments, as well as their Traumas, still ongoing, never ending in a Book called: “Unvergaenglicher Schmerz”, alas, written unfortunately in the German, not in the Universal language, first published in January 1986, by Peter Porella.
Copyright 1986 by HOGAST GMBH, 79108 Freiburg, Reutersbachgasse 63
Such is the Crime carried out against us, a Crime against Humanity, all Humanity!
Lest We Forget! I, Marianne J. Gieraths, give Testimony, wish to testify to the above. Wish to testify to the Truth of the matter. So help me God!
Given this day of January 25, 1999, in the year of our Lord, nineteen-hundred-and-ninety-nine. As translated from the German by my Brother Ernst, who is condemned to live on the other end of the World, is, like anyone else of our indigenous Compatriots of Danzig, banned by Poland from returning as a “free Person” to his rightful Homeland, his Place of Birth, the Free City of Danzig. The Free City of Danzig, as a State established by solemn Treaty, the Treaty of Versailles, is, still existing to this very Day under terms not changed by International Law.