Survivor stories from the German side of WW2
These stories are not made up but true survivor accounts. These stories WILL appear biased because I’m telling the story of the ‘other’ side. Don’t hold it against me, I am only telling stories that need to be told. Why? Because these people are nearing the end of their lives and their stories will soon be lost forever. These stories are in no way meant to discredit or disrespect allies who gave their lives for our freedom during the war.
Before the Second World War there were large groups of German settlers in ‘Sudetenland’ a (province?) of the country now known as The Czech Republic. My grandfather was one of these. There were in fact so many that the main language in these areas was German. Due to the Worldwide Great Depression and war reparations, the economy of Germany and neighboring countries was in a terrible state and food was scarce. My Grandfather, who was in his early teens, was lucky enough to have a job in a bakery as an apprentice at this time. He lived with 4 other apprentices in the roof above the shop with only a bed and lamp; however he was lucky as his work provided food. At 4 o’clock every morning they were woken up and started working. His boss also allowed him to pass the odd bread roll to the other German settlers on his deliveries as well, as long as it was done in secret. In spite of the hardships my grandfather smiled as he spoke of these times. However, the popularity of these Germans decayed rapidly with the rise of Hitler and the annexation of the Czech Republic; already existing racial tensions flared and it was no longer safe to live. This culminated with the Potsdam Conference after the war which determined that all German settlers were to be expelled from their homes and their property seized as the borders were readjusted. The way my grandfather tells it, it was not so much ‘expelled’ as ‘leave or die’. Indeed many Germans died (wiki says approx 24,000 during the expulsions from Czechoslovakia). According to wiki some 500,000 Germans were forcefully expelled with all their belongings confiscated. Luckily for him they left before they were forced to leave. Even so, they arrived in Germany with nothing but the clothes on their backs and were faced with an immense task of rebuilding their lives from nothing. The Sudeten-Deutsche (Germans from Sudetenland) were not warmly welcomed by other Germans, who by this stage were also very poor and in fear of their jobs. The post war period was the most difficult period for him. Almost all industry was destroyed, and the people were very poor due to the effects of the war. After the war the German Red Cross was dismantled, and International aid organizations were prevented and/or severely discouraged by the allies from providing food for the Germans many of who were severely malnourished. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Germany_since_1945). However, even with the hardships, he still considers himself lucky to have been in an American/allied controlled zone as they fared much better than under the Russians. After several hard years he / and others were able to rebuild their lives.My Aunties: my ‘aunties’ are two sisters who married into my family and are not my blood relatives.
After 1936 it was compulsory for any female ‘except for racial reasons’ between 10 and 18 to join the BDM. The best way to describe this organization would probably be to say it was a kind of ‘girl scouts’… …organized by the NAZI party. I suppose all was fun and games until it was clear that Germany was losing the war. Parts of the BDM were then conscripted and they were then shipped off to a training camp in the annexed Czechoslovakia and trained as ‘spotters’. Their job was to hide in the forests with radios and call in the position of allied aircraft to allow better targeting of the anti-aircraft guns and flak cannons. After the short training they were sent off to join the front lines during the protection of the cities in Germany (sorry I don’t recall which city). As they travelled to the front lines (of the city aircraft defence – not the ‘fighting’ front lines) reports were already coming in from fleeing soldiers that the allies were on the way. They deserted. They only had their uniforms with them and not a penny to buy food or pay for transport (that was non-existent anyway). On their flight, they came across a battalion of men heading towards the front line. These soldiers were already completely worn out and thin, with ripped uniforms and the look of death as I think all soldiers did by that time. The leader was a compassionate man and gave them some hot soup without asking any questions as to why uniformed girls were running the wrong way. He even arranged them to be put on a truck to look after wounded men being brought away from the front line. Had they been questioned, the worst case for a deserter was to be shot, or at best case capture and punishment. At this late stage of the war capture and punishment was highly impractical so the first option would have been taken. With no real place to go they headed back towards their place of birth: a small town in Austria called about an hour’s drive from Vienna. They travelled for 8 days with no food by hitching rides and walking until they arrived at Amstetten which is a town about 100 Km’s from their home town. From here things became a bit critical. It was the closing stages of the war in 1945 and allied bombers had complete air superiority in German and Austria. The Roads were in bad state of repair, and approaching bombers forced them to abandon the truck and jump into the ditch many times, causing a several hour trip to take well over a day. As they came closer they met many people fleeing the towns: “There’s nothing left, it’s all gone, why are you going there?” But with no other place to go, they continued. There wasn’t much left of the town, I’m not sure whether their house was still standing or where they stayed, but the main problem was of course food. They only had their uniforms and no discharge papers so providing food for them was a crime. They even went to the church only to be turned away. The church refused to provide aid or food to any of the people during this time. Finally, they discovered that one of their childhood friends had become a Priest at one of the churches in a neighboring town. On calling in a favor, he arranged for them to be released with the local unit commander on some false pretense. Probably, the only reason this was possible was that it was already the closing stages of the war and the military hierarchy was in mayhem. A few weeks later the war was completely over and that part of Austria placed under Russian occupation. My aunties pretty much ended the story there. What happened under the occupation I don’t know and dare not ask.