The Biastoch Report
An Account by Paul Biastoch of Groß Tuchen
Haddamar, Hesse, Christmas 1946
Translated by Leslie Riggle, Wichita / Kansas, 1998
This account was written between Christmas 1946 and the 1st of March
The original is handwritten in German script. A copy is in the possession of Frau Margot Fromm, Heinestraße 3, 52445 Titz 1, Tel. 02463/5965.
Transcribed into Latin script and edited by Karl H. Radde, Dresden.
The Russians come - the Poles take over - Flight across the Oder - Arrival
Since the 6th German Army was cut off at Stalingrad, the rail line Voronesch-Rostow was reached and the Caucasus troops could only retreat by way of Crimea; the war was lost for us. One defeat followed the next until the Russian army was finally at the gate to East Prussia and had reached the bend of the Vistula, where they prepared their final fatal blow. Even the Kurland Army had been cut off, with our Helmut and his unit. At the last hour his unit was evacuated by sea to Gotenhafen for a rest. He was to have 2 days furlough. Our joy was great. But on the next day we received word that his furlough had been canceled and that he should stand by for orders to Altfol, Slovakia. Immediately a nice package was put together and the next train was taken to Gotenhafen. I was with him by 5 o'clock that evening. They left at 5 o'clock the following morning. It was a short joy. Before returning home I visited my old garrison city, Danzig. Danzig had escaped bombing entirely, and no one seemed to sense the danger that was soon to threaten. As I arrived at home I learned that the Russians had begun their decisive stroke. Litzmannstadt, Tschenstochau and the industrial area of Upper Silesia were reached. A tank column reached the Oder. Pomerania was threatened.
Heinz, the youngest son, was to report to an Air Force unit in Rostock on the 3rd of March 1945. He could only get as far as Rummelsburg because the rail line was already threatened at Neustettin. He rode back to Bütow, and then by way of Schlawe, Köslin and Stettin on to Rostock. Our homeland was in an uproar. Wagons were being prepared for flight. Everything was packed, hidden or buried. The refugees from East Prussia were again on the march to the west. They advised us to come with them. The Russians came ever nearer. We had already heard that they had driven to the north and reached the Baltic Sea, cutting off the eastern part of the province. The first rumbling of cannon fire from the south came nearer. The fearful fled to the west. Neighboring Kreis (county) Rummelsburg was ordered evacuated. The first enemy aircraft came. Their target was the county seat of Bütow. A great number of bombs came down. Several houses collapsed in rubble and ashes. The first dead were to be mourned. The attacks became ever more and heavier.
I sat at my table and read. There were massive explosions nearby. Quickly I ran out the door. I could still see the last enemy aircraft over Groß Tuchen. Huge columns of smoke climbed upward. Several farmsteads were ablaze. Groß Tuchen received the order to evacuate on the 3rd of March 1945 at 9:00 PM. I lived about 4 kilometers out of town. I quickly decided that I would not flee. I immediately contacted my nearest relatives, the Kramp and Kowalke families, who lived in Groß Tuchen. They had also reached the difficult decision not to flee, because our eastern part of Pomerania was already cut off from the rest of Germany and flight would be of no use.
But it happened differently. Our retreating troops advised flight. There was a terrible mix-up. That evening at 6 o'clock they fled to the north with a great stream of refugees. I waited in vain until 7 o'clock. Then I decided to leave along with my eastern workers. But to my disappointment their wagon was already gone. Only Kramp's sister remained behind with her husband because of his wooden leg.
My father-in-law died exactly on the day of our flight. Quickly I decided to bring him without a coffin to the cemetery in Groß Tuchen and then to take the Holz family, with their possessions, home. At 12 midnight I arrived at the bridge in Groß Tuchen with the body, without a casket, in the wagon, but I was disappointed. Engineers were preparing to blow up the bridge. I was allowed to cross only at my own risk. At the 2nd bridge it was the same story. But I made it across safely. I stopped at a large farmstead. My eastern workers and those of my neighbor helped me to carry the body, wrapped in a shroud, over the cemetery wall. It was placed between two graves and covered with a little dirt, with the feet still exposed. We had to hurry back over the bridges because as soon as the last German troops had passed they were to be blown up. The burial was celebrated without ceremony. Now we had to take the Holz family with us. The road was blocked with fleeing German vehicles of every sort, but we reached his small farm, where we loaded his possessions and drove off by way of guarded roads. I stopped before the mill bridge. From a distance I could see a great pile on the bridge; already a mine. We drove back to the main street and finally, with several delays, safely back to our farm. Everything was again packed, even smoked meat.
Early in the morning my neighbor Kautz arrived with his family and possessions, ready to leave. We were still waiting for the arrival my neighbor Malottki. Then Malottki's daughter came with the news that the SS had come and forbidden them to flee. Otherwise they would be shot. I hurried to Malottki. He prepared his wagon for flight. Toward evening he drove toward my farm. He left the wagon in the forest and brought the horses to my barn. By now the enemy was not far away. The first shells whistled over our barnyard. Machine gun and rifle fire could be clearly heard. Burning neighbor farms lit up the sky in that direction.
The first German soldiers approached our place. A Knight's Cross bearer set up his infantry headquarters at our farm. Two companies took up positions there. They ate quickly and took up defensive positions. At midnight they received orders to retreat. Now we were without protection. On the next day there was still resistance until evening. Aircraft crisscrossed the sky overhead all day long. There was bitter fighting for our Groß Tuchen junction. Three tanks and two airplanes were destroyed. Our relatives took shelter within 200 meters on either side of our farm. Malottki, Kautz and I remained at the farm to keep watch. Horses were tethered, cows were loosely chained. It was the same with the pigsty and everything else. Toward evening the frightened stragglers returned to take shelter in the cellar. Machine gun and small arms fire came closer to the house. It seemed to come from only a few hundred meters away.
My eastern worker (White Russian) stood by the door, in order to let the Russians know that they should not shoot. Since we had treated him well he knew that he and his wife could find shelter with us.
Then suddenly at about 10:00 PM the gunfire ceased. We panic-stricken and frightened sufferers went into our rooms and waited for whatever would come. But the Russians did not come on this evening. The next day toward noon the first vehicle with 3 Russians and an eastern worker as translator came into the farmyard with a loud "Attention". They had revolvers in each hand and besides that belts studded with hand grenades. We went to meet them with our hands up. The first question was whether we were 'Pollak' [Pole] or 'Niemzi' [German]. Once inside they fired their first shots at the ceiling. Then they entered the room. They first demanded: watches, rings, tobacco, wine, vodka etc. We gave them all they asked for. Everything was thoroughly searched. Our eastern girl was questioned about her treatment by us. But she gave them a good report and they soon departed.
On the following morning our eastern workers had to report to the Russian commander. Their departure was ordered. They had brought a wagon from a neighbor for their departure. Their things were quickly loaded, along with things from us: food, clothing, bedding etc. Also, one of our horses went with them. Everything went quickly because the Russians had returned with them. We said a tearful good-bye. Wassil waved: "I will come again" and away they went. Now we stood there without protection. A Russian saddled our best horse and went to our neighbor, Jantz. I was supposed to go there to get my horse back. But that is not what happened. He went to the neighbor, and then kept going. Four Russians were going through everything. I, too, was thoroughly searched for weapons and was jabbed with a pistol as they questioned me about party membership, until they suddenly lost interest and returned to their looting. I believed my last hour had arrived. In one room I glimpsed the brother of my neighbor and Kolberg. I asked them: "Where is neighbor Jantz?" He answered: "He and his wife jumped into the river and are dead."
Then a Russian came into our room. In one hand he held a shell casing. He showed it to the brother of the drowned Jantz an threw a bottle at his head. But he missed and the bottle flew through the window. The Russian went away. Jantz said: "They are going to shoot me today." In a moment when no one was looking I ran out through the kitchen, quickly over the hill into the fields. At a range of about 150-200 meters they opened fire with their machine pistols. I summoned my last strength to escape quickly through deep snow. They followed me at a run and kept firing until I finally disappeared from their view into the forest. I kept going as fast as I could until other Russians, a group with 3 officers and 1 man, saw me. They rode toward me and I approached them with my hands up. I was forced to go with them. The enlisted man dropped back and the officers rode on in formation. We again met a Russian column. I was questioned about everything, but I wrote out my age of 58 years in the snow, they let me go. Badly shaken, I returned to our shed, where I rested a little and thanked with all my heart my Savior that He had spared me from certain death.
Now I went slowly through the forest to my house. Not far away I again saw several Russian soldiers with a woman and they were going toward the shed. I waited a while. I already saw that they were behind me and that they were also headed to my house without seeing me. As rapidly as possible I hurried toward my farmstead (it was less than 100 meters) and at the last second I was able to disappear into the hayloft. Otherwise I would certainly have met my death. The woman had brought the Russians so that they could shoot me. But they could not find me. My wife was ordered to bring out everything that had been hidden or buried. They intended to burn the farmstead and to shoot my wife.
In her fear she showed them everything. They brought it all out. They took with them what they wanted and left. Then I called to my wife from the hayloft and said: "Go quickly to Malottki's (2 kilometers), they are Catholic and they won't come there". I hurried there myself. With his children we hid ourselves in the hayloft. The ladder was taken away. My wife remained at home. At midnight Mr. and Mrs. Kolberg came to my farmstead and begged my wife to open up. "There is something wrong at neighbor Jantz's. Everyone is dead. Fritz Jantz hanged himself in the attic. His wife and daughter jumped into the water. We are finished." Mr. and Mrs. Holz came to me in a panic. My wife was still there. In confusion she also went to the river to end her life as well. She did not find death in the ripples of the little river, but with her last strength crept out of the icy element. She regained a little strength. Frozen, without shoes and with her last strength she made her way to Malottki's, where I was. They took her in. They put her into a warm bed and soon she was again on her feet. Early in the morning Malottki told me what had happened.
We remained there 2 days. Russians came and Russians went. Malottki was Catholic and could speak Polish. They didn't harm him. On the third day, while the Russians were also there, the Kautz family came to us. Kautz was also in deadly danger. We went with his family to the next farmstead, Rudnick, where no one was anymore. They hid themselves in the hayloft whenever Russians came near. They were provided for from Malottki's. Every house was searched by the Russians. Everything was taken out of the cabinets. Furniture was turned over. Doors were blocked with overturned furniture. After 3 days I returned to my place. What a sight! About 9 cows, heifers and calves, were gone. The horses had already been taken. Only the colt remained. Mr. and Mrs. Kolberg and our grandmother were still there. They had had to watch it all as the stock were driven out.
Inside everything was thrown about, so that I could not get through the kitchen door into the living room. My glasses were missing, and I had used them daily. Much had disappeared or was damaged or broken. Now I remained at home. My wife also came soon. We put everything back in order. Russians still came now and again, but now they were not so dangerous. They really enjoyed going through the bedding, so that we could not make them up again. What they liked, they took with them. Out of 100 chickens there remained only 6. Ducks, geese and turkeys were long since gone. Some grain and hay had been taken. In some farmsteads the stock was still there. They bellowed because they were neither fed nor milked. In other places the stock wandered about in the snow. I took 2 good cows into my barn, but the Russians came again and took them. Then I brought in one good cow and this one remained. There was always something to do with the bee hives. "Honey, honey or you're done for!" In the middle of winter I had to take honey.
In this way the Russian visit lasted from the 6th of March until the 24th of April, 1945. After this there was much that had to be repaired. After 14 days on the road most of the refugees returned and most were as poor as beggars. Only a few had the good fortune to return with horse and wagon. My brother-in-law Kramp was the first to return with his family to my place. In spite of all we had lost, we were glad that they were there. The Kowalke family came later. The mother had been shot during the flight. Others returned a few at a time. But half of them never returned.
Things gradually became quieter. Now it was time to bury the fallen soldiers (about 20), friend or enemy, and the animals were buried, too. Crippled animals, dead or alive, had to be taken out through the broken cellar door. 4 major bridges had been blown up, among them 2 railway bridges. They had to be restored.
The rails between the 2 county seats of Rummelsburg and Bütow were taken up. Everywhere able bodied men and women had to help the Russians in this work. Girls and women were still being raped.
By this time I had found the bodies of my neighbors in the river. They had bound themselves together and jumped in. Teacher Brüchzig and I pulled them out and that day they were buried in their own field. Just as with my neighbors many people had taken their own lives out of fear of the Russians, and had shot themselves, hanged themselves or taken poison. Others were either shot by the Russians or transported away. Even today I do not know what happened to my 5 siblings, all of whom had homes in Kreis (county) Bütow. My oldest brother, 67 years old, was taken away by the Russians. But he managed to hide himself and escaped from them. My youngest brother was last seen at Graudenz. Since then there has been no trace of him. That is the way it was when the Russians came.
Gradually the Russians moved on. Only their headquarters remained in Groß Tuchen. At the end of April the Poles took over. One property after another was confiscated. Germans were now their slaves, without rights or privileges. Until the 20th of July 1945 I remained in possession of my own place. Poles came, Poles went. They were looking for the best properties.
It was at about midnight on the 21st of April 1945* when someone banged on my door. "Come out!" they roared. Quickly I and my brother-in-law, the teacher Schlösser, dressed and went out. At gunpoint we were made to hold our hands up. They guided us into the barn. We believed that our last minute had arrived. But, no. At first they cried: "Where cans, where honey?" We found some cans and gave them the honey. Before long they were gone. The following night there was again a knock at our door. We had to hurry out. This time it was 9 militia soldiers that smoked us out. They searched through several rooms. Outside I was attacked by 3 militia soldiers and beaten up with rubber truncheons. Almost unconscious they left me there and then attacked my brother-in-law and they dragged him out into the meadow. From there I could hear the blows and his heart-rending screams. I believed that they would beat him to death and begged the Moddrow commander not to let them beat him anymore. His daughter, who also was with me, brought him into the barnyard where he collapsed. But he soon recovered.
* [This must be an error. It had to have been the 21st of July 1945. In April the war was still going on and the Poles did not yet have the right to make arrests. Besides, the events mentioned (for example, harvest work in Zerrin) indicate July-August.]
Everything was searched again and the bicycle was taken. And then a voice said: "You are under arrest. Come along." I asked why I was struck with the rubber truncheons and was then taken into the village, where we were all locked into a special cellar. It was about 4 o'clock in the morning. At about 9 AM the Polish commander appeared. I was thoroughly questioned. And then I was taken at gunpoint to a cell where I was told I would be shot if I did not tell where I had hidden something. I told him everything. After that I was taken by coach back to my place. Schlösser and his daughter remained captives. 5 militia soldiers followed us. They searched through everything. They took clothing. I gave them a milk can of honey. My wife had to prepare a good breakfast for them and then all returned.
We got out at the Polish commander's. The commander still went one better when he asked me: "You must still have a pistol?" I denied this. He ordered the militia to lock me in the cellar. Though innocent, I was back in. On the following morning the coach stood before the commander's. We were brought out of the cellar and turned over to the Polish Gestapo in Bütow. The reason for our arrest was unknown. Evidently because I was German and a Pole should take over my property undisturbed. Anyway, the Gestapo locked us in the cellar. This time we were together. We did not know what had happened to the daughter. After about an hour our door was opened. I was to come. They took me to a torture chamber, threw me onto a bench, held my head and feet firmly. Mercilessly they beat me with their rubber truncheons as hard as they could. They threw me down and hacked and stabbed me where it would hurt the most. I was almost unconscious. Yes, I still remember how I had to take my pants down and they beat me some more. I do not remember any more. Then I was brought back to the cellar. They took teacher Schlösser and he had to suffer the same fate. As they brought him back blood was running down into his boots. At first he could not speak. As he came to he said: "Now I am going to hang myself." I talked him out of it. Anyway, there was no strap in the cellar. Toward evening the same thing happened in the cellar, but this time not quite as brutal. The next 2 days were the same, but the brutality let up a little. We both had black eyes. I still suffered chest pains 14 days later.
We were fed 3 times daily. In the morning there was coffee and a piece of bread the size of a fist for all day. At noon there were boiled potatoes without salt or anything else. Usually they were burned. When eating I could usually see our county farm director Heß, our tavernkeeper Deuble, Reddies and others. Most had black eyes and bearded, sunken and hungry faces. We were not allowed to speak to each other. In the next 2 days there were also the mayor of Moddrow, his son, and the farmers Julius Kolberg and Skibbe. Both from Tangen. And these, too, suffered the same fate.
After 3 days we were taken out to work. Usually it was furniture to be taken from one house to another, but everything was rushed. The worst came when a bedstead that had been nailed together was taken out of the business office in Bütow. We only had a small hammer to use. In a short time the entire room was to be emptied. We broke the long boards apart by brute force. We threw them out the window or dragged them to the stairway like a pair of mad dogs. On every corner there stood militia soldiers and they beat us with their rubber truncheons. When one of us did not carry enough boards on his back, the other had to make up the difference. It was toward evening when we were brought back to our cellar. We had eaten neither breakfast nor dinner. Dead tired and exhausted we finally received something to eat that evening. When we went through the streets we were forced to sing loudly: "Poland, Poland über alles" and the seaman's song: "Denn wir fahren nach Deutschland" and so on. On Sundays our tavernkeeper Deuble, who could speak Polish, had to lead us in exercises such as: arms stretched forward, knee bends and so on.
About 14 days after we had been brought to Bütow, we were taken to Zerrin to help bring in the harvest on the estate. And here the beatings let up. At the estate house there were about 35 people, of both sexes that were kept in 2 rooms. We saw to it that we had good straw to sleep on. We worked in the fields every day. A cook and 2 other remained for the kitchen. I was only kept working in the field for a day and a half. Since I had swollen legs and open sores, I was kept in the kitchen. And my fellow sufferer, Julius Kolberg, was unwell. Now we two were in the kitchen peeling potatoes. And our tavernkeeper Deuble, who had been imprisoned for almost a half-year, was little more than a skeleton. Kolberg said to me: "We will never get out of here. Either we will get sick or we will die." Two weeks later Deuble, county farm director Heß, his brother and a settler from Bütow were called back. Kolberg and I reported as sick and went with them. We stopped at the agricultural school and Kolberg collapsed. Within 2 days he was dead. What became of the other 4 I do not know. I ended up in the cellar of the agricultural school where several others were also kept. We were left alone. After 3 days the cellar door opened and another was shoved in. Someone asked: "Are there others from Groß Tuchen here?" I knew by his voice that it was miller Reddies. Besides him there were Haus and young men from Groß Tuchen there. The following day they learned about the rubber truncheons. They returned to the cell with black eyes.
Again 2 or 3 days passed. Then a Russian, who was mayor in a village, was brought in. The Russian district commander forced the Poles to release the Russian immediately. As he left he was supposed to have said: "I will see to it that you are freed, too." Hardly a day passed when the Polish commander did not come into our cell and ask each of us how long he had been here and why. We were told to get our things together and go to the office to receive our discharges. Overjoyed, we hurriedly left. Only the 4 young men remained, but they were not in our cellar. What a blessing from God! The Russian had given me my freedom. We quickly walked along the rail line toward home. My wife and grandmother greeted me with tears of joy.
Even the Pole who had taken over my property was friendly. He cut my hair and shaved me. Now I once again looked like a human. A good meal was eaten, because for 5 weeks I had eaten very little. I immediately washed and put on clean underwear and clothes. I felt as though newborn, even though I was very rundown physically. Not many of my clothes were left.
I was astounded to see that the Pole had pulled on my long boots and wore one of my ties. But I had been through a hard school and did not let him know that if I became a problem for him he had only to say the word and they would come and get me. I did everything I could to please him because, as he himself said, he was a great German hater. We were permitted to eat in the kitchen, but we were not allowed into our own room, even though my wife had to leave everything there. We worked for him every day without pay. We only received our meals. And the food was still our own. I had to go on caring for the bees. I harvested more that 100 pounds of honey. The greatest part had already been taken by the Russians and Poles. My wife and I worked together in the fields or he sent us to do some community work for a neighbor, who would then help him. I had planted 5 morgen of potatoes, but he dug them and piled them outdoors without protection. In a single night the top layer was all frozen. He had learned his first lesson.
That is the way his business went. One had to see it all and still say nothing. By September 1945 almost all the land had been occupied by Poles. The men had been arrested or imprisoned. My brother-in-law O. Kramp, who had been taken to Graudenz by the Russians and then released to walk home because of sickness, was then imprisoned for 5 months by the Poles.
After harvest we were to request permission to emigrate. Any who remained could be put out on a 2 hour notice. After we, the Kramps and the Kowalkes had received our permission we could cross the Oder River on the 16th of November 1945. It was hard for all of us to give up our homes that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers had put together with bitter sweat and to leave it all and to flee with only what we could carry. But there was no help for it. We looked at it all for the last time. Our grandmother, who was 82 years old, could not come with us because old age. She did not want to leave. And the Pole raised no objection. So, on the 16th of November 1945, we left our home with weeping eyes. The Pole, for once, had a little sympathy for us and took us to the train in Bütow. Here we stood with the Kramp family, the Kowalke family, the Trapp family, Zemmen and the Knopp family from Bütow. We made it to the station with all our possessions.
Our train left at 7 o'clock. An hour later we were in Lippusch. And then it was 2 o'clock in the morning before our train moved again, this time to Konitz. At midnight the railway police took us men singly with our luggage some 200 meters to a service area. We were asked about our party membership. It would not do to lie because they had with them a former eastern worker who was in Groß Tuchen for some time and knew all of us. Fortunately none of were party members. We had to show our few possessions. Everything was searched. Whatever they wanted they took from us. That is how I lost my hair clippers, scissors and other small things. Everything else I hurriedly put back together in my sack. This happened to all the men.
We came to Köslin by way of Konitz and Schneidemühl. After many delays we finally finished a 17 hour journey to Küstrin. Here we remained for 9 days in a departure camp. No house was whole. We each had to find our own place to sleep among the bombed and burned houses. With 3 families (10 persons) we moved into a kitchen with all our possessions. There were 2 lists of names posted. These were then, after many delays, reported to the German police.
With what I had held back, we were able to secure our meals. Still, we had to stand in line at 6:00 AM and again at noon for bread, if we wanted any. There were 25-30,000 refugees in the camp. And again the Poles played their tricks. Many refugees lost all their possessions while underway and therefore had nothing to eat. They had to pay 120 Marks for a 3 pound loaf of bread. My wife herself bought one of the loaves for that price. That was how the Polish administration was east of the Oder River. On the 26th of November 1945 the 2 transport trains made their way slowly over the temporary Oder bridge. From some of the compartments one could hear singing: "Nun ade, du mein lieb' Heimatland".
We were underway for nearly a week before we finally reached our destination of Feldberg, Kreis Stargard, in Mecklenburg. In Feldberg there was transportation ready. All 130 of us were taken to the estate village of Schlicht, 4 kilometers from Feldberg.
We were all put into a large cow barn. The old manure, for the most part, was still there. Each of us fetched straw and made his own bed. At night one could see the stars through the roof and it was cold. The mayor saw to it that we received some hot potato soup. And there was enough bread for all. In the next few days 11 of us moved into one room on the estate. For the first days there was a communal kitchen and then each received ration books, but they provided little. Where should we cook? Quickly I constructed a cook stove with two plates. But we were 3 families not counting Aschendorf, who was a single person. So I had to construct another cook stove, and that worked better. Now the mayor saw to it that we had bread and potatoes. The men worked, for the most part. First, there was wood to load for the Russians. And the week before Christmas we had to plow at night. That was something to see!
At the last men and women worked to load up a dismantled stone crusher. Aschendorf suffered some internal injury and died. A meager Christmas was celebrated in Schlicht.
Many of the refugees left the estate village immediately. And we, too, could not stay. On the 28th of February 1946 a transport left for Heiligenstadt near Kassel, the end station for the Russian Zone. Here we had to go partly by foot pulling a handwagon over the Russian-English zone border to get to the refugee camp in Friedland. Here we were examined, deloused and registered. We still did know what our destination was to be. Many transports went to Schleswig, but we opted for Haddamar, where our sister-in-law Emmy Kowalke was.
In Göttingen we could secure the documents necessary to cross the zone border. So, with all our possessions, we went by way of Eichberg to Kassel. Here in Eichberg all had to debark. The Americans checked our papers. Those of the Kramps and Kowalkes were correct and they could continue, but my wife and I, with the same papers, had to return to Göttingen. Since it appeared that we could in no way secure other papers, we were allowed that evening to go to Kassel, where we spent the night in the train station. On the morning of the 2nd of February 1946 we took the first train to the station in Fritzlar. We waited because it was still dark. We then checked our baggage. Then my wife and I walked to Haddamar. Upon our arrival at the home of Aunt Emma, Mrs. Kowalke, we rested. We related our experiences. Then we went to the mayor, who secured a place for us with Mr. Feitz, but since there was nothing for us to do there, we went one house further, where Mrs. Steinmetz was standing in front of the cow shed.
We found accommodations and remained there. For 2 months we had work and bread. But when her brother returned, there was less for us to do. We set up our own kitchen. And I could always find something to do with the farmer Wilhelm Meiji. The Kramp family found work with farmer Arndt. Quarters, work and bread. The Kowalke children stayed with their Aunt Emmy Kramp. Later their father came, too.
My 2 sons, Helmut and Heinz, were in an American prisoner-of-war camp. Today they are also with me and they have found work for the Americans in Fritzlar. Up to this time we had only known the horrors of war, but here everything is as it was during peacetime. Everything is undamaged. A complete inventory, alive and inanimate, is here. The fields have been cared for as in peacetime. Every house is bright with electric light. Yes, here there was no war. We have learned to know the land and people. We have become new citizens here. The mayor looks out for the welfare of his new citizens. But we still have not found a true home here. We have to remember the reasons for this. Our true home is our church, where the name of Jesus Christ is preached.
I have written down in this book a record of my experiences as I remember them, and have kept to the truth to the best of my ability. I have done this for myself, for my children and for anyone else who might be interested. This is only one instance out of nearly 10 million refugees who had to leave their homeland, their houses and land.
Our only wish and prayer at this Christmas is: Give us, in the coming peace conference, our old homeland again. Send the prisoners home!
Haddamar, Christmas 1946. P. Biastoch
Remarks concerning the Polish administration:
In the first days, as my brother-in-law the teacher Schlösser, and I were delivered by the Polish militia to the Polish Gestapo, we were taken to a torture chamber. My brother-in-law had to lie across a bench and I had to strike him 20 times with a rubber truncheon. As I hit him the 17th time the rubber truncheon was taken from me. And they counted him out a dozen strokes the way they should have been. I, also, received a sample. Later they showed me a passport picture. They asked if that was me. I answered: "That is not me." A wave sent me back to the torture chamber. I received 20 strokes. Then they asked me: "Is that you?" Even though it was not true, I said: "It is my picture." Then they did not hit me anymore.
Anyone who was turned over to the Polish Gestapo wearing a good suit or boots, had his suit and boots taken from him and was given rags and worn out clothes and shoes. So it was with the tavernkeeper Deuble, my brother-in-law Schlösser and me, and others as well. And I was given one boot and one wooden shoe to wear. We could not mend our things because we had neither needle nor thread. We had to sleep on a cement floor. We could get no rest there. We suffered from lice. We could not wash our clothes. We each had only one shirt, the one we wore. Again and again they said to us: "We only give the Germans 50% of what they did to us." That is how we innocent Germans had to suffer. My colleague, Kolberg, died within 4 weeks, and tavernkeeper Deuble a little later. Teacher Schlösser was released half dead. And they came to get Wilhelm Reddies a second time. As he left he said: "I must die for you." All were from Groß Tuchen. And so it went with many others. And so it would have gone with me if the Russian mayor had not performed a miracle and had me released after 5 weeks.
The only ones who can really understand are those who have suffered similar fates, and these number in the hundred thousands.
Haddamar, the 1st of March, 1947. P.B. (Paul Biastoch)