Our Child was born in 1944
Ida Machura nee Kolberg
Our Child was born in October 1944
Translated by Leslie A. Riggle, Wichita / Kansas
As the youngest daughter of the farmer Hermann Kolberg, I had married in
Berlin in 1930. Since the war had begun and the air raids on Berlin grew
heavier, my husband, who was a soldier in a fire brigade in Bremen,
advised me to return to my home in Groß Tuchen with my son, Siegfried.
My brother Max had fallen in the Poland campaign and in the meantime, my
sister-in-law, Else nee Tilly, had remarried to Fritz Gutzmer. My
sisters Greta and Meta were also at home. Since I was pregnant, the
municipality had authorized me to have a small apartment upstairs over
Our child Ingrid was born on the 30th of October 1944. She was baptized
on Christmas in the church in Groß Tuchen by Pastor Beer from Bütow. My
husband could not get a furlough to be there. We had already seen the
refugee caravans coming from East Prussia and many of the people were put
up in Groß Tuchen. Soon we, too, had to flee because the front kept
coming nearer. Already in February my sister Greta had managed to leave
our home with her son; but sister Meta with her son and I with Siegfried,
12 years old, and Ingrid, 4 months old, were not able to do it. We had
planned to go with the Jantz family from Wiesenthal, who were Ingrid's
godparents. My parents, Hermann and Lea Kolberg, and Meta with her son,
were to go with Else and Fritz Gutzmer´s. Suddenly, the Jantz family
decided not to go. This was a shock for all of us. My parents then
remained with the Jantz family in Wiesenthal and there they lived through
the entire battle for Groß Tuchen. It was their wish that we sisters
should try to get through to Berlin.
On the 2nd of March 1945 (my birthday) at 6:00 in the evening it was time
for us all: Fritz Gutzmer, sister-in-law Else with her two children,
sister Meta and her son and I with my two children all left Groß Tuchen
in a caravan of several wagons. The temperature was minus 6-7 degrees
Centigrade and everything was very slick. We came by way of Klein Tuchen
and Tangen; and already many farmsteads were burning. We had intended to
head toward Stolp and then on to Stolpmünde and then further by ship; but
the Russians had broken through to Kolberg and we were cut off. We were
then directed toward Lauenburg.
The first night the hilly terrain and the ice made it difficult for us.
Everyone had to walk beside the wagons. For kilometers I carried my baby
wrapped in my arms, always with the danger that the wagon would tip over.
Else's children had to walk, too. It had been planned for the children
to ride, but this was not always possible; and we had to make the best of
it. In the evenings an attempt was made to find shelter. All tried to
protect themselves in the hay in barns and sheds. But I never managed it
and had to remain on the wagon with the children, trying to keep them
warm. At first there were German soldiers as guards. When one of them
heard my baby cry, he was sorry for us and managed to find shelter for us
with a refugee family from East Prussia. They had found work as a
blacksmith on an estate. The woman prepared a bath for us and afterwards
put my baby into her bed.
One time we stayed in the Muttrin estate and there we slept on the floor
of the distillery. Here there were many refugees from Posen, East and
West Prussia and Latvia; but at least we were warm. And another time I
had the good fortune to be able to bathe the little one in a place where a
young wife with two children had just received the news that her husband had fallen.
And we looked in empty houses for material to make into diapers. The
villagers, for the most part, had already been evacuated. One time we
tried to enter a farmyard, but the woman set her dog on us. Her husband,
who was in the home guard, interceded for us and brought us straw. We
were permitted to sleep on the floor and to cook something for
the baby in the kitchen. The next day we went on. This farm family also had to flee.
So it went, from day to day and from place to place. We passed along
the Lebasee and had to get through the endless Leba swamp. We were under
way daily from early in the morning until late in the evening and looked
for a cache where we might find potatoes or turnips, so we would have
something to cook.
On the 9th day we reached a village that had hoisted a white flag. It
was obvious that the Russians had caught up with us. We ended up in a
farm house were all the rooms were full of refugees. There was a
Ukrainian girl, a student, who was a farm worker and who spoke German
fluently. Suddenly the house was full of Russians who took anything they
wanted from the cabinets. Sister Meta and I wanted to cook our broth,
but a Russian wanted to take her into another room. In my fear I called
for the Ukrainian girl and she advised us to always keep our children in
our arms and to let them cry. The advice saved us often, but our
children then received no rest. The next day they took horses and wagon
and anything else they liked. Gutzmers and we all stood there
empty-handed. How and where should we go now?
We were told to return home and work. Max Gaul from Wiesenthal took my
baby on his wagon; but we did not get far because his horses and wagon
were also taken, and he (who had always been an invalid, lame and who
walked with his head to one side) was badly derided by the Poles. Again
we stood helpless. Sister Meta had in the meantime had been separated
from us by a detour. We were again with the Gutzmers. There we met the
tavernkeeper Genee from Groß Tuchen. His wife and daughter had already
left before. He had a yoke of oxen and a wagon and had loaded it with
old women from the neighborhood and relatives from East Prussia. He took
pity on me and loaded my little child onto his wagon as well. Then it was
off to Groß Tuchen. On the way we saw a great deal of misery. The
villages were laid waste. Dead people, soldiers, and dead animals lay
On the 19th of March we finally arrived at home. The railroad bridge and
also the bridge over the river had been destroyed. So we came by way of
the train station and then by way of the mill and past the monument.
My sister-in-law, Frieda Kolberg, stood in front of the old house on the
Biastoch property and waved to us. She had returned earlier with her
family. We stopped at the house of Genee and remained there that night.
By that time more of the residents of Groß Tuchen had returned. On the
next day we met Mr. Jeschke. My apartment above the school was still
livable. We were just unloading when the Russians appeared and we
panicked. We all reached for our children, who screamed mightily, and
this time we were lucky. The school was an assembly point for the
Russians, so we could not remain there. We moved in with the Jeschkes,
where other homeless women were staying, hoping there at the end of the
street to find some peace; but it was unbearable there.
We learned then that my parents had fled to the Biastochs. It was
impossible to remain with Jantz. There the brother from Massowitz had
hanged himself and Mr. and Mrs. Jantz had taken their own lives in the Kamenz river. My
sister Meta brought our parents back home. They could not return to
their old house. So we all stayed with the Jeschkes in one small room
and slept on straw; but sister-in-law Else, Meta and I had to hide every
night. We slept in the meadow, which by this time was wet with dew,
under the floor, in the cellar and in barns. It was terrible. My
parents took care of all children.
Once my sister was about to be raped. She resisted, stood with her son
against the wall and cried: "Shoot!" She was chalk-white. Everyone
screamed terribly. Just at that moment a Russian doctor, who was going
fishing, heard the noise. My sister was rescued, but the Russian who had
tried to rape her, was savagely beaten. We were all horrified.
Every morning we were escorted to work by armed Poles. Rails from the
railroad were removed and loaded up. I had to sweep the streets and
clean houses. I had terrible problems with my blood circulation. I was
sent to a doctor and he ordered the Poles not to make me work anymore.
My brother Otto had to work in the Möller's butcher shop and sister Meta
worked there, too. They were allowed to sleep there and one night I
slept there, too. There was a Russian and a Polish watchman. I was
especially worried when Siegfried was taken to drive sheep. He came back
later that night.
After a time we were able to repair my parents' old home and we moved
back in. But there was never a night when we did not have to hide
ourselves. My mother sacrificed herself for us. My father's health was
not good, my mother suffered from cancer, and still they took care of all
their grandchildren. One time we all had to stand against a wall to be
shot. We were supposed to have buried some weapons. An old neighbor who
could speak Polish vouched for us and we were spared. One night all the
Germans were called together and stood in front of the Post Office
(brother Otto's house) to be shot. Our fear was great. The Catholic
priest Hinz interceded for us and after awhile we were allowed to leave.
Our Lutheran Church was cleaned and Mr. Mauß held a service. Even though
Mr. Mauß had the permission of the Russians, he was later made to pay for
his actions. It was a hard, turbulent time. We occupied ourselves with
thoughts of returning to Berlin. From father Hinz we learned that Berlin had been closed.
So we went by foot to Bütow to try to procure the necessary documents.
From nothing we put together a small handwagon, into which we
could load our few belongings and then departed from our dear Groß Tuchen
for the last time. The farewell to our poor parents was particularly
hard. Mother accompanied us as far as the forest. Two women from Berlin
went with us. We went toward Rummelsburg. Our handwagon soon broke
down and we asked Russians for help, if they would take us with them.
The women who had slightly larger children were immediately required to
accompany the Russians into the forest. My little Ingrid was my guardian
angel. So, thank God, sister Meta remained with me.
On the first day we made it to the edge of Rummelsburg. There we
had the good fortune to meet Germans, and we could stay overnight. Early
the next morning we started out via Baldenburg, whch had been leveled, to Neustettin.
The Russians, who had taken us by truck, unloaded us. We met a German locomotive engineer, who took us to what
was left of his home. We could stay there. He had to transport freight
for the Russians. In the morning he had to leave, and so did we. At the
station we waited for the train to Schneidemühl. And there we spent the
night in the terminal building, with many other refugees. Again and
again the plunderers were active. Siegfried was required to sweep the
station area. At last our train came. It was supposed to go to
Vorpommern (that part of Pomerania that lies to the west of the Oder
River). Siegfried was still busy with his sweeping, but in the last
minute he came running. We rode over the temporary bridge at Stettin,
where robber bands jumped onto our freight train for more plundering.
Then we walked for several kilometers and spent that night in a school.
A Russian was on guard duty. He spoke good German. He said we should
not be afraid. His father had immigrated to Russia. Early in the
morning we left for the station in Strelitz.
From there we finally made it to Berlin. We went by foot to my
sister's apartment. Acquaintances, who had been bombed-out, were living
there, but they immediately moved in with relatives. The meat market was
occupied. We were satisfied that the apartment was undamaged and that we
had a place to stay. The next day I went to my apartment. Bombed-out
residents of the building had set themselves up in the store. In my
apartment there lived another bombed-out couple. The man would not let
us in, but the housing office found us another place. How thankful we
sisters were that we had undamaged places to live. The only thing
lacking would have been news of our husbands. Meta's husband came home
unexpectedly, but in poor condition after being a prisoner of the
Russians. He soon reopened the meat market.
My husband was a prisoner of the English in Uetersen. After a
time we were able to learn of each other. At first he had suffered, but
then the English opened a tailor shop, which he had to run. He was able
to send clothing for Siegfried that he made out of scraps. For Ingrid
there was parachute silk, from which dresses could be made. For his work
he often received in payment cigarettes, chocolate or bread. These we
received and soon our appearance was more human. He even took a chance
once and came across the border to see us. We worried, but all went
At the end of 1945 my parents and the family of my brother, Otto,
came from Groß Tuchen to near Anklam. Sadly, our father did not survive
the difficult time and the journey. He died miserably in a cattle wagon
and had to be buried in the forest in a primitive fashion.
I went to Vorpommern to get my mother, who was sickly.
She was operated on for cancer between Christmas and the New Year.
Gradually she improved and we were able to keep her for five years,
but the last year was one of suffering. At first she lived with me.
When my husband was released and came home in the middle of May 1947,
there was no longer room. My sister Meta took her in, although she was crowded, too.
There she died on 31 August 1951.
We reopened our tailor shop and there was much to do. Cloth was
cut, altered and two old pieces were made into one new piece. Things
gradually improved. We have been in our shop for forty years and in 1980
we celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary. We are thankful for all of
it. Always the hand of God has lead us. On the 21st of April 1983 my
husband died. On the 2nd of March I was 87 years old.
Berlin, January 1996