We were cut off by the Russians
Willi Mutschall (*1934), An der Vogtei 5, D-50226 Frechen bei Köln
Recollections and memories of my (our) expulsion from our Pomeranian homeland.
- Translated by Leslie Riggle, Wichita / Kansas -
I was born 7 November 1934 in Groß Massowitz. My parents: Wilhelm Mutschall; Groß Massowitz, Berta Mutschall nee Schlutt; Groß Tuchen.
After we had begun our flight in February 1945, for which we had received the "green light" too late to flee to Western Germany, we were cut off by the Russians and could not escape. Our caravan was forced out of the Kolberg-Köslin area and pushed ever further to the east until we were overtaken by the Russian front about 20 kilometers before Neustadt in Zamostne. We were sent back home. On the way my father and two of my sisters were separated from us. My sister Elli finally arrived back in Groß Massowitz in a sickly condition, but then she and my sister Adelheid died of diphtheria. My sister Frieda came back from Siberia in 1949. (She came to us in Frechen.) My father was taken away by the Poles and no one has ever told us when and where he died. Years later we had our father declared to be dead.
In the fall Congress Poles (who lived in the part of Poland that was taken over by Russia) took over our farmstead; and we were required to work for another Pole. In the summer of 1946 we were suddenly awakened at 3 AM and told that by 6 AM we had to be out of our farmstead. We were gathered at the creamery in Groß Tuchen and there we had to listen to an evil farewell from the Polish militia. I still remember the words of this militiaman: "Now you Nazi swine are going to a land where you will forget your language and you will never return." Then we were taken to Bütow to a temporary camp to wait for transportation. I have used the word "transportation" because in the true meaning of the word it was sinister; because we rode a great distance to the east, since to our west the Russians had taken up the rails. After staying in a camp for 6 weeks in Stettin, with all the misery, the sickness and the fear of camp life, we went on in a westerly direction.
>From Stettin we were escorted by a British intermediary through the Russian zone of occupation, so that we had a little more comfort and order. Ours was the last transport to Western Germany; afterwards all remained in the Russian zone. We were first taken to Lübeck, but Schleswig-Holstein was completely full and we were taken further to a temporary camp in Uelzen. In Uelzen we were deloused with a sort of pistol that sprayed us with powder and at the end we received a handful of powder on our heads. We all looked funny and for the first time in a long time we could really laugh. And for the first time we could eat all we wanted and felt like kings.
>From Uelzen our journey went on to Wipperfürth in the Bergisches Land, where we remained for 2 days. In Wipperfürth I remember the high bunk beds, 4 or 5 beds high. When I first saw these beds I thought: "Are we so crowded in Germany? If anyone would fall out of bed, he would break some bones." From Wipperfürth we were picked up in a US Army truck. No one told us where we were going. Our military truck was driven by a young Afro-American. The truck was open and 50 persons had to stand up all the way to Frechen. The worst of the journey was that the young driver took no notice of women, children or old people. Through the serpentine roads of the Bergisches Land he really taught us the meaning of fear. Fifty people in an open truck through those curves; it was as though we were supposed to be dumped out. We crossed the Rhine on a temporary pontoon bridge in Cologne, where the Zoo Bridge is today. We rode through the inner city. The view of so many ruins was something I had never seen. It was unreal and at the same time very sad. What had once been wide avenues were now narrow one-lane roads. As we crossed the Rhine I had the feeling that we were now out of Germany, the same as at our beginning in of our odyssey in Bütow. It seemed that we were in a completely different land and between Cologne and Frechen I observed a kind vegetable growing that was totally new to me. Later I learned that the new vegetables were leeks.
In Frechen at the train station we were greeted and for the first time we were told: "You can stay here!" After we had stuffed ourselves with a sweet soup the mistrust returned because we were told that we had to go a little further. But this time it was true because it was only about 2.5 kilometers to Frechen-Buschbell. In Buschbell there were 2 dance halls; Daubern and Herbertz. In each hall 100 people were housed. After a half year we received a small attic room for 6 people in Frechen. I remained true to this place and in 1961 I built my house in Frechen-Buschbell.
I would like make two remarks in writing:
In the camp in Buschbell 200 of us had to really go hungry, and all because of the camp commander. He sold our limited bread ration on the black market and traded it for alcohol and cigarettes, which he used to make merry with certain women who were his favorites. I met our camp commander once on the street and I asked him: "Mr. Camp Commander, I am so hungry. When do we get something to eat?" To that he said: "Young man, the ship with the wheat from America sank and when another comes there will be something to eat again." There was a police investigation and the camp commander jumped out the window of the Dauben dance hall and never returned. After that we again received our bread ration.
Finally, and as my second remark, I maintain that I did not write about the worst cruelties nor my worst impressions. That is past, my past! It has formed my personality for the future forever.
Frechen, the 23rd of February, 1996.