The Russians are coming

Edelgard Tebbenhoff nee Bansemar (born 1934); Im Plaggen, D-449565 Bramsche, Tel. 05465-1740

Flight and Expulsion

- Translated by Hans Heese, Cape Town / South Africa -

I remember it as if it happened yesterday. It was Christmas Day 1944.

Grandfather Meier came back from the Deuble's. He said: "We have to flee, the Russians are coming". We were dumbfounded, then plans were hurriedly made. The first we did was to get the wagon in the shed ready. We started packing and unpacking as we had to take as much with us as possible. We buried the valuable cutlery and other family treasures in the pigsty.

Bombs dropped around us day after day but, thankfully, at night it was quiet. We untied the cattle, gave them enough fodder and opened the stable doors. This meant saying goodbye. On 21.2.1945 we started our trek. [Note: The main trek from Gross Tuchen left late in the afternoon on 2 March 1945.] Small children and the aged were allowed to travel on the wagon, the rest had to go on foot as the horses already were overburdened. It was a hard winter. We stopped only three times to allow men and horses to recover somewhat. Despite our efforts, the Russians overtook us 20 km before we reached Neustadt. They wanted to put us on board a boat. At a farm we spent three days in hay and straw; the women had to hide from the Russian soldiers.

Using by-ways we returned home. On the way the best horses were taken by the Russians. We fled further. In some village the men were forced to dig a trench after the Russians told us that we would all be shot. On the way the road was lined with corpses - those of soldiers, small children, men, women, animals. It was terrible. My mother was abducted by the Russians but my grandmother managed to persuade them to leave her. We went on. At a farm we managed to find food supplies as the Russians had not been there yet.

During Easter we all contracted Typhus and Grandfather Meier nearly died as a result of the fever. At the last stop at Neufeld the women had to hide again. Mother was raped by the Russians. In the meanwhile, Grandfather Meier managed to return to Gross Tuchen to see if it was safe to return home. We managed to return with the wagon, one horse, one cow and a pig.

From early summer to November 1945 we stayed among the Poles. Grandfather Meier was prisoned in Btow. The estate of the Meiers had been taken over by a Pole. In November we were thrown out by the Poles. We were first transported on lorries, then in overfilled trains and open trucks to West Berlin. On the way the rucksacks and overcoats of the women and children had been taken and thrown away. We could only keep one blanket to keep ourselves warm.

From Christmas 1945 to January 1946 we stayed in Thale (Harz). After that we moved to the reception centre in Thuringia and later on to Friedland. From April to May we stayed in Nortrup. Mother became seriously ill. In June 1947 Father returned from the POW camp. In March 1948 Mother died. Father married again in 1950. I left home and found a job. In 1955 I married; we have build a house and have three children.

Signed: Edelgard Tebbenhoff, ne Bansemar