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 © Heinz Radde 1998-2016

The Process of the Expulsions in Eastern Pomerania

Account by Pastor Werner Lindenberg from Stolp, Pomerania, January 1946

Translated by Leslie A. Riggle in Kansas / USA, February 1999

(Taken from: "The expulsion of the German population from the areas to the east of the Oder-Neisse Line", published by the former German Federal Ministry for Expellees, Refugees and War Victims, Volume I/2, Document Nr. 328. Published by Weltbild Verlag GmbH, Augsburg,1993)

While in other parts of eastern Germany the mass exodus began already in early summer, an organized plan was not put into operation in eastern Pomerania until October 1945. Coincidentally, at the same time a declaration was made in answer to a question in the British House of Commons that there would be no more expulsions of Germans in eastern Pomerania before spring. An besides, as was stated again and again, the Germans were to be "transported in a humane manner". I had countless opportunities to see for myself just how humane this resettlement was. It was not an unusual sight in the streets of Stolp that Polish militiamen would drive German women and old people before them with whips and clubs to the train station. The fact that the women often still wore their aprons and house shoes makes evident how surprised and completely unprepared these expulsions progressed, having nothing in common with "resettlement". One time I was told at a burial that the children of the deceased were not present because just as they were preparing to go to the cemetery they were taken from their homes and directed to the train station. In the villages the method of expulsion used was for large militia units to position themselves around a village at dawn and then the inhabitants would be hauled from their beds and assembled in the village center on five, ten or fifteen minutes notice. What little handbaggage they were able to take with them was usually stolen from them before they reached the assembly point. At the very latest it was taken from them when they reached the train station. Before those to be expelled ever reached the train station they were presented with a document to sign, under threat and often after brutal mistreatment. A copy that I translated for the officials at the Stolp city hall stated that the undersigned declared:

1. that he was leaving Stolp of his own free will.

2. that he had no claim against the Polish state.

3. that he would never return to Stolp.

That the Poles intended to make this a permanent arrangement is proven by the fact that they destroyed the church records and any official documents showing that eastern Pomerania had been originally German. For instance, in the village of Weitenhagen, county of Stolp, the Polish mayor had the church records taken from the Lutheran parsonage and burned in an oven.

But worst of all was the rail transportation to the Oder River. The terrible experience began at the train stations. Several ladies, among them the widow of an East Prussian court official who had fled to county Stolp in January 1945, told me that because the misery in the village was almost unbearable she had decided to relocate to the west of her own free will. With a bundle that contained her last possessions she boarded a scheduled train in Stolp. The train, which was due to leave in the morning, was finally shunted to a siding late in the evening. As darkness fell a large group of Polish railway employees (!) stormed the refugee train with a deafening barrage of whistles, pistol shots were fired over the heads, tear gas grenades were thrown into the railcars and in the general panic some of the luggage was stolen by the railway employees. The lady said that she then lost the remainder of her possessions. She no longer dared to begin the journey of terror over the Oder. She wait until she was forced to leave.

I myself, because of a high ransom (one thousand marks per person) was able to secure transportation for my family with only minor disturbances because we were allowed to ride in a rail car reserved for Polish railway police. The other cars were plundered by Russian soldiers and Polish militiamen. The plunderers, who in groups from 50 to 200 controlled the train for an hour, were prevented from attacking our car by the armed railway police. At the last station in Scheune those of us in the protected car had most of our luggage stolen because our protectors were in league with the plunderers. But although we had been completely robbed, we were grateful in our hearts to finally reach the border. We all remained together, except for my father, who died in a Russian prison, and the father of my brother-in-law, who was transported by the Russians and disappeared. Until the last minute we feared that my arrest, which was already scheduled, would take place before we could leave. Besides, we belonged to the few people among thousands at the station in Scheune, who at least had kept their coats and what they wore next to their bodies.

Among the expellees was also the entire Stolp old peoples home. These poor 70 to 80 year-olds, mostly helpless people, were mistreated and beaten, had, not only their baggage, but also their outer garments stolen. Not only were their coats taken, but also their clothes and shoes.

As a result of hunger on the long rail journey, which often took five days and even more from Danzig to Scheune (food that was brought alone was usually stolen), and as a result of the mistreatment and terror, 20 or more refugees died on every train. This came from the German railway workers at the border station. To that must be added the effects of the cold that cost the lives of many. And, in spite of the cold, the deportations were not stopped. At the beginning of December 1945, as I was forced to leave my home in eastern Pomerania, there were still about 20,000 Germans in Stolp. Of the villagers who belonged to my congregation, about half remained. The other half had already been expelled in the manner described above. The remainder still had their expulsion before them.

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