Our Memories Never
Karl H. Radde (*1934), Marschnerstraße 23, D-01307 Dresden
- Translated by Leslie Riggle, Wichita / Kansas -
I. Departure from Groß Tuchen
In October of 1945 the first inhabitants of Groß Tuchen, who had fled in May, began to return and they then again departed into the great uncertainty. We, at the Obermühle, the Pelz and Basowske families, stood firmly: "We stay here!"*
*[At that time our family consisted of: Ottilie Radde nee Dobersalske with her daughter Minna Radde, in Groß Tuchen in the house next door to Gustav Kramp; Emma Radde nee Schütz, from Klein Massowitz; the wife of Paul Radde, with their children, Edith, now Ulrich, of Aken; Karl H., now in Dresden, Ulrich, who died in an accident in 1954 at the age of 16, Heinz, now in Küttigen, Switzerland; as well as Helene Biastoch nee Radde, wife of Ernst Biastoch from Zemmen, with their children; Traute, now Geisler, of Schmalzerode and Karl-Heinz, now in Halle/Saale, at home in Groß Tuchen. Besides these there was Gustav Kramp, from the three corners on the road to Neuhütten.]
There were several reasons for this decision. We could not imagine that our Bütow countryside would ever be separated from Germany. The Russians had departed in the fall under the cover of darkness and the Poles came only a few at a time. They knew that this land belonged to the Germans; the Russians had overrun us and they should run it themselves. But for how long? It was an unknown quantity, this Potsdam Treaty with its vague pronouncements about the final decision to be made concerning the boundaries at a later peace conference.
Some Poles from Glisno, who were known locally and who had returned from the west, strengthened our confidence and advised us against leaving. "What should you do west of the Oder? Everywhere there is hunger. In Hamburg there is not one stone on top of another. It will take at least ten years before Germany is again livable. Just stay where you are", they advised us.
And besides, we waited every day for our father to return home. Certainly he would come. For us it was only a question of time. From his comrade Leike, from the Dalleken subdivision in Groß Tuchen, and Schamuhns from Zemmen, we knew that he had suffered a minor wound near Schlawe at the beginning of March and that he had been taken to a field hospital. The wounded were under the protection of the Red Cross, as we believed of the victors at that time, in spite of the many dead we had seen on our flight at Stolp and at Lauenburg. Where should we have gone, if not Groß Tuchen?
Life for us at the Obermühle was good. We were surrounded by dependable friends, near to Pyaschen (Franzwalde) and Zemmen, where only old acquaintances lived; we were comfortable at our farm house on the Kamenz, and we knew nothing of hunger or cold. We were in control of our own fates and conducted our affairs as we saw fit. Grandma Ottilie Radde was the firm head of our household. At first, our place did not interest the Poles. The buildings were old and the main structure had suffered an artillery direct hit, and the fields were full of trenches and bunkers and still strewn with mines and duds, because our house was directly in the way taken by the 70th Soviet Army after the three day bitter attack in the breakthrough of Reckow - Pyaschen - Groß Massowitz, after their 6th motorized unit had been in occupation. That is how our fields appeared. There was more to be had on other properties in Groß Tuchen at that time.
One year later everything was different. In September 1946 began the forced labor for all Germans, beginning with children of 10 years of age. We, alone, had to furnish 7 workers, 3 women and 4 children. I was already ten and they took me, too. But we were lucky. With a thirteen year old cousin I walked every day the 2 kilometers to my duty, which began at 6 AM and lasted until 10 PM. She was a nursemaid for the village militia, I was with the Brodza family on the farmstead that had belonged to Emil Polzin and had earlier belonged to the estate. My first duty was to watch the single lame cow. The faithful guard dog Teddy also supported me. Paulchen Mickley and I drove "our cow" along the road to Neuhütten, where we played war with real German steel helmets and ruined Russian machine pistols, very much as we ourselves had lived through on our flight past Lauenburg. Or we beat up on Kasimir Roggenbug from the neighboring Labuhn farm when he provoked us or told us that we had to do everything he told us to because he was a Pole and we were Germans. But just as often we made up with him and made grandiose plans for a future world in which, besides Germany and Poland, would contain no other major powers. It was an exiting time for us children. Sometimes we were joined by Ruth Labuhn, the fifteen year old who had to do the hardest and dirtiest work for the Polish local commander, and we discussed God and the world. However, mostly she simply laughed at us because of our high-minded ideas and plans.
I had it better than at home. The Brodzas were childless and treated me like their own son. They permitted me freedoms, such as I otherwise could only have dreamed of. For hours at a time I was allowed to indulge my favorite pastime, reading books. They had taken over the German books that belonged to Polzins and had treasured them. I even received a tiny money allowance in the Polish currency. No other German had this privilege. My cousin Traute, on the other hand, had to work hard for the village militia, but she was also treated correctly.
Our problems were more of the objective kind. In winter there was a lot of snow. Often there was a strong wind that whipped the snow into deep drifts. When the snow melted we could hardly make it with our homemade wooden shoes, because we had had no real shoes since, first the Russians and then the Poles, had looted everything. The wet snow packed into clumps on our wooden shoes. Because we were afraid of getting to work too late, we simply ran in our stockings through the wet snow. Today we know where our rheumatism came from.
One day Pan Brodza remarked that it was not good that we always spoke German. I was to learn Polish. For me that could only have been an advantage. If I wished he would teach me Polish, but only if I wished, he said again and again. And how I wished to! So we began systematic language lessons. The first sentence I learned was "Chodo na obiad" (come and eat dinner) and that is what I always remembered about this Pole. He had, in a German internment camp, learned from the first: "To work, march, march!" Even today I still profit from this language lesson.
And he taught me many other useful things, among them, how to survive when one's nation is responsible for Auschwitz and Stutthof. But he could not help me when I was sometimes beaten up by Polish children and that someday we would be driven out the way one would chase off a bothersome dog.
Our heavily damaged farmstead was now taken over by a Pole. He was Jerzy B., a bitter German hater. It was from him that we heard in 1946 for the first time about terrible places like the concentration camps and slave labor camps that the Germans were supposed to have set up. Up to this time neither the Russians nor the Poles had mentioned these things to us. They really did not believe it themselves. When we talked to Russian soldiers we were surprised when they simply shrugged and said that there were war criminals everywhere. Even in the last days of the war a young sergeant, who led a group of sinister, heavily-armed Russians, explained to my Grandma: "Gitler kaput . . . good; Stalin still lives . . . very bad. . .!"
Our Jerzy was supposed to have been in a concentration camp and he had been in on the capture of Berlin, and bragged about taking few prisoners in battle. That is why we hated him considered him to be a liar.
Now ten of us were crowded into two rooms, in which there were also rats. We children had not been to school for nearly 2 years. It is true that my mother led us in a kind of Sunday School, and we learned eagerly, especially verses from the songbook, or we practiced German dictation. But it was not a real school, the kind we had known with our teachers, Miss Schwichtenberg, Mr. Mauß or Mr. Sorgatz. Gradually our supplies of food gave out and we had almost no clothing or shoes. Only the Polish mayor secretly permitted us now and again to have a sack of flour. He said that as long as he was mayor of Groß Tuchen no German would go hungry. This treatment by a representative of the new order was an exception, not the rule. This was hard for us to understand because the Germans had locked him up in the concentration camp at Stutthof.
For us it became ever clearer. If we did not want live as foreign workers and prisoners, we would have to leave. This homeland that had been German for 800 years was ours no longer. My mother simply brushed aside all well-meaning suggestions that we become Polish citizens.
Unexpectedly we were ordered to leave our village with in two days. We were all exited. Even among our Polish neighbors. Our departure was scheduled for the 16th of December 1946. Joseph Durawa, our Kashubian neighbor, who had always been our dependable protector in the time of our flight in 1945 to beyond Lauenburg (before Neustadt in West Prussia and not far from Gdynia), was to take us, with our baggage, to the county seat of Bütow. We were allowed to take with us an absolute maximum of 25 kilos per person.
That last night no one slept anymore. Even our Pole Jerzy sat together with us the whole time, was transformed and said that he would go, too. He roasted his last goose so that we could have something to take with us. As we left there were tears in his eyes. "We did not want this to happen", exclaimed this German hater.
At four in the morning we departed in dark and in bitter cold. We children went first on the march of nearly 20 kilometers to Bütow. We made up an entire column, according to age and all heavily loaded. At the head marched my cousin Traute Biastoch. She decided to sing the song "Nun ade, du mein lieb' Heimatland", and thanks to the teaching of teacher Mauß, we all knew it well. The last was my little brother of less than five years, pulling an old school back pack like a sled in the snow, because he was too little to carry it.
[When I returned 12 years later I was told by our neighbor, Mrs. Anastasia Jastszemka, that as she watched us depart, she had never seen anything so sad. She was a Ukrainian who had been brought to Groß Tuchen as a forced laborer in 1942 as a sixteen year old. She cried for three days. "That should not have been done to the Germans!" We did not think of our departure as painful, but rather considered it as an unavoidable fate and were proud in those days to remain German.]
In the county seat of Bütow we had to camp out the next day and all night in freezing conditions. That was the beginning of a great blizzard that some said brought in the coldest January in a hundred years. We spent our last Zlotys for vodka, because that was all that could be purchased. It was drunk as medicine. Even the children were given alcohol on the false supposition that it would keep them warm and prevent typhus.
That afternoon we were taken to the market place with all of our baggage where a platform had been built, and the local commander, a dumpy little man in a uniform, with wild gestures, gave the farewell address to the German women and children with a speech that began with "German pigs". And then it began, the total attack on everything German. Someone whispered: "Don't listen. Don't be provoked". A 35 year old woman of a previous group was supposed to have said: "Just wait until our men return from prisoner of war camps. . ." She was shot the same day. And that is the way things were for German civilians with the new regime, the so-called people's regime. It could be very dangerous. But we children listened very carefully, because we wanted this subject to be clearly understood when we returned for our revenge. We had sworn to do this.
That night we were taken for baggage check. We were relieved of our bedding, comforts and other warm things that we would so desperately need in this cold winter. We were allowed to keep only what we wore.
Toward morning we were loaded into filthy cattle cars; thirty persons with baggage to a car. The only small opening was closed with barbed wire. The crowding was terrible. At first it was warm. Each freight car contained a small stove with a small supply of coal briquettes. But these were never replenished. They were all gone that first night. Then it was bitter cold. Even the inside walls of the car were covered with a layer of ice. For eight whole days and nights we never left this "refrigerator car".
Sometimes, when we made brief pauses, we saw open freight cars full of coal briquettes. We boys would slip out and bring fuel to our car until one or the other of the two trains began to move. Then we had to quickly return and jump on. This was dangerous. We could have been immediately shot if we were seen.
Our train went by way of Konitz and Schneidemühl into Posen. And here there was an dangerous episode. Our train stopped for the night in a freight terminal. The two Polish militiamen, who accompanied our train, warned us against attacks that were perpetrated regularly by mustered-out Red Army soldiers who were on their way back to Russia. They attacked the trains carrying Germans who were being expelled, robbing and looking for women. The Poles were helpless against them. We would have to defend ourselves. They would withdraw to the locomotive and would not interfere.
Among the few men on our train there were in our car the Schamuhn brothers* from Zemmen. They organized our defense. And we boys had an important part to play.
*[Fritz and Erich Schamuhn. Fritz was known in Groß Tuchen as the milk driver because he made daily rounds of the farms in Zemmen and the Obermühle to take milk to the creamery in Groß Tuchen.]
I was on guard duty on a pile of our baggage. Through the ventilation hole that was blocked with barbed wire, I could observe the entire freight yard. For hours nothing happened. And then it came. The clock in the train station showed that it was exactly 5 minutes after midnight. A group of 8-10 drunken Russians armed with machine pistols stormed the train and headed directly for our second to last car. I gave the alarm. Everyone sprang into position. Within five minutes we were under attack. They tried to pry open the sliding door to our car, but we had locked it from the inside. There was a terrible uproar with shouts and curses. Somewhere in the nearby town shots were fired. "Otkrowajte, budem streljat", they roared, open up or we will shoot. Flashlights were lit, but we did not reply to their ultimatum. They tried again and again to open the door, threatening and scolding and finally using crowbars. But we continued to hold out. Some were so fearful that they wanted to give in rather than to be killed.
The Schamuhns remained resolute. They thought it unlikely that the Russians would do any shooting near the station because that would have brought the military police. And even if they did, it was unlikely that their bullets would penetrate the wooden planks from which the freight cars were built. And then it came. With terrible curses against the German "Fascists who continued to resist" the Russians suddenly withdrew. They did not try to attack any other cars. It was exactly ten minutes after one. Our unequal siege had lasted over an hour. We took turns at guard duty for the rest of the night, but there were no more attacks. Even though we had little worth stealing, at least we had spared our women and girls from a terrible fate and thereby won a late but final victory over the Russians. At least that was how we boys saw it, but it really was a dangerous moment. In those days no one took any notice of a German who had been killed.
The train rolled further south. Christmas was coming. Now the Polish militia soldiers often came to our car. There was an increased respect for us in their eyes after our victorious battle with the Russians in Posen. It was something new for them that two unarmed Germans and a pair of boys had driven off an entire troop of armed Russians. But really, they were cold, too. Our car was one of the few that had any heat, thanks to our reckless coal-stealing action.
We were somewhere in snowed-under Lower Silesia. Our courage had sunk to a new low. We were all apathetic due to hunger, cold and thirst, sitting on our bundles or walking about, pressed together like animals. No one spoke a word. Each was occupied with his own thoughts about what we had given up. Our village, the farmstead and the dead and, above all, our last hope of ever returning. And then, from the next car there came a song by a masculine voice. I think it was Mr. Meseg from Meddersin singing the old Christmas carol, "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen". At first some sang quietly, then ever more and louder until everyone in the car was singing along. The song traveled to the next car and soon throughout the entire train. At twenty degrees below freezing, in icy cars, after days of travel, without anything warm to eat or drink this German Christmas carol had an unbelievable effect. The two Polish soldiers were horrified. The singing of German songs was strictly forbidden. They had to decide. "It is only a Christmas carol. Let them sing", decided the highest in rank.
We rode without letup through flat country. From my lookout point through the barb wired window I observed the snowy landscape for hours at a time. Neither tree nor bush was to be seen. We moved in a southwesterly, sometimes southerly, direction. Someone had expressed the thought that we were on our way to Siberia. We all had good reason to fear Siberia. We knew that several civilian men from our area were taken to Siberia in March 1945, Metel from Groß Tuchen, for instance, and even women and mothers of four or more children and sixteen year old girls from Radensfelde and Groß Massowitz. Why not us, too? Sometimes I could see a village. Most of the houses had been destroyed. Only chimneys stood among the snow covered ruins. From the ruins it was impossible to tell whether they were German, Polish or Ukrainian houses. According to the sun it appeared that we were headed toward Siberia. We believed by now that we were going toward the sun most of the time, to the east. But the sun was so low at this time before Christmas that we were mistaken. It was hard to distinguish between east and south Besides that, our train often had to take detours and sometimes we really did go east..
And it was dangerous as well when the train stopped on an open stretch of track. The stops could last for hours or only for minutes. No one knew for certain when it would leave and there was never any warning. We boys would immediately jump out and run around to get a some exercise and to combat the cold. At the last moment we would climb back into the already moving train. One time a little five year old boy dared to get too far from the boxcars. We had warned him, but he insisted on coming with the "big boys". The train suddenly started up too quickly and he did not make it back in time and literally remained there along the track. This was one of the ways that families were separated.
I had taken up my lookout at the opening and remained there day after day. I had to strain to hold myself to this small square. My hands were like ice. One can hold out against cold and hunger and there were small icicles to slake the thirst. And then the unending hopeless snowy desert before our eyes, hour after hour. We could all feel that we were at the end of our strength. Suddenly, as if a mirage, there appeared a small watchhouse on the horizon and two soldiers stood in front of it. Beside them was a sign that read "Odra". That was clearly the Oder River. We had reached it at Glogau.
We had finally arrived at the river that for us was a symbol
of rescue and freedom. So we were not going to Siberia after all. I got
up and shouted as loudly as I could: "We have reached the Oder" and
felt like the lookout who, after an endless journey without hope,
arouses the crew of the ship with the call: "Land in sight!" The effect
was the same.
II. The Eastern Zone: A new beginning that never was.
We finally rolled over the Oder-Neisse-Line at Forst in the Niederlausitz area. The train stopped, the sliding doors were opened. German voices came to our ears. German was being spoken. We were given tea and warm soup. For the first time in eight days something warm. Newspapers were passed out in the freight cars, German newspapers. Even though they were only the "Tägliche Rundschau", the organ of the Soviet Occupation, and the Communist "Neues Deutschland", whose content interested no one. It was the German language that was before us. For nearly two years we had been cut off from the world. That German could again be openly spoken and written! We could not imagine it. Many cried for joy.
But our feelings of happiness did not last long. A few days later we arrived at the quarantine camp in Coswig near Wittenberg in Saxony-Anhalt. Also here: unheated barracks, no electricity, the camp encircled with barbed wire. We were once again prisoners. We were scheduled to go to Upper Bavaria, which had just been declared to be an area of catastrophe and would take no more refugees.
No one knew what to do with us. Too many Germans were crammed into too little space and concentrated in camps. People suffered from hunger and cold. We were sent on in small groups to individual camps in Central Germany, which was already filled to the limit. Anyone who could tried on his own or with the help of relatives to get away from camp life. Biastochs, Mickleys and a few others had that good fortune.
Somehow, we were freighted one night to Staßfurt near Magdeburg. It is true that we did not ride cattle cars, but the passenger cars were not heated and the cold had increased that February. It took us nearly 20 hours to cover this stretch of 80 kilometers and it was frosty. Our mother rubbed the hands of us children constantly, because the blankets and gloves that had been taken away by the Poles had not yet been replaced. Many had their hands and feet frozen.
In Staßfurt we came into a camp where fully apathetic Rumanians had been waiting for two years to return to their homeland. Sometimes there were no longer any meals. The accommodations were ice cold. A little warm water was furnished for the rooms only when someone had died. We often received warm water.
Nearby there was a Russian compound surrounded by barbed wire and caches of potatoes were supposedly stored there for a distillery. Under the leadership of Fritz Schamuhn from Zemmen we dependable people organized a "special troop" and when the next snowstorm came we marched out. We broke through the barbed wire and came directly to a cache. It was immediately uncovered. Other "special troops" were also in action. Each of us hurriedly gathered a few pounds of potatoes and away we went. Nearby a dog barked and a Russian soldier cursed. Shots were fired. A volley from a machine pistol went over our heads. We left and survived for a couple more days.
Again we were moved to a different camp in Staßfurt. Here the food was better, at least the water soup came more regularly. And then there was a new catastrophe. The Bode River went over its banks and flooded almost the entire city. In a few hours our camp was under water. Again we had to move. Some of us sneaked over the zone border to Lüneburg. Even the Schamuhn brothers separated. But we decided again: we stay.
We were brought by truck in small groups through the foothills of the Harz Mountains to the little city of Aken near Dessau on the Elbe. It was our fourth camp in a half year! But for the first time there was decent food. The locals here still lived off the rations the Americans had generously handed out, because for them the war ended when they reached the Elbe.
*[Besides us the others who went to Aken were: From Groß Tuchen Mrs. Hoffmann, our church sexton, with her daughter Frieda Kunkel and her children; the Busch, Krause, Knitter families and from Zemmen the families of Erich Schamuhn and Erich Böse, from Klein Massowitz the Paul Müller family, from Radensfelde the Adrian family and from Meddersin the Meseg family.]
It seemed we were condemned to a lifetime in camps. The authorities undertook nothing. My mother and my Aunt Minna Radde then went from house to house looking for a place to live. One day they were lucky. In an out of the way garden settlement there was an attic room with a tiny kitchen that had just become empty. Our family with 5 persons took it. The rooms were empty. And by now we had very little baggage. For a long time we simply slept on the bare floor, with our rucksacks for pillows, the same that served as chairs during the day. Little by little there were a few broken furnishings that no one else wanted, or single primitive pieces that had supposedly been confiscated from the Nazis.
Our relationship with the locals was icy. No one here had any idea of what had happened in the east. The people here had never suffered from hunger or the cold. Here no one knew about the air raids and there was no battle front. No one had to flee, they were never expelled and they had never suffered from looting. The locals lived as though there had never been a war, without fear of the victors. No one was shot, transported, beaten or raped. They shook their heads when they saw the poor "refugees" who "had not even brought a watch" with them. And they knew no solidarity. And the renowned community spirit was a fallacy.
We children had it especially hard. Besides hunger and poverty we could clearly feel the prejudice of the locals at school, where we had to struggle bitterly to succeed. We late refugees had not been to school in more than two years. It was easy for our stronger fellow students to take every opportunity to belittle us and beat us up. We were used to that, but this time it was our own Germans who did it to us!
At recess on the very first day, as a sort of a greeting, a larger boy from one of the upper classes, whom I had never seen before, without any warning simply punched me in the face with his fist. He was surrounded by a group of smaller boys and wanted to impress on them his position of authority. Apparently he did not like my wooden shoes that I had to wear to school. I fell, lost my shoes and automatically offered no resistance, as I had to do when I was beaten by the Russians or Poles, because that would have meant certain death. And I did not complain. For the rest of the day I kept my head down on my desk because of the pain and tried to keep the teacher from seeing my swollen face.
That is why I never developed any warm feelings toward this place, even though I finally was able to say that I had many good friends among the students. Sometimes, during this time of hunger I would find a fresh hard roll in my desk, put there secretly by one of the locals. But some wounds heal only slowly and they leave scars for life.
It was not a new beginning for us. While camp life was behind us and peace had been declared we went from the frying pan into the fire, and the hunger became even worse. The greatest famine came in the summer of 1947 when each person received a daily ration of a half pound of bread, when bread was to be had at all. For days we had nothing to eat but the sorrel we picked along the Elbe River.
It was impossible for us refugees to find any food in the surrounding villages, because we did not know anybody and, anyway, we had nothing to trade. Every attempt at illegal trading or theft of fruits was punished severely. One example was the official pronouncement by the authorities in Aken: "While it is recognized that there are hardships in the human condition . . . for the police not to react firmly because of these conditions is out of the question, and they are expected to enforce the law to the limit." And that is what happened! The new regime had no patience with the conditions of the refugee women and children. And so it happened that several of the refugee mothers ended up behind bars simply because the stole a few potatoes from a wealthy farmer for their hungry children. Theft, in those days, was thought to be a criminal act. Even my classmate Werner Böse from Zemmen, although still a minor, was sentenced to prison because he organized the theft of needed firewood that the Russians had left as useless, but was the "Property of the People".
The solidarity among the people of Groß Tuchen was a major
help. Our former neighbor Basowske, who for almost 2 years lived in the
Taunus region, and my Uncle George Schütz, who had emigrated to the USA
in 1929, were a tremendous help to us. And other Americans understood
our conditions and they often sent us packages. Thus we survived these
hard times, that are known and glorified by other Germans today as our
"Liberation". But they had not been expelled, were not deported to
Siberia and did not have to witness the execution of their family
members. The kept their homeland and even their homes. That is already
a major difference! But they called us reactionaries.
III. The unforgotten village
Twelve years had passed. Then I was finally able to go to Groß Tuchen again. The difficulties were great. Several times the East German authorities had denied my request for permission to travel. The Poles had no objection. In November 1958 I received my visa for a journey to Groß Tuchen and the surrounding area. It was said to be the first private visit by a German to this area since 1945. Even the Pomeranian Newspaper in West Germany featured an article about it.
The impressions were strong. My hosts were the Durawa family, our former neighbors at the Obermühle, who in those days had lived on their farmstead. I visited the living and the dead. In Groß Tuchen and the surrounding area I met many Germans. Baker Borchardt had two bakeries and prospered like never before. His bakeries were meeting places for the Germans. We went there every day. Metel spoke to me on the village street in Low German: "Are you the son of Paul?" Because of his fur cap and padded coat I had mistaken him for a Ukrainian. Together we visited the Lutheran cemetery and he told me about the dead that he had known, of the last days in Groß Tuchen as the Russians marched in and from his imprisonment in Siberia. In Pyaschen and Klein Massowitz there were reunions with many old friends.
My greatest concern was to find my father's grave in Besow near Schlawe. Our hopes that our father had been wounded but survived were unfounded. At Easter in 1958 and after 13 years of searching the German Red Cross in Munich sent a brief declaration by a young woman from West Prussia:
"I was fleeing with my children in Besow in Kreis Schlawe when the Russians overtook is on the 7th of March 1945. All German refugees, as well as all the locals, were assigned to work on the farms and we witnessed the death of a lightly wounded German soldier, Paul Radde from Groß Tuchen, who was shot by a Russian soldier. I tended his grave until July 1947. Enclosed is his military identification. I make this declaration under oath."*
*[Official Returnee Declaration A/249344-German Information Office for Relatives of Deceased Members of the Former German Army, Berlin-Wittenau, 29 May 1958]
We then learned from eye witnesses that a young Russian soldier had refused to obey an order to shoot and had cried out again and again: "Eto nje nado. . . Eto dobry tschelowjek. . ." (This in not necessary, this is a human who has done nothing to us. I cannot kill him.") But his Bolshevik superior maintained: "Every German is also a Fascist. And every Fascist is a criminal."
When the Russian was threatened with death himself for refusing to obey an order, he aimed his machine pistol and fired. Two shots struck my father in the back. He stood up and walked slowly and erectly before the horrified German women, stopped and then kneeled to pray. The Russian was so angered that he aimed his machine pistol at my father's neck and emptied the clip in a single volley. My father sank to the floor and died. His body lay there for three days, to the horror of the German women and children.
He was not the only one from Groß Tuchen to suffer that fate. There were graves of men who had been shot everywhere, even in our village. Our neighbor, pregnant young Mrs. Pelz, was shot; my old grandfather in Klein Massowitz was shot; my uncle from Luisenhof by Bütow was shot, our eastern worker Lady from White Russia was shot. But we had many Russian graves in our fields.
Together with Mrs. Agnes Durawa I searched for the grave of my father. By using accounts of eye witnesses, I had gotten German blueprints of eastern Pomerania from the state library in Berlin and made an exact sketch of the location of his grave. We rode the train to Zollbrück and then 10 kilometers further by bicycles that Poles loaned to us when they heard of our quest, even though they did not know us. And we really found the site of his grave, which could have been found without the sketch, because the Poles had tended it for years.
After being required to register in and later to register out at the town office on my visit in 1958 to Tuchomie (Groß Tuchen), in the county office in Bytow (Bütow), as well as long hours of conversation, over a cup of coffee, with the security service, represented by a young Polish woman who spoke perfect German, there always came the same questions: "What is your reason to come to Poland, here in your former homeland? I had ready arguments: future business in exports in Warsaw, study of the Polish language, and was able to gain the approval of the Poles. I have never experienced any hostility from the Poles, either then or later.
When I registered out of Groß Tuchen before Christmas 1958, the mayor invited me to his chamber. Again the same questions and his offer: "I still remember your father. Would you return? We would return your father's property to you. You can have a credit of 100,000 Zlotys interest-free and can again rebuild. We would be glad to have such people to return. Of course, a requirement would be Polish citizenship". I told him of my prospects in Germany, that I was preparing for my college board exams in Berlin, whether I chose to remain at the university or to go into the import-export trade, and that I saw no future for myself as a private landowner under Socialism. He was disappointed, but bid me a hearty farewell. I still heard as he said to his secretary in Polish: "Too bad. Nice fellow. He has come a long way since he herded cows in Groß Tuchen and went barefoot to school."
But I will never forget Groß Tuchen and my childhood there. I have returned many times to our "Pomeranian Switzerland" with its endless forests, beautiful lakes and riverlets, the waving grain fields and broad meadows. Our memories never leave us, they are unforgettable and they never die. But that is how it is with all of from Groß Tuchen.
10. February 1995, s/Karl H. Radde, Dresden