ISNY IN ALLGAU
Isny was a small, mediaeval town with cobbled streets, a church, monastery, church walls and town gate. Rooves of separate houses were touching each other. It was in a valley surrounded by hills, the highest being the “Schwarzer Grat” (Black Grat) domineering all the others. It had the usual market place, Post Office, various “Gasthauses”, library, chemist shop, etc.
Thanks to the travel orders, we were allowed to stay one night at the hotel and only next morning we went to the Burgermeister (Major) as every newcomer had to report to his offices. He checked our documents and allocated Zygmunt to a factory belonging to Heim, which was working for the war industry.
I coughed a lot during the interview and probably did not look too healthy as the Mayor told me to report to a doctor and come back when I was considered capable of work. He allocated us living quarters, gave us coupons to buy a stove and wood for heating and, after telling us to behave ourselves, let us go.
The room allocated to us was in the house of Mrs. Fleck. The room was in the attic but we thought lovely as the whole room belonged to us. We did not have to share it with anyone. We had two beds (we used only one), a table, two chairs and a wash basin. It was a tiny room but had two windows with a view over the meadow and all this room was just for us. We liked it very much. Mrs. Fleck was not a pleasant woman but we did not expect her to be different. She belonged to the “super race” and we were just the cattle from the “Ost” (East), just good enough to work for the government. She had her own problems as she was supporting not only one or two daughters but also her son who was wounded during the war, and she needed our money from the room. She was not really rude, just unpleasant, but it did not matter to us. Zygmunt did not have to report for work for a few days and I was on sick leave for a few weeks. Wasn’t life wonderful?
We knew that it would not last long but we wanted to enjoy these few days of peace and quiet. We wandered along the cobbled streets, we even bought some pictures which we pinned on the walls, and we also bought a large map which showed Lithuania. How often did we look at this spot, spreading on the table our most valued possessions – the photos of our family.
Zygmunt had to get up at 4:00 am and returned home after 6:00 pm. It was a long day and he felt tired as he had to stand all day long. His head was aching as he was working in a very noisy hall. The Heim factory was producing weapons or rather, parts for them. After Zygmunt was questioned by a few Germans and vetted, he was given a pamphlet about the secrecy of his work, etc. His mate at the work bench asked him if he intended to keep the pamphlet. Zygmunt replied that he had already read it and found it uninteresting. The mate asked Zygmunt for this pamphlet, not to study it but only because it was very good for cigarette paper.
He also told Zygmunt that the pamphlet did not mention the main point: Heim’s factory was producing V2 parts! We thought it was a very good exchange; a bit of useless paper for the knowledge of what one was doing. I was still coughing badly and not feeling very well and the doctor gave me another two weeks off work. He also told me that that would be the last time and he would advise me to find work outside the factory. The factory seemed all right to me. There were many non-Germans, at least fourteen nationalities. They were all given soup once a day and most of the work was indoors where it was not too cold. The doctor was quite emphatic: I should find work outside the factory. I applied, and was accepted, as a kitchen maid and waitress in the guesthouse “Zum Hirach”.
We settled down to a routine. Zygmunt got up at 4:00 am, lit the stove with the kindling provided by the Major, added a brick of coal which he had stolen the previous evening at the factory (there was a death sentence for stealing but everyone who could, did steal) and made me a cup of hot water. After he left I still stayed in bed waiting for the room to get a bit warmer and for the water to melt in the bucket so that I could wash myself.
It was quite cold by now and our walls were covered with ice. I got up at 5:00 am. After he finished his work at the factory, Zygmunt came to “Zum Hirsch” (that would be about 6:00 pm) and wait there for me until I was ready to go. Usually it was about 11:00 pm. Sometimes I was lucky and, with the help of the other kitchen maid, Anushka, was able to bring him a bowl of hot soup. He was very tired and so was I. I was coughing really badly and my sandals were no protection against the snow. On the days off, I washed Zygmunt’s underwear and he had to stay in bed and dry them with his body heat as there were not enough briquettes for heating. On the alternate days off, I washed my clothes, wearing his, and he again had to dry them in bed. We had no spare clothing and no coupons with which to buy any. The washing was done in the backyard in a bucket of cold water. I was coughing more and more.
Translated from my diary:
“Zygmunt had an aversion to people coughing and has it still. I think it dates back to his youth when his father coughed and choked. One night when we were just falling asleep I started coughing which was like barking and could go on for hours. He jumped out of bed and started swearing and choking me. My head was under the blanket and he was choking me through the blanket. I did not mind as it would be good to be dead, to be finished with all of it. I really had had it by now. I did not resist when all of a sudden his fingers relaxed and he started to kiss me and to apologise. Oh, the stupid clot, why the apology? I know he did not want to kill me, he only wanted to kill the horrid cough. I do not mind dying.”
The nights were really hard for Zygmunt. Sometimes he had five hours’ sleep but usually only four. At this time I was either coughing or started screaming in my nightmares, looking for my children who might have been deported by the Soviets, being so frightened that I would never find them. I was quite reasonable during the days, but at night when asleep, I was unbearable. I was longing for the children. I missed them so much and they were so far away. I got toothache and my face swelled up and my boss told me to go to the dentist. It was a dreadful experience. The German dentist examined me, checked my identity papers and told his young assistant, a girl in the last year of Uni., to do an extraction and, before leaving the room, he told her: “Mind you, no anaesthetic for this Polish pig.”
It took over an hour as my tooth was crumbling. I was sorry for myself and also for the girl. We both cried. She gave me some spirits only slightly diluted with water, asking me not to tell anyone. It was a wisdom tooth and my ear and eye hurt for days and days but even so, the following day I had to go to work. I disliked most of my work. I hated polishing the floors as I had to move all the heavy tables and chairs (sometimes Zygmunt did it for me in the evening before going home), I hated cleaning the windows as my hands were bleeding from the icy cold whilst being wet and I also used to faint falling down from the table and the chair. I hated bringing the buckets full of potatoes from the cellar as they were so very heavy. I liked peeling potatoes whilst sitting in the warm kitchen, I liked setting the tables, but I hated serving beer as a tray with beer mugs was very heavy. I hated the peak hours as I had to serve eighty people and everyone was in a hurry, and I had to clip the coupons.
I did not like our meals either as Anushka and I were given mostly frozen potatoes covered not with gravy but with cold water from the pan. I liked cleaning the rooms in the guest house as there was a chance to take the unsmoked bits of cigarettes and, when lucky, even a bit of a cigar which we would share in the evening and roll our own. It was cold everywhere and only at about 5:00 pm was the stove lit in the main room but by then I was too tired to be happy about it. Anushka taught me how to cheat on ration cards and we were sometimes able to steal a slice of bread each but no other food as everything was kept under lock and key.
I felt so miserable on my day off that I went to see the German doctor at the hospital. She explained to me that, as my temperature was only 38.6o C, I could not be accepted at the hospital; it should be at least 39o C. Anyway, she would not advise me to apply for the hospital as I would be allocated just a mattress in the draughty passage. I would be better off where I was as only terminal TB cases were given beds, and I was not a terminal case.
Zygmunt was more than good to me. He gave me his teaspoonful of butter each week, saying that he was not hungry. He would not eat his ration of meat (two slices a week), telling me that he had meat in the factory (which I knew was a lie) but still I accepted his butter and his meat. Each night he dried my stockings with his body and never complained. He tried to be cheerful and spoke about our children and a happy future as if it was a fact that would come true and we would only have to wait a bit longer. I felt very tired and old although I was only 28. Some friends came to visit us and stayed for a few days. They were able to keep in touch with us through mutual friends, like Alma in Dresden.
Czeslaw was the first. He was doing all right. He and his friends had a fictitious firm, working for the army. They had lovely letterheads and many important looking stamps on some of the letters. They were allowed to travel throughout Germany as though for the effort of the army whilst in reality they were supplying goods bought on the black market. He stayed only a few days. Wanda and Veronika from Kybarty came too and they stayed each time for quite a while. Karaliene, my friend from Lithuania, came and brought us good news:
The Jewish children whom we were able to rescue from the ghetto were doing very well in the nunnery and she was even able to see them. At last both Fronts, the one from the East and the one from the West, began to move and we were all so very happy but it did not last long as the Germans started a counter-offensive and the Allies were either stopped or even had to move back. Our spirits fell again but Zygmunt cheered us up with his deep belief that now it certainly would not be long and the Germans were certain to lose this war.
It was already 1945. My friends thought, as did I, that Zygmunt was the best companion one could wish for. Our food situation improved some, not because of the ration cards but thanks to two Lithuanians whom we met when coming to Isny. We were able to sell gold roubles and gold bracelets to buy food and, in addition, I was being paid in food for being a fortune teller. My predictions turned out to come true and some of my German customers became very friendly. The proprietress of the milk shop gave me a glass of milk each day – admittedly, diluted – but still it was milk. Others gave me some bread occasionally.
On my 29th birthday I received one kilo of bread. It was a bit stale and mouldy but it was bread and tasted better than any birthday cake I had ever had. At last, at last it seemed certain that the Germans were going to lose the war, at last there were many German evacuees, at last their cities were razed to the ground too – mainly by the American flying fortresses – at last they had to learn what it meant to be attacked by a stronger force, at last there was fighting on their own German soil, at last they were frightened too. We saw the evacuees, the bombed out, the crippled and the blind, as in Isny there was a field hospital consisting of the old hospital and the school being converted to a hospital. I was sorry for all of them but it was high time they learned what it felt like to be a conquered nation. First we had to take it, now it was their turn. The sooner they realized it, the quicker the horrors of war would be over. But the Establishment still did not realize it.
School children were drafted to the Front, old men were drafted in cadres of “Volksturm” (called Volksdumm by us). The ordinary grey German started to treat us now as if we were not slaves but maybe partly human. Some even tried to get friendly with us. I did not feel hatred towards the masses as they were too brainwashed in the previous years, but I hated the leaders and felt happy that they at least had to be frightened, that they learned the feeling of the frustration when everything one valued was crumbling. Haim’s factory, where Zygmunt worked, was closed as there was no work.
The trains were bombed so often that the factory was now unable to bring the finished goods out, nor was there any hope of receiving the raw materials. Zygmunt would now rest and sleep as much as he wanted. I still had to go to work but my boss became nicer and Anushka and I were given more food. There were also fewer people for the meals as some left Isny. We could buy extra food and clothing as the Mayor of Isny issued an order to shops to sell extra goods in addition to the ration cards. Money was no problem. Firstly, we were both paid when working and unable to spend the money as the ration cards required hardly a quarter of the money we earned and there was no black market that we knew of, especially not for money. One day there occurred a tragic-comic incident. I quote from the diary:
“One shop was selling 2-1/2kg of cheese to each customer (our rations per month were in grams). The queue was enormous. We were near the door of the shop when an air alarm sounded. I wanted to sit the alarm out in the field or the hills but Zygmunt would not hear of it. To leave the queue now (now, when we were so close to the door) – never. He told me to shut up. I begged him, I pleaded. He would not reconsider. His argument was as follows: Nobody would be bombing the small, insignificant town of Isny and anyway, think about 2-1/2kg of cheese. Cheese is cheese.
“Zygmunt, couldn’t you forego the cheese for me? Even if it is an imaginary fright. But I am so frightened. Please.”
“Marushka, you are unreasonable and hysterical. If you want, you can go. I am not going. I am getting the cheese.”
“Zygmunt, is cheese more important to you than my happiness?”
“Don’t be stupid. Cheese is cheese.”
“I hope you choke on this cheese when you are covered by bricks from the fallen buildings. I hope you die a slow death, you beast!” – and I ran away. I was so unhappy. Zygmunt loved cheese more than he did me. There is nothing left to live for. I could understand him, partly. I was sick, coughing, hysterical. I was a burden. I hoped a bomb would fall on me but I knew that I could not be so lucky, sitting in the open field. But I could still help myself to die. The doctor had told me that, should I now get pneumonia, I would certainly die. I took off my shoes, put my feet in the puddle of melted snow, and hoped to die soon. I started to think about our sons but decided that it would be better for them without me, a hysterical woman, me with TB, etc., etc. I hoped I would die. The all-clear had sounded a long time ago. If Zygmunt would have wanted to he could have found me, but he did not care. He was probably at this very moment gorging himself with his cheese. I did not want to see him ever again. I heard our whistle – the one only Zygmunt and I knew – and saw him running towards me, the cheese still wrapped. He hugged me, looked at me, kissed me and started rubbing my feet. He put my shoes on, dragged me along and made me run. At home he lit the stove with the last briquette, put me to bed and fed me cheese, bit by bit. Zygmunt still loved me more than cheese. We will survive, we will find our children. War will end soon!” UNQUOTE.
The Allies were coming nearer and nearer. The Germans became unorganized, just like all the other conquered nations did once upon a time. The discipline was gone but still they would not give up. We were advised that Isny, although proclaimed a hospital town, would not surrender but would fight to the bitter end.
We went to the hills and a farmer took us in. They were a pleasant family; the old farmer, his wife and two daughters. They also had three sons who were somewhere at the Front. We were given a room and were allowed to use the stove. The same night there came a few army men and the farmer let them stay too. They were all young men and I remember one particularly well as he was just a boy. Next morning Zygmunt left at dawn to go to Isny to hear some radio news. Wanda and Veronica were still asleep and the young boy and I were talking. He was speaking about his mother, “Mutti”. He was so happy that now – when the war was practically over – he would soon be with his Mutti on their farm which was not far from here. He would help with the farming as his father was not so young and there were only two sisters at home; all his older brothers were either missing or dead.
He was smiling happily, looking at his photos from home. The farmer called us for breakfast and we were all sitting around the table when an SS-man came, calling the army men to hurry up. The other men got up quickly and only the nice boy lingered, looking happily around at the farmer’s family, at all of us, at the hot stove. He was happy and relaxed, he was near his home which was so similar to the one in which he was now. The SS-man took his rifle in his hand and … shot the boy … in his head. I am no writer so I am unable to explain the horror I felt when I saw the boy die. He died with an astonished look on his face.
His “Mutti” would never see him again. The boy’s life had expired. His brain and his blood were splashed on the wall behind the place where he had been sitting between all of us. He was dead. For no reason … or? Later on we learned that he belonged to a penalty commando and that the young SS-man was the master of life and death, without giving any reason.
The next few hours were a nightmare. The farmer’s wife, who had become very friendly with this boy, collapsed. The farmer lost his voice and disappeared. The daughters and I washed the blood and the splashed brain from the wall. Zygmunt came later and told us that the French Army was only 5-10 km away. When he heard what had happened and how the farmer’s family felt, he took all of us away and we went looking for another shelter. We found one higher up in the hills, even a nice one in an “Almhutte”. The boy was dead; for us life still went on but – for how long? The Almhutte (a hut where the cowherds could sleep and cook during the summer season) was empty.
In the loft was fresh hay which Zygmunt brought down so we were able to sleep on soft, fresh-smelling hay. There was a stove and some kindling and there was water in the cow troughs. The water was clean and fresh, coming from the spring in the hill. The hut was surrounded by meadows and forests. It was peaceful and quiet. Before dawn we heard footsteps. Some were single ones, some in groups. They were only men, they were not armed, all wore civilian clothes but had military boots. We did not know who they were. Maybe deserters? Maybe civilians – those who had so beastly treated us foreigners and who were now afraid of reprisals? Perhaps they were just ordinary people who were afraid to be caught during the last few days of the war. We spoke with some of them.
They were all leaving Germany. They were all looking for a way out. Some were trying to reach Switzerland, some were going home to Austria. They were all on the run. I was a bit sorry for them, but not very much. During the last years I had seen too many Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, Russians and Ukrainians who were also walking before dawn, also looking for a sheltered spot. Once it was us but now the fortunes of war had changed and now it was their turn. We had an unusual breakfast with plenty of everything; that is, hot water, Swiss cheese with nice big holes, so fresh and tasty. We had plenty of pressed cocoa – but no bread. Everything was provided by Zygmunt. An odd breakfast but so filling and so nice. Wanda and Veronica were not too happy in this isolated hut and decided to go to a farm, not too far away, where Lithuanians were living.
Zygmunt decided to go to Isny to try to find out more details of the movement of the Fronts. I stayed near the Almhutte, a bit higher up the hill, hiding behind bushes and trees. It was fairly quiet. The rumbling of the tanks was at least 5 km away and none could come my way. I was thinking and dreaming and hoping. Now, very soon, I would again be with my children. A normal life would begin again after two such long years of separation. Perhaps even in the next few weeks, or at the latest, next month – May – I would again have my babies. Were they still alive? Would we be able to find them? Would they remember us? I was thinking about last winter which was the worst; not because of cold and hunger but because I was losing hope. There was the counter-offensive which seemed successful and Zygmunt was transferred to another department and had to work under the horrible Altenried who had already finished off a French worker.
Each morning when Zygmunt went to work, I was afraid that it was the last time I would see him. Thinking about the Germans, I tried to be objective but was hard although I had met new Germans here in Isny. A Mr. Kischel, a painter, who was not better off than us – even worse as his wife was dying of TB – was a sensitive person and hated Hitler and the Nazis. He painted a portrait of Zygmunt and me which we still possess. I thought about the German women who were worried about their men somewhere at the Front and they could not care less about politics. I was sorry for those but then I started thinking about the concentration camps, about the exterminations, about the “Herrenrace”. I hated them. I thought about our lot – I mean, we people from the conquered countries, about all the miseries of millions and about so much death. I hated them, only I could not specify the “THEM” as people were people, irrespective of nationality, but what made them tick and become so brainwashed? I did not know.
My thoughts returned to yesterday when one German killed another German for no reason. Do we Poles, Lithuanians, etc. also have men like that? Probably we have, but I have never met one. I knew that sons and husbands were dying every second during the war but this was not war, it was a senseless murder. The murderer had a mother, a father and maybe even friends, and later on he might have belonged to the society of German people and might even have had his own children. Why did he kill his countryman? Was it the first time? Did he kill in the name of the Fuehrer or was it for the fun of killing? The murderer looked like any other ordinary person. Didn’t the murderer think that the boy had a mother who was probably praying and hoping to see her son? The murderer killed the mother as well. In the name of what did the young boy die? Neither for Fuehrer, Volk and Vaterland, nor for any ideals. Why did he have to die?
It was a very cold morning; even snow was falling on the morning of 29th April, 1945. Some tanks were going towards Isny. I became nervous, thinking that Isny might start to defend itself and that Zygmunt might be caught there. I decided to go to Isny to look for him. If the worst came to the worst, we should be together. I had covered barely a quarter of a kilometre when I saw Zygmunt running up the hill, quite out of breath. When he saw me he started shouting “Hurray, hurray” and was throwing his cap in the air. The Senegalese Division of the French Army (coloured troops from French West Africa) was already in Isny which nobody was defending. French tanks were standing in the market place and our French war prisoners were as happy as happy can be. The French brought barrels of wine from somewhere and everyone was everyone’s friend. We were liberated – we could go back to Isny and from there – probably very soon – we would go back home, home to our children.
Isny looked quite different. There were no Germans on the streets, only us, the deported, and the different nationalities. All had their national colours pinned to their clothing, the girls having theirs in their hair. The Burgermeister was imprisoned and shortly left to go free. Mr. Heim, the proprietor of Zygmunt’s factory, was also imprisoned but he committed suicide in his cell. The awful foreman, Altenried, was bound to a chair which was placed in High Street near the theatre and everyone passing by was asked if they knew him and, if they did, they could do to him what they liked. He was beaten up, his head was bleeding, he was half conscious and I was glad that Zygmunt did not hit him as he was an enemy no longer, just the shell of a man who one had once hated.
Now we did not hate; we loved everyone. The enemy was down and out and not even worth the effort of a hit. All the non-German people started to gather into their own nationality groups. Zygmunt organized the first Polish national meeting in the picture theatre. It was an evening to remember. All of us, all Poles were there.
Zygmunt opened the meeting saying that he definitely did not intend to become a president or to have any official function within the community. He wanted it that all the Poles from Isny and neighbouring farms could meet each other. He wanted only to remind us of the years of hardship. I knew his speech. I knew that he could speak well when in a proper mood but I was also caught up in the emotional upheaval when he started speaking about the years of our Gehenna*, ending with the certainty of freedom and the hope for a better tomorrow. Many were crying quite openly; not only females but also men of all ages. After his speech he asked for the Polish anthem and we all sang loudly and proudly: “Jeszcze Polska nie zginela, poki my zyjamy” (Poland is not lost as long as we are alive).
Anyone who had not lived through those moments would be unable to understand what it meant to feel free, to be able to speak in one’s native tongue openly and loudly, to be able to sing one’s national anthem. Although Poland was many hundreds of kilometres away, we here in the hall was part of Poland, part of our people. We were again free. For us, the war had ended and, although it still went on in Asia, somehow it did not matter much to us. We were all quite certain that even in Asia it could not last much longer. We were all certain that, in a few days or weeks, the war would be over. We hoped we would very soon be home and reunited with our families. We were told that we would have to wait, that no-one could go home yet.
It was an odd time. Each national group had its own organizations. There were committees, sub-committees, there were presidents, vice-presidents, chairmen, etc. Most of them were fighting in debates to have the place and title one thought he deserved. Zygmunt was not in the race but he was there to help anyone if help was needed. He straightened out quarrels, personal and political, and also petty intrigues. He was pressed to take over offices and he always refused. Each day we had many people coming and going, asking Zygmunt his opinion, his advice, asking for help.
Zygmunt was available to all, nothing was too much trouble. He was happy to be of assistance and help he did in Isny – a lot – as there were not many educated people and only few who did not seek positions and prestige. People trusted Zygmunt that he would not cheat them. They believed now that he was not out to make some deal for himself. How I loved Zygmunt. People began to “organize” things. That is what we called it but it meant stealing or taking when and what one could; food, clothing, biros, typewriters, etc. The Burgermeister ordered clothing to be issued free.
Zygmunt and others got some SS-men’s black trousers, all pure wool. None of the Germans applied for them as they were frightened that one would think that they were the real SS-men. We did not steal food because by now we had kitchens where food was available for all of us. We had three hot meals a day – peas and meat. In the morning they were a bit raw, at lunch time they were just fine, and in the evening it was just a mashed something with a bit of sand on the bottom. For the first few days we ate four litres each meal. Already after a few days we ate a lot less and soon even forgot what it felt like to be hungry.
I did not see much of Zygmunt during this time. In addition to being available to everyone with any help he could give, he organized a theatre and even got a cast and extras through the Swiss IMCA. He found two professionals but he was the director, the choreographer, the scriptwriter and the general manager in its broadest sense. His group, consisting mainly of young country people, was touring Wuertenberg, giving performances in various towns. He enjoyed every moment of it and in his spare time he was finishing his memoirs, “Bellum Vobiscum”. (www.bellumvobiscum.com)
When he was writing them he was quite impossible, forgetting all his appointments and his meals. He was so full of enthusiasm, full of hope for a good future. He infected those around him with his enthusiasm; he lived a full life. Many girls were in love with him; girls who were not as ravished by sickness as I was; girls who were younger, who were prettier, who showed their constant admiration, who were there and just waiting. And what did he do? He advised, admonished, spoke commonsense to them or gave them away at weddings.
To me he was compassionate, full of love and kindness, always cheerful, quite certain that we would find our children and parents, that it was only a matter of time. I became friendly with a Mr. Schroader whom I met whilst working at “Zum Hirsch”. He was a Russian citizen but, because of his German origins (third generation), he became a Volksdeutsche. In Russia he married a Swiss girl; the daughter of a Swiss diplomat. I thought I knew Russia through the time of the occupation of Wilno and Lithuania but he painted a different picture. He was a “Volgadeutsch” as his grandfather came from Germany and settled in the Volga Valley. Financially, he had no trouble as he was one of the chief engineers in the Dnisprostroj.
There was NO freedom of thought or speech. One was allowed only to express thoughts which were given out by the government. His main trouble began when his children started to grow up. Children in Russia were encouraged to criticize their parents, mainly watching the parents’ political outlook. The children could even become heroes of the nation if they could bring their parents to workers’ camps or extermination. The war was a deliverance from his problems – they all went to the West. His wife and daughters were accepted in Switzerland as his wife was a Swiss citizen prior to marriage and he was now waiting for permission to join them. We also got friendly with a Russian family, the Naumow. He was an engineer and she a doctor, and the old mother was with them. They lived in a camp reserved for the Russians. They did not want to go back to Russia as they were frightened and suspected that they would be eliminated or sent to labour camps. Later it was proved that that their suspicions were right.
We were all free and happy but the atmosphere was not quite what I would have expected. There was a tension which grew. None of us could understand the Americans and the English. We knew that they had an agreement with the Russki but we could not understand that the Allies seemed to trust the Russians. We, the displaced people, did not trust the Russians. The French, Belgian and others from the Western countries left very soon and they were all very happy to go home. For us from the East, there were no transports available; we were told to wait.
Many Lithuanians and Poles were varied in their feelings and undecided, but the Russians, the prisoners of war and those deported for labour, were definite in their feelings – they did not want to go back to Russia. During the first days of our liberation, we all shared a feeling of euphoria but now the atmosphere had changed a lot. Some felt uncertain, others plain frightened, when thinking about the future. I felt as if there was thunder in the air and dark clouds gathering Again, I saw a dreary picture of human adversity.
There were many tragic moments and one I remember in particular. It was in Kempten. Once again the Russians were rounded up for a transport by Soviet officials. Those who tried to run away were forced back by clubbing and shooting. The Western Allied soldiers were standing around. They were not really interfering, they were not clubbing or shooting but only helping to round up the Russians, just as they usually did, just helping. Some of the people managed to escape and ran towards the church but even here there was no sanctuary; they were battered and dragged out by force. One young mother, holding her baby in her arms, ran up the steeple tower and threw herself with the baby down to their death. After all these years of slave labour in Germany, she preferred death than to return to her home country.
There were many tragic incidents which people tried to assume that they were free. What irony. Another thing puzzled us too. The German armies wanted to surrender either to the Americans, the English or the French, but the Western Allies just stopped and would not advance nor would they let the Germans surrender to them as they had a previous agreement with the Russki (at Yalta) according to which was set out who should occupy what. Did not the Allies realize that one could not trust the Soviets in any agreements? Had they forgotten the Soviet/Hitler pact when it suited the Soviets? Had the West still not learned what to expect? Some people argued that they knew but were too frightened of the Japanese and still needed the Russians and therefore tried to please the Russians.
*A synonym for Hell, from Greek origins
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