Sudeten-German Inferno: the little-known tragedy of the
Sudeten Germans

Ingomar Pust

Line Up to be Shot
einz Lapczyna of Moravian Ostrau testified about Czech interrogation methods: "To extort confessions, the prisoner would be stabbed under his finger and toe nails with red-hot needles until he fainted from the pain.

"Then the people were 'revived' with clubbings and other kinds of abuse. Another method of extorting confessions was to beat the victim on the bare soles of his feet until the area between toes and heel was nothing more than a gaping wound. To torture the victim a bit more, he would then be forced to kneel for a few days, until he too fell over unconscious. The prison warder's daily greeting was, 'has no German swine croaked yet?'

"Dreadful atrocities took place in the Hanke camp in Moravian Ostrau. Groups of 20 people were crammed into a tiny room and forced to sing Fascist songs, after which they were beaten to death with fence slats, and the rest were hanged. At the Czech guards' daily drinking bouts the young women and girls had to serve, buck-naked, and were abused and raped. The older ones were beaten to death.

"The Hodolein camp was no better. Every day inmates were beaten to death. Everyone had to constantly fear for their life. For example, the Silesian engineer Keite - or a similar name - from Schweidnitz was hanged for daring to defend himself against the usual abuse. He walked to the gallows apathetically, his head battered and swollen black. Afterwards the body was left to dangle in the yard for days, and the Czech cloth merchant Hunka and another man had to kneel before the body, later on some Germans too. The Germans all had to assemble in the yard and call, 'We thank our Führer!'"

Executions in the camps were generally carried out in front of all the inmates. Dr. Kurt Schmidt recalls a scene in Pribans near Prague:

"One day six young boys were beaten until they could no longer get up, then doused with water (which the Germans had to fetch) and beaten on until there was no sign of life left in them. Their terribly mauled corpses were put on display for days, next to the latrines. One 14-year-old boy and his parents were shot because the boy had allegedly taken a stab at one of the Red Guardsmen with a pair of scissors."

Another scene of arbitrary execution from the camp Totzau:

"A Czech commissar went through the rows of German men and randomly picked some until he had the number he wanted - 20 - the ones he chose were all tall, blond men and boys. First they were stripped of their shoes and boots and made to endure the worst kind of abuse under a hail of blows from whips, rifle butts etc. One 17-year-old boy collapsed unconscious. He was brought back to life with a bucket of cold water. By his hands he was yanked up off the ground. After these people had been tortured for about two hours, the commandant ordered them to line up in rows of two. And only now, before our eyes, they were mowed down with submachine gun fire."

Adam Ehrenhard reports about a blood bath in Nachod: "On July 25, 1945, some 200 members of the SS were taken to the brewery in Nachod and put at the civilians' disposal, to be abused. I myself witnessed how all 200 of them were brutally butchered by the civilians. Czech women, whom I know by name, distinguished themselves with particular brutality. They stabbed the SS-men with knives and daggers, beat them with clubs and rifle butts, and bodies that still showed signs of life were doused with gasoline and set on fire.

"I had to help load the bodies onto trucks and bury them in three mass graves on the Nachod castle grounds."


Hydrochloric Acid on Sore Bodies
he proportion of women who lost their lives in the outbursts of sadism is great. Thousands of staff assistants, Blitzmädchen, nurses and housewives were plunged into the abysses of horror. Particularly in Prague.

Homecomer Walter Lohmann, an amputee missing an arm, was part of a burial commando in Prague from May 12 to 15: "I saw thousands of corpses, including boys and girls and many women. I saw bodies that had been horribly wounded and maimed. Later I heard that many grossly battered people, still living, were corroded with hydrochloric acid."

Many women were forced to watch atrocities; Marianne Klaus reports:

"On May 9, 1945, my husband Gotthard Klaus, aged 66, was beaten to death in the police headquarters in Prague. I saw him for the last time on May 10 at 4:00 o'clock in the morning. He had fist-sized swellings on his face, his nose and mouth were one bloody mass, and his hands were swollen huge. I also saw two SS-men being whipped in the face until they collapsed, covered in blood, after which they were kicked in the stomach until blood streamed out, and then they were dragged by their feet down a flight of stairs. I saw one Wehrmacht assistant girl being stoned until she collapsed, and then she was hung from a store beam. On the Day of Revolution I saw an SS-man hung by one foot from a streetlamp post, burning from the head upwards."

Helene Bugner remembers:

"On May 9 I was taken to tear down barricades in the streets of Prague. My labor group consisted of 20 women. We had to kneel down, and then our hair was chopped off with bayonets. We were stripped of shoes and stockings so that we had to go barefoot. At every step we took, with every move we made, we were beaten dreadfully with boards, truncheons etc. Whenever a woman fell down, she was kicked, rolled in excrement or stoned until she was dead. I passed out several times myself, but I was doused with water and had to walk on. Once when I collapsed I felt a dreadful kick in my left side which broke two of my ribs. During one of my faints someone cut a piece of flesh, about a square inch, out of the sole of one of my feet. These abuses went on for the entire afternoon. Among my group there were some highly pregnant women and nursing mothers, and they were abused just as badly."

Human language will never suffice to express adequately what the women suffered in the inferno of those days. They were fair game in all the concentration camps. Anyone could come and pick whomever they liked, and if children screamed for their mothers they were silenced by force. The Czechs, but the Russians too of course, often did not even bother to lead the women off, but raped them in the midst of the children and in front of all the camp inmates. There is no sex crime, no matter how perverted, that was not done to them.

On the whole, it was common practice everywhere that any Czech or Russian might "borrow" a German slave. The victim had to stay several days, sometimes as long as eight, and was raped up to 15 times per night. Most of these women were later diagnosed with venereal diseases. The Russians had brought the terrible Siberian gonorrhea with them. The infected women begged in vain for medication. No German could hope for medical treatment - neither women nor men, nor even children.

Unspeakable, unutterable, unfathomable was the suffering of the mothers who had to watch their children starve in the camp, or of those who were torn from their children, to be tortured and then murdered. Devastating in the extreme was the fate of pregnant women who were caught in the vortex of hate. Just one example; Ernst Schorz of Moravian Ostrau recalls the last words of his dying friend Ernst Krischka: his wife, then eight months pregnant and imprisoned in the Hanke camp, had been forced to stand naked against a wall and was clubbed on the belly until the foetus aborted and she died herself. Krischka, who had spent a long time in the Hanke camp, also told his friend how he had witnessed a woman being hog-tied and hoisted up the wall, and then both her breasts were sliced off with a knife. She was not the only one to die that way.

The documentation Documents on the Expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, while having decidedly positive things to say about the conduct of the Russians, shows the Czech Catholic clergy in a proportionately negative light. There were local priests who forbade the Germans to attend church and refused to bless the German dead, who were dumped into a shallow pit in some obscure corner, etc....


Ears Cut Off, Tongue Torn Out
ean Johann Peschka of Oberlipka describes the events in the provincial towns. It was the usual: hours- and days-long torture, followed by execution.

On May 22, 1945 at 7:00 a.m., the Dean reports, busloads of armed partisans arrived and searched the houses. "All the men were lined up in the city square, ordered 'hands up!', and led off to the provincial administrative headquarters. A Czech committee set the number of blows each was to receive - from 50 to 200 blows with steel canes and whips. Many went half-mad with the pain, and took hours to crawl home covered in blood. Youth Leader Adolf Pospischil and the young soldier Ernst Pabel of Niederlipka, who had been apprehended in the street, were beaten to death. While blessing the bodies I lifted the canvas off them - their heads and upper bodies had been beaten to a bloody pulp." The Dean then proceeded to list the names of the citizens who had been beaten to death.

The teacher's wife - he continues - had to sing the German national anthem while digging her own grave. The partisans, who were drunk, took poor aim and the woman was hit in the abdomen; still living, she fell into the pit. She was put out of her misery with bullets from above her grave. Many of those who had been forced to watch fainted.

The execution had been preceded by a body-search of the people forced to act as spectators, and they were robbed of all watches and any jewelry they happened to wear.

All the Germans were interned in the school yard. On returning from their daily forced labor, they were led off for "evening gymnastics", a euphemism for torture. We would hear the screams of the agonized victims, of whom almost every day one was beaten to death, until one day a Russian Major watched the goings-on from one of the school windows, and put a stop to these "evening gymnastics".

In Eichstädt, the Dean recounts, 12 people were hanged from the linden trees beside the church, but not until after horrible tortures. Among the victims was the teacher Pischel, the mayor, community leader Hentschel, and master carpenter Safar, for having adopted a German name. Teacher Pischel's mustache was burned off, his eyes and nose were cut off and his tongue torn out. In Bohemian Petersdorf about 15 people were also tortured to death.

Eight farmers, the Dean reports, were shot in Lipka. According to statements of their neighbors, they were stripped naked, tied up, and beaten so dreadfully that their screams could be heard from afar. Then they were shot. Shoemaker Winkler and his wife had already escaped across the border, but returned at night to get some clothes. They were seized and tortured terribly; their screams were blood-curdling. Then they were marched off to Grulich, where they were locked for eight days into the basement of the print-shop Schiller and again gruesomely abused. Inhabitants of Grulich whom they met saw their blood-shot eyes, swollen faces and half-mad looks. Afterwards they were shot outside the cemetery, together with foreman bricklayer Berthold Seifert and the peasant leader Fichard Hentschel. The entire village - eight-year-old children and up - had to watch this execution with hands raised.

In Javoricka the partisans rounded up the German inhabitants of the surrounding area, and crowded them into the forester's lodge and the Bussau castle, where they were murdered. The children were driven into the basements of the tenant houses there, and shot in those rooms. Over these children's bodies the murderers dumped the jam they found in the pantries there.

Homecomers, the Dean reports, were simply gunned down by the Czechs, and buried in the fields or the forest. "Two soldiers from Austria came to see me around noon one day in May 1945. I urged them to travel only at night, and to stay in hiding during the day. They probably did not take my advice. By the time I went to bless some dead at the cemetery that evening, they had already been stood against the cemetery wall and shot."


Dismembered Alive
hile the expulsion was already in full swing, the killing continued in the camps. A publication put out by President Benes's party in summer 1945 stated: There are no good Germans, there are only bad ones, and worse. A Czech father who fails to raise his children to hate the Germans is not only a bad patriot, he is also a bad father... This hatred extended also to the German anti-Fascists.

In the documentation Documents on the Expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, Herbert Schernstein of Aussig says, for example, that "the Czechs exceeded by far the concentration camp methods of the Nazis, with which I had become more than familiar enough."

The Socialist Sudeten Germans were, of course, also given no consideration. Following his deportation, Johann Partsch of Freudenthal testified how even left-wing radicals from the "German Revolutionary Guard" were treated:

"On June 24, 1945 we were arrested in Engelsberg by the 'German Revolutionary Guard', taken to the camp, and beaten there day and night by the Czechs. The beatings were repeated every half-hour six or seven times each night. All of us were disfigured beyond recognition.

"The worst day was July 4, 1945. That day the beatings already began early in the morning. Then 25 inmates had to dig a hole. They were constantly beaten while digging. All of us had to gather around the pit. Then 20 men were brought half-undressed from the barracks. Ten of them had to kneel at the pit. Ten Czechs with submachine guns shot them and threw them into the pit. Then the second group of ten followed, and thus it continued. Among those who were shot, I recognized the Engelsberg teacher Hermann Just, a very left-wing Social Democrat; radio expert Fochler of Freudenthal, an anti-Fascist who had been a member of the 'German Revolutionary Guard'; and the farmer Zimmermann of Dürrseifen, who had been in a German concentration camp. The grave digger Gustav Riedl had been in the first group, but he had only been grazed. After three minutes he stood up in the pit and begged for another bullet. A Czech fired his submachine gun at him again. But Riedl just could not die. Another few minutes later he stood up again in the pit. They shot at him again and this time he was dead. Incidentally, in that camp I also met the people from the 'German Revolutionary Guard' who had arrested me."

In this explosion of insanity, killing became a matter of whim. Sometimes in the Adelsdorf camp every sixth man in a line-up was shot, for no reason, with no regard to who he was, and regardless of his "crime". It was simply a desire to kill.

The guards indulged in horrible kinds of "fun". A physician who was interned in this forest camp had turned into one huge festering wound; it literally covered him from head to foot. To move, he had to crawl painfully on the ground, as he had not been able to walk any more for a long time. Others were forced to lick out his pus-filled wounds. Inmates were forced to eat excrement and had to lick each other's genitals. One night a number of the poor souls in this camp hung themselves from the beams in the barracks; they could simply no longer take the physical and mental torture.

Excrement-covered gags were popular among the Czechs. Dr. Karl Gregor: "Whenever I screamed or groaned when they beat me, they would shove a gag covered with human excrement into my mouth."

After being himself horribly tortured, Otto Patek witnessed the following in the Joachimsthal camp:

"In the night of June 5-6, 1945, around 10:00 p.m., eleven or twelve Czechs came to us in the dance hall. They brought a bench, and blankets with which the windows were covered up. As their first victim they grabbed the master watchmaker Johann Müller of St. Joachimsthal, laid him on the bench, cut his ears off with a knife, stabbed his eyes out, shoved a bayonet into his mouth, broke out his teeth, and broke his bones by smashing his arms over his knees and his legs over the bench. Since he still lived, they wrapped cable wire twice around his throat and dragged him around the hall until his neck had pulled out and the body showed no more signs of life. During this dragging-around a Czech stood on the body to weight it down. The body was reduced to a lump of flesh, and was wrapped in my coat and laid in the middle of the hall. In this manner six more were murdered that night, three of them Reich-German soldiers. Whenever another one was dead, we were again beaten with rubber truncheons.

"The Germans murdered in this way screamed horribly, as they were being killed fully conscious. Three inmates who had to watch this went insane. I myself suffered a nervous breakdown."


Shot in the Neck -
Survived Thanks to Urine Cure
ather Reichenberger has mentioned, among other things, the case of a Sudeten German who had emigrated to France, joined the war on the French side in 1939, and for this reason was interned by the Germans in 1940 in the concentration camps Schirmeck (Alsace) and Kisslau. He was initially able to move freely around Prague in 1945. Here is his account.

"Many women had their babies torn from their arms, and saw their heads smashed against the wall. Women, children and men alike were hung from their feet, reels of film were lit beneath them, the people were burned alive. Others had ropes wrapped around their necks and then were tied to cars and throttled and dragged to death. Others in turn were stoned and beaten to death. The hunt was not for Nazis, just for Germans.

"At that time I also saw the Nusler School. The basement rooms were virtually flooded with blood, and on several bodies I found bullet holes in the neck. I myself was arrested in Prague District XII on May 11.

"At the police headquarters people were being shot on a continual basis. Individual men were called out of the cells and shot down in the yard, under police supervision, until a higher-up police official turned up and roared an order to the effect that all this murdering would have to cease.

"In the prison I met Lieutenant Colonel Fuhrmann, who at one time had intervened to save a Czech family from having to go to a German concentration camp. Among the inmates there was also one engineer Schenk, whom the German Special Court in Prague had sentenced in 1939 to ten years' imprisonment and complete expropriation because he had secretly employed two Jews in his business. This Herr Schenk had spent the entire six years until his release in a large concentration camp in Germany. After being liberated by the Americans he returned to his home city, Prague, reported to the police station to register as returnee, and was arrested on the spot. I heard that he later died.

"In the prison I was together with a German soldier who had been shot in the neck. The bullet had entered the neck, exited through the mouth and smashed his entire lower jaw. Since he was still alive, he was thrown into a cell and the well-known Prague surgeon Dr. Rösler managed to save his life by washing out his wounds several times a day with urine and his handkerchief, and spoon-feeding him the thin soup he was given."

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Sudeten German Inferno
The hushed-up tragedy of the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia