(Page 2 of 2)Report No. 9
an Old Woman's Account
Reported by: M. K. Report of July 4, 1950
On May 30, 1945 at 8:30 in the evening Czech authorities notified us that we would have to leave our house and home within half an hour and would only be allowed to take with us what we could carry by hand. I had two old women, 70 and 75 years of age, living with me in my house and they had already gone to bed. I asked the Czech men to please let the old women sleep. And for that, I was to be beaten up. Five minuted before nine o'clock we were driven with blows from cudgels out into the street, and for starters we then had to walk 25 kilometers by foot. Everyone from the old age homes, hospitals and children's clinics - everyone was thrown on the streets and had to walk with us. Many people collapsed on the way. We were not allowed to help them get up, otherwise we were beaten ourselves. The old women who collapsed were shot on the spot by the representatives of Czech authority, and when old men broke down, Czech boys about 14 years of age were called over and had to trample on the men's heads until they were dead. The bodies were then stripped right away and the clothes put on the accompanying Czech carts, and distributed among Czech gangs.
Outside the barracks a pit had been dug and a bar was placed over it, which we had to sit on in order to answer the call of nature. Sick people, approximately 450 of them, were housed in one of the barracks. In this barrack a bathtub was set up in the middle, which the sick had to use as a toilet. The tub was not emptied until it was full to overflowing. It was never cleaned, and so the stench in the barrack was unbearable.
In one barrack a young mother of four children, the youngest of which was three years old, suddenly died. The Czech physician who came to do the post-mortem barked at the dead woman's sobbing mother: "What are you howling for, you German bitch, at least one more German pig has kicked the bucket!" Once a Czech commission of five men came to determine if our rations were adequate. Only the doctor and the camp leader were interviewed, and these two people told the commission that all the camp inmates received milk and butter in huge quantities! Even though all of us unanimously denounced this as a lie, the commission chose to believe the doctor and the camp leader, and it was not until later that we found out how a Czech newspaper had announced how exceedingly well we were being taken care of.
Then we were taken another 45 km away into a different camp, where we were given horse meat from dead horses to eat. The meat was crawling with worms. I myself had to wash the meat out. I washed the meat in 4 buckets of water and was still not able to get them all out. Nonetheless the people ate it, they were so hungry. In this way we held on to our bare existence for all of 8 weeks. Only now was it possible for some people to sneak out of the camp and flee across the border to Austria.
The farmers of the Lower Austrian farmsteads cared for us with touching devotion until we had regained our strength enough to move on to Vienna.
Russians came into the women's camps on a daily basis to rape the women. Even an 80-year-old woman was raped in our camp, as well as a 7-year-old girl. I myself spent three nights sleeping over top of a 15-year-old girl because her mother had begged me to protect the girl. The Russians showed up every day by 7:30 and stayed until 2 o'clock at night.
Every day the Czechs went around to the camp inmates and collected money, with promises to protect us from the Russians in the evening, and to lock the camp so no Russians could get in. Punctually at 7:30 these same Czechs escorted the Russians in and showed them which of us they should rape. And it went on like that every day. From time to time different Czechs went around to collect the money because no-one believed the others any more.
One day it was announced that those of us prisoners who had relatives in Austria might cross the border unmolested. They were given a document to enable them to cross the border. Everyone had to pay a certain fee for it. The people lined up in droves to get a border-crossing permit and to be discharged. In the evening these people returned to the camp and told us that at the border the Czechs had taken away even the very last of their possessions, and that they had had to sign a statement saying that they were leaving Czechoslovakia of their own free will, that they had been taken care of with tender loving care, and that the Czechs had even escorted them to the border. Once they had signed that, they had been whipped and beaten back to the camp.
Reported by: Ed. Kroboth Report of August 31, 1946 (Brünn)
I am 72 years old. In February of 1945 I had to undergo a prostate operation. My wife is 68 years old, diabetic, and has suffered from ulcerated feet for years. In this condition we had to leave our home with only two hours' notice on May 31, 1945. We were maltreated in the process. Following a night spent under the open sky, we and several thousand others were herded to Pohrlitz near Brünn. It was a death march. People who had died from exhaustion lined the street to either side. Following a night in Pohrlitz, which we had to spend lying on wet concrete, we were driven on further, across the border to Austria, where we had to camp on rain-soaked fields. We were given no food at all. When my wife took a little piece of bread from her pocket, a guard cursed her crudely and knocked it out of her hand with his rubber truncheon. Finally my wife could not go on, and I was not allowed to stay with her. Thanks to the intervention of a Czech priest I was finally permitted to return to Brünn. When President Beneš came to Brünn in July 1945, all the Germans in Brünn were herded into the sand pits and kept there for five days without food and almost entirely without water in the tunnels of the sand pits. About 30 people died there every day. Many lost their sanity.
Reported by: Katharina Ochs Report of August 31, 1946 (Brünn)
For two months (from May 2nd to June 30th, 1945) I was in the infamous Kaunitz College where I witnessed the most atrocious cases of maltreatment. Several thousand Germans were imprisoned there. It was almost impossible for the Germans to walk downstairs normally, since Czechs were standing on every landing and kicked them down. People were also killed. On one occasion I myself was beaten so severely that I was unable to move for days. I still suffer from pains in the back as a result. As a former Red Cross nurse I was ordered to the German ward of the Anna Hospital for three months. Appalling conditions prevailed there. For those who suffered from diarrhoea there was no diet available, the bed linen was in rags and was only changed once a month. There was no cooking-stove, the water was unfit for drinking. No possibility existed for boiling the water, nor was there any possibility of procuring some tea for the patients from a Russian kitchen. For the most part the sick were brought in too late from the camps, so that the majority of them died. The food was completely insufficient and the patients were forced to pick refuse out of the dustbins. They were chiefly suffering either from malnutrition or from the consequences of tortures, for example, broken jaws, festering wounds and so on.
Reported by: Josef Brandejsky Report of August 31, 1946 (Brünn)
I spent five months in the Kaunitz College in Brünn (from May 5 to October 5, 1945) and was beaten there several times every day. This maltreatment cost me my teeth. Our rations consisted only of watery soups and raw potatoes. For 17 days we received no bread at all. On our arrival, my comrade, who had an injured foot and yet also had to stand up against a wall for 24 hours, was killed by kicks to the stomach and neck, as punishment for holding on to me in order not to fall over. In the barrack the walls, ceiling, floor and mattresses were soiled with blood, because the inmates were beaten bloody every night. One night five of our number were beaten to death in my barrack. Often we were chased from our pallets at night, forced to crawl on all fours and to bark like dogs. At the same time Czech soldiers beat us. Many of the inmates suffered from dysentery. The facilities were utterly insufficient. Our barracks were always locked up, and we had to use buckets to answer the call of nature.
Reported by: Martha Wölfel Report of August 31, 1946 (Brünn)
I spent 15 months in the internment camp Klaidovka, where many hundreds were housed. The camp was crawling with lice and bugs. Our rations consisted only of water and bread. Many mothers with toddlers were also interned there. All toddlers four years old or younger died of malnutrition, without exception. There were at least 100 such toddlers. My own child also died there on April 12, at 15 months of age. Three or four days earlier my child had been taken to the children's ward, where even the Czechs were horrified by his condition. I was notified in the camp when my child died. But when I asked where he would be buried, a guard hit me over the head so that I collapsed unconscious. To this day I don't know where my child is buried. It was the same for the other women.
I am prepared to take this statement on my oath.
returning from Russian captivity
Reported by: Emil Hulla Report of August 21, 1946 (Brünn)
On June 23rd, 1946, I arrived at Brünn together with 88 prisoners of war, belonging to a transport which was returning from Russian captivity. At Brünn we were whipped by three Czech soldiers and two railway-men in the most atrocious manner. They beat us severely with wooden clubs. Then we were forced to lie down on the ground, and they trampled on us. One man was maltreated so badly that his bowels evacuated themselves. Two others were ordered to lick up the excrement. We had to box each other's ears and were beaten by the Czechs at the same time. We were all of us in poor physical condition, mostly suffering from scrofula, since we had been released on account of sickness from Russian prison camps. From Brünn we were taken to the Kurim camp.
Reported by: Franz Exler Report of August 31, 1946 (Brünn)
As leader of the transport I am informed about the state of the luggage of the transport members [expellees] in general. Most of the people arrived at the resettlement camp from concentration camps or work camps and had no baggage at all. In the resettlement camp they were given some luggage, so that on average everyone had about 70 kg. But the things that they were given were uniformly unusable. Torn and discarded military pieces were handed out as clothing. One man received a top-hat as head covering. The shoes are without exception full of holes. Many people were given two left or two right shoes, or shoes of different sizes. Pots with holes in them were handed out as cooking equipment. It was not possible for the people to try the clothes or shoes on first to see if they fit. Anyone who refused to take things because they were unusable was threatened that he would be held back. The people's clothes are uniformly in poor condition, and most pieces cannot even be repaired because they are so ragged or brittle that it is not possible to stitch them up. Linen and underwear is in the same condition.
before the jury court of Karlsruhe
Excerpt from "Die Brücke", edition of June 10, 1951 (Brünn)
Last week the Karlsruhe Jury Court sentenced the Czech citizen Johann Kouril to 15 years in prison for the crimes he committed against German citizens and Sudeten Germans during 1945 and 1946. The 39-year-old accused was found guilty of having killed the Sudeten German Kaleus with a blow from a spade, of having participated in a joint fatal attack on the accountant Beinhauer, and of 28 further counts of inflicting minor or major bodily harm on the internees in the Brünn camps of Kleidovka, Kaunitz-College and Juliefeld. In his Reasons for Sentence the Chairman of the Jury Court emphasized that the Court had acquitted the accused in every one of those cases for which no eyewitnesses were available, but that no mitigating circumstances could be found for his crimes even if it were taken into consideration that he had committed them in a time of [political and social] upheaval.
This Karlsruhe Trial, which was observed with great interest both at home and abroad, was the first to go into the gruesome events that took place in Czechoslovakia and some other countries after the German surrender. Unnoticed by the world public - which at the time was horrified and outraged by the news of the mass murders committed in the German concentration camps - another tragedy took place which rivaled the other in terms of brutality. When the first news and eyewitness accounts of it leaked across the borders, they seemed just as unbelievable and exaggerated as the reports about the German camps had seemed. And just as some of the German people still refuse to believe the extent of the tortures and mass murders reportedly committed in the "Third Reich", a large part of the world public also refused to acknowledge the full extent of the 1945 catastrophe as a fact.
And so the significance of this trial is not so much that one of the guilty was brought to justice, but rather that these events - even though they are only a small sample - was for the first time ever investigated and confirmed by a court.
Probably the trial was possible in the first place only because the accused came to West Germany not for political reasons but for personal motives. In the course of his "activity" in the camps he fell in love with a captive German girl, which he later wanted to marry. But since he was unable to secure residence rights for her in Czechoslovakia, he followed her to West Germany.
In 1949 an inmate of an IRO Camp offered to sell a Munich dentist some loose gold. When the dentist met with the seller, he recognized him as Johann Kouril, the former deputy commandant of the Kleidovka Camp, who was trying to turn a bag of broken-out teeth and [dental] bridges into cash. Later, Kouril, who was living unregistered in the Baden town of Spöck, was seen by Sudeten expellees and reported to the public prosecutor. In the course of the investigation more than 200 people came forward who had been imprisoned in the camps in question. Kouril was unable to claim even one witness for the defense from the list of names shown to him. Under questioning, the witnesses related atrocities such as were committed at all times when sadism and man-hunting were turned into patriotic and religious duty.
Kouril was the terror of the camp. On his orders the prisoners were beaten, trampled and tortured. The prisoners were forced with beatings to drink buckets filled with urine and blood. They had to dance naked for the entertainment of the guards. On one Czech national holiday, prisoners were strung up and pulled up and down on a gallows. Others were branded with a red-hot iron. In the interrogation quarters one witness was shoved face-down into a toilet bowl while having to sing the German national anthem. The former gravedigger of the Kaunitz College camp testified that during his work in that capacity he had had to take away the bodies of approximately 1,800 Germans who had been hanged and beaten to death, among them 250 soldiers who had been handed over to the Czechs.
The accused denied all the crimes he was charged with and merely admitted to first one, then three and finally one-hundred slaps in prisoners' faces. His standard reply was: "The witness is telling tales. He must be insane, I don't even know him." "The witness is undermining himself with his own lies." "The statements of this witness are a disgrace," etc.
It is interesting, but not surprising, that Kouril's defense attorney tried to excuse his client's actions with the same arguments also used by Gestapo people etc. who were charged with crimes. According to him, Kouril should be considered a victim who blindly obeyed his government's orders. The public prosecutor agreed that the attitude of the Czech government at that time had been the cause of the German suffering, but added that the accused was not charged with political acts but rather with crimes for which the legal systems of every nation provide severe penalties.
In the main, the Court agreed with the public prosecutor's view. The trial, said Chairman Dr. Ernst, had revealed the sufferings of an ethnic group that was supposed to be exterminated over night. However, the blame must not be placed on the entire Czech people, for it had been the mob, the rabble, that had descended on the Germans. However, he added, one must also consider that some individual Germans, by virtue of what they had once done to the Czechs, bore some blame for the events in Czechoslovakia after the surrender.
The accused, who by his own admission had not been harmed in any way under the German regime, was no Czech patriot; rather, he had offered his services as slave driver in order to prove his nationalist inclinations after the fact. A person of sadistic and cruel disposition, he got pleasure from the bloody deeds that took place in the Czech internment camps. Concentration camps are despicable in and of themselves, but when they are additionally turned into sites where brutality is free to run rampant with impunity they can only be described as a disgrace to humanity.
Mankind Must Protect Itself
Mankind continues to stand at the threshold of barbarism. The recent years' events in Europe have proven that. The "Christian West" itself is often little more than a veneer that can quickly flake off; and the face thus revealed can inspire a deadly horror, as we have just recently seen. It is a psychosis that seizes not only the mob and the rabble; in that regard the Court was wrong.
Cruelty and inhumanity can only be eliminated if they are combated everywhere and on principle. One cannot speak out against the brutalities committed by the Czechs while downplaying the inhumanities of the Nazis; but one can also not condemn those of the Nazis while refusing to see those that were committed against the Germans. Unfortunately, both are the case.
The verdict of the Karlsruhe Jury Court punished one culprit, but at the same time many of the
originators, such as Mr. Ripka and his friends, are considered to be allies in the "battle against
inhumanity", just as in Germany people who bore substantial blame for the crime of the "Third
Reich" could be busy preparing another one.