Report No. 17
Reported by: Dr. med. Carl Grimm Report of December 3, 1950
In the course of the night between May 6 and 7, 1945 the last retreating German troops marched through Brüx. The same day, that is the first day of the occupation by the Red Army, a wave of plundering, rape and with this an epidemic of suicides set in. Drunken soldiers and civilians forcibly entered the German apartments, broke open the doors, demolished the furniture, raped the women, plundered and shot at random. At the beginning the Germans hoped for a retreat of the Russian troops, but the combat troops were soon followed by the occupying forces. The Russian combat troops themselves declared that they would not meddle with things that did not concern them but were a matter for the occupying forces. There were also several thousands of "East European workmen" - Displaced Persons from Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and so on - who had worked in the hydrogenizing works at Maltheuern and had been freed by the invading Russians. In the outer suburbs of the town the plundering and raping never ceased, night after night the women had no respite, they hid themselves in the attics and spent the nights there like birds sitting on the roof-beams. The voluntary Czech militia was powerless against the riots, although they made some effort to control them. The desperate Germans hoped for the assumption of power by the Czechs and for their protection. But when the majority of the Russian troops had marched off and regular Czech military forces and the state police had taken over in the town, the Czech terror proved to be worse than the Russian and it frequently happened that Germans were protected by Russians against the Czechs. At the beginning of June the Czech military carried out the terroristic measure under which the majority of the German men and a part of the German women were arrested right in their apartments, rounded up like cattle and confined in concentration camps. During the months of July and August the Národní výbor (National Committee), together with the military and police forces, carried out the evacuation. The German residents of entire quarters of the town or of whole streets were driven out of their apartments, interned in camps and sent away across the border. During this terror and the evacuation the epidemic of suicides, especially the group suicides, reached its climax.
During those first days of the revolution I was stopped on the street by a drunken member of the Czech militia; the moment he found out that he knew me and that he cherished kind feelings towards me, he sent me to the criminal police for registration. By this accident I became a German subsidiary police doctor of the Czech criminal police, as they were just then looking for a doctor and I lived opposite to the police station. My task as police doctor consisted of the post-mortem examinations of the German suicides, and in this capacity I examined several hundreds of suicides during the months of May, June and July. Thus I became a direct witness of the epidemic of suicides among the German inhabitants of Brüx.
It was a dreadful danse macabre. The unusual post-mortem examinations in such numbers affected me so deeply that I was completely exhausted the evenings. The climax of all these post-mortem examinations were the suicides of whole families or of all the residents of a house - the aforementioned epidemic of suicides during the months of June and July; one day I saw 16, another day 21 bodies of suicides lying side by side in the mortuary of the municipal cemetery. I was profoundly moved by the suicides of old personal friends, whom I saw again under these terrible circumstances. I found my friend Koupa, with whom I had gone swimming in the bathing establishment on the castle hill for many years, dead of gas-poisoning in his apartment at Goethe Strasse together with his girlfriend. My friend Peil, in whose store I had bought all my books, I discovered hanging in a house on Josefs-Promenade with his arteries severed. I was most of all affected by the suicides of whole families and on each occasion I was struck by the solemnity and care with which they had been carried out. During the first days of the epidemic I discovered a family in Kirchengasse, mother, daughter and little son, all of them dead by gas poisoning. They lay side by side on the floor, covered with a blanket, on which the dead dachshund lay curled up. The daughter had a crucifix and the portrait of her fiance on her breast. Murschitzka, the Provincial Inspector of Schools, I found in a barn on the castle hill, together with his family; father, mother, their three children and the grandmother lay side by side on the floor of the barn, all of them shot in the temple, only the father, as the last one, had shot himself through the mouth. Kletschka, a druggist, and his family I found in their apartment at Seegasse, the two children dressed in black lay on their beds, each of them with a cross and flowers on their breast, the grandmother, too, lay composed on her bed surrounded by a cross, picture and flowers; the father had fallen in a cramped position over the bed, on which the mother was extended, her corpse still warm. The revolver was clenched in her hand, for this mother had shot her children, her mother, her husband and finally herself. I saw three fine old people, an elderly man and two ladies, hanging from the cross-bar of a window; the old man in evening dress, flanked by the two ladies in black silk. As far as the medical aspect of the suicides was concerned, I was interested in the various types of death, about which I thought a great deal. In almost no case was the suicide effected by cutting of the arteries; the severity of the pain and the time taken by this method caused all attempts to end life in such a way to be given up. The suicides committed by shooting were in the minority and occurred only during the first days, for later on the Germans were forced to surrender their weapons. The suicides by gas poisoning, too, remained a minority and were also only possible at the beginning, since the Czechs later cut off the gas supply. The overwhelming majority were suicides committed by hanging. This danse macabre of the hanged was dreadful. They hung from trees, girders, wall-hooks, windows, door-posts; some hung free in the air, some touched the ground with the tips of their toes, some hung with bent knees and one or two were even in a kneeling position. At the beginning it seemed incredible to me; one would think it should be easy for a person standing or kneeling to free his head from the noose. But, in fact, one is unable to do so; the reason being that immediate unconsciousness is caused by the cutting-off of the blood supply to the brain; death from suffocation by the blocking of the windpipe comes about later on.
Since the figures of the suicides had generally been fantastically overestimated, I found it necessary to get objective evidence and asked a German employee of the Czech funeral institution to make an extract of the cases of suicide for the months of May and June. They amounted to 150 each month. Due to the fact that the town of Brüx had 30,000 inhabitants, of which there were 20,000 Germans, this figure of 300 suicides for the two months is equivalent to 1½% of the German population of Brüx. On the basis of this figure I estimated the total number of suicides for the whole period at 600 to 700, i. e. over 3% of all the Germans. This coincides with the figure which I learned later on for the Sudetenland as a whole.
The Military Raid
In the course of the last week of May a proclamation of the Czech Military Commander was issued according to which the state of emergency was proclaimed on the German population in 24 articles. It was then that the Germans for the first time learned of the existence of the Czech military. At the same time, as a result of the proclamation, the Germans were shut up in their apartments and cut off from the outside world. The Rudá Garda (Red Guard) also came from Prague to the town of Brüx; they were so-called partisans and fighters on the barricades and were lodged in the vast building on the "First Square", which they turned into a "Red House" by red flags and large black inscriptions. Youths in SA-uniforms and fantastically coloured caps and ribbons strutted proudly on the "First Square", equipped with guns and revolvers; they stopped German passers-by, knocked their hats from the heads, beat and kicked them, lashed them with scourges and finally dragged them into the Red House. The members of the Red Guard pretended that they were responsible for order in the border zone.
The 2nd of June in Brüx
On Saturday, June 2nd, 1945 we were awakened early in the morning by shouting, banging on the house door and ringing of the bell. I opened the window of the kitchen and saw a throng of savage men wearing bizarre uniforms and equipped with submachine guns grouped in front of the main entrance. With threats and insults they demanded to be let in. When I finally opened the door, they immediately attacked me and dragged me into the apartment. Their leader was a Staff Sergeant of the gendarmerie from the village of Hawran, the rest of them were Czech partisans and miners from the neighbouring villages. I recognized two of them. My wife, my little daughter and my mother-in-law had hastily dressed themselves in the meantime, but I myself was still in pyjamas. The Staff Sergeant led me to my bedroom; arriving there, he turned to me with staring eyes and a distorted face and panted: "By all that you hold sacred, on your life tell me, have you any weapons in the house?" First of all I remembered an old revolver which was hidden in the attic, but this would have troubled me less had it not been for my brother-in-law's arms, from which my mother-in-law had not wished to separate herself. I did not even know where these had been hidden. In order to divert his attention, therefore, I told the Sergeant about the old revolver. The men then dragged me to the attic, but they behaved in such a stupid and cowardly way that they could not find it although I indicated the exact place, until I myself took the revolver and placed it on the floor in front of their feet. The moment they were in possession of it, they made a dash at me and blows, kicks and lashes hailed on me from all sides. This was the first beating which I received from the Czechs. After this I was taken back to the apartment, where I was awaited by the Staff Sergeant. He behaved very energetically and acted dangerous towards me, but actually by this means he saved me from the others. He demanded rings, watches, valuables, money and our savings-bank deposit-books. I placed on a table everything which I could find in my haste. Later on I was forced to dress, to take with me a blanket, a tin plate and some food, and was led away. On the "First Square" three columns of arrested Germans were already standing. I had to join their ranks. More and more Germans were driven out of their houses in the vicinity and joined up with us. Russian officers passing by noticed what was happening, turned back and called the Czechs to account with regard to the incident. These dramatic negotiations ended with the release of all the workmen from the hydrogenizing works, to whom the Czechs were compelled to return everything they had taken from them. This is just one example, which I witnessed myself, of Germans being protected by Russians from the terrorism of the Czechs. In the meantime a Czech, who was known to me, passed the column and when he noticed me among the prisoners, he told me to follow him and took me to the criminal police. Nobody there seemed to know me, although I had entered and left the office every day in my capacity as doctor to the police. Even though my Czech acquaintance negotiated with the police officials for a long time, I had to go back and join the ranks again. However, shortly afterwards another Czech passing by took me to the Czech officers who were just arriving at the place. After a brief discussion a Czech Captain decided: all doctors are free so that they can do their duty. On this occasion I discovered for the first time that the whole operation was under the leadership of Czech military forces. Upon my arrival at home I was welcomed like one risen from the dead. The afternoon I was again called to a post-mortem examination.
On one of the following days we received a message as to the whereabouts of the German prisoners and the course of the military raid. The imprisoned men had been brought to the camp at Striemitz, a hut-camp near the village of the same name, about half an hour distant from Brüx, while the women were taken to the Poros-camp, a shut-down glass factory in the Prague Strasse in Brüx. As soon as the men and women had arrived at the camps, a lively trade in human beings, a kind of slave-bazaar, began. First of all those men were released who worked in the hydrogenizing works, in the mines or in other factories of Brüx; however, these major manufacturers continuously asked for further contingents of German workmen and these were subsequently released from the camp. As far as the women were concerned it was particularly the farm of Sarras, then still under German administration, which asked again and again for German women for agricultural work, thus helping them to get released. Owing to the mass demands made by the big companies, it was not difficult - sometimes a telephone call was sufficient - to get dozens or even hundreds of German prisoners released simultaneously. But later on the difficulties increased, the demands had to be addressed directly to the garrison headquarters and the permit picked up personally and presented at the camp, before the prisoners would be released. These formalities had to be settled for the prisoners by their relatives and friends and the headquarters, which was situated in the barracks on Saazer Strasse, was besieged all day by endless lines of Germans trying to get their relatives out of the camp. But the commandant, a Lieutenant Colonel, maintained a very negative attitude and refused any dealings with Germans, whereas his adjutant showed himself more approachable and even more so the commandant of the women's camp, a young Lieutenant, who showed sympathy for the women prisoners. The camps were under the command of the garrison headquarters and the slave trade took place between industry and agriculture on the one side and the headquarters on the other.
Those released received back the keys of their apartment from the National Committee and were allowed to move into their abandoned dwellings again, or alternatively they were lodged in an emergency camp. The National Committee actually had nothing to do with the operation, to which, indeed, it was opposed. I know from a member of the Committee that it made efforts to get the Red Guard out of the city and to keep the Svoboda troops away. As a result of the employment in industry the number of imprisoned Germans sank to a thousand, of which 500 remained in the penal camp at Striemitz and 500 were sent to concentration camp No. 28 near Maltheuern. The number of women prisoners, as a result of employment in agriculture, also sank to a thousand, whom the Czechs pushed over the Saxon border into Germany. I myself witnessed this miserable transport of the women of Brüx on the Prague Strasse, as they came from the Poros-camp. Those unable to march, old women and children, stood on carts, while the able-bodied women and girls marched on both sides and the whole procession was flanked by Czech soldiers with fixed bayonets. From Brüx the column moved via Kopitz, Obergeorgenthal and through Marienthal into the Erzgebirge to Gebirgsneudorf; from there it went on to the Saxon border station Deutschneudorf, where it was supposed to be handed over to the Russians. In Deutschneudorf the women and children remained for several weeks on the street and lived by begging at the house doors. As the Russian finally failed to take over the transport, the Czechs were forced after several weeks to bring it back to Brüx without having achieved anything. This is the story of the transport of the thousand women of Brüx to Deutschneudorf.
Expropriation and Forced Labour
On top of the small daily annoyances and abuses came the great organized lootings and expropriations. They started with objects of value, gold, silver, rings, watches, currency, savings-bank deposit-books, and ended with dismissals from employment, suspension from profession, evictions from business, houses and factories. The intellectual professions were affected first and most seriously: lawyers, university professors, instructors, officials, clerks lost their positions overnight and became manual workers. It was announced that intellectual workers who had thus become unemployed were to report to the labour exchange, where they were ordered to hard labour in the hydrogenizing works or in the mines, which was usually bound up with loss of living quarters and detention in a camp.
In order to avoid forced labour and detention in a camp, the Germans themselves rushed to these concerns, which offered them a sort of protection against terror and looting, and a mass migration of the German intelligentsia to the hydrogenizing works and the mines began. The Sudeten German hydrogenizing works at Maltheuern had immediately been expropriated, transformed into Russian State property and given the name "Stalin Works". After the first directors had escaped, a number of leading German engineers took over the administration under Russian control. These German engineers who were in charge enjoyed a privileged position for a long time, special rights like those of the Czechs; and they also received Czech ration cards. As a result of the backing of the Russian occupying forces they were in a strong position vis-a-vis the Czech authorities and were therefore effectively able to protect their German employees and workmen. Only when the hydrogenizing works were handed over to the Czechoslovak State as a gift from Stalin did these German engineers lose their leading positions and privileges and were brought into Labour Camp No. 27, where I met a few of them. The Sudeten German Mining Company, too, was immediately expropriated, became Czech State property and received a provisional Czech administration. The director-general Mr. Nathow and the director Mr. Matuschka had not escaped; they were now taken to the barracks of Brüx where both were later shot Several other factories in Brüx, the steel works, the power plant and the brewery were also expropriated and put under the charge of provisional Czech managers. Both in mining and in industry, however, these managers preferentially hired German workmen, for the Germans were cheap and diligent labourers whereas the Czechs preferred to give orders rather than to work. Analogous to the experiences of the intelligentsia were those of the German women, who also had to report to the labour exchange and were usually ordered to agricultural work. The German women therefore looked for employment on a voluntary basis, since they were then better treated. The majority of the women found employment at the Sarras-Farm, which was then still under the provisional administration of its former German tenant, named Bertsche. This man supported the German women as far as he could and even covered-up for fictitious employment.
The decisive part in the expropriations was played by the provisional managers mentioned above. Like a swarm of locusts the Czechs from the Protectorate broke into the Sudeten German territory and threw themselves on the German shops. Each Czech selected a German shop for himself, reported it to the National Committee and finally got it; the German owner was detained in a penal camp or ordered to do forced labour. I myself experienced several cases of this: Bittner, my neighbour and owner of the drugstore of Nittner & Bittner, on the First Square, was turned out of his store and died in camp No. 28. The owners of the "Glückauf drug-store" in Weiten Gasse were also expelled from their property; I met the old man later on in the camp at Striemitz, his son-in-law in camp No. 28.
There were two different kinds of provisional managers; the one kind protected the Germans and allowed them to do all the work for them, since they themselves knew nothing about the business and were therefore completely dependent on them. The other kind desired to get the German owner into a concentration camp, thus outlawing him and getting the property into their own possession. The Czech intelligentsia, too, participated in this fleecing of the Germans; physicians, lawyers and even priests were not ashamed to evict their professional or official colleagues and to take possession of other people's property. We German doctors were always told by the Czechs that they were in need of physicians, but this only held good as long as they had nobody with whom to replace us. Whenever a Czech physician arrived in town he looked for a German physician's office, took possession of it and the German physician had to leave his house and his patients within half an hour with 30 kilos of luggage and was then evacuated. The same thing happened to the German engineers and skilled workers, who, in view of their special technical education, were allowed to remain in their positions until the Czechs could find Czech specialists to exchange for them. The moment the Czech worker came, the German had to make him thoroughly acquainted with the work and was thereafter himself sent to a camp.
Expulsion and Kidnapping
The expropriation of dwellings was another of the sad chapters of the Czech revolution, for this was a deed perpetrated by the Czech nation itself. It began harmlessly, with the Czechs lodging themselves in the abandoned apartments of Germans who had escaped. I frequently met Czech miners and their families in such dwellings with 4 to 6 rooms. But then the Czechs from the Protectorate broke into the Sudeten German territory like swarms of locusts and fell upon the German flats. They went in troops from one house to the other and singled out apartments. The Germans were without any power to prevent this and were forced to let them in. When a Czech had found an apartment which suited his wishes, he reported it to the National Committee and to the housing office. As long as the German in question was still at work, being either a doctor, artisan or miner, he enjoyed a certain protection, otherwise he had to pack up within 30 minutes the thirty kilos of luggage allowed and was taken to a Labour Camp. Moreover the Germans were not only compelled to quit their apartments, they had also to leave behind the whole of their furniture, garments and linen, and the Czechs took over the completely furnished apartment. Up to this time the dispossessions of whole flats were only individual actions, but once the evacuation began they became well-organized mass operations. The evacuations were carried out during the months of July and August, they took place twice or three times a week and each time whole streets or entire residential quarters were affected. The day before the evacuation was supposed to be carried out the families received the order of evacuation, issued by the Evacuation Commission. On the day that it was to be effectuated the whole street or the whole suburb was isolated by Czech military, then the families with their 30 kilos of luggage were driven out of the houses onto the street and were then escorted by heavily armed Czech soldiers to the transfer camp. As a result of my post-mortem examinations in the apartments of the German suicides and of my medical attendance in the transfer camp I obtained an insight into these proceedings. The "Negerdörfel", an abandoned anti-aircraft camp on Saazer Strasse, was the transfer camp in 1945. It was very primitively furnished, consisting of plain huts with bare plank-beds without blankets or palliasses; in addition the number of plank-beds was absolutely insufficient, so that many had to lie on the floor. The medical attendance in the transfer camp was shared out between the German physicians of Brüx, so that altogether we were on duty twelve hours a day. Those evacuated only stayed in camp for a few days; during this time they were not allowed to leave. They were insufficiently supplied with food from a camp kitchen. The luggage was inspected by Czech military and all larger sums of money and all valuables were taken away. Men and women capable of work or single women were evacuated to the labour camps of the district of Brüx. Persons incapable of work, invalids, pensioners, elderly people or mothers with children were expelled across the Saxon border to Germany. I still have some sad cases in my memory: Dr. Rubesch, a 70-year-old retired medical superintendent of the district hospital, was evacuated in spite of the fact that he was suffering from paralysis of both his legs; he died shortly afterwards in Germany. Dr. Roppert, another physician 70 years of age, suffered from diabetes combined with a serious disease of the heart, but he still had to be evacuated; and Mr. Kohlef, the owner of a furniture factory, although he was confined to a wheelchair following a stroke, had to be transported to Germany.
Terrorism and Arrests
The brutal terror continued. The military raid was followed by a wave of arrests of members of the National Socialist Party and its affiliated organizations, as well as of the owners of prosperous retail businesses and of the better houses. Those arrested were locked up in the building of the criminal police, in the barracks, in the building of the district court, in the camp at Striemitz or in the camps No. 27 and No. 28. Dreadful scenes took place among the prisoners. Eyewitnesses reported repeatedly that the German prisoners in the court building had to line up in two rows, facing each other, and were then ordered to box each other's ears, Czech warders watching them so that none would treat the other too gently. On the "First Square" I myself frequently saw German prisoners being slapped, beaten and kicked by Czech warders while working on the fire-extinguishing pool. One day, when I was called to the criminal police in connection with an accident, I discovered four men in a cell as white as chalk with deep blue rings under their eyes. Their faces resembled masks and reminded me of a masquerade - until I discovered the bloody weals an their naked bodies. I had to order one of them to the hospital since he was suffering from a rupture of the ureter and he died there a few days later from urine phlegmon.
But now my own time had come and destiny caught up with me. At that time I had a good deal to do with the medical superintendent of the Czech social insurance company, one Dr. Kumpost, with whom I had been well acquainted since the days of the First Czechoslovak Republic. This man would only have had to say one word to warn me of the danger I was in, but he failed to do so and let me run into disaster.
The Czechs were not satisfied with the one terrorist incident at Aussig, but perpetrated the same in the entire territory of Sudetenland. At Brüx the operation started on August 1st. The same afternoon, while I was out visiting a patient, they broke into my apartment and then searched the whole house. Since they did not find me at home, they forced my wife to lead them to where I was. They found me in the apartment of a young married couple in Bahnhof Strasse, where the young woman lay in bed, suffering from articular rheumatism with a high temperature. There, while I was sitting on the bed of the patient, they arrested me and also the young husband, a dentist by profession. Later on my wife and I were dragged onto the first landing and threatened with a beating if we should exchange so much as a word or a glance. We had to stand side by side like two wax figures. It was then that I saw my wife for the last time in Brüx, and not until 1½ years later did I meet her again, in Germany. Without being able to bid farewell to each other we were separated, and the young dentist and I were hustled along the Bahnhof Strasse, continuously kicked and cuffed. The Czechs whom we met laughed cynically, although we were both wearing the Red Cross band on our left arms. My arrest was carried out personally by the Secretary of the Communist Party, one Mazanek. When he brought us to the local criminal police station, he did not turn us over to the police officials present, but held the interrogation himself so that the policemen had nothing to do and gradually left the room. We stood side by side, the little dentist and I, under an uninterrupted hail of blows to head and face. It was incredible how hard the man could strike, the blows seemed to come rather from a club than from a human fist. Again and again he shouted: "This for what you did to the miners during the war." I began to believe that this must be a confusion of names, for I had had nothing to do with miners during the war. I therefore dared to exclaim: "It must be a mistake, that is not me." This answer, however, proved to be only one more reason to beat me. The little dentist collapsed, and I wondered that I myself was still able to stand. I was bleeding from eyes, nose and mouth and was dragged to the tap to wash off the blood. Later on, when our particulars were being registered, I could not remember the name of my own daughter. I thought: "O my God, if I do not remember my child's name, they'll beat me up again!" Finally I was able to recollect it; but, in fact, I believe I had suffered a slight concussion. After the registration we stood for a long time with our noses pressed against the wall. When we were marched off, we passed a crowd of German prisoners which filled up the entrance of the building. As I heard later on, more than 70 men had been arrested on this day, among them Dr. Nothnagel, a 70-year-old dentist, Mr. Fischer, a master joiner of 70 and Mr. Kny, an architect of the same age. The moment we entered the corridor of the jail, a young Czech policeman let slip the following remark: "My God, the doctor visited us only this afternoon!" We surrendered knives, suspenders, neckties and bootlaces and were locked up in a cell.
Incidents like that described above went on all night long. We heard the shrill voice of the Secretary of the Communist Party in the corridor, the crack of the blows and the cries of those being beaten, then the cell door would open and a newcomer covered with blood would stagger into our cell. At last the number of cell inmates amounted to 23, packed like herrings into the narrow cell. We were standing upright or sitting in a squatting position, and the bucket to relieve the call of nature was passed round. The majority of us were convinced that we were to be shot next morning. So the night passed in apathetic resignation. But we were not to be shot after all. Instead we were driven to the village of Maltheuern, marching for three hours; upon our arrival there we were taken to the notorious camp No. 28.
All terrorist operations ended up in the camps of the district of Brüx. There were, however, not only the labour camps No. 27 and No. 28, but also the camps 17/18 and 31/32 near Maltheuern, the Rösselcamp and camp No. 37 near Brüx. the camps 22/25 near Niedergeorgenthal and 33/34 near Rosenthal. All these camps were in connection with the hydrogenizing works, in addition to these there were also the camps in connection with the mining company, which were not known to me in detail. The total number of camps within the district of Brüx amounted to more than thirty. Their inmates were not only inhabitants of the towns of Brüx, Saaz and Komotau, but also residents of the towns of Aussig, Bodenbach, Bilin, Dux, Kaaden, Weipert, Karlsbad and Marienbad - Germans from half of the Sudetenland and also Reichs Germans and Germans from Hungary, who had been driven into these camps. The terrorism carried out by civilians surpassed that of the military raid by far, but the aims and scenes of the operation remained unchanged.
The coal field between Brüx and Dux, which represents an important economic potential, has again and again become the scene of considerable movements of population and of conflicts of nationalities. The coal field consists of a large seam of lignite at a depth of 100 to 400 meters and represents the center of the North Bohemian brown-coal district which has more than 50 pits and 25,000 miners and extends on one side from Brüx to Komotau, on the other from Dux via Teplitz to Aussig. When coal mining began in the course of the 19th century industrialization, the immense demand for manpower in this area caused the immigration of Czechs, as a result of which the populations of Brüx and Dux became 50% Czech. At the beginning of the Second World War, when Germany built up the hydrogenizing works at Maltheuern, this project called for an additional 35,000 men, and displaced persons and prisoners of war were ordered to work there and labour camps were established. Thus Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Croats, Bulgarians, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians arrived in the labour camps of the district of Brüx. At the end of the war the displaced persons disappeared and the Germans were put there by the Czechs; in this way the Germans became labourers in the hydrogenizing works and in the mines at Brüx. The use of the Germans for forced labour in the heavy industry of the Brüx coal-mining area was the beginning of the Czech terror. The so-called National Czechs in industry and mining were satisfied by the idea of using the Germans for forced labour and did not agree to their transfer; they preferred to see the Germans remain in the country as labourers, for they were indispensable to the maintenance of industry. The reverse effect of the forced labour was the social degradation, expropriation and proletarianization of the Germans. By turning lawyers, university teachers, instructors, salesmen, artisans, independent farmers and clerks into unskilled or casual labourers in heavy industry, they degraded the Germans from their independent and intellectual positions to manual workers. By depriving the Germans of their shops, houses, factories, their bank deposits, watches and jewellery and by expropriating them and lodging them in hut-camps, they turned them into homeless gipsies and riffraff. Czech newcomers took possession of the property, of stores, buildings, factories, dwellings, furniture and clothing and took over all independent intellectual positions. The money, watches and jewellery which were supposed to be surrendered to the Czech State likewise disappeared into the pockets of Czech patriots.
Concentration Camp Tábor 28
The Czech concentration camp No. 28 near Maltheuern was opened at the beginning of June with two transports consisting of 500 inhabitants of Brüx arrested during the military raid on June 2nd; and furthermore with two transports consisting of 800 inhabitants of Saaz, arrested during the raid on June 3rd, and with a transport consisting of 200 persons from Komotau, arrested during a raid on June 9th. The majority of the prisoners from Komotau went into camp No. 27, situated opposite No. 28. During the months of August, September and October four transports with invalids, altogether 400 men, were transferred to Germany over the Saxon border. In exchange for them, 70 men from Brüx arrested on August 1st, 70 from Aussig formerly interned in the Lerchenfeld camp, 200 from Karlsbad, and another 200 German SS-men from Hungary were brought in. The number of prisoners fluctuated between 500 and 1300 men. The concentration camp was a vast hut-type camp, surrounded by a high fence of barbed wire and divided into two equal halves, each with washing facilities and a latrine in the middle, which we called "the upper and the lower village". Each "village" consisted of the same number of wooden huts, each hut consisted of numerous rooms and each room was full of plank-beds in two tiers; on the average, each room housed more than thirty men. In the beginning there was also a large tent in the "lower village", which resembled a circus tent and which sheltered more than 200 persons. This was, however, removed later on.
The atrocities committed by the Czechs on the German prisoners were terrible. In July, 15 patients with tuberculosis of the lungs, who had been selected for an invalid transport, were shot down by Russian guards at the order of an officer. This was done, it was said, to avoid an epidemic. In August a prisoner was shot by the Czech guard in front of the assembled inmates of the camp because he was alleged to have cut a piece out of a driving belt to make soles for his shoes, an action which was viewed as sabotage. Kadle Vlasak shot his lackey in the head while trying, as a joke, to shoot a hat off his head, and when the shot man was already lying in the coffin Vlasak shot him twice more in the heart because he was not yet completely dead.
The most frightful and degrading thing were the regular beatings. They began at the moment of admission into the camp. Those brought in were deprived of everything, their heads were shaved, they were beaten and then compelled to stand at attention against the wall for hours in the blazing sun. We nicknamed this the "wailing wall". The beatings were carried out with fists, whips and rubber truncheons; they went on day and night. There was never a quiet night, but always blows, screams and the crack of whips and shots. During the night Czechs from outside invaded the camp and the prisoners were dragged from their beds and beaten into insensibility. Then saltwater was poured into the eyes of the unconscious men and their moustache and eyelashes set on fire until they regained consciousness. They were then further abused until the torturers were exhausted or the tortured men had gasped their last. The sadistic orgies were built up on a refined system of torture. The prisoners were first slapped, punched and struck an the face with rubber tubing, then beaten on the head and body and kicked in the stomach, testicles and shins until they collapsed. Afterwards these dehumanized Czechs stood on the prone bodies, jumping and trampling on them with their jackboots. I shall never forget the scene when half-naked men were forced to crawl in the dust and tear up grass, while the Czech slavedrivers in their midst cracked their whips across the naked backs. In the beginning the prisoners were not even given bread and water, but water-soup and black coffee, in reality no more than warm water. There were three mealtimes in the camp, early in the morning black coffee, in the evening, after our return, water-soup and, before going to bed, black coffee again. Later on the prisoners who were working in the hydrogenizing plant were given potato soup with a piece of bread at noon there. This meal seemed so desirable to the starving prisoners that, in spite of their exhaustion, everyone was eager to work there. The prisoners had a working day of 18 hours and 6 hours sleep; they were awakened at four and marched off in two parties at 5 and 6 a.m. The total working time amounted to 12 hours, two hours being taken up by the march there and back. The return to the camp took place again in two parties, at 7 and at 8 p. m.
Day after day the column of the five thousand from the camps No. 27 and No. 28 rolled to Maltheuern and back, those from camp No. 28 in the lead, close-cropped, miserable, emaciated faces and figures with clattering wooden shoes and dressed in rags. In summer and winter alike they were without coats or caps, wearing on their chest their prison-number and on their backs a large white swastika and "KT 28". But the day's work was not finished with the return to the camp, for then the prisoners had to appear in the "lower village" for the roll call, to line up and march in column while singing German songs: "Freier Wildbretschütz", "Westerwald", "Blaue Husaren". At the head of the column marched one prisoner in the character of a clown with an old top-hat, followed by another in an old Prussian helmet. The commandant gave the orders: "Fall in! Fall out! Forward march! Halt!" Then he would begin to shout and to shoot under our feet and over our heads, so that the whole mass of men with their clattering wooden shoes ran hither and thither. Thus the prisoners could not sleep until 10 at night. Their life consisted of blows, hunger and work, work, hunger and blows.
The name of the commandant of the camp was Karel Vlasak, who liked to call himself the "tiger", but the prisoners called him "the beast of No. 28". It was a terrible sight when he stormed through the camp, his revolver in one hand and the cat-o'-nine-tails in the other. One of his favourite sports was to knock down the prisoners one by one, each with a single blow. He used a special trick for this; after the blow giving the prisoner a thrust with his arm. The latter, standing at attention, would lose his balance and fall. Whoever understood what the commandant intended, got off with this one blow; anyone who tried to pull himself together though, would be in for a bad time. The "tiger", growing angry, would kick the prisoner with his jackboots in the stomach and the testicles until he collapsed. After this was accomplished, the "tiger" felt as proud as a boxer in the ring, and the Czechs who surrounded him cheered and applauded him. That was Karel Vlasak, the beast of No. 28.
At the beginning of October the military was replaced by gendarmerie. The young gendarmes were more humane and the number of beatings in the camp gradually grew less. Karel Vlasak was arrested and taken to the district court at Brüx - not because of his atrocities against the German prisoners but because of embezzlement of money and valuables which he had taken from the prisoners, but not handed over.
A new commandant arrived by the name of Řezač, who acted savage but who in reality was a decent man. Unfortunately his accomplices, Rameš and Kulišek, the first an intriguer and the second a real butcher, were by no means so. The barbed wire fence around the camp was doubled and a jail was established within the camp in the former air-raid shelter, in which the prisoners would often be locked up for trivial reasons. In such cases the prisoner would work all day long in the hydrogenizing works and then be obliged to spend the night without food in this underground jail, notwithstanding the cold. Often members of the guard broke into the underground jail and carried out orgies of beating, shooting about at random in the confined space. In January 1946 a prisoner, Kramář by name, was found frozen to death after spending the night there in chains.
In spite of the change of commandant the hours of work remained the same, twelve hours labour and two hours for the march, there and back. Only the exercises were stopped and the prisoners were allowed to sleep during the night. The food was also improved by additional rations of bread and potatoes. Now the prisoners would get black coffee in the morning, potato soup and bread in the plant at noon, and in the evening after returning to the camp, soup, potatoes and bread. Before we went to bed, black coffee again. An increasing number of prisoners were given T 4 ration cards for heavy labourers, containing plenty of additional rations of bread, sausage, bacon, lard, sugar, marmalade, representing quality nourishment high in calories.
Screened by the early night, the series of escapes began. Each week, sometimes even every day, in autumn and winter, a number of prisoners would be found to be missing when the column fell in for the roll-call. Sometimes whole groups disappeared; once 21 men marched off together in a group - even, it was said, taking a flag with them. In order to intimidate the Germans, the Czechs spread the rumour that the refugees would be shot at the border. In fact, those who were caught there were badly beaten and locked up in a dark cell.
Then as a reprisal the Czechs stopped the visits of the relatives, which had been allowed on Sunday and Thursday afternoons. They also held back the parcels with laundry and food. When visitors were admitted, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters met each other in the big dining-room, where they rushed towards each other, embraced, laughing and crying like children. When visitors were not to be admitted, the women were chased away from the entrance door and struck at with rifle butts; but still they would come back every Sunday and Thursday afternoon, after having travelled or walked a considerable distance, and would wait in wind, cold or rain. In October the transports of invalids were stopped; the last of these was held back and it was not until January and February 1946 that the invalids were sent in groups to their homes, from whence they were expelled together with the regular transports of Sudeten Germans.
During January 1946 the meals continued to improve, 1100 out of 1300 prisoners were given T4 ration cards for heavy labourers, and the general state of health improved in consequence. In exchange for those released during the months of January and February 1946, many men from Brüx and Bilin were brought in, having been seized in the course of a new wave of arrests of members of the SA (affiliated organization of the NSDAP). Up to the last day of the existence of camp No. 28, that is until its dissolution, the newcomers were robbed in the camp office during their registration; they were afterwards placed over a bench and beaten with rubber truncheons on the naked buttocks. Since I had to examine both those released and those coming in under the control of the Czech physician, one Dr. Pivota, I took the opportunity of presenting him with some cases. He did not pass them over, remarking firmly: "I am a good Czech, but I will have nothing to do with things like these." The Czech commandant was furious on hearing of this remark. Since he could not revenge himself on me, he vented his fury by striking Dr. Gmel, the dentist. Shortly afterwards, when some escaping Germans, who had been caught, were brought in half-dead by the Czech guards, the latter slapped me the moment I rendered assistance to the first patient, then kicked me and threatened me with a revolver when I stated that these men had been beaten. I also reported this case to Dr. Pivota, the Czech physician of the hydrogenizing plant. I had the satisfaction of knowing that the cases I reported led to the closing of camp No. 28 at the end of March 1946, the prisoners being taken over by camp No. 27.
The Czech name for the sick-bay was "Marotka"; the "Marotka" of camp No. 28 was opened in June 1945, Dr. Gabler and Dr. Pörner being in charge of it. Both had been arrested at Saaz during the raid on June 3rd. At the beginning the sanitary conditions were shocking, the most elementary medical equipment was lacking. The two physicians had nothing at their disposal but a rusty scalpel and a pair of rusty forceps. On the Czech side there was no presumption of any necessity for medical attention; at the beginning no cases of illness might be acknowledged; the Czech directive read: anyone who is incapable of work is to be shot. Under these conditions the death rate was extremely high. There was no end to series of men shot, beaten or starved to death, no end to the rows of corpses. At the beginning we counted in the sick-bay alone four to five dead men a week. I will never forget the raw, unplaned wooden boxes in which we placed the corpses, as well as the miserable cart which arrived twice or three times a week from Oberleutensdorf to pick up the bodies. It was then that Dr. Gabler rose above himself - I shall always remember the words he repeated to us again and again: We must break with everything that we have known in the past. We must start with nothing as though we had been sent to Alaska or the Congo. He fought for each individual patient. Since he knew how to handle the "tiger" - by behaving like a wild-beast tamer - he finally succeeded in obtaining acceptance of the patients. Assisted by Dr. Pörner he collected one piece of equipment after another - partly from his own property in Saaz and Brüx - and built up the sick-bay of camp No. 28. By the time of its dissolution there was a ward for minor surgery and one for internal medicine together with a laboratory, nurses, sick-lists, diet, bathing facilities and a delousing station.
Our medical knowledge was of little value, however, for the diseases which broke out were completely strange and unknown to us. They were so striking and appeared in such numbers that we called them "camp diseases". These camp diseases were diarrhoea, hunger oedema, phlegmon. Diarrhoea was widely spread and was the cause of most of the deaths. Those seriously ill were terrible in appearance: emaciated skeletons with a paper-thin skin seamed with wrinkles, the body cramped, face twisted into a perpetual grimace, the hands raised uselessly in imploring gestures. Since I observed a connection between the patients' condition and the soup they were given, I was all the more convinced that the disease in question was dyspepsia. I therefore took charge of the sick-room attending the cases of diarrhoea and ordered radical fast-days and quantities of "charcoal", which we had prepared ourselves from malt coffee. There were even more cases of oedema; dropsy was the basis for all the other diseases. The symptoms of those suffering from dropsy were the opposite of those suffering from diarrhoea; the more serious cases were bloated like balloons, their faces were full moons, their bellies swollen sacks of water, their genitals completely disfigured. This disease was absolutely unknown to us and caused considerable divergences of view among us, as to whether we were dealing with heart-, kidney- or some other sort of oedema. We soon discovered what would cure it, namely bed-rest and dry food, which we achieved by omitting the water-soup and the black coffee, distributing only bread and potatoes. By these measures the oedemas were quickly cured and we sometimes experienced water losses of between 20 to 25 liters and a drop in weight of 20 or 25 kilos a week. But the oedemas broke out again and we diagnosed relapses, the same patient sometimes got dropsy twice, three times or even five times. I therefore was of the opinion that the disease was hunger-oedema, which, however, we could diagnose only later on, since the disease was accompanied by various other diseases and the symptoms were not clear. All our medical knowledge and attendance was jeopardized by our own dangerous position, as we were still prisoners despite our somewhat privileged treatment. At the beginning the phlegmon was operated on and in view of its considerable superficial extent there was no limit to the purely surgical possibilities. But the results of this treatment became more and more dubious, the operation wounds healed badly or not at all and scars already healed up burst again if the patient contracted dropsy. Later on diarrhoea, oedema and phlegmon subsided and complications such as tuberculosis of the lungs, heart diseases, inflammation of the kidneys and anaemia came to the fore. In October we received a heavy and unexpected blow: Dr. Gabler was locked up in the camp prison for having admitted too many patients to the sick-bay and for making a few unwise remarks. He was later transferred to camp No. 27. During the months of October, November and December Dr. Pörner was in charge. Under the impression of the unpleasant incident which had happened to Dr. Gabler, he directed a different course and entered into connection with the Czech physician of the plant, one Dr. Pivota, as a result of which we obtained more liberty vis-a-vis the Czech commandant of the camp. In January 1946, when he was released and turned over to camp No. 22, I was appointed as head physician for the period of January to March 1946. Following the example of Dr. Pörner, I maintained the connection with Dr. Pivota and via him obtained access to the Czech medical superintendent of the Stalin Works, one Dr. Fajkus. Through him I obtained permission to share out among the patients, to the best of my medical knowledge, the rations of those of them who held the T 4 hard-labourers card. In this way I finally received the additional food I needed to treat the cases of oedema and phlegmon. It was a great pleasure to watch the result of this treatment: the flabby, swollen-up skin became tight and smooth, the festering wounds and inflammations disappeared and the wounds themselves healed up. During the last months of our stay in the camp the so-called "camp diseases" vanished and I was able to prove statistically the connection between the subsidence of the camp diseases and the improvement of food rations.
Reported by: Anni Wagner, age 14
Report of December 3, 1946 (transcript of a letter) (Marienbad-Brüx)
I found your address among my brother's papers. I must give you the sad news that my brother and father, who returned home one more time, were taken to Brüx by the Czechs on September 30. They lived for another eight days there. Then they were beaten to death. My mother, who was very ill, succumbed to a heart attack. Now I am entirely alone. I am presently in Hof and will go to the transfer camp so that I can go to the Russian zone to live with my aunt. After all, I'm only 14 years old. My brother often told us about you. He liked you very much. He spoke of you very often, and made plans.
Farewell, all the best for the future, your sad
This news was brought to us by a Czech who ran away from Brüx. He couldn't stand to watch what was happening there any longer.