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Landskron

Report No. 43
translation by Gerda Johannsen.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
The Massacre on May 17, 1945
Reported by: Julius Friedel Report of February 22, 1951

location of LandskronOn May 9, 1945 the last combat on the hills above the valley at Landskron began.

The invading Russians did not pay much attention to the frightened German population during the first days. They looked for alcohol, they plundered and they organized regular hunts for women at night. All night long one could hear the cries of the hunted victims.

At first the few Czech residents did not know themselves what to do, they were also worried about their possessions.

The German male inhabitants of the town, who had had to work at clearing the streets, were suddenly sent home, without reason, in the morning hours of May 17th.

About 11 o'clock of the very same day hundreds of armed Czechs, so-called partisans, arrived in trucks. They gathered in the market-place for a demonstration; a Russian officer made a fervent speech, which was greeted with roars of approval. As if by previous agreement, the Czechs then dispersed in all directions. It was not long before we knew what was going on.

The German men, and with them many women and children, were driven in larger or smaller groups to the market-place, the houses were thoroughly searched to insure that all men were present, old and young, also invalids and those seriously ill. The individual groups of Germans were escorted by yelling Czechs, heavily armed, who shot blindly in all directions and knocked down anyone who came in their way. Meanwhile other troops of Czechs drove to the surrounding villages and brought the men back to the town. More than a thousand German men were rounded up in the market place in the early hours of the afternoon. They were ordered to fall in and they stood there with their hands above their head, waiting for what would happen next.

There followed the most horrifying scenes that human beings ever conceived of. The men were forced to lie down on the pavement, to stand up quickly und then to get in line again. The Czechs passed down the lines and kicked the men, preferably on the shins or in the genitals. They hit them with whatever lay convenient to their hands; they spit at them and fired wildly with their rifles.

Many men were too badly wounded to get up again and lay in great pain. But this was still not enough. There was a large water tank for air raids in front of the town hall. Into this the victims of this terrible madness were finally thrown one after the other. As they came to the surface, they were struck at with sticks and poles and kept under water. The Czechs even shot into the mass and the water slowly reddened. Whenever anyone tried to scramble out of the tank, they stamped on his fingers; some of the men were fished out of the water, but they were already dead. Others, who were prostrate on the ground, were blasted with the fire hose, which had been fetched in the meantime, or were tortured in indescribable ways. While all these atrocities were taking place, the so-called People's Court established itself on the sidewalk in front of the district council building. Behind the tables which had been set up the Czechs seated themselves; among them were the following persons:

    Hrabaček, owner of a sawmill at Weipertsdorf,
    Wilhelm Pfitzner, clerk to the workmen's sick-fund, Landskron,
    Franz Matschat, weaver in the firm of Thoma, Magdalenen St., Landskron,
    Bernard Wanitschek, shoemaker, Karl St., Landskron,
    Stefan Matschat, weaver in the firm of Thoma, Landskron,
    Friedrich Bednař, carpenter for the tobacco-factory, Landskron,
    Polak, officer of the gendarmerie, and a woman, probably
    Mrs. Lossner of Landskron.

Around the table stood a number of Czechs, who functioned as prosecutors and who selected the individual Germans out of the rows. One behind the other, with their hands above the head, the Germans had to appear before the tribunal. The first man in each row had to carry a picture of Hitler; the picture was covered with excrement, which the man beside him had to lick off. The last 20 or 30 paces up to the tribunal had to be covered in a creeping position. Arriving there, each one of them received his sentence, which was written on his back with a piece of chalk. About 50 to 60 meters (165 to 200 ft) distant from the tribunal, on the opposite side, was a gate; up to this the victims had literally to run the gauntlet. Many of them collapsed on their way, even before the sentence could be carried out. The brutality which took place there is impossible to write down.

One of the first victims was Karl Piffl, a master joiner. After he had been selected, driven into the water and dragged out of it again half dead, he was beaten to death and trampled to pulp.

He was followed by the overseer of the firm of Pam at Landskron, a man by the name of Reichstädter, who had already been so badly beaten up that he was unrecognizable. Nevertheless he was stood against the wall of the town hall and shot to death by the Czechs with their automatic pistols. Josef Neugebauer, an engineer from Landskron, came running out of the little street which led to the prison. He was covered with blood. He, too, had to stand against the wall with his hands raised, and fell without a word before the bullets of his executioners. Another engineer, Otto Dietrich from Landskron, met his death in a similar manner. Viktor Benesch, a farmer, ended his life at the same place, with the top of his head shot off.

The cries of the bleeding victims soon downed out all other sounds; many of the living sat or lay with the indifference of despair beside the bodies of the dead. At 7 o'clock in the evening the majority of the men who had been rounded up were taken into custody; only a few were sent home.

On May 18th the victims were again driven together in the market place and the tortures and the brutal mistreatment were continued. Josef Jurenka from Angerstrasse, Landskron, a plumber, was sentenced to death by hanging. He was strung up on a street lamp after he himself had had to place the noose around his neck.

Robert Schwab from Ober-Johnsdorf, an employee of the district administration, died in the same manner. The Germans were forced to keep the bodies of the hanged men constantly swinging.

One Mr. Köhler from Landskron, an engineer of Reichs-German origin, was dragged in, dressed only in his leather shorts; these were like a red flag to the howling mob, who impaled him on their metal-pointed. sticks.

On the same day dreadful scenes, even worse than on the day before, took place. A number of Germans were ordered to undress, to put on a show of prize fighting and beat each other up.

Terrible screams sounded all day long across the usually quiet marketplace. About 5 o'clock in the afternoon the excesses suddenly came to an end as a result of the sacrifice of Mrs. Auguste Heider. Her place of business was immediately behind the 'People's Court' which had been set up, and probably she had been watching from her attic the atrocities taking place close by. She decided to make a desperate end of it all by setting her house on fire and hanging herself in the flames. The conflagration caused a sudden panic and set an unexpectedly early end to the Czechs' amusements.

In front of the town hall, at the place where the executions ordered by the People's Court had taken place, the Germans lay in a great pool of blood, some shot down, some felled and literally trampled beyond recognition. The victims included the following:

      1. Viktor Benesch, farmer and deputy Ortsbauernführer (Chairman of the local farmers' association), leader of the Association of Veterans of the First World War,
      2. Josef Neugebauer, engineer and architect,
      3. Otto Dieterich, engineer and architect,
      4. Köhler, engineer and works-manager,
      5. Leo Janisch, director of the employment office,
      6. Karl Langer, clerk of the employment office,
      7. Josef Langer, clerk of the employment office,
      8. Karl Kowarsch, butcher, shot by his assistant,
      9. Theodor Benesch, Director of the Forestry Administration, retired,
    10. Rudolf Gerth, sergeant,
    11. Hubert Lug, farmer from Lukau,
    12. Johann Klement, electrician,
    13. Reinhold Schwab, manufacturer of cement products,
    14. Karl Schmidt, tinsmith,
    15. Josef Jurenka, locksmith,
    16. Robert Schwab, official of the district administration,
    17. Richard Antl, farmer from Rudelsdorf,
    18. Marek, railway man,
    19. Josef Koblischke, teacher, retired,
    20. Karl Piffl, master joiner,
    21. Leopold Hafler, workman,
    22. Julius Reichstätter, clerk,
    23. Josef Linhart, farmer from Lukau,
    24. Zandler, farmer from Rudelsdorf.

The bodies of these victims of mob justice remained lying there until May 19th. On the late afternoon of that day Eduard Neugebauer, a farmer from Anger Strasse, Landskron, was ordered to take them to the cemetery. The doctor who inspected the corpses - a German, but one whose behaviour placed him beyond the pale for the rest of the Germans from Landskron - reported that he had been unable to identify the men tortured to death. They were dumped without any ceremony into a mass grave.

Small wonder that many Germans committed suicide in consequence of these horrors.

Among the suicides the following can be named with certainty:

    Auguste Heider, widow of a salesman, market-place,
    Eduard Maresch, draper, together with his wife, Magdalenen St.,
    Hubert Richter, shoemaker, together with his wife, Magdalenen St.,
    Wenzel Riedel, retired gendarmerie-sergeant, Magdalenen St.,
    Hans Waschitschek, popular lecturer, together with his wife, Badgasse,
    Killer, farmer, Anger St.,
    Karl Janisch, gardener, Friedhof St.,
    Josef Jandejsek, tax-collector, retired, together with his wife, H. Knirsch-St.,
    Otto Portele, shoemaker, market-place,
    Wenzel Kusebauch, retired major, together with his wife, Anger St.,
    Gerlinde Knapek, née Ringl, market-place,
    Anna Piffl, née Schreiber, widow, together with her daughter Ingunde Ilgner and her little baby, Knirsch St.,
    Dr. Franz Pelzl and his wife, Mathilde Pelzl, née Nagl, Johannesgasse,
    Richard Rotter and one of his children,
    Karl Langer, official of the municipal council, Schulplatz,
    Viktor Schromm, road surveyor,
all of Landskron.

In most of the villages these days passed in the same way. Further cases of suicide are known of from the following villages:

Hilbetten: more than 60 persons, among them the doctor of the village, in whose house many sought death;
Türpes: the wife of the mayor, one Mrs. Schmidt, shot her children and then herself;
Ziegenfuß: the hereditary judge by the name of Franz Hübl shot his family of eight persons, only his father, who was 80 years of age, remained alive;
Rudelsdorf: a large number of people committed suicide;
Abtsdorf: the owner of an estate, Heinz Peschke, committed suicide together with his wife and his son, as did Max Wilder, the mayor, together with his wife and their three children.

A number of murders also took place. In the village of Triebitz Julius Klaschka, a farmer, and at Sichelsdorf Franz Kaupe, another farmer, were both shot down, and in Tschenkowitz there were also several persons shot.

Dr. Franz Nagl, who had been mayor successively of Landskron and Leitmeritz, was murdered at Königgrätz.

The Czech shoemaker by the name of Janeček from Hermanitz showed special brutality. Later, when in jail, he boasted of having killed 18 German soldiers, who were walking through the woods unarmed, by shooting them from ambush.

At the same time Germans who were capable of working were formed into groups and handed over to the Russians, who shipped them off to the Soviet Union. Many of them never lived to return home after months or even years of hardship.

Other Czechs of the administration, who took part in the outrages against Germans, in robberies and looting, criminals definitely responsible for what took place, are the following:

The two mayors of the town, Losser and Heil, as well as Zidlik, Vaguer, Dr. Řehák, Wanitschek, Kudlaček and Pfitzner, who were town councillors, and Dr. Skala, the Chairman, and a certain Vodička.

I should like to stress especially the names of Hrabaček, the owner of the saw-mill, and Polak, an officer of the gendarmerie. Hrabaček later fled from Gottwald's Czechoslovakia via Germany to France, where he is today working as an agricultural labourer. Polak's destiny was also not a glorious one.

I affirm in lieu of oath that the foregoing statements are in correspondence with the truth.


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