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Olmütz
(Page 1 of 2)
Report No. 50
translation 
by Victor Diodon and Arnim Johannis.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
Concentration camp Hodolein: maltreatment, robbery
Reported by: K. S. Report of February 12, 1951

location of OlmützDuring the occupation of Olmütz hundreds of Germans of all ages and both sexes were locked into the barracks basements, crowded in so tightly that they could hardly move. They were left like that for three days and even longer, without a drop of water or a morsel of bread. As a result of the bad air and the dirt and filth (no-one was allowed to go outside) there were several deaths. I. G. was among those locked into these cellars. He told me that he knows as a fact that more than a hundred, or even several hundred, Germans were herded into the subterranean tunnels in the Michaeler Ausfall, where they were bricked in alive and died horribly. I. G. also spent several months in Barrack 7 of the Hodolein camp, where he had to suffer through the almost-daily beatings that everyone was subjected to. He was so badly injured in the process that he excreted clotted blood and it was like a miracle that he even survived. Karl Prachtl suffered several broken ribs during the beatings.



 

Report No. 51

translation by Gerda Johannsen.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
Camp Hodolein: Cases of maltreatment and murders
Reported by: K. S. Report of January 23, 1951 (Olmütz)

location of OlmützI lived together with my family (five persons) in our own house in the neighbourhood of Olmütz. At the beginning of May 1945 I took both my children, 10 and 14 years old, to Pohorsch in the mountains in order to protect them from possible danger in the course of the occupation. Only my daughter, who was 20 years of age, stayed with us. Later on my wife decided to bring the children back home again and we set off in the morning hours of May 5th, 1945. It was a Saturday. We heard that the Russians were only a few kilometers away, and several airplanes already flew over the area. The German Wehrmacht was retreating and was in process of disintegration. We packed our baggage and decided to return at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. But it was already too late, as Russian motorized units had cut off our way back and partisans were concealed in the woods. That very evening Russian patrols drove up the hill to the village and several men entered the house; we were immediately searched and interrogated. For the moment I was able to protect my family and a number of other persons through my knowledge of the language. The mayor of the village had ordered that all weapons were to be collected and with this believed himself safe. But he too disappeared on one of the following days along with many other men, all of whom were most probably kidnapped.

More and more Russians arrived in the village during the following days and finally they drove up in empty trucks, looting almost all the houses of the Germans and driving away the cattle. Many of the men, who were capable of work, were taken off for forced labour, others maltreated or shot down and many women were raped. We were threatened with severe punishment if we left our apartment. An inn-keeper was shot together with his wife, because he could no longer serve alcohol. A number of persons committed suicide. The Tannenberger family of five persons attempted to hang themselves. The mother and the three grown-up children were cut down in time, but the father was already dead. Mrs. Tannenberger and her two daughters, in search of protection, joined up with us; both the daughters, 18 and 20 years of age, had been molested by Russians. Our neighbour, Mrs. Jahn, who was 65 years old and paralyzed and who was therefore confined to bed, was beaten black and blue by the Russians and finally raped. Her husband who came to blows with a drunken Russian, was maltreated and had to fly for his life. She told me that herself, crying, when I one day entered her house. One night heavily armed Russians broke in the doors and windows of our little apartment, threatened us with their weapons and looted the cellar, where our landlady had hidden her valuables. A woman from Brünn who also slept in our apartment, was dragged outside and raped. She disappeared and we never saw her again. Mrs. Tannenberger's two daughters lay under the beds and were not seen. I myself was only able to save my family by pretending that we were Czech citizens. A Russian staff-sergeant had told me of Stalin's orders that anyone harming a Czech citizen should be court-martialed, whereas the troops were allowed to do whatever they liked with the Germans, since these were considered as outlaws.

The owner of the house we lived in, one Mrs. Kimmel, had to flee from her apartment to escape from 16 and 17-year-old members of the Red Guard, in order not to be raped. Her further fate is unknown to me. Many others had similar experiences. My wife had to do the laundry for the Russians and to cook the poultry which they had stolen, in order not to incur their displeasure. After a week had passed and after making many requests, we received from the commissar a permit and were allowed to return to our home with the few articles we had been able to keep. Our own house had also been looted in the meantime. All that was left were the empty cupboards. Two Russians were still "working" when I arrived. My elder daughter succeeded in escaping to one of her relatives, otherwise she would scarcely have survived the events. In the cellar, where we had stored the greater part of our belongings, there was only a chaos of demolished articles.

Almost everything in our house as well as in other houses of the village had been looted at the instigation of our neighbour, one Josef Dostal. This 45-year-old Czech had been to German schools, and he had a German wife and children who could only speak German. During the period of the Third Reich he had had a well paid job with the German construction firm of Schneider. All of a sudden, after Germany's collapse, he discovered himself to be a fervent Communist and a hater of the Germans. As a member of the "National Committee" he became housing control officer. As such he directed in the most brutal manner many expulsions and lootings. He was responsible for the loss of several lives, among them that of his own brother-in-law, a certain Panak, who as a German had been interned in a camp at Brünn. The latter's wife, who had 10 underaged children, was transferred and it is said that she died in Bavaria. The 75-year-old father of Mr. Hartmann, a teacher, was put into the poor-house by this Dostal, where the old man died from hunger and cold the following winter. His wife, who was 70 years of age, hanged herself in her house before she could be expelled. Another Hartmann as well as one J. Pallik and several others were killed in the camp at Ratibor. The same Dostal sent my own relatives to the local camp, allowing them to take only a spoon and a blanket with them. Being familiar with the neighbourhood there is no doubt that he had a finger in most of the crimes and lootings as well as playing the role of informer. The feeble-minded Herentin and the one-eyed Rudolf Raab were brutally butchered. A former staff-sergeant by the name of Kunz, a man of 60 years of age, was beaten to death on a table-top, the partisans' favourite method. Zednik, a pensioner, was shot. Many women and even schoolchildren were raped. Mr. Steiger, the old grave-digger, told me that he had to bury 12 corpses in the first few days after the end of the war. Some of them had been murdered, others had committed suicide, among them a former ship's captain, Tobias, from Nimlau.

The Chairman of the National Committee was a teacher by the name of Hecl, another important Committee-member was Očenášek, the names of the rest of them are unknown to me. Other atrocities of which I had heard in the neighbourhood were the following:

A relative of mine had been raped by the Russians or partisans and her four-year-old son shot. She afterwards jumped into the well and drowned herself. When her mother heard of this, she and her second daughter also drowned themselves and the father set fire to the house and hanged himself in the flames. Tragedies like the one just described happened very often. Schwarz, an innkeeper, committed suicide, the old locomotive-stoker was shot, also a farmer by the name of Eduard Sach. The one-legged Glier and Franz Sauer, a clerk, were maltreated so badly that they died. Sander, a salesman, and another clerk by the name of Sach were ill-treated and then executed. H. Kwapil, who was a schoolfellow of mine, was severely ill-used and died of hunger in a camp.

I reported to the Committee, as every German had to do if he did not wish to lose his property. This was a trick to get hold of everyone. On the following days bills were posted with the inscription "Národní majetek" (National Property) on every German house. Other placards with inflammatory slogans and threats were also posted up at the street comers. They were signed by the National Committee and by either the mayor of the town or Dr. Zenkl or Dr. Blaha and other members. One night there appeared an armed gang in front of our house, who threw a heavy stone through the window. They demanded to be let in. The men went through everything. Finally they attempted to rape my wife. I was only able to prevent this by a vigorous intervention made possible by my knowledge of the language. The following day I went to the National Committee (Heel) and protested about the incident. They promised me satisfaction, but nothing followed. Later on I reported back to my former place of work and was ordered to take part in the cleaning-up of the railway-station together with Franz Müller, an official, and ten other colleagues. We were supervised by partisans, 17 or 18 years old, who spared us no threats or abuse.

In the middle of May 1945 we were told to report to the Russian Headquarters for registration. The secretary of the Communist party, one Slansky, ordered the station-police to take us there, but we were delivered instead to the camp at Hodolein. There were already about 2000 persons assembled, men, women and children. They had been fetched out of their apartments or had been seized in the train or on the street, in order to be robbed and maltreated at the camp.

The moment we arrived at the gate, our pockets were emptied by the guards who took away even our matches. Then the corporal of the guard unit laughed cynically and asked us: "Take your choice, do you want to be hanged or to be shot?"

After this they put us in little cells, intended for solitary confinements, into which 10 men had already been squeezed. Some of them had been dreadfully maltreated and showed black and blue weals on their faces and bodies. We had hardly room to breathe in the little cell. The heat, too, was unbearable. Outside, in the gangway, the partisans were looking for a certain Weiser from Sternberg. When they finally found him an hour later, he was terribly knocked about. Several days afterwards I met this man, who was about 60 years of age, in the courtyard. Whenever the partisans caught sight of him, they gave him a beating. At last he disappeared and only his green hat remained as a memento in our barrack. That first evening Müller and I were taken to barrack No 3, opposite the main guard house. There was much coming and going, for most people were searched and "interrogated" there - the cries of the tortured men were to be heard constantly. After interrogation the men were jammed into the cells. in the single rooms of the barracks a person had on the average 1.2 square yards of space at his disposal. It was only possible to sleep lying close by one another, packed like herrings, or sometimes only squatting or even standing. Everything was locked during the night. Nobody could leave. Sometimes indescribable scenes took place. Naturally we had nothing but the bare floor to sleep on and most of us had no blanket, not even an overcoat at our disposal. We were woken at 4 o'clock in the morning and then cleaned the cells. After "breakfast" the Czechs formed working squads for the removal of barricades, or refuse and so on. Our diet consisted of a cup of unsweetened black coffee and a piece of bread morning and evening, at noon a thin potato or cabbage soup with 40 to 50 g bread. All the meals taken together amounted to no more than 300 to 400 calories per day, although we had to do heavy work. The number of deaths would have increased considerably if relatives and acquaintances outside the camp, or our employers, had not given us food secretly. Several inmates collapsed - after they had spent 14 days in the camp - from exhaustion and hunger. In addition they were maltreated by the partisans. At night, especially in the barracks situated at the rear, the most atrocious cases of ill-treatment occurred regularly. The torturers used for their beatings heavy metal-studded whips or steel rods. Whenever the maltreated men collapsed bleeding, cold water was poured over them. The next morning they were driven again to their work. The corpses of those who had been beaten to death were buried without ceremony somewhere behind the barracks. Hearses often drove up. Some of the inmates committed suicide when their torments became unbearable, as for instance Hvabcik, the soap-boiler of our village. When the tired and half-starved working columns returned to the camp in the evening and failed to march in smartly enough, they had to have extra drill until some of them collapsed - notwithstanding which they received further kicks and blows. German boys of school age were also forced to parade and to sing inflammatory Czech songs on penalty of beating and the withholding of food. The prisoners were maltreated by having their beards pulled out, they received kicks or blows and were placed by a wall, against which their heads were thrust with violence. For quite trivial reasons people were put into the damp and dark cellar on bread and water. Many were tortured to death in these cells. After staying down there for only a few days the men looked as shabby and run-down as tramps. Among them were some acquaintances of mine, as for instance Eduard Biebel, a farmer, and a retired railroad employee by the name of Matzner. I often saw German boys of 15 or 16 years, dragged to the cellar by policemen or partisans. Arriving there, they were clubbed and otherwise maltreated. Many never left the cellar alive. On Czech national holidays an extra beating was regularly added to the normal quota. Among the policemen there were many familiar faces, whose names unfortunately I did not know. Only a certain Labounek was known to me by name. It was said that several professional killers boasted of 50 to 60 homicides. They prophesied "mountains of coffins" and I believe that this prophecy was realized. Nobody's life was safe. A Silesian engineer from Schweidnitz of some such name as Keitke was hanged without previous trial or interrogation, allegedly because he had made an unexpected attack on the guards! In actual fact he had only defended himself against the usual maltreatment and he had now to atone for it. He marched to the gallows apathetically, his head bruised and swollen. The corpse was left hanging in the courtyard for several days. A Czech cloth-merchant named Hunka, another man and later on a number of Germans were ordered to kneel in front of the corpse. The Germans were forced to call out in the courtyard: "We thank our Führer!"

On May 29th, all "internees" were commanded to fall in. Orders were read out and the artisans were picked out from among the prisoners. Later on the roll was called in front of the barracks and the men were reassigned to different barracks. I now slept in barrack No 11, where glazier's work had to be done, together with my comrade Müller. The reassignment went with a hail of insults and blows from the brutal guards. The final amusement was to make the inmates turn somersaults in the gangway, beating them while they did so. Müller got off quite lightly, while I myself sneaked round the barrack and crept in through the window. We both lay down on the floor in the dark. Suddenly Müller, who was already half asleep, imagined that the partisans had called his name in the gangway. All my objections were in vain, he stood up and went outside to report. The brutes received him with abusive words, drove him back to the cell and told him that they would come for him later on. After an hour had passed, some of the men entered. They did not see me in the dark. They dragged Müller across the gangway to the guard-room, where others were assembled; there the howling mob tore his clothes off and lashed the naked victim almost to death. I was stiff with terror as I listened to the screams of pain and cries for help of my tortured comrade, but I was unable to assist him, for the same would only have happened to me. When the blood splashed around too much, the guards dragged him across the gangway to another room, in order not to make a mess of the guard-room. They then completed their infernal work. The commandant of the barrack was one Vítavský and to him Müller had surrendered his money, amounting to 1000 Kčs; the receipt, however, showed only 850 Kčs; a matter actually of no importance, but Müller hoped that because he had not protested he might receive better treatment in the camp. At the beginning he seemed to be right. I should mention here that Müller was no Nazi, on the contrary, he had been, like myself, a member of the Trade Union for many years. Following a sudden inspiration, I packed my few belongings, jumped again through the window and went across the courtyard to my former lodging, barrack No 2. When I arrived there at 11 o'clock p. m., I ran into the arms of the partisans, who were making one of their usual searches, during which they took from the prisoners whatever they wished. I was struck a number of times and was ordered to place myself with my face against the wall.

After a very minute interrogation, during which I used some excuses, I was allowed to go to sleep. Of course, I did not sleep very much and my first steps in the morning after the reveille led me back to barrack No 11, in order to get information about Müller. Since the entrance to the barrack was watched, I crawled through the window as on the day before. Poor Müller, who was rather stout, lay naked on his cloak on the floor, a glass of water next to him. His back was one black and bleeding wound, the skin burst open from the lashes. At some spots the torn flesh stuck out. But strong as he was, he was still breathing. I attempted to get a few drops of water into his mouth, but it was in vain, he was evidently dying. With great care I crawled out of the room again and joined up with a working column. When I returned in the evening, Dr. Himmel, who was just then in barrack No 2, told me that Müller had died early in the morning and had been buried somewhere or other. Deeds like the one just described happened unnumbered times. I worked for several days at the section of the railway line near Stefanau. One of the Czech railroadmen, whom I did not know, abused me whereupon the partisans gave me several blows with their rifle butts. The railroadman then said: "I like Germans best four meters under ground!"

In the middle of June 1945 a former Czech colleague from my office helped me to get out of the camp, in order to work for a Czech farmer at Nedweis. Seven other workers, all of whom I knew, came with me. S., the farmer, at least gave us enough food to appease our hunger, even though we were still treated like prisoners. We slept in a small room in the basement, pressed against one another. The room was filled with vermin. Here too we suffered some chicaneries, although not to the same extent as in the camp. The farmer, who spoke German fluently, proved himself to be humane. When the Russians entered the farm he hid himself and let his relatives negotiate with them. There were also some other Czechs who behaved like human beings and helped us in other ways.

In general, nobody was allowed to walk on the streets without a permit, even if he were only fetching laundry from his relatives. The badge with the "N" [for the Czech word Nemec = German] had always to be worn, otherwise we were subject to annoyances. We could go into the town only at our own risk. There we were forbidden to walk on the pavement or to use the streetcar; it was easy to get into fights or to get sent back to a camp. In spite of all this I succeeded in getting into town a few times, since my wife was employed there. I noticed that actual murderers were now publicly lauded as "heros" in newspapers and on posters, as for instance a certain Jan Smurda who at Pirk had shot two German border policemen and injured a third and who had escaped. This man was nicknamed admiringly "Jan-who-could-not-be-caught". There was also a certain Šafář from Nimlau who boasted of having stabbed at Olmütz, in the Romhofgasse, a man called Svoboda (or a similar name), who had been a member of the SA. A young fellow also from Nimlau by the name of König, who worked with us, told me about Šafář. On the other hand the names of many Germans were also publicly pilloried, although they had never touched a hair on the head of any Czech; they were denounced as monsters and the scum of humanity merely because they had held a public office. There were also many fanatics who distinguished themselves in the persecution of Germans. Among these were especially the following: a youth by the name of Walter Kořalka (who by the way had German relatives), one Andrysek and his son, both teachers, the Czechs Barta, Čuka, Polonský, Kolman and others. All these were outstanding in the persecution of defenceless Germans, instigating beatings and arrests. These people once faked a case of arson, which they laid at the door of the Germans. As a result of this B. Hausner, a man who had had his leg amputated, was severely maltreated. Albertine Kollmann, a German girl, hanged herself several days after Germany's collapse in order to avoid rape and ill-use. A cattle-dealer by the name of Dostal beat the dead girl's body with a pole. Her mother, a woman of 60 years of age, was sentenced to ten years penal servitude because she had once slapped a Czech. In this region many German men were severely ill-treated by the partisans and the women raped. Just as everywhere else, almost all Germans of both sexes from ten years upwards were sent to the camps. Coufal, a teacher of 60 years of age, was tortured to death in a camp after he had spent a week there. The local National Committee, presided over by Andrysek senior, gave the order for Kleiber, Müller and Skacel, all of them farmers, to be put in jail, where they were executed. These men were accused of having been responsible for getting a Czech into a concentration camp during the period of the Third Reich. The notorious judges of the People's Court were one Matura and one Svoboda.

The unchristian activities of part of the Czech clergy should also be mentioned here. They claimed the major credit for the expulsion and extermination of the Germans by reason of their underground activities during the war.

The priest of our own village prohibited Germans from visiting the church and refused to consecrate the corpses of Germans, who were then buried in some corner without ceremony.


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Survivors speak out