Report No. 120
Reported by: Franz Tengler
In 1942, as I still had my Czech citizenship, I was called to Kladno where I was told, since my parents were Germans: "You've got a choice, either you enlist or you'll be sent to a concentration camp." I chose the first option, and after an army medical exam I became a GvH [gendarme?]. I went through the training course, and fell ill. I spent a year in the army hospital and was then sent back to my regiment in Tábor. I stayed there for a short time and was then sent to Prague; after a brief time in Prague I was posted to a bridge guard detail in Dobrichovic. Following the surrender, the bridge guards were arrested by the Czechs and quartered in a school. 358 men and 9 women were quartered there. We stayed in Dobrichovic for two days and were then moved on to Beraun. As I speak Czech perfectly, I was used as interpreter for the transport, which was led by the Czech gendarmerie. Before moving out of Dobrichovic, I got a Czech major to issue us a paper stating that our group was a labor gang, had not been in combat, and was unarmed; I believed that with the aid of this paper the transport would proceed smoothly.
Each Czech Communist carried a gun, and considered every [German] soldier to be a member of the Waffen-SS. We moved out of Dobrichovic without any difficulty or harassment. But outside Tetín we were stopped by Vlasov troops; the leader of these troops ordered the women thrown into the water. Since the Beraun River was not deep at that point, we managed to pull them out again. Then the leader of the Vlasov troops ordered a sergeant major from our unit to undress, took his clothes away and gave him his own louse-ridden clothing instead. Then he said that he would take one of our lives in retribution for his mother, who had allegedly been shot by the Germans. I went to him and spoke to him in Czech, and in Russian as best I could, to dissuade him from his purpose. I managed it; and he let us move on.
Near Beraun we were greeted by Communists with guns at the ready. But there was no major incident. They took charge of our group and locked us into a garage. The first two days went by quietly, but on the third day the Communists stormed in and body-searched everyone to see if anyone from the Waffen-SS was among us; I honestly didn't know, but I showed them the paper that the Czech major had given me. As I found out later, there were in fact 14 SS-men in our group, but they had been drafted into that unit only at the very end of the war. Four men who were found to have the SS tattoo were taken out of the group and trampled to a pulp before our very eyes; and when they lay on the ground all covered in blood, they were doused with water and yanked back onto their feet, forced to hold photographs of Hitler against their chest, and put on display for the crowd in the barrack square. Some Communists pressed a pistol against my chest and told the others, "Watch this fellow, he's one of them too." I never found out how the four men who had been led off ended up.
On the fifth day we were handed over to the American forces who took us to the concentration camp in Rokycan. I fell ill in that camp and was taken to the hospital in Pilsen. But as the hospital was overfull, the new arrivals had to spend the night in the garden. After a few days I felt better and therefore I was sent to Tepl, near Marienbad. After half a year I was discharged to stay with my aunt in Hermannshütte. I spent almost three months there; I planned to wait until things quieted down, and then I wanted to return to Beraun, to my wife. I did so. But the very night I arrived in Beraun I was arrested by the Czech criminal police and locked into the barracks where I, like the other inmates, was beaten on my naked upper body by four men armed with rubber truncheons, until I lost consciousness. When I had to answer the call of nature, which was allowed only under guard, I saw a dead soldier in the cubicle next to mine. His silver cross still lay beside his body. I do not know how many soldiers lost their lives in these barracks.
My health deteriorated more each day, and my nerves suffered most of all. After five months I was sent to a concentration camp, where I was immediately assigned to a work detail. We were quartered 120 men in one room. There was no way at all to wash, and it was not long before the lice got out of hand. Almost every day we were searched for weapons and cigarettes. The treatment and rations in this concentration camp were beneath all human dignity, and so it was no wonder that half the inmates died of starvation and the other half were mere skin and bones. Just one example, the fate of my friend Andreas Rott: he was in the Sick Room, as he had tuberculosis. His mother was imprisoned in the women's section of the same concentration camp; but she was not allowed to visit her son as he lay fighting for his life, to exchange a few kind and consoling words with him. I visited this gravely ill man every day after work to change his bedding. A merciful fate soon released him from his suffering.
Critically ill inmates were housed in an attic room, whereas the deceased were taken into the cellar. One day, as I was again carrying a corpse from the attic to the cellar, I saw how a woman who was still showing signs of life was also being taken into the dark cellar.
Depending on where workers were needed, I worked in a quarry, an iron foundry and on a farm. Despite the very hard labor the rations were totally insufficient, and very bad: barley groats without salt, peas without salt. For those in the Sick Room there was a small piece of bread in the morning, a bit of soup with four pieces of potato at noon, and some cabbage soup in the evenings. Sometimes there were a few boiled potatoes in their jackets. The potatoes were salted only on holidays.
But despite the inadequate rations, maximum work performance was demanded. When I was working on the large farm, I was expected to unload 28 wagon loads of grain into the machine [thresher?] within 9 hours. During the fieldwork I observed how one woman - she is said to be the wife of a professor - could not bind the grain sheaves as quickly as was expected, since this kind of work was totally unfamiliar to her. The guard on duty also observed this, leaped at the woman in a rage and dealt her such a blow that she fell. In his inhumanity he then even kicked her in the stomach, so that she screamed in pain. But it was impossible to help the woman, as doing so entailed the risk of being shot down by the guard. I do not know what happened to this woman after that.
On this large farm there were also evacuated German women from the Reich, who were also conscripted into labor. Whenever Russian soldiers came to this farm these women were mercilessly raped by them.
In this concentration camp there was also a student who was beaten until he had become totally feebleminded; we were never able to find out just why he was being beaten.
After some time the concentration camp was moved from Skurov to Karlstein. Once again I became gravely ill, and was transferred to a hospital in Beraun. The food was better there. Even though I was not yet fully recovered, I was put to work in the hospital. In 18-hour shifts I had to cart 140 Zentner [14 metric tons] of coal into the boiler room and to stoke one and sometimes even two boilers to keep the hospital supplied with steam and hot water. To save some time I set up my pallet in the boiler room.
During this time my wife was admitted to the same hospital, as she lived in Beraun. She had to have an operation. According to my wife she had been raped by a Czech, and was pregnant; due to sepsis the operation had to be performed without delay. I was forbidden to go see my wife. When I had managed to obtain permission, I only saw that my wife was dying, as the operation had been performed too late. At midnight I left the hospital and returned to the boiler room. At 5 o'clock in the morning I was awakened by the telephone; the nurse who had been attending my wife informed me that my wife had passed away. She was taken to the morgue, 10 steps from my place of work. My wife was Czech by birth, but she had automatically become German because I am a German. A Czech living in the same house as I - politically he was Communist - had requested that my wife should be buried in a mine shaft. My brother-in-law managed to prevent this, and so my wife was buried in her mother's grave.
Several weeks after the funeral I was assigned to a transport and shipped off to
the Harz Mountains (Russian Occupation Zone). From there I went to the
American Zone. I no longer recall the exact dates, since the repeated
maltreatment in the various camps has left me with brain, gall bladder and