Report No. 337
Reported by: Max Griehsel Report of September 7, 1950
On June 3  I was called to the Community Office in Johnsdorf. Once there, I was told to wait outside the door. After about half an hour two SNB-men and that Chairman of the Národní výbor accompanied me back to my parents' home, where I was staying at the time. I was told to surrender what weapons I still had. Since I didn't have any, I was unable to oblige. After they searched all the rooms, they took me by car to the court prison in Tetschen. Here I had to stand facing the wall, and everything I had in my pockets was taken from me. Then I was shoved into a cell already holding about 15 men. I was greeted there by my comrade Karl Wischolit, about whom I had heard that he had been taken and shot by the Russians. More new victims were constantly brought in, some of whom showed signs of severe maltreatment.
The next day one Helmut Kuhn was brought in. He claimed to have been in the concentration camp Buchenwald. He introduced special new methods of maltreatment. One popular sport was to face two inmates off against each other, making them "go at each other" until one of them sank to the ground and could not go on. And then the Czechs would still brutally beat these unfortunates. Our rations consisted of a little watery soup and one loaf of bread per ten men. This went on for three days.
On June 6, 1945 we were lined up in the yard, loaded onto a bus and taken to Bodenbach, where we - some 60 persons - were squeezed into a cattle car and later unloaded in the train station of Rabstein. From there we had to march on foot to the concentration camp in Rabstein. We were escorted there by soldiers of the Svoboda army. Other Czech soldiers or partisan groups already awaited us in the camp.
We had to march into the camp in pairs. The soldiers took up position in such a way that we had to pass right by them, and then they beat us with rubber hoses. I avoided a blow aimed at my throat by ducking my head. Angry at not having landed a proper blow, the soldier ran after me and hit me over the head so badly that I staggered. Once we had arrived in the square, we had to strip totally naked and place our clothes on a pile. Then we were issued old and unspeakably filthy prison clothing. We were squirted with water and then chased into the barracks. Gross maltreatment was the order of the day.
We got so little to eat that people collapsed from hunger. Any opportunities we might have had to snatch a bit of bread or a few potatoes on the side were prohibited, and anyone who tried it anyway and got caught received 25 blows across his buttocks with the rubber hose.
Beyond that, individuals were also singled out to be victimized. They were led into the basement and beaten so brutally that many of them did not make it back out alive. Many chose suicide (for example the master builder Appelt from Bohemian Kamnitz). One man by the name of Przkal had served as a guard soldier in the Mattausch Plant and had been attacked by a Cypriot. He had fended him off. For this act of self-defense Przkal was beaten and tortured for days and then, one day, literally trampled to death in one of the barracks. Since he had tried to justify himself by saying that he had acted in self-defense, his beatings were accompanied by constant brutal shouts of, "Ja ti dám notwehr".
Many another German who had been framed or denounced shared the same fate as Przkal. For example, the case of Dr. Anton Kreisel from Bodenbach. He was left unmolested for one or two weeks. Then, repeated "treatments" in the basement inflicted physical damage to such an extent that he died of the consequences. The last time he was so inhumanly maltreated in the basement, he lost consciousness and was revived with cold water. He then contracted pneumonia, and died of it. His brother Lutz Kreisel, who was imprisoned in Rabstein at the same time, can confirm it.
Women were also brought to Rabstein, and treated just as inhumanly as the men. They were also forced to do the Czech soldiers' bidding sexually. Rapes were the order of the day.
Every now and then, someone escaped. Then we all had to line up outside. Dr. M. from B. was the camp physician. One day, when he had escaped, we were made to stand lined up from 6 o'clock in the evening until 5 the following morning. We also had to do all sorts of exercises: squats, running with knees bent, etc. Many of the old and sick prisoners collapsed; they were carried off and left to lie where they were dumped. During roll-call it often happened that someone mis-counted. Then the barrack elders were punched and beaten for it. One time someone was missing again. After much searching he was found: he had hanged himself in a corner of the basement. Now all the men who shared the same barrack room with him were beaten.
Of course people were also denounced in the Rabstein camp. A Czech by the name of Teltscher snooped around everywhere. Having been born locally, he spoke German as well as Czech. Many were sent to the basement on his instigation.
The actual commandant of the camp was a Captain who lived in Bohemian Kamnitz. Whenever he came for inspection in the evenings, everyone in the camp trembled. Another Czech staff captain resided in Tetschen Castle. In the time I was in the camp, he came three times to conduct night inspections. A Czech named Kucera had been committed to the camp because he had served with the German Wehrmacht. The staff captain beat him brutally and screamed at him: "You served with the German army and now you claim to be a Czech!" Crude curses against the German Wehrmacht then followed. This man Kucera was repeatedly "treated" in the basement.
One time, more Germans - men and women alike - were again being brought in by car. Every time when newcomers arrived, we had to go into the barracks and close the wooden shutters. But these shutters were cracked, and we could peek out. I witnessed one reception of new arrivals. The people were crammed into the car like herrings. Then they had to jump out. A Czech stood there with his leg out, so that they all fell over it. Several brutal thugs were also there and cruelly beat the Germans regardless whether they were men or women, young or old.
Starvation and maltreatment were the Czechs' "educational techniques". The aforementioned Helmut Kuhn ultimately became camp elder, and as such he has the deaths of many Germans on his conscience.
Among the Czech soldiers was one who spoke to me several times. I never learned his name. Once he asked me what sort of relationship we had with our camp elder, Helmut Kuhn. I told him that there were many here who could not understand Kuhn's actions against the rest of us.
All medications in the camp were destroyed. Barracks searches were carried out for the Czechs' amusement. The smallest trifles they found - a pencil stub, paper or even a knife - prompted furious outbursts. The culprit could count himself lucky if he received his beating in the barrack. For more serious offenses, he was taken to the basement. - In the evenings we had to stand guard to ensure that none of the despairing prisoners sneaked into the basement to hang himself. When we begged the Czechs not to take prisoners to the basement any more, because then many were so afraid that they preferred to commit suicide, they promised that we would not be beaten any more. But the next day the beatings went on, perhaps even worse than before. We were forced to do pointless work in order to torment us and to provide occasion to beat us. One man was beaten so badly that his eye burst and drained. There was no medical care for him, and so he was left to go blind.
On August 20, 1945 I and 30 other comrades were sent away from Rabstein and posted to a labor team. We had to work for the entrepreneur Frantisek Ruzek on a small repair shipyard for Elbe and Moldau barges in Staré Ouholice. Ruzek's main objective was to get the most he could out of us. His son was a crude fellow who also beat some of us. The civilian guard was decent to us; his wife slipped many of us some extras, but it always had to be done in utmost secrecy.
On March 7, 1946 my right hand got caught in the circular saw. There was no safety guard on the saw. I was taken by motorcycle to a doctor by the name of Weltrus, who looked at the wound and put some drops of hydrogen peroxide and a loose gauze bandage on it. At 4:30 pm I was admitted to the Raudnitz hospital to be operated. I was put into a room where there were almost exclusively Czech patients. While the Czechs received their prescribed diet, the Germans had their early-morning coffee supplemented only with potatoes, with or without some sauce, and rarely with a few dumplings with a bit of sauce. We were constantly mocked. The nurse (all the nurses belonged to the Norbertine Order) only ever gave me the sleeping powder that the doctor had prescribed for me, after I begged her for it repeatedly. For 14 days I had a fever and was always very thirsty. In the evening I asked her for some tea. She told me, "drink water, that's good for thirst too." A Czech partisan, a Communist by the name of Fryda, from Raudnitz, had been there since May 1945, being treated for an injury. He repeatedly bragged that he had blown the German soldiers away like rabbits.
When I was half-way recovered again, I was transferred to another part of the hospital where only Germans were quartered. Rations were even worse there. We usually did not even receive what little was earmarked for us. After three months I was discharged. First I was sent to Lobkowitz Castle in Raudnitz. A kind of temporary camp had been set up there. We were not treated too harshly. I spent about three weeks there.
Then young Ruzek from Staré Ouholice came to pick me up, and took me to Tetschen. However, I was not admitted in Tetschen, and sent to Aussig instead, into the concentration camp Lerchenfeld. Approximately 4,000 Germans (roughly 3,000 men and about 1,000 women) were detained there. The administrator of this camp had used to operate a merry-go-round, and he treated us very decently, in his opinion. He addressed the women as swine and whores and us men as "lazy Hitler-swine".
From there I was sent to the resettlement [expulsion] camp of Altstadt near Tetschen. I had to stay there until November 23, 1946. Then I was committed to the court prison in Bohemian Leipa. The guards and inspectors there treated us very roughly and brutally. Our Czech fellow-prisoners, most of whom were criminal convicts, exercised a regular reign of terror over us. They were our room commandants; none of us were allowed to sit down.
On November 29, 1946 the People's Court in Bohemian Leipa sentenced me, a former employee of the German Labor Front, to 5 years' imprisonment, which was commuted to forced labor. The trial lasted all of 8 to 10 minutes: the Court rose, withdrew behind a curtain, came out the other side, and read the verdict. There was no defense.
In the course of the next few days, we, that is the convicted prisoners, were issued prison clothing, and then we were sent off to work. Due to my crippled hand I was unable to do many tasks at all or to the satisfaction of the civilian or state overseers, and was therefore a favorite target for harassment. "Ty svine germanský! Hitlerový bandit!" were the guards' usual terms for us. I spent many weeks working in the former Bohemia Wagon Works in Bohemian Leipa. The work there was especially hard. We received enough potatoes to eat, but very little fat. Then I was sent for a time to work in the former Jahnel Scrap Iron and Second-Hand Goods business, where we were assigned only hard labor. Women were also put to work in this establishment.
In August 1947 I and five others were sent to the Bory Prison, near Pilsen. The SNB that escorted us were decent fellows and allowed us to use our money, insofar as we had any, to buy soup, bread, sausage and even cigarettes. But when we arrived in the train station of Pilsen they urged us to hurry up and finish smoking our cigarettes so that they would not get into trouble for it.
After admission to the prison, we were put into the so-called correction cells. More than 2,500 inmates, mostly political prisoners, were housed here. For two days I was sent to work in the Skoda Works, then a transport was put together and we were sent to Libkowitz near Maria Ratschitz, where we were assigned to work in the coal pits Kohinoor I and II.
Some 140 fellow-sufferers were already there.
We had to work 10-12 hours each day. Our rations here included sufficient fat, but only 400 g bread per day.
Our camp doctor was Dr. Gaag, a physician from Eger, who had also been sent here as political prisoner. He did his level best for us and helped wherever he could. In January 1949 I heard that he had died of tuberculosis in the Bory hospital.
After some time I was sent back to Bory. I had to stay there for about a week and then I and another fellow-sufferer were sent to work on a state farm in Sedlecko near Klattau. 16 prisoners were already working there. Our rations were good, but meager; there was little bread. But at harvest time we received 3 cups of whole milk and a little more bread daily.
On October 1, 1948 I was recalled from there, back to Bory. I hoped that I was to be released, since after all two-thirds of my sentence were already over. But that was a vain hope. On October 4 I and several comrades were sent to Kaznejov (Gaßnau near Pilsen). It was a chemical factory, and we again had to do hard labor there. The civilian militia was a crude bunch and constantly drove us to work harder. There was enough to eat, but the rations were quite devoid of fat.
Then our work team was disbanded, and I was sent back to Bory along with the others. We spent 4 days there before being sent out with another work team, this time to Horní Briza, a kaolin plant near Pilsen. We were treated pretty decently there.
On March 19, 1949 we were again sent back to Bory. For the first time ever, I now heard German being spoken here, and some individual guards even condescended enough to speak German to us now.
On March 23, 1949 we were sent to the resettlement [expulsion] camp Alt-Habendorf near Reichenberg. Those of us who had money could buy whatever they wanted now. For my more than 2 years of hard labor in the prison I had received 192 Czech crowns. Whatever else we should have received for our work was kept back by the Czech state.
On April 6, 1949, after 14 days in Alt-Habendorf, we were put on a transport and shipped off to Germany.
Reported by: Karl Pleß, engineer Report of September 15, 1946 (Tetschen)
I was born on July 16, 1881 at Graupen near Teplitz-Schönau, Sudetenland. As an architect I taught at the school of architecture in Tetschen, from September 1st 1913 to May 8th, 1945 (33 years). On July 8, 1945 at quarter past 2 in the morning I was arrested by the Czechs, together with my family, consisting of my wife, my daughter-in-law and my 2½-year-old grandson, and then interned in the military prison at the castle of Tetschen. Over a period of 14 days a Czech commissar would lash me at any hour of day or night with a steel whip in such a manner that my whole body was encrusted with blood. Many times I became unconscious as a result of blows on the head and was left lying on the floor. Being considered as a major offender, I was kept in solitary confinement. At the time of our arrest my wife had not even been allowed to dress herself. She had been forced to accompany us in her night-gown and she remained without other clothing for four weeks. She was also beaten and dragged round by her hair in the cell.
The [secondary school teacher] Victor Kerbler, who resided in the same house, was arrested together with me. My colleague Mr. Kerbler suffered a concussion of the brain as a result of blows on the head so that for several days he talked in a confused way. He was released as not guilty after three weeks. Four weeks later I and my wife were taken to Böhmisch-Kamnitz. There we were minutely cross-examined and afterwards brought back to the prison at the castle of Tetschen where we were released the next day. On our arrival at our apartment we discovered that it had been requisitioned by a Czech teacher. We were not allowed to take anything out of the apartment. Nothing remained in our possession except what we were wearing. A friend gave me a suit and some underwear. On December 17, 1945 we left our home-country.
My report is in accord with the truth.