102. The murders in Klodawa
Report of the experiences of Otto Kaliske, master-baker of Rakwitz.
Kaliske, master-baker, on Oct. 4, 1939, deposed on oath as follows:
On Sept. 1, 1939, at about 9.30 a. m., I was arrested and taken to the police-station by about 20 armed men belonging to the "Narodowce" (National Party) and the "strzelce" (semi-military riflemen). I was told I was to be interned and was at first locked in a prison cell. Later on, 13 other men were put into my cell; in the end, the prison was so full that we had to be led into the prison yard. From Rakwitz we were about 40 men and 2 women; among us there was an invalid With both legs missing and a second with only one leg, as well as a 15-year-old girl and an 18-monthold child. About 40 others from the German village of Tarnowo joined us so that altogether our group consisted of about 80 persons. At about 3 p. m. we were transported away on rack-waggons in the direction of Posen. Some of the men were barefooted and jacketless just as they had been found in the field. An escort of 5 men was detailed to accompany us. The first halt was made in the market place at Grätz, where we were abused and ill-treated. During one of the next halts, at Stenschewo, we were severely beaten with cudgels. When we stopped again on the outskirts of the village, the ill-treatment we were subjected to was particularly bad. Herr Neumann of Rakwitz who sat on the waggon next to me received such a violent blow on the head with a waggon stanchion that he died 10 minutes later. We were nearly all bleeding freely.
At Fabianowo, just outside Posen, our leader called a halt at a field outpost, at about 11 p. m., the man in charge being told that we were rebels. After receiving further ill-treatment during the halt, the Polish soldiers fired blindly at our six waggons, as we were starting off, and Druse of Tarnowo sustained a bullet wound in the abdomen; he screamed in agony for about half an hour and then died. Otto Werner was also wounded in the abdomen which caused his death the following day. Otto Werner's son received 2 bullets in the leg; Eppler, a teacher, one in the thigh and genitals; Fischer, a farmer, one that went right through the hip. Hoffmann, of Rakwitz, got a bayonet thrust in the thigh. At Posen we were conveyed to the barracks of the old 6th Grenadier Regiment. Later, we continued with the dead bodies and the injured on the waggons through the main streets of Posen until at last we stopped in the suburb of Glowno where we were led into a hall. Here the wounded were bandaged by a nurse and then conveyed to a Posen hospital. The bodies of the two dead men were left behind at Glowno on the waggon in the street. After the Posen internees had joined us, among whom were several leading personages of Posen, we were all marched off in a group of 150 to 200 men in the direction of Schwersenz. Every time we came to, or marched through, a village of any size, we again suffered maltreatment at the hands of the inhabitants, whereby some of us were wounded on each occasion and had to drag ourselves along with difficulty. I believe it was at Babiak that we had to hand over all our money, our watches and other valuables to the Polish troops, and we were then escorted to a farm outworks near Klodawa. When we were starting off from there, two women and three men were unable to continue, and remained lying; among them were Herr von Treskow, aged 65 and a Fraulein Bochnik. Two young men remained behind with them to protect them. We had not gone very far when we heard firing behind us. After our release we were informed that all seven of them had been shot.
In a village outside Babiak, the Schmolke family consisting of the father, a one-legged invalid, his wife, their 15-year-old daughter and their 18-months-old child as well as another one-legged invalid named Jentsch had to be left behind. From the latter we heard also that they had been shot there. Their bodies are still being looked for, and our pastor Schulz has gone there today with some detectives to help in the search.
From Kostschin on, we proceeded on our march in an altogether haphazard fashion, and we noticed that we were getting nearer and nearer to the front or rather that the front was coming nearer and nearer to us. On Sept. 17, 1939, at Zechlin we were set free by German infantry and brought via Kutno and Lodsch to Sieradz from where we were sent back home by rail.
Read, approved and signed
(signed) Otto Kaliske
Source: WR II
103. Held up to the ridicule of the mob
Report made by Ulrich Schiefelbein, of Rakwitz, concerning the fatal march, to Kutno
On Sept. 1, 1939, at Rakwitz, nearly all the Germans were fetched out of their houses by heavily armed Polish hooligans, for internment. The Transport proceeded in the afternoon of the same day, and we first reached the city of Gratz, where we were received by the Polish mob with a volley of stones after which knives came into play. On reaching the market, we were subjected to storms of abuse and were beaten with beer-bottles and other objects. We were delivered over to the mob who spat in our faces, without receiving any protection whatever from our escort. After the mob had vented their fury on us, we proceeded on our way to Ptaszkowo where we met with the same ill-treatment as at GratZ. They could have taken us through the towns and villages direct to Posen without a halt, but they did not do so. They purposely made us stop at every fair-sized place in order to surrender us to the mercy of the expectant and furious mob. Our way then led to Steszew where the first deaths occurred. Konrad Neumann, minority German of Rakwitz, was beaten with a stave until le showed no further signs of life. Gustav Hoffmann, a minority German of Rakwitz, received deep cuts and stabs in the leg. The other Germans were so badly hurt with stones and blows that with few exceptions they all needed first-aid treatment, when they got to Posen.
The march of terror continued. We got within a short distance of Posen, and in the night were subjected to fire from a Polish military patrol. Our escort had already called their attention to us. After those of us on the first waggon had been dreadfully maltreated by blows with rifle butts and had begun to groan and cry, pleading that an end be made to this maltreatment,, as one of us had already been killed at Steszow, the commander of the patrol asked where he was. He was told that he was on the last waggon. He and a few soldiers then went to the last waggon, had a look at the dead man and then said: "What, you have only one dead and such an overfed pig at that!" The Polish soldiers then received the order from their commander to fire at us. The results were: One dead, named Gustav Druse, of Tarnow, and four injured These are: Otto Werner, who later died of his wounds, his son, Epler, a teacher, and a certain Kernchen, all of Tarnow. Friedrich Moers, a German, had 3 ribs broken from blows with rifle butts. The same night, at 4 o'clock in the morning, we landed in a barracks yard in Posen. There we were driven all round the town on show by two grammar school pupils armed with carbines, in order to have us further subjected to the usual beatings and abuse. We pulled up at a hall in the northern part of the town into which we were driven by two ruffians under a rain of blows and kicks. There, for the first time, we were allowed to sit on chairs, our hurts were attended to by a pitying nurse and we were allowed to do some shopping in the town under the protection of the police. In the afternoon we were joined by the Posen internees among whom were some notable persons such as doctors, solicitors and directors. At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we were led to sports grounds where we were obliged to sing the Polish National Anthem and suffer the ridicule of the young people of the town, after which we had to do military drill which did not stop until we were unable for sheer exhaustion to continue. In the evening of that day, we were taken, of course, on foot (as was always the case from then on) 6 miles further to Schwersenz . . . . . .
After a wearying day's march we arrived towards evening at a place beyond Konin. We did not enter the town itself because at the time of our arrival the place was being subjected to heavy bombing. When this was over we begged our escort to bring us some food from the town; the money for this purpose was accepted but we never saw the food, money or the escort again. From then on nobody bothered at all about providing us with food: We were left to starve and it depended only upon the kindness of passers-by as to whether they would sell us anything. From that time on, we always slept out in the open and this naturally resulted in several of our fellow sufferers being taken ill . . . . . .
We were later informed by one of our own people who escaped from the transport that from time to time about five men were picked out who were obliged to dig their own graves in a field, with their own hands, and were then shot. Those who had become weak were simply kicked aside and then shot. We found many of these lying in the highway ditch. I should like to take this opportunity of adding something I had forgotten. When, at Steszow, the wounded minority German Otto Werner, of Tarnow, begged for water, one of the escort, Maraszek, a milker of Rakwitz, replied: "Give him hogwash to drink!" Herr von Treskow; of Owinsk, when he asked permission to relieve himself, was seized by the beard, dragged out of the ranks and kicked into the ditch. This gentleman is over 70 years old; nobody worried any further about him. In the meantime we had arrived within a short distance of Kutno and were informed by fugitives that the front was situated near Kutno, that we were bottled up and that the region behind us had been evacuated by the Polish military. We therefore decided to march back and, suffering terrible privations, finally arrived at a farm where we spent 3 days digging up potatoes in exchange for food which consisted of boiled potatoes in milk. After these 3 days had passed, we wandered back again to Slesic, where we found ourselves under the protection of the German military who transported us together with the other German fugitives to Wreschen, where we of German descent were separated from the others and sent to our native land, which we reached in the evening of Sept. 18, 1939.
The report was drawn up by the German internee, Ulrich Schiefelbein of Rakwitz, conscientiously and to the best of his knowledge. The proof of the veracity of his statements is corroborated by the following whose signatures appear below.
(signed) Karl Gellert, Kurt Gutsche, Schiefelbein, Michael Lisznak, Edgar Arlt, Hans Gutsche
Source: WR (Ld. Schtz. Reg. 3/XI)
104. Murder of abducted persons on the march to Tulischkow/Tuow
Shot down in pairs. Of 181 abducted persons only 5 returned!
The Special Court Posen, November 18, 1939
Junior Judge Bömmels, as Judge,
Court Official Miehe, also Records Officer of the Office.
In the investigation into the abduction of Walter Kabsch, a minority German of Parsko, the overseer Walter Kabsch appeared and declared:
Re person: I am Walter Kabsch, aged 27, overseer in Parsko near Woinitz.
Re matter: I am overseer in the employ of Baron von Gersdorff, of Parsko. On September 1, 1939, Matuczak, the gardener on the estate, came to me and announced that I was arrested. I wanted to appeal to my employer. He, however, was already standing together with the administrator Golinski and the wheelwright Laubsch on the yard, and I saw that they too had already been arrested. I wanted to take flight, but Herr von Gersdorff told me that he was coming and that we were going together to a camp. I therefore remained and did not think any more of how. Matuczak had presumed to arrest us. He drove us to the police-station at Schmiegel. There he was asked why he had brought us, but I did not hear whether he gave an answer, and, if so, what answer he gave. The police transported us to Schacz and handed us over to the military. We found a large group of minority Germans already assembled there. Among them was also my brother Karl, from Woinitz, and my other brother Willi, from Alt-Boyen. When at 10 p. m. we were marched off in the direction of Kosten, we numbered about four hundred. From midnight until 3 a. m. we were housed in the gaol and were then led on to Schrimm, whence we proceeded to Schroda. Here the civilian population was engaged in digging trenches. As we were led past, the people flung themselves at our column and attacked us with spades. In this way a large number received wounds and bled very badly. I saw one man, whose nose and upper lip were completely severed. The escort did not allow the wounded to be attended to, but forced them to continue the march. We received just as little food on the first day as on the subsequent days. We had to share what some had brought with them, and eventually fed on swedes, which we gathered in the fields.
On the evening of this day we arrived at Paiser. Here we were accommodated in a hall and in groups of six were tied together by the wrists with thin cords. These were drawn together as tight as possible, with the result that our hands became blue and swollen from the stoppage of the flow of blood. People cried out in agony. Thus we were left bound all night. The next day, still bound, we were forced to march to Tulischkow, which the elder ones in the column said was about 45 miles distant. While marching I had succeeded in loosening my bonds a little. The others however were still bound so tightly that they were crying out in pain the whole way. In the villages the population reviled us and pelted us with sticks and stones, so that once more many of our number were injured. Many marched on with their faces covered with blood.
After passing Tulischkow, we were led on to a meadow. Herr von Gersdorff, who was 65 years of age and hardly capable of walking any further, stumbled as he was looking up at a German aeroplane. A soldier dealt him a blow with the butt of a rifle and he almost fell down. He regained his balance and shouted up to the aeroplane: "Heil Hitler!", whereupon the soldier struck him in the chest with the [p. 175] mouth of the rifle barrel, so that he fell into a ditch. The soldier then pulled the trigger. Nobody paid any heed to the dead man. We were not allowed to go near him.
On the meadow we were given very dirty water from the duckpond to drink, and allowed to rest for ten minutes. We then continued our march in the direction of Turek. During the night our column was divided at a well. The older men, who had been marching in front, had drunk first and were driven on. Our section, when we were numbered, consisted of 181, mostly young men.
We did not meet the first group again. The soldiers told us, as we were marching onwards, that we were all to be shot in Turek. As I can speak Polish, well, I asked the soldiers why we were to be shot, but received no reply. In the village the soldiers shouted to the civilian population that it was we who killed women and children. Thereupon the people naturally attacked the column and struck out blindly among us with whips, sticks or whatever else they could find handy. If any tried to ward off the blows or say anything, the guards themselves struck at us with their rifles. Some of us could no longer keep pace, being completely exhausted. The soldiers simply shot at these and then battered them to death with the butts of their rifles, if they had not been mortally wounded. That night about twenty of us were murdered in that way.
Towards 11 or 12 midday we reached Turek, but marched straight on. Shortly after Turek we were passing a farm, when a German aeroplane appeared. Our escort left us standing in the road, but themselves took shelter in the roadside ditches or behind the willows. The airman must have concluded from this movement that he had to do with a convoy of minority Germans, for he immediately subjected the willows to fire. Of the soldiers forming our escort, which meanwhile, the nearer we approached to the front had continued to increase in numbers until it now was between 80 and 90 strong, a large number was wounded. At this the soldiers became so enraged that. without even leaving their places of concealment, they blindly directed machine gun and rifle fire into the midst of our column. When we were driven forward again those who had been struck were left lying there. The soldiers did not trouble whether the people were dead or wounded. We now numbered only about a quarter of the 181 men of whom our group had originally consisted.
About one and a half or two hours march beyond Turek, the soldiers drove us on to a field We were forced to line up in double file. The soldiers formed a rank on our left front and then began, without anybody having said a word to us, to shoot us down in pairs. My brother Willi was standing beside me and my brother Karl a little further forward. He suddenly shouted: "Every man for himself!" He took to his legs, and I and my brother Willi also. The soldiers fired after us with machineguns and rifles. I stumbled and fell after about 200 yards. While I was still lying on the ground, I received a grazing shot in the head. My brother Willi immediately dragged me to my feet. We ran. on and, as I ran, I discarded my coat which had been pierced by several bullets. As the meadows at this spot are here and there covered with bushes, we succeeded in escaping. We spent the night concealed in a potatoe field, and after two days arrived at Kolo. Here we were once more taken by the military and brought up for court martial. We were told that if we were Poles we should be released, but that if we were Germans we should be shot. Nevertheless we declared that we were Germans, but in order to escape from our unpleasant position we explained that we had been driving requisitioned cattle to Paiser and had lost our way on the return journey as a peasant had apparently directed us wrongly. The officer shouted at us that we would do better to confess that we were spies and had murdered Polish women and children while their menfolk were at the front. When I replied that this was not true, he seized a rifle and struck me across the head just on the spot where the grazing shot had wounded me. The blow broke my skull. Later Dr. Theune, of Schmiegel, extracted from the wound a splinter, which I have myself seen. Dr. Henschke afterwards operated on me in Posen in the Deaconess Hospital and removed two fragments of bone. I sank to the ground beneath the blow, but soon regained consciousness and was transferred to prison, without anybody taking any notice of the wound. After two hours, towards 10 p. m., we were driven out of the prison with blows from a knout and taken into the town. At that moment another column of minority Germans was being driven through the town. We jumped into the middle of the column as they were marching in fours, and in this manner we were able to evade some of the blows levelled at us by the population and to which we had been far more exposed when marching two abreast. We marched with this column as far as Lowitsch and arrived there at about 10 in the morning. On this day the German troops had already advanced as far as Lowitsch. The escort wanted to drive us back, but we had not marched more than one and a half miles on the road back, when German armoured cars suddenly appeared. I was at first taken by the German troops to the hospital in Lodsch where I spent five days. I was then transferred to the hospital in Strehlen, remaining there about eight days, after which I returned to Schmiegel. There I learned that my brother Karl had arrived home safely, and later that of our column, the butcher Bogsch, of Schmiegel, and the farm manager Zabke, of Woinitz, had returned.
We five are the only ones of the group of 181, who escaped with our lives.
Read aloud, approved and signed
The witness thereupon formally took the oath
(signed) Bömmels (signed) Miehe
Source: Sd. Is. Posen 833/39
105. Pastor Leszczynski's report on the fatal march to Tarnowa
Mass graves found containing 30 and 70 mutilated bodies of Germans
Pastor Leszczynski, of Kosten, who was in the party of abducted persons up to Turek-Tarnowa, describes the death of 100 Germans on the fields near Tarnowa (1). The Germans shot and robbed at the place were found in two mass graves containing 30 and 70 terribly mutilated corpses. (See page 251: "Graves, only graves.". Front page of the "Posener Tageblatt" No 236.)
It was the 1st of September. Columns of cars with fugitives were driving through the town of Kosten. They were much hindered by the fleeing families of Post and Railway officials, who were hurrying with files to the station. In the hours of the afternoon an intoxicated horde of young Poles forced their way into my house and dragged me out into the street. Howling and screaming, they took me to the police prison. In one of the cells I met carpenter Bohm and harness-maker Schon. In the afternoon the arrested Germans were taken to the "Sokol" building (Youth Organisation) and their names recorded. In addition to Schon, Wegner, Bucholz (father and son), Bohn and myself, who all came from Kosten, there were chiefly inhabitants of Schmiegel, namely, Mieke, Halliand, Zugehor and Sohn, and others. In the evening we were taken to the court prison, where somewhat later newly arrested persons arrived who were pushed and driven with rifle butts into the cells.
On Sept. 2, about 300 of us under the charge of Police-sergeants Wawrzyniak and Schwarz, started on the way to Czempin via Kawczyn. On arrival at the latter place we were met by an agitated crowd, with horrible abuse. Simultaneously, the persecution of the Germans at Czempin started. Many of them, including Pastor Kienitz, were attached to one group. Then we went on to Schrimm. In Schrimm we were ill-treated for the first time. The march through the streets was like running the gauntlet. They beat us mercilessly with butts and sticks. I myself received several kicks on the upper thigh and in the small of the back. We were only at peace after we had been locked into the courtyard of the monastery.
The next day we went to Schroda, where we arrived at eventide. Also at this place we were ill-treated with blows, and stones were thrown at us. In the yard of a factory we had to sit down on the cobbles. The chief of the military command, to whom we were handed over, ill-treated us in the most cruel manner. He ill-treated in particular Pastor Kienitz, Mieke, and myself.
We continued the march on Sept. 3. During a halt, Germans from Schroda joined us, amongst them architect Gewiese. We were ill-treated in Miloslaw by an excited crowd, who beat us with sticks and threw stones at us. Many of us were bleeding from numerous wounds. Towards evening we reached Pyzdry, where we were quartered at the fire station. It was already the third day on which we had nothing to drink. In the early morning hours of the next day two each of the younger men
(1) Ostdeutscher Beobachter, No. 259, Nov 9, 1939.
were tied to one another and each six of such pails were chained together. We started off at about. 7 o'clock. It was not until the afternoon that we received some water.
During a halt, a shot was fired and I learnt that Herr v. Gersdorff had been shot. We then went on via Drosina towards the Polish front. In the twilight we could see the reflection of the gun shots. All the Germans in my group had sore feet and they could only drag themselves forward with difficulty. In Tulischkow soldiers dashed out of their quarters; they beat us and also fired. On the market square, where we had to squat on the pavement, machine-guns were placed in position. It was indicated to us that we would be shot. A medical staff officer intervened on our behalf and declared to a major that such a slaughter would be a disgrace to civilisation. As a result of this the execution was not carried out.
In the night we continued on our way. While we were drinking water at a farmstead, the main body of our people left us. 50 men remained behind who did not dare to follow the main body. We spent the night in a small wood. In the morning, some went off, among them also Dr. Bambauer. When we saw that they were being arrested at the entrance to a village by a guard, we fled to a near-by hill covered with trees. I could not keep step with the others and finally remained behind alone. From a juniper bush, where I hid myself, I heard a series of shots. No doubt the captured Germans had been shot down. The wood was surrounded by the military. I stayed there for three days without water and food. I guarded myself against the cold of the night by digging a hole in the ground with my hands. After the soldiers had marched off in the night of Sept. 9, I ventured to come out. An elderly farmer took care of me and took me to Tulischkow, where I was put into prison. Soon afterwards, ten other Germans were brought in who belonged to our group of 50 men that had remained behind. The treatment here was more humane. On September 16, after all the Polish authorities had gone away, we marched off to Konin, where we encountered German military.
Investigations as to the fate of the main body, from which the 50 men had separated; brought the following particulars to light. The Germans had been driven on to Turek. In the village of Tarnowa about 150 men were led from the main road on to a by-path, where they were ordered to climb on to a hill in a closed column across an open field. Prior to this the Poles had put two machine-guns into position on the hill and had posted soldiers on the opposite side, partly in the open and partly in the various farms and gardens. When the chased Germans were nearing the top of the hill, fire was opened upon them from the machine-guns. The Germans fell dead in masses, others threw themselves down. The machine-guns were firing for several minutes. During a pause in the firing, in which probably new cartridges were inserted, the survivors, about 75 men, jumped up and ran over the hill through a ravine towards a wood about 500 yards distant. They were protected from the machine-gun fire by some rising ground; now, however, the soldiers stationed at the left flank became active. A real drive now set in on those Germans who ran for their very lives. Most of them were shot dead and only a few reached the wood. Immediately afterwards the military rabble left their hiding-places. The dead and badly wounded Germans, lying in groups or singly, were belaboured with butts and bayonets. The dead bodies were plundered and hurriedly buried. Five days later the dead Germans were buried at the order of the Polish civil authorities by the surviving Germans from Tarnowa at the cemetary fence in Tarnowa in two mass graves of 30 and 70 corpses. These are the mass graves reported in the "Posener Tageblatt" of October 17. German women in Tarnowa narrated that the major part of the German male population of Tarnowa were bestially tortured to death. One of the Germans had his eyes gouged out. He was then driven to the next village where he was slain.
According to various accounts given by German women in Tarnowa, the greater part of the German male population in that town was brutally tortured to death. One of the men had both eyes gouged out, was then dragged to the next village and finally murdered.
106. Cartridge as evidence
The murder of Krüger
The witness Anna Krüger, of 62 Brahestrasse, Bromberg-Jägerhof, gave the following evidence on oath:
. . . . Shortly after midday, civilians and soldiers in uniform came and asserted that my husband had fired a machine-gun. The dwelling was searched, firstly by a soldier and then by a civilian. The soldier found nothing. The civilian placed his hand on the wardrobe and ordered the soldier to examine it again. The soldier took out a small cartridge from it, on which grounds my husband, my son and my son-in-law were taken away in a motor car. On Wednesday I found the three of them again in the woods. Frau Gutknecht was the first to find them. My husband was completely mutilated, his entire face was smashed in, leaving only a large hole He was not shot but beaten to death. My son had a gaping wound as though they had ripped open his entire face. My son was not shot either.
Source: WR II
107. The blood sacrifice of the Lissa Germans
Extract from the report of the experience of minority Germans abducted from Lissa, as published in the Posener Tageblatt of September 19, 1939.
We can hardly yet conceive that we are free, again permitted to live, and that our native country is under the protection of the German Army. Hardly any one of us had dared to hope to come out of this Polish hell alive. Too many of our comrades had fallen victims to the Polish murder bandits.
On Sunday September 17 we buried in Lissa four shockingly mutilated victims in a common grave. in their, native soil for which they had died (Gaumer, a butcher, [p. 180] Weigt, a master plumber; Herr Häusler and Herr Jäschke, a teacher). We have advised the relations of these victims as well as those of all the others affected. If anybody should still believe that the murders were only individual occurrences he will be convinced by the reports of comrades from all territories of Posen and Pommerellen, that this murder and plundering were systematically planned long beforehand and carried out simultaneously on a given signal announced over the Warsaw Broadcasting Station early on September 1.
On the morning of Friday Sept. 1 at about 11 o'clock, my parents and I were taken out of the house by armed civilians, who had just before smashed all the windows of our business premises for the purpose of plundering. The dwelling was searched, all cupboards had to be opened and left open, and everything left as it was. Nobody was allowed to take even a coat with him, or any food. At the police station we were thoroughly searched and after waiting several hours with many other comrades, amongst whom were women and children, we were taken to a collecting place outside the town. In the afternoon under military guard we were driven about 10 miles inland to the small town of Storchnest, where in the evening we were locked up in the hall of a shooting club. After some hours a captain and some civilians came in, and some of the women and older men were permitted to go home, it being explained to all the others that we were to be brought before the military court, as allegedly some Germans had fired on Polish soldiers in Lissa. As a matter of fact it was the German artillery which had fired on a military objective in Lissa. In the confusion, the armed Polish civilians, some of whom were equipped with machine-guns which had been placed by the Poles in the towers of both Protestant Churches in Lissa, began shooting wildly. Some of our comrades were removed from Storchnest and taken before the military court at Schrimm, although not one of them had ever possessed any firearms, not to speak of having used them. We have not seen these comrades again, and we only found out from some of those who had escaped with a sentence of 10 years hard labour, that the others had been shot, and the kind of accusation which had been brought forward by the witnesses for the prosecution One was accused of hanging a picture of the Fuehrer in his house, another is supposed to have had his window open with his wireless set tuned in loudly to German stations etc. etc., in a provoking manner.
However, the military court at Schrimm condemned nine of our comrades to death. Early on Saturday morning, Sept. 2, the remainder of us were again driven on. Then began our march of martyrdom, which is impossible to describe, and the great torture suffered can be realized only by those who went through it. Old men, women and children were driven with us, roughly ill-treated with rifle butts and, particularly during the march through towns and villages, were sworn and spat at, pelted with stones and beer bottles, beaten and kicked--Polish soldiers playing a conspicuous part. There was no food of any kind; those who had sufficient money could try to buy something through the accompanying guard, but it often happened that we got nothing and also never saw our money again. We had water only very rarely and in the end it became so bad that we had to buy drinking water by the bottle. En route, when it was permitted by the guards, we pulled up carrots and turnips in order to stop our gnawing hunger. It was lucky for us that the weather remained warm and dry, as only a small number of us were allowed to take overcoats or blankets. Our pocket knives were firstly taken from us and, in Peisern, most of our watches and rings were stolen from us by Polish soldiers. We had hoped at the beginning that the ill-treatment and stone-throwing would diminish as soon as we arrived in the centre of Poland, but soon found that the contrary was the case. and that the treatment became worse daily. We now had to march day and night with only short rests in ditches. He who was unable to keep up was hounded on with cudgels, and when at last he collapsed, was shot. Some of us who were the victims of this experience became insane.
We were thus driven from place to place via Schrimm, Schroda, Peisern, Slupco, Konin, Kolo, Kutno to Lowitsch. Here it was first explained why we were being driven on so quickly and why the hatred was always becoming greater. We had been driven into the middle of the retreating Polish Army for the purpose of revenge. When we came to the outskirts of Lowitsch a German air attack took place, and we were driven off the road on to the field and our guard informed us that now every one of us was to be shot. We did not really believe this threat as we had heard it so often before, but shortly after a second group of minority Germans from North Posen and Pommerellen had joined us, who had also been so threatened, we realized the danger we were in. We overheard a conversation between our guards that we were to be taken to a river near by and shot, so that the bodies could float down to Germany. Under such a threat we were driven across open country for about 4 miles and some of our comrades were shot while trying to escape. At last, Dr. Staemmler of Bromberg endeavoured to negotiate with the commander of the transport but was knocked back with a rifle, and, as he was falling, he gripped hold of the rifle in defence, and was also shot.
A moment later our guards ran away, hell for leather, for suddenly a German tank came towards us over the field, circled round us once, the crew calling out that Lowitsch was occupied by German troops and that we were saved. We could not at first believe that our rescue had come at the last minute, nor were we able fully to rejoice in our own rescue, as one of our comrades who had just fallen was lying dead before our eyes.
None of us will ever forget the march into Lowitsch, the greetings of the German soldiers, and the first warm meal, the touching care for us and the great trouble taken in order to return us quickly to our homes, for which we have especially to thank comrade von Romberg. Neither shall we ever forget the tortures and ill-treatment. Today, we know that there is only one method against a nation which is capable of such atrocities, i. e. merciless severity with unyielding determination. The words of a comrade who called out to us when bidding us good-bye as we were leaving for our freed native land, are only too true: "A nation which is capable of such cruelty and brutal treatment against defenceless people has no more right to exist, and has thereby automatically struck itself off the list of civilized nations." For those of us, however, who were able to return to our native homes through a merciful act of fate, there is something more to remember at this time, namely, that our lives and work belong now more than ever before to our people, and our great love and gratitude to the Fuehrer, for returning to us the freedom of our native land.
The foregoing is a description by an inhabitant of Lissa, who was amongst those minority Germans who took part in the march of martyrdom to Lowitsch. Many of those arrested have not returned, as they were unable to bear the terrible hardships and were left behind, only to be shot on the spot. Thus there are missing, the 80-year-old master-tailor Tiller with his son, Juretzki, the photographer, Frau Groschowski, the wife of a teacher, and others. Other tragedies also occurred. Herr Hoffmann, of Posen, and Frau Hoffmann (nee Anneliese Remus), formerly Frau Runge of Lissa committed suicide together by taking poison, as the young wife was expecting a child in two months and under the circumstances it seemed quite impossible for her to stand the strain of such a march with the abducted. It was impossible to flee over the frontier, notwithstanding its close proximity, Fraustadt being only 12 miles away. The few who were able to get through to Danzig in time can consider themselves very fortunate.
108. Dragged off to Brest-Litowsk
The experience of Karl Mielke of Bromberg (1)
On August 29, when I came home from work, a large car belonging to the Anti-Espionage Department was standing before my house. I was driven in it to my office where a thorough search was made of both my office rooms. Not only the maps of Posen and Pommerellen which the itinerant teachers needed for their work were scrutinised and packed up as suspicious material, but also perfectly harmless school statistics, reports of closed-down German schools, lists of transfers of teachers, monthly reports, and similar papers, which at previous searches had been passed as harmless by the officials. Judge G. of the Criminal Court, before whom I was brought, showed hatred of everything German on his face. He tried with fanatical eagerness to get his victim to say what he was determined to hear. The first thing said to me was, that every German was a spy and it was further implied that the whole cultural work of the Educational Department of the German Association was only a cloak for carrying on espionage on a large scale. I was taken away and locked up in a local police gaol.
(1) Published in Der Volksdeutsche, October 1939, issue No. 19, under the heading, "Arrested, abducted and released".
I was then taken to Siedlce, and my name was entered as a szpieg (spy) i. e. I was no longer a prisoner awaiting trial, but a convicted spy. On September 3, I heard for the first time the town's air raid signals and knew that German planes were expected. I knew of the mobilization from seeing the wall-posters at the railway stations giving notice of same. It was not very long before the first bomb fell. After a few days our regular meals stopped, and I was transferred to a small cell in which there were now seven of us, and the conditions of which were more terrible to bear than the prospects of being hit by a bomb. On some days we were given neither water nor food. When one of many bombs hit the prison wall, killing a warder, a panic broke out in all the cells, some of the occupants shouting to be let out, whilst others pulled off the iron legs from the bedsteads fixed to the wall and beat with them against the iron-lined doors, while others again prayed in loud tones, and in all this uproar we thought the prison was on fire, as the hammering at the doors sounded as though the walls were falling in. Amidst this chaos could be heard the rifle-shots of the guards' shots, by which they endeavoured to silence the raving prisoners. Later, we were herded 10 together in a cell intended for only one prisoner.
On September 7, a real funeral procession began for us. We were handed over to an infantry lieutenant whose duty it was to transport us with about 100 men of his own troops as a guard to the far-away prison in the east, situated at Bialypodlask. His first action was to give the soldiers strict orders to shoot any one of us who got out of line or spoke a word of German. This order was made known to all the 281 prisoners. At 1 a. m. the march began through the burning town of Siedlce. A dying German who was already as thin as a skeleton had to be dragged naked along with us as he was unable to walk; four of us carried him by the arms and legs just above the ground. The comrade alongside me was given a deep thrust in the seat with a bayonet. After we had marched along different roads until the dawn of day, we halted in a small wood. Here we had to leave the dying man and we covered him with a coat. He most probably received his coup de grace before the march continued. Another prisoner about the age of 70, who was unable to continue any longer, was taken aside by the soldiers, and, after we had heard the report of two rifle shots, we were told that he too had been settled.
We had received nothing to eat or drink up to then. Our march was continually delayed by air-raid alarms when we had to lie down as near to trees as possible without moving and wait until we were ordered on again. We blessed the German airmen as we were otherwise given little time to rest ourselves, and many of us were already exhausted and lame. The first ones to remain behind fell victims to the fate which we all expected. They were forced to kneel down with their heads on the ground and were then shot in the back of the head. Nobody wanted to remain behind and march in the rear ranks, the old and weak held on to the stronger ones, linked arms and stamped on with iron determination and tight-lipped, despite open wounds on their feet and great pain. All those condemned to death died like men, and as one was on his knees waiting to receive the shot of his murderer, he cried out a defiant "Heil Hitler" and, even after the first shot which did not kill him, again faintly cried out the greeting to the Fuehrer.
We were glad when at night we arrived at Bialypodlask and were then told to go in a prison again, that this town was also being evacuated. We received the greatest blow of all we had experienced up to then when we were informed that we should have to march a further 25 miles to Brest-Litowsk. A proof of the inhuman treatment of our executioners was when we were forced to march by a wonderful wafer pump, without being permitted to stop for a- drink of water. That same night we had to walk a further 9 miles before we were grudged a rest.
The march from Wioska to Brest-Litowsk was the last terrible stage of our route We marched without a stop from 6 o'clock in the afternoon until 3 o'clock. the next morning. On this stretch of the route was heard the unmerciful cracking of rifle shots in the rear ranks, and about 60 in all were shot. We gave a sigh of relief when at last, we saw the silhouette of our destination appear before us in the bright, moonlight. We had to wait endlessly in the entrance of the military prison of the fortress. After standing for two hours we were huddled together in the entrance of a corridor and counted by fives, and thus we found out that we were now only 200 All we had with us was taken away, and we were placed, 10 together, in small cells. On the following day we were given water, which we divided out equally amongst us. An army biscuit and five small pears was the last nourishment given us, which we shared in equal portions. In the two beds standing side by side--no--on top of each other, two comrades lay in each bed, while the other six had to spend the night partly in a diagonal position under the bed.
The next day we received a visit from German aeroplanes, and bombs burst unceasingly on the middle of the fortifications where our prison was situated. The thought that one would hit our cell was terrible, but in our serious conversations always came to the same conclusion namely, that to the end we must remain true to the principle of which we had so often spoken, which was, that it is not the individual that counts but that the most important things are the greatness and glory of the Reich. Another two days passed under these conditions, during which time the want of water was at its highest. We no longer felt hungry. We all had a fever rash on our lips, our tongues were thick and rough, and we were hoarse and could only speak in a very low voice. We were afraid of becoming insane. Water was now shared out by the spoonful. When we implored the warders to give us water, we were told that there was none. How cruel were these people who called themselves representatives of the Polish people, when we later saw that they had casks of water in the court-yard which were mostly three-quarters full!
On September of the German artillery fire and the dropping of bombs by German planes reached their height, and all the walls of the prison shook and shivered. Thick smoke came pouring through the small window of our cell. There was not [p. 185] a guard in the corridor. Suddenly we heard the banging and crashing of the doors of two cells, then hurried steps on the landing and eager talking. Two cells had been broken open by their occupants. We stormed into the courtyard with our water cans and fetched water with our last remaining strength. The guards, in their terror of death, had retreated to a bomb-proof shelter leaving us to our own fate; however, the soldiers returned, and fired a few shots at us in order to show us what we were up against.
Then came the morning of September 17, when the din of the battle gradually ceased. With fear we asked ourselves what this meant. I climbed on to the bed and looked through the iron-barred window on to the courtyard, which was completely destroyed. A German infantryman was coming towards us over the courtyard, and it is impossible for me to describe my feelings when I saw him. We drummed on the door, shouting with joy, and in all the other cells we heard deafening calls. The doors of the cells were eventually smashed down by the rifle-blows of the German infantrymen. We were free! and we found that our warders, who were to have shot us on this very Sunday had been made prisoners.
When we were all standing in the prison yard we began to sing, at first softly, and then louder and louder. As the words of "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" and the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" resounded in this place of horror, now a place of happiness, we were not ashamed of the tears which ran down our dirty, unshaven cheeks.
Source: Der Volksdeutsche, October 1939, issue No. 19.
109. Father Odilo Gerhard O. F.M.
A German Catholic priest under arrest in Poland.
Father Odilo Gerhard was the German Catholic Priest a Cracow. On the outbreak of war he was arrested by the Poles at 3.30 p.m. on September 1, 1939. After his watch, money and identification papers were taken from him at the Headquarters of the Police Commissar in Kielce, he was dragged off by force with many German members of his congregation via Radorri-Brest-Litowsk to the internment camp at Bereza-Kartuska. In the issue of October 1939 of Die Getreuen, the Catholic Mission magazine published for Germans abroad, he describes his experiences.
At 6.30 p. m. the train arrived at Bereza-Kartuska and, after a forced march of 3 miles we reached the internment camp at about 8 p. m. Immediately our 10 guards were taken away. Then we had to run the gauntlet through a lane of 200 police who beat us with rubber truncheons, rifle butts and staves, and even an old man of 70 was not spared this punishment. We were counted on the drill ground and then taken into a heated room, where each of us was forced to lie face downwards on the cement floor. I was about to lie down, when a policeman hit me with a rubber truncheon and dragged me off to the commander of the camp, who questioned me and gave the order to convey me to the doctor's isolation ward No. 2 and to give me better treatment. At the doctor's quarters I fell down in a half-fainting condition and begged for water.
On Sept. 8, when being medically examined on the drill ground, my companions in distress exclaimed: "You have been beaten black and blue!" Before being led on to the drill ground without my habit and only in a shirt and stockings, five commanders questioned me. They all said: "If you are a Roman Catholic Priest you are a Pole." I replied "No, I am a German." "Yes, a German spy!" and on denying this, I received a blow from a rubber truncheon. We had to stand on the drill ground in the unbearable boiling hot sun and clouds of dust until the evening, without anything to eat or drink. Then we were forced to give up everything including money, our necessary under-clothing and even rosaries, lockets, breviaries, shaving equipment, nail cleaners, cigarettes and tobacco etc.
Then the drill began. We were allowed to do exercises lying and sitting down, during which, a commander was continually beating with a stick those who were not exercising quickly enough. At 8 o'clock at night we were led to our quarters, a room about 58 ft. long, 24 ft. wide and 12½ ft. high, with 16 bunks placed in twos, one above the other. One bunk was for nine men in which only four were just able to lie down. As the three with me were men of over 60, and one an Italian very ill with pneumonia, I lay down on the cement floor under the bunk. We were given a pail-full of water for 140 people, the first after three days, and bread for the first time after five days, a portion weighing about 30 grammes and only half-baked. So I only took the crusts, kept them for two days and ate them in small pieces when hard. At different times we were given watery soup with a little barley, at 8 o'clock in the morning, at 7 o'clock at night, and then only again at about 11 o'clock. From 4 in the afternoon until 8 o'clock at night we were on the drill ground. The doctors advised everyone who weakened not to report to hospital because they would hardly leave there alive, which in fact was confirmed in many cases.
So the days passed. On Sunday September 10, I requested the commander to permit me to hold prayers in 'the room. His answer was a flood of curses and blows with a rubber truncheon; the same happened when I asked to administer spiritual comfort to the sick.
During the night from Sunday (September 17) until 3 o'clock on Monday morning we found that the police had fled and' that we were free. We were soon on the drill ground, where I again met many German Catholics from Cracow and the province of Posen to whom I had given spiritual help. Unfortunately we found behind the hospital 7 German flying officers and 16 internees, who had been imprisoned in a dark cell, and among whom the former were dead, their heads having been battered in. As we were told that the Russians were en route for Bereza, we soon departed in order to reach the German front as soon as possible, which we accomplished on Tuesday afternoon when we arrived at Kobryn. We then continued to Brest-Litowsk, so that we had covered a distance of 61 miles in 2½ days, but on some stretches only at the rate of 2 miles per hour. At Brest-Litowsk our soldiers transported us in lorries, to East Prussia, where the N.S.V. (National Socialist Welfare Organisation) took over our care.
Oskar Daum, a Protestant clergyman reports on his stay at the internment camp at Bereza-Kartuska as follows: (1)
The camp guards received us with rubber truncheons, took away from us all the things we needed for our daily use. I was not even allowed to keep my New Testament. Our cells were entirely devoid of everything, the concrete floor providing the only place for sleep. The food was almost unbearable. Besides this soup we were given two spoonfulls of water once or twice a day and uneatable, bread. From the moment of our arrest we had no opportunity of washing. We were subjected to specially chosen, painful and cruel exercises and those who broke down were maltreated . . . . . .
110. The march of the interned from Obornik -- a party of abducted persons marched away nearly to Warsaw
Old men who collapsed through weakness were shot down
Special Commission of the Reich Criminal Police Department in Posen.
Tgb. V (RKPA) 1486/10.39. Posen, November 20, 1939
On September 2, 1939 about 600 German-Poles were arrested in the district of Obornik, north of Posen, and made up into an internees contingent. The march was made via Gnesen, Slupca, and Kutno near to a place just this side of Warsaw.
About 100 fellow compariots from the diocese of Morawana-Goslyn alone had not returned by October 2, 1939. The total number of dead had not ye been ascertained.
The interrogation of Willi Grossmann, a wheelwright, who survived the march is attached.
(Signed) Discar, Commissioner of Criminal Police.
Special Commission of Chief of Police Posen, Oct. 2, 1939
Elfriede Weigt, a married woman (a member of the German minority) appeared voluntarily and declared:
My husband, Friedrich-Wilhelm W., born on May 26, 1901 in Potarzyce, had been estate manager (administrator) of the Przependowo estate in the district of Obornik
(1) Report in the Gemeindebote für das evangelisch-lutherische Wien of October 8, 1939.
(North Posen) for about 8 years. The estate hands are pure Polish. The estate owner is Countess Luettichau, a German. My husband was known to the authorities as an upright German. He was a member of the German Association.
On August 25, 1939 the city militia was billeted on our estate. The leader of the company was a Reserve officer of the Polish Army named Sigmund Rakocy from Morawana-Goslyn.
On September 1, 1939 my husband was arrested with all other German residents of Morawana. The arrest was caused by R. The reason for arrest was not given. My husband together with 23 others, was taken to Morawana.
Note: Grossmann, the wheelwright who was arrested on the same day, will be further closely interrogated afterwards re Weigt's fate. The further questioning of Frau W. in this connection will therefore be set aside.
My husband's height was about 5 ft. 6 inches, he was clean-shaven, with slightly curly fair hair. He wore glasses. He had a broken-off incisor in the upper jaw which had been crowned with gold, therefore he had half a gold tooth. At the time of his arrest he was wearing a pair of greenish-coloured riding breeches with leather strappings, and black riding boots, a mother-of-pearl coloured linen or canvas jacket with pleated side and breast pockets, and double breasted with ordinary bone buttons to match the cloth, a striped tricot shirt and long tricot underpants. His linen is marked F. W. I am unable to produce samples of underwear for identification, if needed, as everything was later stolen by convicts set free during my absence from the estate. On my return I found a pair of convict's trousers in our home.
Special Commission of the Chief of Police Posen, October 2, 1939
The minority German Willy Grossmann, a wheelwright, born on May 20, 1909 in Koblin, residing on the Przpendowo estate in the district of Obornik, appeared voluntarily and made the following statement:
Since 1937 I have been employed as a wheelwright on the P. estate: I was on normal social terms with the Poles. I have never had any trouble with the civilian population or with the authorities. I have always kept to myself without troubling about politics. A few weeks before the German-Polish disagreement, the relationship between us and the Poles became rather strained, but there were no particular acts of violence on the part of the Polish workers on the estate.
As Frau W. has already described, the city militia was billeted on our estate on the August 25, 1939. On Sept. 1, 1939, all the German men were arrested without grounds by the City militia--the minimum age being fixed at 16--and taken to Morawana-Goslyn. There we were quartered in an inn until September 2, 1939. There about 600 minority Germans of all ages and of both sexes from the district of Obornik joined us. At about midday on September 2, 1939, the march continued to Gnesen, about 38 miles away. The children and a few elderly people, in all about 20 persons, were left behind. In the night from Monday to Tuesday the march continued with the newly arrived minority Germans from Gnesen to Slupca, where we arrived towards morning. Our escort consisted of policemen and also auxiliary policemen in uniform. Lieutenant R. did not accompany the transport. On the same day the march proceeded in. the direction of Kutno, leaving Kolo on our right. It was probably on Thursday morning when we passed through Kutno. On the morning of September 9, at about 10.30, we reached the park of Sochaczew, about 31 miles west of Warsaw. During the march we had to spend the nights in the fields. We were given no kind of food and we fed on swedes or other field produce. During the whole way we were maltreated by the escort, which consisted of regular police, as well as by the civilian population. I have a scar over the right eye, received from a blow with a rifle butt. Occasionally, upon our meeting cavalry, they drew their sabres and beat us with them. A certain Herr Baurichter of Langoslyn, in the district of Obornik, received a bad wound on the head, and as he put up his hand to protect himself, his small finger was nearly cut off, and today he is still under medical treatment. A Frau Baum of our district was hit with a rifle butt, the blow paralysing her facial muscles, so that she had a twisted face. It was by no means a swelling from a blow. This was confirmed to me by a German doctor whose name and address I do not know. He was a German military doctor whom we met on the return march.
In the park of Sochaczew we were supposed to receive a meal, that is about midday on September 9, but instead of getting any food we were shot at by the mob. One of us was shot down. As we were about to march off, the guards shot three elderly men, whose names are unknown to me. Two of them had been wounded by the mob and were unable to continue the march; the third tried to escape. He was caught, made to stand before us, and was shot at close range by a policeman. Many of the older people, began to rave during the march. For instance, when a cart passed by, many cried out: "That is my cart. How does that man come to be driving my horses?". Others asked to be shot. It was a terrible march.
Towards 2 o'clock of the same day Herr Weigt was wounded in the knee on the high road to Warsaw. The escort, as well as passing military detachments, amused themselves by shooting into our column. Herr Weigt had to remain behind alone. We were not allowed to look back. I know Weigt was shot in the knee as he was walking alongside me. Weigt was probably killed later. From Sochaczew onwards our martyrdom started. Old men, who through sheer weakness fell down, were shot. I myself saw an old man; who from weakness was clinging to a tree, shot from behind and at close quarters by one of our Police escort. I could see his brains oozing out of his head. This was about 3 miles beyond S. After an air raid, during which the escort came under fire whilst taking cover in the ditch, Herr Heckert, accountant of our estate, was shot by a policeman. Later on during the march others [p. 190] were killed. I cannot give further details. It was certain that our ranks were becoming thinner and thinner. From our estate alone 10 persons are still missing, who, it they have been shot, must be lying somewhere this side of Warsaw. They are:
Herr Weigt, Friedrich aged 38
" Heckert, Hans " 36 (?)
" Repnack, " 50 (?)
" Belter, Alfred " 24 (?)
" Sommer, Ferdinand " 23 (?)
" Sommer, Gustav " 48 (?)
" Sommer, Waldi " 20 (?)
" Sydow, Gottfried " 30 (?)
" Riemer, Willi " 31
" Riemer, Walter " 26 (?)
I myself saw Willi and Walter Riemer lying dead 2 miles this side of Warsaw. They belonged to the district of Morawana. As far as I can estimate, about 200 comrades of our column must have been killed. All the bodies should be lying alongside the highway from Sochaczew to Warsaw.
During the night of the 9th to 10th September most of our column fled, myself among them. The next day we encountered German troops. After no great detour we returned home.
Yesterday in Church I heard that about 100 comrades of our column and locality were still missing.
Read out, approved and signed
Grossmann was most emphatic. During the interrogation he was asked if he was exaggerating. He answered "Inspector, you can take my word for it there is not the slightest exaggeration in what I am telling you." He repeated several times the following: "You cannot tell the wives of those murdered men everything, they are in enough despair as it is".
(signed) Discar, Police Inspector.