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Oscar's story

The flight from vengeance

Stargard - the Fortress - Winter 1944 - On Sunday, February 11th, 1945, a man, dressed in the nazi-brown uniform, cycled through the streets, blowing a whistle: "Everyone has to leave the town within a few hours. The town must be evacuated!" When my mates and me came back from skiing people shouted: "... the Russians are coming ... the Russians!" Meanwhile all had packed what they had onto sleds, baby buggies, small handcarts, with hand baskets, bags, suit cases, sacks made of blankets. Ready to escape in direction west to Stettin (to Poland belonging now: Szczecin at the Odra-river), along the frozen cold main street.


We didn't know that the town was declared by the garrison's commander to be a fortress! A fortress meant that Hitler had ordered to defend it until the last house was destroyed, the last soldier fallen as a hero "for Fuehrer, Volk und Vaterland!" (The Leader, people, patria). With the older soldiers were many very young ones: 16, 17, 18. During many decades German teachers had taught at high schools: "Dulce et decorum est ...!" - Translated: "It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country!" The students believed the lies of Hitler and Goebbels, and they defended the town, as before they had sung "... we'll march on until all is debris, because today Germany belongs to us and tomorrow all the world." Now many, so many of them were killed, and many of my older school mates too. Our Protestant pastor wrote in his memoirs: "Corpses of residents were stacked in piles ... there were too many and there was nobody to bury them in the hard frozen ground!"

My grandfather brought us to an extremely long train. Behind the locomotive seven (closed) freight cars, then followed by nearly fifty flat cars, and at the end a closed freight car. Many people tried to enter it and we got into it, my granny, mother, grandfather, an aunt and me, age 13. My mother had dressed me with as much as possible, two underpants, two trousers, two pullovers. The women, until now dressed in skirts or dresses, now used the warm trousers of their husbands because of the extreme cold.

You may ask: What happened with their pets, the dogs, cats, sheep, canaries, pigeons, rabbits? Nothing. Our pastor wrote: "I'd a pony. Gave him much fodder, hay and oats, said good-bye, wait, three, four days we'll be back.!". All people did it like him, all said the same words. From this day it lasted three weeks, until the Red Army's soldiers conquered the town ... and may have seen thousands of painful starved animals. But nobody went back, neither after three days, nor three weeks, nor three months ... decades!


When our car was filled the door was closed. No light, no heating. Someone lighted a flickering candle. We sat down where we stood, there were no seats, no benches, nothing. The floor of the car was soft, very soft. Horses had been shipped and left a thick layer of many, many "horses' leavings". My grandpa put a carpet over it. Outside a temperature of around 0 F, today I say: The horses stuff was very useful, it prevented that the cold could get in. Moreover inside was no heater, no lavatory, but many, many people with all what them had, nobody was able to move. We saw, when many others refugees entered the open flat cars - at this winter temperature!


At the locomotive whistled, the train drove. Next morning, the train stopped. Everybody got outside, everybody had a small or great "need". The few men went behind the car, the women ran far away, tried to hide behind a tree. What a very shameful situation! Now, six decades later, I try to understand the humiliation, when Jews were transported worse than cattle to the extermination camps. All now received a very shameful education. I had never seen my own mother like this. Then the locomotive whistled once more and they had to run to get into the car.


Those people on the flat cars? During the night it was very, very cold. Eye witnesses reported: "Many people have been frozen to death! Others threw them from the train. What could those others do?" No relatives were able to bury their loved ones. There was only one idea: "Flee, flee, flee, the Russians coming, they'll kill the parents, eat our kids, rape our women, burn our houses!" May be that it happened, I for myself never saw, that any of the Russian soldiers had killed a granny, eaten a kid or raped a woman! But the nazi propaganda did its furious job. We had no information about the war crimes the Wehrmacht (forces) all over Europe did. We had no information about the holocaust of the Jews. We had no information about starving Soviet POWs in the camps.


One day, at confirmation teaching, we looked out of the windows: Six, seven hungry Soviet soldiers, dirty, ripped uniforms, tired, pure skin and bones. Our pastor spoke about loving our neighbours: "Those men are our neighbours too!" We laughed behind our hand: "What a foolish nut, those? ... our neighbours?" If anyone had said it at school or elsewhere, our beloved pastor might have been "unexpected deceased", shot by a nazi police officer. There were 30,000 inmates in the Stargard POW camp! Later, after 1945, my mother told me: Starving, breathing POWs were brought to the cemetery to be buried - still living.

We needed some days to arrive a town western of the Odra river. Then - do you remember? On February 12, British air marshal Harris ordered the Royal Airforce to make the Dresden firestorm. 30,000 were identified and burnt to death -- but really it is said, that 130,000 people were burnt to death. We had of course no information what was happening around us. Among us on the train was only one big fear, that low altitude flying fighters will shoot us to death.

Oscar is willling to answer questions - you can reach him here
January 2006

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