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Contents of Luise Kalff's Flight Story:
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This now following Flight Story by Luise Kalff is followed by the next webpage
Notes to Luise Kalff's Flight Story.
They were worry-filled days, days of anxious waiting for reports from the front and being torn between holding out to the last minute and wanting to bring the boys to safety. After all that had previously happened, it was certain that both boys would be taken by the Russians if they really were going to advance into our beloved Oberland. So on Wednesday, January 17, and Thursday, at the Women's Aid Organization Meeting, I told our women that, should it be necessary, I was going to take the children to Vogtland and then would come back myself one more time. By Friday it was clear that there would be no stopping them. I therefore gave notice of the boys' departure at school — they were to be picked up early on Saturday, and then we would leave on Monday. On Saturday morning, a number of military men and a non-stop stream of refugees poured into our village. I packed and waited, filled with worry, for the sled that was bringing the children home. They finally arrived, slightly accusatory, as their classmates had called them cowards. But when they heard from our representative that there was no time to lose, that we had to leave that very evening, they repacked their things without any protest. Our refugees in the house were also supposed to be ready to continue on in two hours. We left all of our packed boxes and chests behind and took suitcases, backpacks, and a small box of food with us. For the second time, Mr. Schikowski's sled was off to Mohrungen1, this time with us on it. The Schimachers also came with us, after we had urged and begged them to do so. We locked
1 Now Morqg
our [Fell]2 into Otto the butcher's3 yard so that he wouldn't go hungry. Saying goodbye to the Schikowskis was heartbreaking. When I asked them to give me their little girl to take with us, he said, "We will all die together. May God protect you all, we'll never see each other again." The last walk through our calm, peaceful village was like a church service for me. As we passed each house, I implored God in my heart for His protection. I couldn't help it, but I felt like I was a deserter, not being with all of our loyal congregants4 in this ultimate time of need.
Then we climbed into the wooden sled and slowly rode down the familiar path to Mohrungen. We often couldn't make our way forward at all, as cattle were being herded onto the streets and the path was blocked everywhere. Kurt, in his black raincoat, was thought to be a small lieutenant when he ran out in front and called out to the people to make way. This always worked astoundingly quickly, and we then reached Mohrungen in two hours. The city slept so peacefully and none of them knew how close danger already was. More and more refugees gathered at the train station, in the entrance hall and in the barracks. We put our luggage together, had someone guard it, and went in to a little room at the station bar to rest a bit as the train wasn't supposed to leave until five in the morning. All of the sudden we heard that the Russians had already made it to Osterode5 — the residents of the town were coming on foot or in wagons, incredibly distraught. We then sat with our luggage on the platform so we'd be able to board as soon as a transport train came through. Those days were the coldest of the year. Frieder was so cold that he started to cry — I wrapped him up in a blanket and my fur cape, and then walked back and forth with Kurt so that we
2 Perhaps the name of a dog, based on the picture above.
3 This is the likely meaning. The German is "Fleischer Ottos". Fleischer could simply be Otto's last name, or it could mean butcher.
4 Would need more context to know exactly what is meant here, as the German "Getreue" can have multiple English meanings. Getreu = true, faithful, loyal, and "Getreue" is the noun form. She doesn't actually say congregants, but we would need a noun here for the translation to make sense in English. She may mean loyal congregants, friends, etc.
5 There are many Osterodes, but the one in East Prussia is now OstrOda. Likely what is meant here.
wouldn't freeze. Finally, finally, we were able to get on the train. It was very difficult with the heavy luggage, but we were able to stay together, thank God, the three of us at least. We had to change trains in Elbing6, where we joined back up with our dear friends. The trains, which were arriving from Königsberg7, were already overcrowded, but train aides saw to it that we found a place together in a refugee train with all our luggage. Everyone ended up finding a seat. When the train pulled away, when we crossed the bridges over the Weichsel River without any fire, we breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God that we were saved. But it was terrible in our long, crowded car. An old woman sitting next to Kurt had gone crazy and wouldn't leave him alone. She scratched at him and wailed that he was the devil. She moaned throughout the entire night and we were all completely miserable. When the train stopped for the first time, in Schneidemuhl8, we got off. It was actually a rather rash decision, but God was with us. People had been standing on the platforms there for two days, as the trains coming through were all overcrowded. But a soldier came to us and asked if we wanted to go with them, their transport train could take about 30 women and children. I quickly got the boys from the waiting room, where I had sent them due to the cold, and just as we had put the last piece of luggage on the train and were all together again, the train started moving. Our dear soldiers [ill.] capably, warmed some coffee from their canteen for me, and looked after us in such a touching manner. The boys quickly perked up, and we ate sitting on the boxes. The soldiers also saw to it that we were fed; the children received a cup of milk soup, and an apple as well, and our thermos was always filled with hot
6 Now Elblqg
7 Now Kalingrad, Russia
8 Now Pita
coffee. The Schimachers got off in [Kustein], to continue on to Berlin. Tears were in our eyes as we told them goodbye. We rode through the
until we arrived in
and then we had to change trains. But we were lucky—we found a connecting train immediately, and even found seats. Everyone kindly offered to help us there as well. A railroad worker gave the children a jar of Morello cherries, which they of course loved. It wasn't far to
but the misery began again there. The trains were arriving from
[Buslaufer]9, and they were so crowded that dead people were being carried out of every transport train. All of our efforts to get on were in vain, until three soldiers finally loaded up our luggage and stuffed us into a compartment. But then the compartment needed to be cleared out for the injured, so we sat back on the cold platform for many hours. The train station officer, who I had asked to help us, discreetly got us 2 bowls of pea soup which was actually intended for the soldiers. Before I gave them [ill.] to the children, I had to eat a few spoonfuls myself, because he was afraid that I would collapse. Another train arrived at our platform, a secret airplane transport. I went to the sergeant who was in charge of the transport (with 10 pilots) and asked him if we could go with them, as I was afraid that the children wouldn't be able to keep going. He refused my request at first, saying that there were so many hundreds of people sitting there, and that they were not allowed to take anyone with them. But as the train stayed put for hours, he saw our terrible misery. He took pity on us and let us get into their luggage car, very discreetly. The soldiers were already packed in there, but the young pilots kindly moved over on their beds. First, they gave us more pea soup,
9 Not able to be verified on a map, so likely slightly different letters.
and then they started singing beautiful solos, in several parts, for hours. It was really a pleasure and a joy to listen to them, especially for the boys. The next mornings, we were deposited in the lobby of the big Guben train station, and the company sergeant major kindly saw to it that the soldiers unloaded our luggage, and we then carried their light suitcases for them. They carried our bags for a half an hour until we reached the [electric]. At the main train station, the sergeant came to us once again, asking us if everything had worked out, and if he could be of any more help. There were sausages and rolls at the platform, and the boys inhaled them. Oh, our provisions would never have been enough for us if kind people hadn't helped us along the way. A soldier on the train gave the children cookies — caring assistance and helping hands everywhere. In Leipzig, the nice pilot came to help us again — I was completely exhausted and fell under the wheels. After we had put everything on the Plauen train, Kurt and I went to the waiting room with the pilot, to thank him for his kindness. We arrived in Oelsnitz on the same day, and spent the night there in a small room at the station bar on sofas. I actually stayed up and wrote to our dear Papa, but fell asleep on the chair until suddenly a call startled me awake — it was as if someone had called out to me personally. When I walked through the waiting room, it was full of refugees from the East who had just arrived. Suddenly someone called, "Mrs. Pastor, Mrs. Pastor!" behind me. It was families from our congregation who had just arrived with a transport. We couldn't believe it. Tears of joy ran down the cheeks of the poor people, who felt so alone and desolate after the terrible journey. I had to promise them that I would visit them soon, because I couldn't do anything for them in that moment, as our omnibus was leaving. The short journey was soon completed. On the bus, a man asked us if we were headed to the teacher's house in Brotenfeld — it was the husband of
our future dairywoman. He helped us get a sled for our luggage, and at 7:00 in the morning we stood in front of the door of the school house, which was to be our new home. We were happy and grateful that, with God's merciful help, we had survived those difficult days of fleeing our beloved hometown. Both of the boys had been brave — the sixteen-year-old, strong and reliable, like a comrade, and Frieder, with his twelve years, optimistic and courageous. We all felt how the prayers to our dear Father had carried us through the adversity and danger, how God's hand had guided us and shielded us throughout our journey.
When the matter of where we would go when the Russians advanced into East Prussia became urgent, we decided we would go to Brotenfeld — first, because we had dear friends there, and second, because it was such a small village that it was unlikely that the events of the war would reach it. We had sent our sentimental and our expensive belongings there in summer, as well as linens, etc. So when we arrived in Brotenfeld after our difficult journey, we found some of our things there. Our friends had been very much expecting us; by that point all of southeast Prussia was overrun with Russians. It was really the last chance to get out of our area. We were expected by our friends and warmly welcomed. But there was no time to rest — I immediately had to get all things in order with the mayor and in Oelsnitz, which was about 10 km away.
The boys were brave. The differences between their beautiful home — our large, dear rectory —and the small rooms of the school were major. And they had to be careful the entire day. I happily sent them out into the beautiful winter forest. The mill path, which we had to walk along to get our bread, was especially beautiful. After several days, [ill.] our little room was like a bird cage (2 x 2 1/2 meters), a little oven. The boys collected brush and wood from the forest and we lived only for ourselves. Our friend had become rather a fusspot over the years, which was a bitter disappointment for us. But we banded together even more strongly and found love in the rectory and with the dear Women's Aid women — Mrs. von der Planitz10, Mrs. Ficker, and many others. Our Frieder had really become a flustered, shy little boy; that hurt me the most. But it was good that there was finally a solution to the school matter. Frieder rode to Falkenstein (ca. 1/2 hour train ride) and then could go on to Auerbach, 2 stations past that. We were very happy when the teachers said that both boys were well ahead; that was very satisfying in terms of Uncle Rudolf, who had spoken poorly about East Prussia — only three days after we arrived, had told us that East Prussia was 20 years behind the times. Our get-togethers with the Horner women and children were wonderful. We met up every three weeks and spoke of our homeland, sang songs, I read aloud, and at the end we all gathered together to hear a word from the Bible, in order to garner strength from it for our bitterly difficult lives. In April, the front moved close to us. One day, when we had just gotten back from grocery shopping in a neighboring village, the first strikes fell on our village, American artillery. The first
10 This could also be Plenitz
went into the village pond, where we had stood happily only five minutes before. We quickly ran to the cellar, where I had already stowed all of our superfluous belongings. Then began an hour-long bombardment of our village center. One of their targets was the school, which was heavily hit. Kurt was brave and ran up above a few times between the attacks to bring down beds and food, or to quickly extinguish what needed to be put out. A few times it was so bad that we were afraid that the entire school would be shot apart. But the boys sat quietly on their suitcases, full of trust in God, Frieder with folded hands and praying lips, but so calm and confident. Uncle Rudolf lost his nerve completely. He ordered us all to leave the cellar and go to a safe house. His wife and children obeyed him, but we stayed with the engineer family from Plauen. In the evening, 3 men, including our engineer, went with a white flag to the American post. Uncle Rudolf had also gone there, alone; his bike was taken from him and he was kept prisoner until the morning. When we came out of the cellar the next morning, the school looked horrible; all the window panes had been blown out and
there were holes in the walls. Trees and the fences were torn to shreds — it would be impossible to live there. As we left to go sweep up the pieces of glass,
the head forester's wife, Mrs. Dietterle, came and invited us to the forester's lodge. She said that the shelling would continue that morning. We quickly used trolleys and moved into the forester's lodge, which was very sturdy and big and had a large cellar, similar to our house in Eckersdorf11. We had barely finished putting everything in the storage cellar when the heavy fire began — four times, the master forester's buildings were hit. This went on for three weeks, night and day. We often had to leave our beds and run on the ground to the cellar during the nights, the shelling in the village booming nearby. Every house was hit and damaged. Grocery shopping always forced us to put ourselves in extreme danger. We often had to throw ourselves down to the ground when the bullets whistled by — how quickly we learned everything. And we had to get everything from far away, from Arnoldsgrün and Zaulsdorf and Tirzensdorf.12 The Americans occupied Tirzensdorf and sent patrols to our village. Early one afternoon, during a short break in fire, Kurt wanted to get something from the school; it was a long time until he finally, finally returned. Heavy shooting had just begun again as he arrived in the cellar, pale and a bit excited. In the school, he had run into his first American, who he originally thought was Uncle Rudolf. They then spoke to each other, entirely peacefully, in English. There were street battles and deaths in the village, which continued until the Americans finally and completely advanced and a ceasefire was issued. Upon the invitation of the master forester, we continued to live in the forester's lodge. We had a big, beautiful dining room with pretty, old furniture, surroundings in which we first felt very comfortable. Upon my request, Kurt got a position as a farm apprentice at the Planitz estate, was able to eat there, and only came home in the evenings. So in those difficult times that followed, he was always able to eat until he was full, while some days Frieder went hungry. He once said to me, with tears in his eyes, if he would ever again be able to eat so much bread in his life until he was completely, completely full? How often was my heart heavy, how often did I cry bitter tears. But how often
11 Now Florczaki
12 Likely meant Tirschendorf, based on the map
did the three of us have little celebrations, when I again received a backpack full of potatoes from a farmer and a slice of bread as well — for a lot of money — and then I scrounged up an extra little something and it was a party. The children planned my birthday so sweetly. Kurt asked for a bottle of whole milk and a 4# loaf of bread from his boss — and told her she could then subtract it from his allotted amount of food — and also received 5# of wheat flour as a present. He brought all of this to me with a beautiful bouquet of forest flowers. This brought happiness and joy to us all. Frieder set the table very prettily for me, along with a quote that he had written and painted himself. But the days were becoming more and more difficult; the master forester's wife was jealous of Kurt's good job and jealous of the help we got, as Kurt received a lot of vegetables as an additional bonus. We also collected mushrooms and berries from the nearby forest every day. We did this for hours and hours, collecting food for the winter as well. She didn't do any of that, her portions [decreased], although she herself had more than enough. We began to feel more and more that we were just being tolerated there, which made us very unhappy. One time we tried to go over the border with someone, but it didn't work, and we returned home rather depressed. I then went to Gruna to see if we could find a place to stay. When our dear friends there heard how difficult we had had things recently, they very much wanted to help us, but weren't able to because all the refugees there had to be evacuated too. After I went to the mayor a second time, he finally said that if there were an evacuation, then we could move to Gri.ina, but only after all the people there were gone. Those were worrisome weeks of [ill.] and being pulled back and forth, and then every day there was word that all refugees should be ready to go by foot to either Thuringia or Mecklenburg. I therefore decided one day to move to the Altmark region with Homer Feinlien and family; they had rented an apartment there. We quickly packed everything up, rented a truck-trailer (with a bit of running around and effort) in a neighbor village, and we left on August 27 at 5:00 in the morning with 60 people
from our town in East Prussia to a new, completely-unknown home. I had given our destination as the rectory in Melmeke, it was so easy for me and I felt so confident, even happy [ill.], as if this was God's plan for us. And God was with us, we felt that that same evening as we stood before the door of the rectory with our request to stay there, and were warmly welcomed and taken in.
Our time in Melmeke was wonderful. From morning until night, our hearts were full of gratitude to God and to the people who kindly and helpfully welcomed us. On the very first evening, we could tell that there was a special type of spirit here; as we looked for our lunch boxes to eat another piece of dry bread, the pastor's wife, Mrs. Lagemann, smilingly led to a nicely-set dinner table. We were able to eat to our heart's content. We were guests in the rectory for a few days; those really were like vacation days for me. We could forget all of our worries, didn't need to go to the forest twice a day in order to get food, but could really eat until we were full. We could rest, the boys helped pick pears and plums, and we were therefore allowed to feast on fruit to our heart's content. In Vogtland, no one had even given them a handful of berries, and this friendliness and people's generosity was medicine for our tired hearts. Our little Frieder's
happy, cheerful smile returned, with which he soon made many friends. Those first few days Kurt and I tried to find an apartment on the Reichsbahn trainline to Salzwedel in case school were to begin, as Melzmeke unfortunately didn't have a local railway. We couldn't find anything, but also because we didn't put much effort into it — we were so happy in the clean, nice little village of Melmeke. So we decided to really stay and live there. We found a little room in the dairy, which was pretty and peaceful. The old owners were also friendly and Mrs. Reinicke often made us happy by bringing us curd cheese or vegetables or a cup of whole milk. It was now time for Kurt to start working for a farmer once again. He first worked at Mrs. Heiser's. He had to help collect the milk cans from the farmers. A week later, a position opened up with the father of Frieder's new friend. Touchingly, everyone in the Haase family was anxious to feed Kurt up, and they were successful in that he had 14 days of terrible diarrhea as his stomach couldn't tolerate the fat. But then, in spite of his difficult work, he got fat cheeks and strong legs, and, from lifting the sacks, a wide chest, meaning that Papa's jacket became too small for him. Frieder and I also helped Farmer Haase with the potato harvest, and we earned
our winter provisions — 15 zentners13 of glorious potatoes. In addition to the potatoes, we also got a lot of other scrumptious food to eat. The food was taken with us onto the field in big baskets — fresh farmhouse bread and white bread, different types of sausage, ham, jellied meat, and bacon. And they kept telling us to help ourselves. We didn't need to be told twice, and we all got fat, pretty cheeks in spite of the work. For dinner, there was a warm meal at home, with soup, bread, and fruit — we were simply speechless. On top of all that, we also were given a little piece of bacon. Kurt received 50 RM14 as a salary, 20 at the estate, meaning that he was really our provider for a while. So that Frieder didn't entirely laze away, he had to have school lessons with Mrs. Lagemann's children for a few hours a day — math, German, and religion with Mrs. Lagemann, and English with me. I also gave piano lessons, as they didn't have them in the small village. We had dried fruit in the sun and also preserved it, elder berries and apples for the winter, as well as dried vegetables and mushrooms. We wanted to be better prepared for the winter. On Oct. 2, the secondary school began in Salzwedel, and I went to sign Frieder up and to ask for books for Kurt — he was supposed to have lessons with Pastor Pomser,
13 Old unit of measurement (possibly hundredweight in English, according to Wikipeida).
but stay with the Haases until Easter, to make sure we were provided for. On Oct. 3, a letter arrived from Aunt Springer in Mettingen, saying that we could come there and stay with her. Now there was nothing stopping me — for Kurt to idle away a second year was too difficult for me. That same afternoon, I rode on a truck to Haldensleben to ask about the border. At the rectory, they told me that thousands of people crossed every day with a lot of luggage and that it was easy. So the next day I rode home, after I had called the pastor of the border city of Weferlingen — it was the East Prussian Pastor Lehmbruch who had lived near Pastor Englen and in whose [parish] our dear Papa had evangelized for a week. He promised to help us and take us in for the night. Once at home, we immediately packed up the most important things. It was about 3:00, and each person had a few heavy bags. Then we rested, and then around 12:00, we packed boxes and bags, which we left at the dairy. They were to be brought by Mrs. [Wiltlanz Horn] by truck to Weferlingen, and we would pick them up there. On the evening of Oct. 4, we said farewell to all our dear friends, but we weren't entirely confident in what we were doing and worried that it would go wrong again. But we had to go and would put all of our worries in prayer and [God]
would be with us on the difficult path.
Crossing the Border
On the morning of October 4, we drove with our heavy luggage via Beckendorf-Obisfelde-Neuhaldensleben to Weferlingen. The trip alone was agitating enough, it was [crowded] and there was a type of ruthlessness in the air, everyone was only concerned for himself. In Obisfelde, there was a young married couple who was struggling with all their luggage; the husband had been injured in the war. We helped them a bit with changing trains and with watching the luggage. This ended up being very convenient, because then we had seats secured on the train and it was also nicer to travel with others than to travel alone. So we stayed together. In Haldensleben, it was almost impossible to get on the freight car, but in the end we stood almost on top of each other like sardines. It started to rain and everything got wet and heavy. The trip lasted for hours in the open freight car, it was a miserable atmosphere, most people did not know where to go in the dark night, in the pouring rain. Once at the Weferlingen train station, we first called Pastor Lehmbruch and asked him for a wagon. He came to get us himself and we were kindly and warmly welcomed to the big,
beautiful rectory. The married couple, the Essers, also found a warm little place at a [ill.], so we all soon warmed up and quietly went to bed. However, when our host looked at our luggage, he had advised that we should leave half of it there and come back for it, otherwise we certainly wouldn't get over the border. We set off on the on the difficult path at 6:00 in the morning. We ended up taking all the luggage with us and wanted to try it ourselves first. Very near to the town, the first patrols appeared and yelled, "Back, back!", swung their [clubs], and pushed everyone back who had wanted to cross. Some people had schnapps or watches with them, bribed the patrols, and could then go through. We turned around, went along a small meadow path, always in the line of vision of the patrols — but they had to walk back and forth to control the people. In a lucky moment — we had made our way to the street — a patrol ran towards us again, but lightning-fast, we threw ourselves under the cover of a bank. He stood over us and called to the people who had come after us, "Back, back!" He didn't see us. We laid there for worrisome, worrisome minutes and were scared every second that we would be beaten. There was also
another family with us, a husband, wife, and 13-year-old son. Both of the war-experienced men realized when the moment was right, and we then jumped up upon "march, march" across the street into the forest. Now and then there was a shot, the mood was tense. God protected us wonderfully. Despite the terribly heavy luggage that we had to carry from barrier to barrier for 200 meters, we made it into the forest unseen. Here we took our time so that we wouldn't get out of breath, and we often had to put our luggage down. We had made our way forward and were about 300 meters from the border, when a patrol suddenly yelled, "Stop! Stoi!35" We lay down when asked, but it didn't help, he started to search through our things. He started with Kurt, who looked so well-groomed in his coat, while the rest of us really looked like vagabonds. He found a compass, threw it to the ground and stomped on it, then he ordered us to open our suitcases. I [brazenly] had all the silver in the small suitcase. At that moment, a wagon arrived with Russian officers, the patrol yelled, "Back!", stuck the butt of the rifle in Mrs. Esser's back, and we hurried back with our luggage. Barracks were nearby, and we went there, to first get out of the patrol's sight. Then from behind the barracks a Russian
15 Stop in Russian
appeared on a bike, said, "Everything popolski16?" since we were going in the direction of Magdeburg, and then he continued on. Now the barracks seemed too unsafe for us, so we snuck down into a big hole that was well-covered with bushes, and the boys held up a few big ferns and small little pine tree branches they'd torn off. We all slid down deeper into the hole, exhausted, and despondently looked around us. Then we ate properly, noon was long past. Nearby, about 100 meters in front of us, a few Russians working in the forest suddenly appeared. There was really nothing [ill]. After we had rested a while, we decided to crawl farther, first on all fours to get the luggage out of the hole and to look around. I had to go back and forth a few times, as that was the only way. Both boys were brave, and didn't complain or want to go back. The last time, we weren't cautious enough and just stood up, and the Russians saw us and shot at us from behind; the shot went a lot higher and farther than us, thank God, but we immediately threw ourselves behind ferns to cover ourselves and looked for the others who had been faster than us with less luggage. Finally, two men came over from the other side. They told us in great detail how it was only
16 I think this means "In Polish" in Polish. Perhaps in Russian as well.
one hour away. But that is when the pandemonium and the shooting would really start. So we continued on in the direction they told us, now almost completely exhausted from carrying our luggage. We drug our bed sack down the hill behind us, which was even more difficult, Kurt and I could barely carry it by ourselves. And on top of that everyone still had heavy suitcases. Kurt had a backpack that felt like it was made of iron and I had 2 leather bags hanging around my neck. Frieder had the silver suitcase and an alarmingly heavy backpack. The children were almost crying from exhaustion, but there was no stopping. Then we put the luggage up a bit ahead and left it with Frieder, and I hurried back to help Kurt. I kept saying, now just pray, God can grant us the strength we need to make it. A critical point came after we had crossed a street. We heard people screaming from far away and in between the screams, cursing and yelling. Then came droves of distraught people who the patrol had beaten and also fired at — 5 people were wounded or dead. We again hid in a thicket, far apart from each other, and the men went on the street to look for the right way to go. Suddenly Mr. Esser came back and said that a young man had just come by who wanted to
guide us, 50 RM per person, not to be paid until we were safely in the English region. He was really a savior for us in our time of need, as our belongings were worth 150 RM to us. So we entrusted ourselves to the young man. He first took everyone else and some of our things half of the way, and I stayed back with the rest of the luggage. The first border was directly under me, and the Russians hurried back and forth — but didn't see me. A sense of calm and confidence had come over me now that I knew we would make it. God had built a wall around us so that the enemy — many of whom we often saw in front us — didn't spot us. The women and Frieder then stayed behind while the guide, the men, and Kurt came to get me and the rest of the luggage. Then, with the last bit of strength we had, it was back uphill through the thick undergrowth. We couldn't go directly behind the barrier any more. We threw ourselves down in the grass and stretched out, exhausted. Someone had a bottle of schnapps, and everyone got a sip of it, even Kurt. And that helped our spirits, as we were not in safety yet. After a few hundred meters more, the guide then left us alone, as now it was no longer possible to get lost. I went with Frieder and a suitcase to the English camp, and there I asked two English soldiers, in my little bit of
school English, to come help us. After just a few steps of carrying the suitcases, they set everything down and were tired. They kept telling Kurt that it wasn't possible to carry the heavy suitcases alone. In the English camp, we received fresh drinking water, the first of the day. It was 5:00 in the evening when we made it there. Then oxen-pulled wagons arrived and Kurt and the men put all of our luggage on them and rode down the mountain to Grasleben. We women went ahead of them on foot, and I went to find the local pastor. He wasn't at home, however, and I was sent to his bride at the soup kitchen. When I asked her if we could stay the night, she advised us to immediately take the omnibus to Helmstedt, gave me the address of Provost Padel, and said he would take care of us for the night. She herself made all of us (including our companions) sandwiches and sent everything, along with a can of coffee, to the bus. Long rows of trucks and busses were regularly driving 3-4,000 refugees and border-crossers to Helmstedt. Everything was perfectly organized. German police oversaw the departures and kept everything running smoothly. We made it to Helmstedt at 8:00 and unfortunately were told to get off too early. The train station was overcrowded with refugees. So I went to see Provost Padel first. I asked for accommodation in a parish room or in something similar. We didn't want to go to the big dormitory room,
which was also available. We retrieved 3 trolleys full of luggage in 3 different trips with the provost's small boy, and we received a room in the kindergarten. After we had washed up and refreshed ourselves with hot coffee, which Mrs. Padel herself brought us, we went to sleep on 2 small children's lounge chairs. At 6:00 in the morning, we again set out to investigate. We brought the luggage to the freight train station and set ourselves up there in the first row of 4,000 people. We women went to get food stamps, for which we had to be deloused, then we ate in a [ill.] and picked up cold food, and at 4:00 we had to load everything up again at the train station. That went flawlessly, the English gave the orders and a small [ill.] was loaded up. The train left at 6:00, and at 2:00 in the morning we stopped at a station before Osnabruck. That was another difficult night, filled with a lot of impatience and long waits. The trucks, which were supposed to come at 7, didn't come until 12, but we made it to Osnabruck on one of the last ones. The train to Mettingen departed at 1:30, and we found other helping hands who helped us with carrying everything, as we just couldn't do it any longer. We arrived in Mettingen at 2:30, completely unexpected. The reception by Aunt Else Springer was affectionate and kind.
We talked without end, there was a lovely meal prepared, and then it was off to bed to sleep off all the excitement and exertion. But we first sent a prayer of thanksgiving from overflowing hearts to our Father in heaven, who had protected us throughout all the danger and had given us superhuman strength to carry our heavy belongings.
The Mettingen rectory is similar to ours at home. Love and warmth make our time here wonderful. We are now part of the family, whose dear father unfortunately has gone missing in Russia. Ernst Gottfried has become the special favorite of our boys; they couldn't really relate to Brigittchen17 right away. We all love Aunt Else, and not only because she has given us a home here. Both boys have their friends, are going to school again, Kurt to piano lessons, and he also has the opportunity to continue his art studies with Mr. v.d. Denck. Living in a proper rectory is like a taste of home. But we will never forget our East Prussian home. Yearning and homesickness often overcome us
17-chen is the diminutive form of a name, like Stevie for Steven.
and the heartache for our dear East Prussian parish hangs heavy upon us.
2nd Border Crossing
After we had rested a few weeks, we wanted to go pick up our bigger pieces of luggage — 3 big boxes and 3 heavy book boxes, as well as our hand luggage. We set off, Kurt and I, before it got too cold and rainy. In Hannover we heard such a horror story about Weferlingen that we exchanged our tickets that we had just validated and went instead to Uncle Karl in Gottingen. Those were a nice couple of days. But when I ran into a lot of border-crossers on the way back who had made it through with no problems, I knew that we would have to attempt it again. A week later, we rode back towards the border. Mr. v.d. Denck rode with us to pick up his family in Berlin. In Braunschweig, we were supposed to spend the night in a bunker, but when we stood in front the delousing shot station, I was turned away, so we called at a rectory in the evening. We were kindly and hospitably welcomed, even though the lady of the house lay sick in bed. The study, tastefully and beautifully decorated, was heated up for us and a storage area was made. Mr. v.d. Denck slept in the kitchen. The next morning, we rode
to Helmstedt-Grassleben, where swarms of border-crossers, especially Polish people and soldiers, got off. We were told right away that it was not possible to cross during the day. We went to the barrier because Mr. v.d. Denck had a letter with him from the [ill.] church, but the patrol did not accept it. So that meant we had to wait until evening. I went to see the pastor, who helped us out with food stamps and found a guide for us. At 10:00 in the evening, we started the trip to cross with two guides, seven of us altogether. We wanted to take the short path from 1/2 St.18 over meadows and fields. Shortly before our destination, which we could already see in front of us, a patrol suddenly yelled, "Stop! Stoll Hands up!" and fired a warning shot into the air. He came towards us and we had to sit down, hands up, and be searched individually. I was the only woman of the group and the second to be searched. But he just felt along my pockets19, and didn't notice the money on my chest. He also thought Kurt was SS, cuffed him with the butt of his rifle, and yelled a few times, "I break you, you dog!" because Kurt hadn't given him his pocket knife like he had ordered. I was extremely fearful for the boy. The patrol searched him
18Unclear what is meant here — perhaps Strage/street
19This word can also mean bags.
a long time and also took cans and a knife from him, as well as a reflector that was supposed to go on the back of Ernst Gottfried's handcart. Mr. v.d. Denck also had bad luck and was properly looted, the others as well. And then we had to go back, all of our hopes dashed, with no desire to try it again. That night we slept in a room of the [ill.]. We kept hearing people setting off for or returning from the other side, and that was when Kurt said that we needed to try again. The next morning the guide woke me up, and we walked along the wide forest path, like the first time. Since all of our luggage was light, we walked quickly. At one point, a wagon of Russian soldiers drove by, and we quickly slid down the slope and lay quietly hidden. This went well again, and we [finally] arrived in Weferlingen. There we experienced our second disappointment — our luggage wasn't there. We had to ride up to Altmark to get it. That meant another night in the Oebisfelde rectory. Around noon the next day, we arrived in Melmeke in the pouring rain, completely soaked. There we learned that the border 6 km away was sometimes open. So we decided to put everything on a wagon and the next day rode to the border in Mr. Haases' box wagon. I went to the commanding officer and asked him if we could go over the border. He said, "Yeah, yeah", he was drinking with [ill.] officers, and I saw to it that I got away.
The patrol at the border wanted a letter from the commanding officer, but I was in no mood to go back again. So he went himself, brought the commanding officer with him, and ordered me to open all suitcases and boxes. Kurt and Mr. Haase were helping watch, but before I knew it, the commanding officer had stolen a suit from me and another stole the second suit from Kurt from the wagon. I was ready when yet another Russian wanted to take the expensive violin. I took it out of his hand, and said, "Everything broken. No take violin." And then I said to Kurt that I was going to ride back and complain that they had stolen so much here. At that point, the soldiers suddenly understood German. The one from the barrier said, "You can drive the wagon over to the English camp." We didn't need to be told twice, left the boxes open, and drove through the barrier into the English reception camp. After registering and delousing, we went that same evening to the collective camp, a camp of tents for more than 2,000 people. After receiving good food — milk soup, honey, and jacket potatoes — we went to our tent, which Kurt and I had for ourselves. It was completely soaked through, even the straw on which we slept, even the small blanket underneath. We barely slept that night, the rain poured down nonstop. The next morning it was clear to us that we did not want to wait there several days for a winter transport. A truck was driving to Hannover that same morning, and after a good tip, the soldiers
put our things on it and we rode through the first bout of blowing snow sitting on the boxes. We made it to the train station in Hannover in the afternoon. A porter helped us bring our things to the luggage area, where our name was quickly put on everything and checked in as our accompanying items. They took everything expect the big boxes that weighed 3 ztr.20 We would have to take those to a rectory. It was not easy to find one in the destroyed city of Hannover. The pastor's two sons came and helped us load up the boxes and took them to their house. We were in time to make the train to Bielefeld, stayed the night there in the waiting room, and were home at lunchtime the next day. A week later, all boxes and bags had arrived in good condition. And during Advent, Kurt went to Hannover by himself to repack the big boxes and to bring them home. He bravely made his way there, used a railroad worker's cart to get the boxes to the train in the evening, spent the night in the waiting room, and arrived here safe and sound the next night. Those items also arrived here in a timely manner, although many of the dishes that had been packed up in the boxes had broken. Now our adventurous nomadic life has ended, thank God. We can rest here after all of the unrest, and for that we are grateful to God, who protected us on all of our journeys, from the bottom of our hearts.
20 Unit of measurement (Zentner)
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