An almost completely unknown chapter in our history remains the so-called repatriation of the Germans of Russia at the end of World War II ... The historian Anton Bosch, who holds a doctorate in history, gives us a first-hand report.

Repatriation of the Germans of Russia after the end of the war

A particularly dark chapter of the deportation of Russia Germans has gone down in history as "repatriation". It concerned two sections of the population of Germans from Russia, about 30,000 so-called "contract resettlers" who, due to the provisions of the Hitler-Stalin pact in the years 1939-41, had been resettled from the Baltic States, eastern Poland and Bessarabia to the Warthegau.

About 200,000 so-called "administrative resettlers", most of them from Ukraine, had been resettled during the retreat of the Wehrmacht in 1943/44 in large treks to the Warthegau and to eastern Germany (see "Süd-Treck" link). There they were overrun by the Soviet troops and interned in collective camps. To this group are added about 50,000 repatriates, who were at the end of the war in the Western occupation zones and were transferred by the Western Allies to the Soviet repatriation commandos.

The legal procedure for the compulsory repatriation of these groups by the Soviet military authorities was given in 1945 with the Allied agreements of Yalta and Potsdam.

Thus, the repatriation of the Russian side was officially presented as a "normal act" and "sweetened" by the promise of a homecoming of those affected in their former hometowns. That they were instead deported to Siberia and under what inhumane conditions, this whole event for the "homecomers" really expired, is clear from the detailed accounts of a contemporary witness, the Anton Bosch, who comes from the German colony Kandel in Odessa.

His report is reproduced by us in excerpts link.
In total, the victims of all deportations of Germans from Russia in the years 1941-1946 are estimated at about 30% of those affected. From this it can be deduced that of the approximately 970,000 Russian Germans who were affected by the deportations, about 300,000 people were killed.

"The Russians came on Panjewagen with small Mongol horses on the third day [after the departure of the Americans in late July 1945 - D. Verf.] In the space between Weissenfels-Naumburg.-Querfurt, began to look at the inhabitants for alcohol and took everything They were especially hungry for wristwatches, cameras and accordions, and everything that was stolen was loaded onto horse-drawn carriages and taken away towards the railway.

Soon a Russian commander arrived in our village and began to advertise his country. Through the whispering propaganda that he circulated, he wanted to give the impression that the Germans from Russia were allowed to return home. The word was deliberately used the word peasant, in contrast to the kolkhoznik, for the whisper-propa-ganda wanted to suggest to man that there would again be something like a free peasantry. It has also opened the churches again for worship, it said. Russia had changed in the war, the churches were reopened, in the army the officers were allowed to wear their epaulettes again, and even that the kolkhozes had been abolished again, in a word - in the USSR it was at least as good not much better than in Germany.

On July 30 and 31, a Soviet officer and two soldiers with submachine guns, accompanied by German communists wearing red armbands, went from house to house and drove their victims to the trucks of the Red Army in the village square. The collection of all compatriots proceeded according to the lists prepared by the occupiers. In this way, villages were "cleared" day by day.

The largest transit camp for "homecomers" was located near the city of Halle in a former German barracks. It had a capacity of 11,000 people when fully occupied. Upon arrival of the "returnees", the personnel papers were checked by a military commission. Many compatriots destroyed their German identity cards, above all the birth certificates of their German-born children with the eagle and swastika (as if they had committed a crime with the children's war). The arrivals were sent to barracks. The camp was surrounded by spiked wire so that the impression was made that people were in prison.

 The camp administration consisted of Soviet officers of the internal armed forces (MWD) and some German civilians, who showed themselves throughout polite and accommodating. Usually there were three times daily warm food from a goulash gun of the former German Wehrmacht: in the morning Kascha from barley or grits, at noon the traditional Russian herb soup, occasionally German pea soup, and in the evening Kascha with black tea. Bread was available at all times, two cuts per person.

Soon the reeducation of the camp inmates began. For the children, specially trained educators were employed in the USSR. The children were taught "playfully" pro-Soviet. There was politics in poetry, songs and children's games. The following rhymes are still in my memory:

 Hammer, sickle, soviet,
 If I show with my hand,
 Are you going to the Soviet country?
 She shakes, she shakes,
 She throws her legs behind her.
 We clap our hands
 And go to the Soviet country.

By such and similar means, the Soviets lured their former citizens back to the working-people's paradise. All "returnees" were accurately recorded and observed upon arrival. In every major camp, a MWD commission of inquiry was busy checking the people. These commissions, which consisted of selected and specially trained MWD officers, examined each "returnee" individually, with the latter having to report in detail on his activities during the German occupation. Here already some arrests of Russian Germans took place.

After three weeks, the news spread like wildfire that all camp inmates would be deported to Siberia. That caused a lot of trouble. Some refused to visit "relatives" in Halle and did not return, others went over the fence at night and went west. The warehouse management then tightened the controls in the warehouse. Exits were no longer approved. All this gave us a bad idea.

In mid-August 1945, the first trains, consisting of fifty to sixty freight cars, were pushed onto the storage track and the "returnees" loaded with their belongings. Every day one to two trains, crammed with people, left the camp gate to the east, facing the rising sun. Nobody knew what she expected there.

The train went southeast of Leipzig via Dresden in the direction of the Oder. As a rule, there was no stopping at larger stations, the longer the Eschelon, as the train was called by the commander, had to stop at the small stations. Often he was pushed on sidings and left for several days. The breaks were inevitably longer and longer, due to the chaotic conditions in Poland, where often no coal and no water to refill the locomotive was available, because of missing train drivers or because of priority driving the only remaining track, because the Russians had already partially dismantled the second track and spent in the Soviet Union.

Every "repatriant" had to take care of his own food. Worst of all were the extended families who had been deported from the starving cities of Germany because they could not get any food for the upcoming trip there. The weekly distributed by the platoon provisions was barely two days. The pajok (ration) for one person per day consisted of 250 grams of sushi, a kind of rusk made from Russian black bread, half a dried salted fish or just as much stinking herring, some black tea and sometimes a little sugar. These products had to pick up and distribute the wagon elder with two helpers from the wagon commander on Mondays. The three men could easily carry food all week in trash bags, called "stumps" in dialect.

After a three-week drive, the train stopped on the train tracks again, before dawn. The inmates no longer had a sense of space and time orientation. They had simply surrendered to their fate without asking where they were or why the train stopped again. In the weeks of their wanderings through Poland, they had thoroughly learned not to ask, for they never heard of the destination of their journey.

At the beginning of the day, about eight o'clock, loud voices of the train's military attendants were heard. The sayings of the two guards and the officer were well known, but now something sassy and threatening sounded in them that suggested nothing good. The victors, presumably by their contact with the soil and the air of Russia, felt bound by their authority to strike a new, stricter tone. "Open the door ... unload everything," they shouted several times, marching up and down the train. We shrieked and refused to obey the order, for it was pouring with rain outside, and there was no means of transport to take the possessions and the children away.

After several unsuccessful requests to clear the wagons, the escort officer ordered the firing of warning shots. The wagon occupants sensed that it was getting serious, very serious, and began without hesitating to throw their remaining belongings out of the wagon into the mud. After two hours everything was unloaded, and the train driver gave full steam again after three whistles. The locomotive of the Deutsche Reichsbahn hurriedly hauled the 52 empty wagons that had provided people with a roof over their heads during the past five weeks, and headed west, presumably to "voluntarily" bring the next two thousand people back to the Soviet homeland.

After the lost Leerzug opened to the view of a camp on the mountain, on the southern side of a Soviet wide-gauge railway. As far as the eye could see, you could see thousands of holes covered in sheet metal, planks, and rags. The pouring rainwater was channeled around the earth huts by people who lived in it. The loamy soil was nevertheless so slippery that the inhabitants of these holes could move between the huts only with the help of sticks and fence posts. We newcomers, each on their own, sought to find a hole left behind by our predecessors. Here the unwritten law of the taiga became brutally visible. Everyone tried to find something for themselves without regard to the weak and the sick.

Our "wagon elder" was the first to discover a hole filled with rainwater. The family began to scoop out the water with bowls and eggs, and soon the "hut" was covered with a few boards and blankets and raincoats gathered in the camp. In the four-square-meter hole there was room: his own family of five and his sister's typhoid boy.

The sister herself and her twins moved in the direction of the two wooden shacks in the middle of the camp, which were at the disposal of the returning Russians and Ukrainians. It was pitch-black outside when she went inside and looked with a look of help at the people on the three-story bunk. She discovered a woman from Kandel near Odessa and asked for help. She immediately gave her a hint not to speak German, otherwise they would both be thrown out and pointed to the empty space on the upper floor of an empty bunk.

In the middle of the night, between eleven and twelve o'clock, the inhabitants of the barracks heard a terrible shouting: "Gdje russkije Nemzy? - Where are the Russian Germans here? Gdje sdesj fascisty? - Where are the fascists? "Everyone, both Russians and non-Russians, hid under their blankets in fear and waited for further action. Four drunken marauders tore the blankets from the lying people and searched for hidden Germans. They finally found a victim and dragged him out of the barrack into the dark night. It was a young woman where the bandits went outside. Their pleading cries could still be heard until after midnight. No one wanted and could help the victim.

The robber commandos usually carried five to six men in leather coats and boots, armed with luncheons and pistols, through the camp and targeted their victims. Cursing and threatening in the alcohol intoxication, they threw themselves on their prey and dragged them out into the open. They shouted, "Where are the Russian Germans? We kill her. Where are the things of the traitors? Come on! "Worst of all were the pretty young women and girls. The young mothers pressed their babies to their breasts, hoping to save themselves and their children. Some young men tried to organize a kind of self-defense with spades, pickets and hatchets, but had little success because the bandits were armed with pistols. Rescue brought only the dawning day, for at dawn, the perpetrators were pulling away with stuffed sacks. You could not complain to anyone, because the camp administration took no ads, on the grounds that one must name the perpetrators by name for a proper display.

After a week at Camp Kovel, the "repatriates" had only one desire to escape from this cauldron as quickly as possible, no matter where, home to the Black Sea, or to Siberia; yet the "tried and tested" methods were only a prelude to the suffering in the Siberian deportation. After eight days, with the obligatory command "Dawaj, Dawaj, po wagonam," we were retrieved from the burial ground and shipped on.

About Smolensk it went first to Vyazma. Here, at this juncture, which offered the last chance to switch to southern Ukraine, the hopes of those deported to "get home" were finally destroyed. The "returnees" moved even closer together in the ever-shrinking wagons, preparing mentally and physically for a very long winter. Crammed into the wide-lane "Wagony" like cattle, the 102 people in the No. 12 car had only half as much space as in the freight cars of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, namely a strip of 22 centimeters, or a person had an area of ​​0, 7 square meters; Too much to stand and too little to sit on, let alone lie down. For the leftover baggage, which had crumbled to less than half in hell from Kovel, the room could only be occupied vertically. For human needs, only a few square decimeters remained on the floor space at the car door.

There were no laundry facilities. At some stations we could, if the train commander allowed us, wash our faces at the water tank station of the locomotives. This "technical" water, sometimes a dubious dark broth, was also taken for drinking and cooking in the carriages. In addition, the lice taken in Kovel multiplied to millions and spread both on the body and in the head hair, so that the victims had to "roast", ie disinfect, their underwear over an open fire when stopping the train.

The names of the stations had long since changed from Polish to Russian, only the direction of the train was uncertain. We stood for hours at the open doorway, spelled out loud the passing name badges of stations, scribbled on the railway lines on newspaper and discussed the still possible change in the train direction to the southeast. Meanwhile, the train crawled inexorably towards the east. The autumn weather was getting colder, the icy rain lashed to the outer walls of the cars, making us even closer together. Fear and anxiety, the weeping of the women and the groans of the men constantly accompanied the overstrained people in the unheated rolling cattle cars.

Around mid-October, two to three "repatriates" died each night on a rolling train. The relatives had no opportunity to bury the deceased. The dead had to be left lying in blankets at some nameless station at the direction of the train commandant after their data had been taken. From whom and where they were buried, the relatives have never experienced. And so they still lie in the Russian soil at the railway stations with Cyrillic names on the route between Kovel and the Urals, to the end of Eastern Europe, which belongs to Soviet Russia, without crosses and without name tags on their graves.

On October 20, 1945, the train left Kazanj, the provincial capital of Tatarstan, heading north and heading for a new destination on the Western Urals. Was it the numerous deaths of the past week, was it the winter that set in so early this year, or had a local apparatchik called for fresh labor for the Westural industrial and armaments area? Nobody knows who came up with the idea of ​​dumping and taking into custody the half-starved, half-frozen people in the already-reached Ural region.

On October 25, three wagons with about five hundred people were removed from the train and reportedly deported to the wooden sawmills of the city of Sarapul. Relatives and acquaintances from the former bathing in Odessa were separated here for many years. The remaining five wagons with over 360 people were discharged 75 kilometers further, at the end of the railway line, on the morning of October 28, 1945 in snowstorm.

We arrived at our previously unknown destination - in Kilmes, at the time still »4. Strojploshchadka «, in German» 4. Construction site ", named after more than two months travel at the place of our new life.

The act of handing over the arrived human good took less than an hour. Only the name lists of the Germans, including the corpses they had brought with them, were checked, and the receipt of the deportees by signatures of the platoon commander and Comrade Sabreckov with a round Soviet coat of arms seal was sealed. Then the freezing people dragged their small belongings out of the cattle cars and stored them in the mud next to the railroad track.

Soon after, twelve teams of horses appeared with small Mongolian horses and, o "miracles," German-speaking trucking men: Germans like us, mostly from the Volga region, and sent to this wilderness as early as 1943, to the famous, infamous "Trudarmiya," who laid the foundation for the »4th Construction site "in the middle of the jungle.

The first encounter with fates seemed to many like a miracle. It was said to one another: "If these Volga Germans have survived the cruelest war years here, we will be able to do so with God's help." His possessions were loaded onto horse-drawn carriages and rejoiced to be taken away from the lousy rolling prisons by a Volga-German.

It snowed in thick snowflakes all October day on the frozen earth crust Udmurtiens. The wheels sank to the hubs in the black, muddy mud. The emaciated little "Mongolki" did not have the strength to move the wheels from the spot. We had to dismount and help the horses in the deep morass. Twelve trucks had to drive a total of four times that day until late in the evening all 364 people were transported to the barracks.

All this took place under the stern eyes of visibly satisfied Comrade Sabreckov, who on the evening of October 28, 1945, told his NKVD headquarters in Izhevsk about the successful completion of the unloading campaign on the »4. Construction site "was able to report on his rapport.

On an area of ​​300 by 300 meters there were ten double barracks. All ten barracks were confusingly similar, so the new occupants often confused the entrances during the night. In each half of the barracks, up to six families were accommodated on three-storey wooden cots. On the interior partition wall stood a large Russian stove with a front-mounted stove, which had to be heated around the clock. In the barracks there was no water supply or sanitary facilities, so the children and old people at night for the needy had to use the pots, if they had, use, otherwise everyone went to the common bucket at the exit door, his stench over the entire Barrack spread in the night.

There was no kind of light, because not only kerosene lamps were missing, but also kerosene, not to mention electric power. During the increasingly prolonged nights, the children had to provide lighting through shingle wood from spruce trees. After two hours of such wood burners, the oxygen was completely consumed, and the rooms were full of clouds of smoke, under which the elderly suffered with difficulty breathing.

The wood for heating the barracks had to be brought up from the nearby forest by the authorities "Ishdiwenzy," that is, called "nothing-tur," and smashed and split by the oven. The blackheads had the unwritten task of providing warmth in the barracks, until the returning breadwinners returned who, after twelve hours of hard work in the woods, had an urgent need to warm themselves up by the stove and their drenched footwork, consisting of rags and wooden clogs to dry.

The first morning task of the men was to hack the door with the hatchet and remove the hard-frozen ice from the joints of the door frame. Only then could the snow be shoveled away in front of the barrack entrance and the access to the barracks be freed from the overnight snowfall. The "workers" usually washed their faces after getting up with water in the aluminum and tin bowls brought from Germany. Some went out into the yard and rubbed their faces with snow. The complicated art after that was the putting on of the "foot-wraps" and the tying of the "bunkers", the shoes made of linden-tree bark. The "Fufaikas," the quilted cotton jackets and the thick cotton trousers, were usually damp in the morning when they were getting dressed; they consoled themselves and said:

A bread ration of 600 grams was given only to the heavy workers who fulfilled their daily norm; for a worker who did not achieve the target, there were only 400 grams of the life-giving mixed bread. The masters and brigadiers (foremen) could, at their discretion, allocate extra bread rations for above-average performance. Usually they put the necessary vouchers into their own pockets and exchanged them for vodka and other deficient goods. The middle managers' matadors gave some of their loot to the authorities and thus got more bread vouchers for the next month. The whole allocation system was corrupt from bottom to top.

For children and older people there were at the beginning 250 grams of bread per person. At the end of 1946 the bread allocation was completely canceled. Especially in the large families was bitter famine. The legs of the elderly began to fill with water. The word "swollen" made the rounds, meaning "constantly starving," in medical jargon: distrophy.

Soon, someone came up with the idea of ​​boiling up young fir branches and drinking tea several times a day. The infusion tasted penetrating bitter, but quenched the thirst for a short time and suppressed hunger. Necessity makes you inventive, and so we started digging for unearthed potato leftovers on the nearby potato field of the neighboring barchose with spades and crowbars under the meter high snow layer. On some non-working Sundays, two men could "stomp" up to two buckets of frozen potatoes and bring them to their hungry children. At that time the "Krumbeerakiechla" were baked in all barracks on the cooking plates of the cookers. Nevertheless, many barracks died at the end of the first winter starvation.

In the fall of 1946, a 360 hp steam engine »Buckau-Wolf« from Magdeburg was brought into the warehouse and installed in the power plant. The coupled generator from the Russian plant "Elektrosila" from Leningrad delivered only 250 kilowatts, so that the full power of the condensation steam engine could not be exhausted. After all, from that time on, the first electric current came into the apartments and to the drives of the woodworking machines.

This year, many machines and equipment from Germany arrived at all. In addition to the steam engine from Magdeburg came with winches with steam drive from Silesia, electric motors and switchgear Bosch, Siemens and AEG, steam locomotives for narrow gauge from Germany, even rusty railway rails Krupp, built in 1892, arrived at the site in Kilmes and were partially used, sometimes scrapped as unusable due to lack of technical documentation.

 For the settlement, considerably expanded by the arrival of native Russians, Udmurt and Tartars, a block-style clubhouse and a central radio stanziya were built in the summer. On the orders of the party secretary the so-called radio-disk made of black tarpaper was installed in the apartments so that the working people could always hear Moscow and receive the instructions of the great leader Stalin. The wonders of technology were not exactly cheap; a whole 29 new rubles were deducted from the next monthly salary of a worker, which was only about 600 rubles.

In addition, according to the decree of the party headquarters, every family had to subscribe to the newspaper »Udmutskaya Pravda«, although hardly any of us could read Russian. The party was not interested in this; it acted in accordance with Lenin's motto: "Whoever can not, must learn it; he who refuses is forced! "

At the end of November 1948, all Germans were rounded up in the working canteen called Stolovaya. It presided the notorious Trojka. Among the three gentlemen sat a highly decorated officer in the rank of a Major of the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) named Leshchukov; the party secretary and the director of the wood winning company Moskvin were also present.

The meeting on this Sunday afternoon lasted an hour. Without much preamble, the officer drew a paper from a closed envelope and announced with a stern, practiced military voice that the Party and State leaders had decided to "settle the Germans there forever," where they are at present. and that a prison sentence of not less than twenty years was planned for the escape. From now on, the Germans would be called "Spezposelency" (special settlers); they are only allowed to move "freely" within a radius of two kilometers between the workplace and the barracks. Anyone caught outside this area would also face a 20-year prison sentence. For the execution of this ukas signed by Stalin and Kalinin, the so-called "special commander" at the place of residence was responsible.

This meant that if a master or a brigadier complained about a German, the "special commander" had a duty to brainwash the person into his office; There were no limits to the forms of witch hunts.

Those present at the age of sixteen had to sign the Ukas for settlement "for ever" and pledge to appear at least once a month before the commander. Major Leshchukov, a typical representative of the regime, was distinguished by a particularly strict attitude towards the Germans. He had her appear regularly every two weeks in his office and asked each time piercing questions about the past, especially the activity during the German occupation and the conditions in Germany from 1944 to 1945. He was interested in all acquaintances and relatives, regardless of whether they lived in the Soviet Union, in West Germany, or even in the United States, and carefully wrote the information he collected into his records, which he kept in his armored cupboard. He was especially proud of this safe. He usually opened it several times during an interrogation to demonstrate the position of the commander. "

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