These forms were called the EWZ files, and when doing my research these files on my ancestors were actually found in Washington DC by an American historian. The Americans had taken them there from Berlin at the Wars end! My family had always been intreagued as to why they wanted so many details, on names and their ancestors going back so many generations. The answer was not discovered until many years later, it was to do with the genocide of the Jews.
Hitler decided these people were to be forcibly settled in the Warthegau region. Hitler's name for a region of newly conquored Poland. Land was found to the approximate value for families, including the Dutch and then they were taken by German soldiers to property and told to wait on the roadside.
The German soldiers went into the farms and gave the Poles a short period of time to leave the premesis with minimum provisions. It was a very moving experience. Otto my Great grandfather, his wife and children occupied one farm in this manner as did Otto's daughter Kathie and son-in-law Emil My Dad's parents, my grandparents.
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Kathie already had one son. My Dad was born in this farm in Warthegau in November In , Emil and Kathie had another son.
Kathie's father Otto was some 40km to the north and they travelled to be with Otto at the weekend. Otto's son Adolf was recruited into the German war machine and it must have been strange for Otto to see his own son in a different army to which he once served. Adolf joined a panzer division and served two years on the brutal Eastern front. Adolf still lives and had a son quite late in life, his son was best man at my wedding!
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Adolf doesn't like to talk very much about this time in his life but he once explained his lucky escape It was and the tank he was driving was hit by a large calibre weapon. He explained that the vehicle shuddered and could hear the commander yelling for everyone to get out. Adolf struggled being a big boned 19 year old, as he struggled to get out he heard small arms fire rake the tank, all his comrades were already out and were all cut down.
He decided to stay in the tank for the rest of the day, he heard the Russian soldiers around the tank and could understand everything they were saying, it was after all Adolf's first language. He stayed in the tank over 24 hours and when he felt safe he crept out and made a run for it.
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Adolf didn't get very far and was cut down himself hit by three bullets from behind. One hit him in neck, one in the elbow which came out of his hand and one which hit his back and came out of his chest. Adolf doesn't remember anything else of the encounter but there had been a German counter attack and he remembers a medic tending to him. Adolf was flown out, he vividly remembers by a Fiesler Storch recconnaisance aircraft. The unit he left behind was dessimated at the Kursk tank battles of the summer of After his recovery he was sent to North Africa to join the Afrika Korps in Tunisia and was captured by the Americans and spent the rest of the war in Texas.
Back in Central Poland the villagers tried to go about their business as if they were back in their homeland, but it was difficult not only for them but more so for the Poles who had had their land stolen from them. My family felt cheated, thinking they would get legitimate property, not that stolen from a defeated people. It was their lot, and now their problem how to go about their lives.
In my Grandfather Emil Kathie's husband was called up for service in the Wehrmacht. Things were going bad for Nazi Germany and now it was the older people that were required. Emil was just short of He served on the Eastern front too, in the same unit as his brother. Then in their unit was transferred to France. Before he left he asked one of the Polish villagers to look after his wife and three boys if he wasn't to come home.
Emil never saw his family again. In late the atmosphere was changing and most people knew Germany was going to lose the war. Its common knowledge about the attrocities the Nazis committed, the numerous deathcamps throughout Europe, mass shootings of innocent men, women and children in locations such as Babi Yar in the Ukraine. Also, Russia had not signed the Geneva convention and Hitler had used this cheap excuse to treat captured Soviet soldiers in the manner he did. Two million Soviet soldiers died in captivity.
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As a consequence combined with more propoganda to fuel the Soviet soldier the reprisals taken were appalling. The first German land to be occupied by the Russians was a village in East Prussia. A few days later a German counterattack retook the town and what they found there was indescribable, the few who survived had horrific accounts to tell. Subsequently people fled East Prussia en masse.
In January the Russians came, Kathie was at home with her two boys. Some 40km north my five year old Dad was enjoying a weekend with his grandfather Otto, his grandmother and all his aunts. Otto left with the family with what they could gather, and sounded to be fairly well prepared. They left on horse and cart on a bitterly cold January day and they were once again refugees heading in a convoy.
This time they were desperate civilians trying to outrun the onslaught of the Red Army. A day after fleeing the farm, the sound of artillery and gunfire had died down and Otto purchased a bicycle from another refugee. He wanted to go back to the farm to see what had happened there and if it was already in the hands of the Russians. On his return, Otto found himself on high ground to the west and crawled into a small dip to keep out of sight and was able to take a good look at what was happening in and around the farmhouse.
In the courtyard, were Russian tanks and to his horror Russian soldiers busy looting his premises and chasing the geese, no doubt they were hungry. Incidentally, the Russian soldier in WWII was very poorly fed, they were issued with a dry block of pea concentrate. From this they would scrape some fragments and heat with water to make a pea soup. Anything else to supplement their rations, they would have to find themselves.
Then, there was a crack and Otto felt some force and a feeling of heat on his body, through his thick fur coat. He had been shot at, and without further delay cycled back as fast as he could to the convoy. Otto later discovered that the bullet had passed through his coat and out of the other side, he was very fortunate to still be alive. Back on the convoy young Waldemar was the centre of attention with all his aunties and grandparents to look after him and see to his every need. When I ask him what his earliest memories are he replies by telling me that he remembers the sky being all orange and red and occasionally someon would shield his eyes.
This was on the convoy and he was being shielded from the sights of all the death and destruction by one of his aunts. The relative tranquillity of the flight was shattered only a few days later when the convoy was strafed by Russian fighter planes, and the convoy drew to a halt, many people had died. A little later it was clear the Russians had overtaken the convoy and they too were moving down the convoy looting and pillaging as they went. Terror gripped the people and everyone who was still able fled on foot with anything they could carry, young Waldemar also needed to be carried.
The whole family started to run through the thick undergrowth, they came to a frozen lake and scurried across the ice, when they got to the other side they were all exhausted and suffering from cuts and bruises from the jagged ice on which they all fell whilst stumbling across to the other side, they were literally running for their lives.
Further south the Polish farm hand lived up to his promise and urged Kathie to leave with him immediately, the Russians were only a few kilometres away, quickly she packed a few small items and hurriedly left her home with her other two young sons. She wished to be with her father Otto and the rest of the family and was missing her middle son Waldemar My Dad. The Polish farm hand did a sterling job of leading Katie and the two boys to safety, he did what he could and ensured Kathie reached the pre WWII German border, they then parted and the Polish farm hand returned to where-ever he came from.
They never saw or heard of each other again. He must have been a very nice person for helping Kathie of his own free will. Once they had parted Kathie and her two boys managed to join another group of Germans fleeing to the west. Unfortunately for the group, they found themselves in the hands of the Polish militia who had crossed into former Germany and felt it necessary for vengeance; their belongings were relieved of them in the first instance.
Kathie was wearing riding boots at the time she left home.
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Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather is he not an insidious foe? On December 23, , Washington strode into the statehouse at Annapolis, Maryland and surrendered his military commission to a grateful Congress. History is filled with example after example of military commanders seizing political power during times of revolution — Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mao Zedong, and Muammar Gaddaffi are just some of the better-known examples. We take it for granted today that the United States Armed Forces are subordinated to civilian rule, but in the 18th century, it was far from certain that any general would simply surrender power to a civilian authority.
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British attempts to deny the American's this position failed and the British forces departed Boston on March 17, Facing the prospect of a total defeat, Washington was able to save his remaining forces by shuttling them across the East River to Manhattan. Washington's lightning attack surprised the Hessians and led to the capture of almost two-thirds of the 1, man force - at the cost of zero American combat casualties. This victory greatly bolstered the sagging morale of the Continental Army.