Gottfried Bach

* 1940

  • “I wanted to mention the cross. In Stálky, right of the church, there stood a cross. The base is all that’s left now. And if you look you can see 1823 written on the base. Someone pulled the cross down, presumably, and the remnants are heaped up around it, the larger pieces. And no one even thought of perhaps having it repaired. And so I reckoned I wanted it restored. We’re planning on having the cross blessed again at the pilgrimage, on 15 August. It all works out to odd numbers: 2017 Nepomuk, 2019 the bells, and 2021 the cross. I think we’ll manage it. The mayor has since also agreed to it; at first he said it’s a Church matter, but he’s since intimated that he’ll probably get some funding, so I won’t have to pay the whole thing. It will be a nice project, and then we’ll... I’m not actually sure if it’s a good idea. Franz Ries, my childhood friend, Father Sebastian from Perneck, and myself, we reckoned we’d organise a pilgrimage to Stálky. From the pilgrimage road in Heinrichsreith along the route on which we were expelled. But I think it’s a bad idea because it could eventually mean confrontation. But it’s possible. It would be ideal. It’s not any old route, after all, it’s a special route. I have no need at all to make any accusations of anybody. It was war, all kinds of things happened. So what? People are not the same as they were back then.”

  • “Yes, it was pretty hard. For instance, she worked for farmers. One of our neighbours had a field right on the border, and she worked it. Suddenly – I’m sorry, Mum always cried at this bit – she saw her own cows on the field. And it was terrible. She got over it in the end, but it was hard for her.”

  • “Yes, it was an expulsion. I know most of it from hearsay, but I have memories of my own. I know how we stood there. My brother was three years younger, so he was two, and he was in the pushchair. My sister was two years older than me, and we just rode along with the pushchair. We had nothing else. Just a few things in the pushchair. Mum told us there were bankbooks there, which they confiscated later on. I also remember the column, trudging on towards Heinrichsreith, or into Heinrichsreith itself, with its well-known bridge, which is a bit run-down now - apparently they’ve deliberately avoided repairing it. They don’t want cars crossing it, but you can still walk there. And that’s where the stream of people passed through. I have my own memories of that, it took a long time, and it was hot. And one old man, I’m not sure if I remember that myself, at least Mum used to tell it this way, he was about eighty years old, and he had ‘open feet’, a skin disease. He sat in a ditch and yelled at them to just bury him there and be done with it, that he couldn’t go any further.”

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    Slavonice, 02.08.2020

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    duration: 01:33:00
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
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I returned to my roots

Gottfried Bach, Slavonice, 2020
Gottfried Bach, Slavonice, 2020
photo: Natáčení

Gottfried Bach was born in the South Moravian village of Stálky near the Austrian border on 26 June 1940. His parents were German peasants, Matthäus and Anna Bach. His father was drafted into the Wehrmacht at the onset of World War II and died serving in Russia in 1944. The majority of Stálky’s inhabitants were German-speaking farmers. In June 1945, on the very day of Gottfried Bach’s fifth birthday, almost all of the villagers were forced to gather up within the hour and leave their home place on foot with only the bare essentials. Their destination: Heinrichsreith, Austria. This was part of the so-called wild expulsion. The Bachs were able to settle down in the nearby village of Langau and were soon granted Austrian citizenship. In the first years they could even look out at Stálky across the gradually erected Iron Curtain. Gottfried attended a teaching school in Vienna. In 1966 he married an Austrian woman of Czech descent. He often visited the US for work and study and spent most of his professional life in Germany. After 1989 he bought Krokovice Farm in Písečná, near his native village. He settled down there with his wife for their retirement. He organised the renewal of several monuments in Stálky related to its German inhabitants. In 2020 he planned to hold a Czech-Austrian pilgrimage along the route of the expulsion.