“This was really interesting, almost to the point of being unbelievable. We came there and at first we tried to familiarize ourselves with the place. We discovered that a stretch of no-man’s land, about 5 – 7 kilometers wide, started about three kilometers away from our position. This was the result of the previous battles that had raged there. After surrendering, they left the area vacant as it was. There were a couple of small villages to be found in that stretch. I was stationed in the village of Seyweiler, about three kilometers away from Bebelsheim. In the winter, we would go there to steal hay because in the beginning we still had horses. In the beginning, we had huge herds of horses. Later on, the herds were growing thinner and thinner. The first encounter with the French soldiers was amazing. They came their on the same mission as us: to steal hay. There was single shot but a second later a red flare was fired and the war was over. We became great friends. They showed us around and advised us on where to get this and that. That was a war.”
“One of our units followed us to the town of Pinsk. The landscape there is basically marshland. We passed and on our tail went a battery, a field hospital and nurses. The Russians were hidden in the bogs. They let us pass but when the field hospital and the nurses were passing, they attacked them. What happened there can hardly be expressed in words. They tortured and mutilated the women, sticking swords into their wombs and slitting their throats, cutting out their tongues… It is unspeakable what happened there.”
“The last injury was the worst. It was almost after the war. We were nearby Danzig. We were on the outskirts of Danzig, it was called Langfur. It was already quiet by then. The Russians were passing on as they were marching towards Berlin. As we didn’t have much to do, we were passing our time by playing football. Suddenly, an airplane showed up on the sky and flew away again. But what happened next: six more airplanes appeared and dropped bomb on us. One bomb hit the ground right next to me. I got somewhat covered by earth but one of my arms was sticking out. I had jumped into a hole that we had to dig for ourselves – a kind of a grave. I jumped into it and got nearly buried alive. When the planes disappeared, the other soldiers started to search the site – accounting for the dead, wounded and missing. They found me and dug me out.”
“After work, the whole group of prisoners marched back to the camp. The group was over a 100 man strong. We were tired and exhausted, starving. It was towards the evening and it was already getting dark. Little lime trees grew along the way with green little branches. In Russian captivity, it was quite common that the inmates boiled all kinds of green stuff, like branches and leafs. We would make soup of it, throwing a few pieces of bread inside and adding a few branches. Then we ate it. One of the soldiers from the group jumped up, picked a green branch and started to eat it. A guard came and knocked him on the head with his rifle butt. The soldier collapsed and died on the spot. But that was just the beginning. The whole column stopped and the inmates began to grumble and complain as is usual in this sort of cases, regardless of the presence of the guards. The commander on horseback arrived on the spot and inquired into the matter. He ordered the responsible guard to be taken there and started to swear at him because even the Russian soldiers were complaining that he behaved in a brutal and stupid way. That inmate didn’t do anything and he killed him. Such a stupidity. He had to undress and had four or five watches on one arm and two more on the other. The commander pulled out a pistol from his pocket and shot him on the spot. He court-martialed him on the spot. Murder for murder.”
You woke up in the morning and did not know what awaited you, whether you’d be Czech or German.
Bernard Dinter was born on November 22, 1918, in Ludgeřovice, the Prussian province of Prussian Silesia. Soon afterwards, in January 1920, his hometown, and the region of Hlučínsko and Ludgeřovice were annexed into Czechoslovakia after the Treaty of Versailles. Just like the vast majority of the local residents, Dinter’s parents claimed allegiance to the Moravci ethnic group, who spoke a distinctive language influenced by nearly two hundred years of life in Prussia. After the Munich Agreement, Hlučínsko, unlike the other occupied border areas, was directly annexed into the Third Reich and the local men were thus subjected to German conscription. In September 1939, Bernard was drafted into the Wehrmacht. As a member of the 452nd Infantry Regiment, he took part in the Battle of France. Later, he was transferred to the artillery and in 1941 fought in the Soviet Union, where he not only witnessed some of the bloodiest battles, but also the infamous Siberian winters that decimated the ranks of the soldiers. Only rarely was he allowed to come home for the holidays. During one of them, in 1943, he married Lucie Stepková, whom he had already known before the war and whose love letters had helped him to survive. He learned about the birth of their firstborn daughter several months after she was born, saw her for the first time when she turned one. Four days after the end of the war, on May 12, 1945, he was captured by Soviet troops on the Hel peninsula near Gdansk, present-day Poland. Together with hundreds of other German prisoners, he was forced to walk on foot to a prison camp in Minsk, Belarus. After a few months, he was transferred to the Tereza prison camp in Moravská Ostrava. He was finally able to return home in May, 1946. After the war, he worked as a carpenter and later as a furnace worker in the Vítkovice Ironworks, where he remained until his retirement. Today, he lives with his wife Lucie in Ludgeřovice.