Dora Gebhardt

* 1944

  • “I’ve lived in other towns, in Cologne, in Düsseldorf, abroad, but I’ve always come back to the source. And now I’m here, I live close to the castle and I even have the keys to the place. The owners don’t live there, in summer we do Sunday guided tours of the castle. I have the keys and this has allowed me to process my past. I’ll stay here until I die. That’s also why I set up the refugee’s parlour, that was important for me. It’s in one of the empty rooms of the castle, you see the owner has meanwhile been renovating and furnishing the rooms, but she still has a few empty ones. I brought absolutely everything there, including our suitcases from Mikulovice, the camp bed, things we brought from home, or from that ‘back then’ home, or things that were left in the castle from the refugee times, things we used at the time. For example school photographs, those are very interesting to the locals. And I don’t hide anything from the visitors, and I tell them about the time when we were refugees. Don’t we still keep hearing about other countries and refugees? That problem isn’t long gone, it was here with us. That’s important to me.”

  • “The castle was empty, it belonged to a refugee from Poland, Silesia, Lehnice, who also had to run away. So they were basically kind to set it up, however you want to call it, for refugees. This castle was essentially a luxury shelter. People didn’t have to sleep in barns or barracks, the walls were strong, families often had a whole room to themselves and it was nicely set up. And the community stuck together, people knew each other a bit.”

  • “So on 30 August we went from Mikulovice, the former munitions factory called Muna stood there, it served as a camp. And over the months of February to November 1946, over 51 000 people were (we say) deported, or transported from there in cattle cars. And my parents were part of thirty railway cars with twelve hundred people who were initially registered in Furth im Wald, their final destination was Bamberg. Then they were housed for thee days in the St. Martin school in Bamberg, from there to the empty police academy in Ebermannstadt, also Franconian Switzerland, and from there they were further reallocated. They spent a fortnight in a camp, in that police academy, as they told me. Then about a hundred and fifty people came, who were in that railway train, came to the empty castle, which was designated as a refugee camp. That’s were I grew up, that’s where I have my earliest memories from.”

  • “At the castle, my family and the other people living in the castle who were very close, the old people met up and sat together on the bench outside, according to the season, they only talked about the homeland there. I didn’t know what they were talking about, I didn’t know my homeland or the people they were discussing. I kept relating things to the present, but they didn’t fit. Then I realised they were talking about something else and not about the people I imagined. So I asked, pointedly, over and over again, are you talking about our home here, or about the real home? For me my home was the castle. And the real home was in Sudety. That’s what we called it as children.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Pegnitz, SRN, 12.07.2020

    duration: 01:55:25
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I spent my childhood in a refugee camp at a castle, but our “real home” was the Sudety

Dora Gebhardt, Pegnitz, 2020
Dora Gebhardt, Pegnitz, 2020
photo: Natáčení

Ms Dora Gebhardt was born on 12 April 1944 in the village of Ziegenhals (today Glucholazy in Poland), and spent her early childhood in the neighbouring Mikulovice (Niklasdorf in German). Both the villages were part of Germany during the war. In 1946 the whole family was ordered to the transports. A large part of the people expelled from Mikulovice were settled in the empty Hollfeld castle in the American Zone of Occupation. Ms Dora spent seven and a half years there, her younger sister died and her brother was born. Her mother tended to be mentally absent, father unemployed. In 1954 the father found work due to the growth of industry and the family moved to Düsseldorf. Ms Dora and her husband built a travel agency and worked and lived abroad. After her divorce, she devoted time to her lifelong hobby of painting and moved to Franconian Switzerland, within eyesight of the castle she grew up in. Her paintings adorn the walls of the castle chapel and she works as a tour guide there. She has set up a “refugee’s parlour” with original items from the Expulsion and tells visitors her story. She is in contact with the homeland of her parents, with Silesia and the long-time local residents.