Dieter Groffig

* 1933

  • “And those ‘Communists’ in took over Beřovice. They stood around there, waiting. A lot of German soldiers were retreating and wanted to get through the village. And then the Czechs in these light yellow uniforms, these ‘Communists’, well all the German soldiers trying to pass through the village, they shot them. We saw it. And my mother was there with six children and another woman with three children. Both of our families were taken from Slaný to Beřovice. And there they had to, my mother and the other woman, to dig graves all day. But they weren’t able to dig up as many as there were dead and so multiple soldiers were put in a single grave. However, can’t remember if those graves were dug in the Beřovice graveyard or somewhere else, I don’t have that information, I don’t know exactly.

  • “At one point we had to get out of the train and there were trains everywhere. The bridges had been blown up and so you had to wait on the other side, until a new train comes to continue the journey. And that was when the women were raped. My sister who was fifteen, was raped by one Russian. My mother stood in front of her, she wanted to stop it and the Russian then wanted to shoot Mum. So she gave up. And then they raped my fifteen-year-old sister.”

  • “In Reichenbach, when the Russians came, there were suitcases filled with stuff in the cellar air-raid shelters. These suitcases were locked and since most people never returned, the suitcases just stood there, abandoned. When the Russians came, of course they went straight to those cellars and broke open the suitcases and picked out the nicest things. The cellars were full of clothes from those suitcases. But the main thing was that the Russians, on their way out of the cellars, they turned all the taps on and let them flood with water. The whole town had flooded cellars, because the Russians were afraid that some German soldiers might later hide in them, or the so-called partisans, who might come out against the Russians. That’s why they flooded all those cellars. And because we didn’t have anything to eat as Germans, I had to keep diving into those cellars as a nineteen-year-old boy, I took a deep breath and collected all the clothes lying down there and fished them out. It was very warm, May or June 1945, sweltering. And so next I dried all the clothing out. And then we carried it all to one Jew. As I said before, the Jews had opened small shops there. And one Jew then sorted all those clothes out and sold the best pieces.”

  • “We lived for a year and a half under the Poles and one day the Poles came along and lead us out of our houses. We were allowed to take ten kilograms of hand luggage with us. They sealed our houses up, they put seals on the doors. The Poles had dogs and guns, they took us and lead us to the train station, with their dogs. At the station, two cargo trains had been parked. These used to be for pigs. They were still filled with about thirty centimetres of pig manure. It was dripping from the bottom of those cars, that manure. And so now we had to, us thirty-five Germans, they divided us up precisely, get in one of those livestock cars. But we were lucky. There was this large coal shop there, the man was called Otto, Otto the Coalman they called him, he was a millionaire. He had his own railway track, bulldogs, horse and carriage, all kinds of things. And this Otto the Coalman, he had to teach the Poles about his store, so they knew how to carry on the business. And once he’d done that, well they shoved Otto the Coalman into one of the cars and it happened to be the one that was for us. The good thing about that, was that Otto the Coalman of course had a lot of workmen who cleaned up all that manure from the car. That took a few hours.”

  • “I always went to Berlin, I took an extra blue shirt for the occasion, the kind they wore in the FDJ (the Free German Youth). And a red tie, like in the FDJ. And then I collected the literature in West Berlin, the magazines, and I hid it by wrapping it around my legs. And on my back. There were checks in all the trains. And when the police arrived, I always stood so that my back was to the wall, so they couldn’t touch me. Of course they wanted to see my ID card, and I showed them. And then they wanted my luggage. I said: ‘Here’s my bag!’ And you couldn’t just sit on a seat, otherwise they’d pat your legs and want to see if you have anything under the seat. And then they’d notice I have something hard there, not just muscle. And when something like that happened, you were done for, they took you to a special division and you didn’t come home. So I always stood up, so they couldn’t check me. And then they opened my bag and I had this thick book in there. On the book it said ‘The Young Guard’. It was a Soviet book. And then they opened the book and there was the dedication. “To Mr Dieter Groffig for good results in his apprenticeship exam.” So of course they thanked me, first I had the blue shirt and then that dedication. And so I always made it through and they never caught me.”

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    Dresden, 17.06.2021

    duration: 01:59:52
    media recorded in project Inconvenient Mobility
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Wars are the work of the devil

Dieter Groffig - foto z vazby 1953
Dieter Groffig - foto z vazby 1953
photo: pamětník

Dieter Groffig was born on 2 September 1933 in the Silesian town of Reichenbach, which is currently within the territory of Poland and was renamed Dzerzionów after the war. His father served in the Wehrmacht and fell in 1944 in Lithuania. When the Red Army reached as far as Silesian Wrocław in February 1945, the women and children of Reichenbach were evacuated to Jihlava and three months later transferred to Slaný. The end of the war caught the family in Beřovice near Slaný, where they witnessed the executions of German soldiers and their mother had to dig their graves. On the train journey back to Silesia, Soviet soldiers raped Dieter’s fifteen-year-old sister. In Reichenbach, the Groffig family spent a further year and a half in utmost poverty, the town was already under Polish administration. In the autumn of 1946, the Groffig family were expelled, escorted by Polish gunmen, and with ten kilograms of property per person they travelled by cattle car to the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. After staying at various refugee camps, they were housed in stables in the town of Riesa, where they lived until 1953. Under the influence of these wartime events, the mother and her children decided to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This had been forbidden in Communist East Germany from 1950. Dieter repeatedly smuggled religious print materials from West Berlin, until an informant turned him in and he was arrested and convicted in 1953. He spent seven and a half years in East German prisons, until being released during the amnesty at the end of 1960. A few months later, immediately before the erection of the Berlin wall, he emigrated through West Berlin to the Federal Republic, where he lives to this day.