Erna Gudenrath

* 1928

  • "I was a young girl at the time and I didn't understand what all had actually happened. Of course I looked forward to it, and I went to have a look at my home. It was closed. We were about to leave and I turned and saw a curtain twitch. So I went back and knocked. They opened the door and I said that I had been born in that house. So they invited us in for coffee... Because some people behave rather arrogantly, I was more humble."

  • "We actually had a Madonna staying with us... We had a statue of Mary from the Presentation of Mary, for processions. We left her at home, I don't know where she ended up. She had a beautiful dress and I had to comb her hair (every year), to make her ready. To Kamenice, to the chaple we went, with lilies and beautiful banners, with saints... those lovely red banners with pictures of this or that saint, with golden festoons. Girls had white dresses and lilies. Otherwise we went to church every Sunday, we were Roman Catholics."

  • "We stood in town square in Kamenice and we wanted to praise the Führer. Everyone was hooked to the speakers when the Führer spoke. When you hear him nowadays, you have the feeling you must have been drunk or dazed. When it's all over."

  • "I would rather be Czech than German. When I'm here in the Sudetes, I only have one sister-in-law, as a German. When I'm in Czechia, I've got Danuška and her whole family there. We might go to Poděbrady for latkes, or to Harrachov. They always want to do something with Erna. I'm happy. When I'm in Vrbová Lhota, I make a visit to the graveyard to see Danuška's mother. I found myself a little spot there aswell. It's worth it to die here, it costs some ten thousand, without the ceremony. In Germany it's not possible, no one can die there, because they can't pay for their funeral. That's the truth. They used to give out two thousand marks for the funeral, that's gone aswell."

  • "My parents and I didn't get any compensation. All the families that were transfered west got some sort of compensation or something to help them to maybe build a house. My parents were in Meckleburg - in the East, and there was no such thing as expulsion there. Expulsion didn't exist in Socialism. We arrived at the camp, to a family that had two rooms, and it had to give us one of them - to father, mother and me. Three months we worked in the family of one Russian officer, looked after his children. Then I left for Bavaria with a friend of mine."

  • "We had to... the boys went to Hitlerjugend. If you didn't, they looked down on you. And after mass we had to march round and round the church, signing hymns of praise to Hitler. Bullies..."

  • "My three brothers were in the war, and I was supposed to go to Kamenice, to a rubber factory - so that I did my bit for the final victory. My mother went there and told them that she already had three sons in the war and that the girl has to help at home. So I stayed at home, working on the fields."

  • "Franz, my eldest brother, and his family were in the East. He was released (from the army), to Chvalovice, and he was expelled with us. So we saved him. Alfred wanted to marry in 1943, everything was ready. Hilde went to the station to wait for him... he didn't come. Three days later we received a message saying he was presumed dead. In Poland. We had them search for him, but to no avail... he was the second oldest. Hain left the army in Rostock and headed for Hamburg. He couldn't go to the Sudetes, there was no one there any more."

  • "This is Maiberg, they shot the husband of my sister-in-law's sister there... his name was Karl Kraus. It was like this: we were sitting at home and someone came along to say Karl had been arrested. Then came two commissars with Kraus. He was bare-foot. They went up the hill and we heard two shots. Then they returned without Karl. No one dared go up to look. Then someone went to Kamenice and told doctor Zinner what had happened, and that none of us dare go look. Three days later someone went up and found him dead, his brain oozing out of his skull. They took him to Kamenice and buried him. They say the commissars found a suitcase with some things in it... I don't know what it was, maybe pistols. I really don't know what it was, but hiding anything was not allowed. If someone wanted to hide something, it was risky. But even so, many people apparently hid their savings."

  • "It was a hot summer, like now, July or August. The order was: nine o'clock, morning, at the Steigerhaus. each with a backpack. One farmer came with a hay cart and loaded everything on it. They took us to the train station in Kamenice. Nothing happened all day, I can remember that... in this heat, it was awful. No one took care of us, and we didn't dare ask or do anything. The train arrived at eight in the evening, open cattle wagons, and... everyone got in and we were off. Night fell. One stop was in some town, the men looked out over the wagon gates and said it had to be Prague. Then the transport started up again and the next morning we arrived in Pečky, where they seperated us according to households."

  • "We had to accept everything as it was decided - by doctor Edward Beneš... The Germans must be expelled. Out of the country, we couldn't defend ourselves. In the end we were glad to have gone... that's just how it was. In the night, a bit before midnight, someone bashed on our door and - should we open, or not? Then my father opened it and there was a family standing outside, with a truck, and they said: 'This house is ours now.' Next morning we had to gather for transfer, with a backpack each. The transfers had been going on (already), and everyone was just waiting for their turn to come. It was decided. Then they claimed everything was done in an organised and reasonable way. I can't agree with that. They just told us: 'Take a backpack and get lost!'"

  • "I really am happy. I was always homesick. Not any more. I'm home now."

  • "After a year they asked my father: 'Mr. Zecker, wouldn't you want to stay here?' Father replied: 'If I can go back home, then yes.' But that wasn't possible. So father said: 'If I can't go home, then no.'"

  • Full recordings
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    Filipov, 15.07.2006

    duration: 01:27:04
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“I would like to be buried here I’m not Deutsch, I’m Böhmisch.”

Erna Gudenrath was born in 1928 in the village of Phillipsdorf (now Filipov) in the Sudetes (near České Kamenice). Her father was a farmer and a member of the SDP (Sudeten Germans Party) and also later of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Her family supported Hitler, so, she signed up to be part of the German Girls’ Union. Her three elder brothers fought in the Wehrmacht, one of them was killed on the Eastern Front just before leaving for his wedding. After the war, the family had to abandon their home and village, the next year was spent waiting to be transferred to Germany. They were placed in the Soviet zone of Germany, in Pomerania. Following a difficult beginning, Erna succeeded in settling down in Hamburg. She visited Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1972, nowadays she visits regularly and spends a large part of the year there.