Maria Hartung

* 1936

  • "We lived near the border, here was the Czech Republic and there was Saxony. And so we smuggled a little bit. My mother would wrap some sheets around my body, and then I'd cross the border, go to my aunt's and hand it over. And later, we could pick it up again. Linens and stuff. The most important things. (...) But we couldn't do it that often because there were Russians at the border. But I was a child, and they tended to let the children pass."

  • "And then we went to Cheb, to a detention camp, and my mother gave me my father's violin case and said: so nobody takes it away from you. And then she gave me another bag, put a doll on top of it and put it in my hand and the violin as well. And then we had to go through a check, and one of the Czechs called out - hallo, hallo, hallo. And I walked, walked, walked, and I didn't look back, and thankfully I passed through with Daddy's violin. He was a music teacher, he needed the violin. And I also had the doll. And I was happy. My mother was also happy that it turned out that way."

  • "My sister had no peace after that. I must go home to my mother and sisters, she thought. I was nine years old at the time. And then she ran home from the farm, where she had to do her compulsory year's work. On her way, there were still fighter jets overhead. She ran and ran, saying we had to go down to the basement. She brought the beds down to the basement, and I was so scared that I squeezed myself into a little corner in the bomb shelter and didn't come out anymore. And when it was a little quieter, and there was no gunfire, some of the residents went outside to see what happened outside. And that's when the Americans opened fire. And it was truly terrible. My sister was wailing, my mother said, I was holding her in my arms, and she collapsed in front of the house. It was terrible. And then they put them in the wooden washtubs, the dead ones. They died there."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Plesná, 04.09.2022

    duration: 01:26:26
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

It was beautiful at home, it was unforgettable!

Maria Hartung, Plesná 2022
Maria Hartung, Plesná 2022
photo: filming

Maria Hartung was born on 23 January 1936 in Plesná near Františkovy Lázně into a family of music teacher and amateur musicologist Emanuel Böhnisch. In the last weeks of World War II, Plesná, being a German town, was bombarded by the American army, and the witness’s older sister, Heidi, also fell victim to the shelling. After the war, when rumours began to spread that the German population would be deported from Czechoslovakia, the mother would send little Maria across the border to smuggle linen and small belongings. Since she was a child, she would pass uninspected through the nearby customs office and drop off her modest possessions at their relatives. Although Emanuel Böhnisch spoke Czech and, as a teacher, could perhaps have stayed in Czechoslovakia, the family was deported to Germany in the spring of 1946. They ended up in Eichenzell, Franconia, where Emanuel Böhnisch continued to devote himself to his hobby of preserving the original folk music of the Cheb region. Maria Hartung was first allowed to visit her birthplace by the Czechoslovak authorities twenty years after the war, in the mid-1960s. In September 2022, Maria Hartung accepted the invitation of the mayor of Plesná and gave an interview for the Memory of Nations in the nascent Museum of Czech-German Relations in Plesná.