Annelies Hennig

* 1939

  • No we weren’t allowed (to talk about the expulsion in the GDR). My father once started to tell something and was then corrected saying there were no deported Germans, only deported Palestinians. Nobody deported the Germans, not from Poland, not from Czechoslovakia.

  • I’ve already told you how the men and women were separated. In the morning the order rang out, children first, mothers behind, men to the other side, they called on them every day and sent them out in a large work-group. My oldest brother was nine, he used to slip out and head off to our aunt’s, to our father’s brother’s house. He knew where they lived and so every evening he brought a little food. But we were still always hungry. We were given tea or brown broth to drink. There was a kind of latrine, which always smelt horribly. It was very Spartan living, that’s just how things were.

  • No valuables. I remember my father had this small upright clock. They wanted to take it away from him at the station, but he pleaded with them and eventually they let him keep it. We had it for a long time in Weimar, before it fell apart. Our mother had one laundry basket with her wedding dress, she protected that of course. Otherwise no toys. My sister had one teddy-bear that she looked after, even when it was falling apart and the sawdust started falling out. Another thing my mother took was a cloth bag of salt. She could use that to barter, because nobody likes food without salt. She had good reason to bring it with her.

  • A stream flowed by our house which is still there, with a little path, you could cross over on a tiny bridge and go up to the street where the tram line was. We weren’t allowed to play in that stream. But on 14 May 1945 my grandmother decided to end her life. The stream discharged into a kind of pond. At night there were arguments, that’s what my parents tell me, and she drowned herself. As a child I slipped through there once and looked at the place behind the house, you had to go a little way on foot. Now there’s an amusement arcade there, but the stream remains as well as the pool.

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Weidenberg, Německo, 29.05.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:12:42
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
  • 2

    Pegnitz, SRN, 12.07.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:48:21
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

In the GDR we weren’t allowed to talk about the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia

Annelies Hennig - dobová fotografie před rokem 1989
Annelies Hennig - dobová fotografie před rokem 1989
photo: Pamětník

Annelies Hennig, maiden name Weigelt, was born on 2 October 1939 in Jablonec, spending her earliest childhood in Liberec. Her mother Hedwig was from a glass-blowing family from the Jablonec region, her father Richard was a railway worker. After the war Liberec was engulfed in chaos and violence, and on 14 May 1945 her grandmother Anna committed suicide. Shortly afterwards, the rest of the family was forced to leave the house and were interned in a concentration camp, converted from former sports facilities. Several weeks later they were transported in open railway cars to Zittau (Žitava). Her father was originally supposed to remain in the Czech Republic, but after her mother’s nervous breakdown, the family was allowed to remain together. Following her father’s recovery from a typhus infection, he found work with the railways in Weimar, where the family had moved. Their mother’s nervous state had not improved and four or even five times the children to stay at orphanages, as well as with nuns at a monastery. Their grandparents and parents’ siblings were living in West-German Bayreuth, with Annelies visiting them to start with, in 1955 she went to her grandfather’s funeral, but did not have the courage to stay in the West. After primary school she went into training in Carl Zeiss’ Jena optical factory, at eighteen she married the “politically unreliable” circus performer and variety artist Gerolf Hennig. They performed abroad, but only in permitted “Socialist” countries. One of their three daughters married a Polish citizen and moved with him to West Berlin. Ms Annelies met no Sudety Germans in the GDR and did not even talk with her own children about the expulsion of her family from Czechoslovakia, since in the GDR the whole topic of the expulsion of the Germans was taboo. After years of vain attempts, the Hennig family was finally allowed to emigrate to the West in the summer of 1989. After a performance in Nuremberg and various hi-jinks they decided to stay in the FRG and settled down in the Bavarian town of Pegnitz. Meanwhile, their youngest daughter Katrin also headed to the West with her husband and child. Together with hundreds of their compatriots they decided to escape via Prague, where they spent some time in the building of the West-German embassy.