Gertrude (Gerti) Hoedt

* 1941  

  • “In May 1945 I have one experience that touched me deeply. It must’ve been something really fundamental for me to remember it at that age. It was during the short period when the Soviet soldiers were with us. One morning, when I was in the kitchen with my brother and grandmother, two soldiers with submachine guns came in and arrested our mother. I stood at the window with my brother and watched them leading her away with their submachine guns aimed at her back. We didn’t understand it at all, but that moment has remained with me for many years. Luckily our mother came back home in the evening after her interrogation. Today, from the stories I’ve heard, the reason was probably that my parents were giving bread to prisoners of war without ration cards, at the Stráž quarry and the POW camp in Grundorf. There was also some incident in the village concerning one prisoner and they were looking to blame us, because we’d been in contact with him. But then everything was cleared up and our mother came home.”

  • “It was on Thursday 26 July and it was sweltering hot. It was our mother’s name day, Saint Anne’s, and Dad even baked her a cake. Grandma was at the store, she didn’t have much clothing on, just a blouse, apron and underwear. And that’s all she had when we left. She didn’t have any spare underwear, because it hadn’t occurred to her to bring it with her. They arrived suddenly, a large truck parked here on the property, where the wood was stacked. There was also a small water sawmill for our own use. Suddenly several soldiers showed up. They were Czech soldiers, but I couldn’t understand a word, since I’d never learnt Czech. They shouted: You all have to be gone in twenty minutes! At that I disappeared. I’ll get back to that. And then it started: What to pack? That’s what my mother told me. Grandma brought a suitcase, but they weren’t allowed to take it, and the soldiers trampled it to bits. We had sacks in the mill, so it wasn’t that big of a problem. Belongings were stuffed in those sacks, I have no idea what. My brother said they then weighed the sacks. When twenty minutes had passed, everyone suddenly realised that I was nowhere to be seen. But I wasn’t far, still on the property. I was looking for my cat, because of course it had to come with us. Then they loaded us all up on the truck.”

  • “The only one who prepared in advance a little, was my sister. She went to the grammar school in Kadaň and had school books and two fountain pens, that she was very proud of. That’s why she dressed her celluloid doll in several layers of clothing and hid the pens inside it. Grandma told me that my sister then stuck the doll into her schoolbag, but she couldn’t close it because of all the school books. My sister worried about it the most. So she put the dolly in my hands and with that doll and two feather duvets (we had two duvets for six people) we headed out for Kadaň. Otherwise we weren’t allowed to take any toys, personal items, basically nothing. We had a milk jug that my sister then got food similar to soup in, in the Prunéřov camp. We also had one set of cutlery that we kept around for years. It was the kind of cutlery soldiers use: a spoon, fork and knife you could slide inside one other. From Dad’s army days we also had a food container and then two or three little cups, just things we could quickly pack in twenty minutes. We didn’t have our birth certificates or photos. There wasn’t time to pack any of the things we would’ve needed…”

  • “I don’t know exactly when it was, but the German farmers who remained on their farms were later obliged to transport the Germans to the Saxony border with their carts as fast as possible. We packed up those few things quickly and easily and then the six of us, including Mrs Lappert, headed on our way. I can’t remember whether we walked or sat on the cart. We arrived in Kryštofovy Hamry on the Saxony border, close to Schmalzgrube. There we switched to a narrow-gauge train and went to Weidenstein. I was lucky, because I was able to sit on the pram the whole time. I was already four years old by then, but I was allowed to sit on it, because it was being used to transport belongings. I’m pretty sure I also slept well. Both of my siblings say that there were sparks flying onto the open cars and that one of the duvets was lit on fire. We later kept both duvets for the next two decades. They were even filled with down from our own geese.”

  • “Yes, I forgot to say that. Mum went to these meetings several times, there was a meeting of the Sudety Germans in Stráž even before the revolution. As a pensioner, Mum had the time, but we weren’t able to go to the meeting back then. It was always on Sundays after Corpus Christi Our compatriots from Bavaria, where most of them were expelled, organised a collection and used the donations to have the church repaired inside and out. And we had a service there. Later, when we had a car, we drove here for six or seven meetings. If I’d had the motivation I do today, I’d probably have organised several meetings myself. Now I have more and more grandsons who are also interested in it. Back then I had a lot of work and my husband was always travelling, so there was always some reason not to go.”

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    Stráž nad Ohří, 04.07.2021

    (audio)
    duration: 01:14:51
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
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I searched for our cat, so it could be deported with us

Gerti Hoedt, Stráž nad Ohří, 2021
Gerti Hoedt, Stráž nad Ohří, 2021
photo: Post Bellum

Gertrude Hoedt, née Glaser, was born on 10 August 1941 in Stráž nad Ohří, in the mill that belonged to her parents. It was repaired by her grandfather and modernised by her father. She experienced going to kindergarten in Stráž, prisoners of war helping in the mill and bakery, as well as a short stay of Soviet soldiers. On 26 July 1945 she was a victim of the wild expulsion, with the family not even given enough time to pack their birth certificates. Her father was arrested in Kadaň, the rest of the family sent to the camp in Prunéřov. A few weeks later they were then taken by cart to the Saxony border and travelled by train to Chemnitz. They gradually moved into other villages close to the border, hoping that they would soon be allowed to return. In March 1946 they moved to their father’s mill in Breitenbrunn, where he had been working meanwhile. Their father then built a completely new mill in the village of Annaberg. When the mill was nationalised in 1951, their father left for West Germany. The children, with their mother and grandmother, remained in the GDR and the parents later divorced. Gertrude Hoedt became a teacher and got married in 1967. She has three children and seven grandchildren, who she often travels to Bohemia with and who show interest in the family’s roots. She provided the interview for Memory of Nations directly in the mill of her birth, on invitation of the current Czech owner.