Annemarie Kist

* 1933  

  • “From that time I can tell you that the Germans kept to their traditions, they had their folk dress and wore it on certain occasions. I understood that the Czech government didn’t like that. They didn’t want the Germans conspiring together. All I know is the Germans just wanted greater autonomy at the time. The headmaster of the local school he was called Burkhardt, was probably in some society or party, I don’t know exactly, but he was locked up in Pankrác in Prague. After 1938 he returned.”

  • “So March 1945. I was still going to school in Kadaň and a lot of refugees were arriving. Part of the school was used as a hospital, the other part was for lessons. In March there were already a lot of American air raids. Somebody was shot next to me in the train. That was the first time I saw what can happen during a war and then my mother didn’t want to let me take the train to school. So from March 1945 I didn’t go to school any more. Then there was the transition period and we were all just cooped up inside and didn’t go anywhere. Some time in April the Americans came, I couldn’t tell you the exact date. That was the first time in my life I’d seen Americans. They drove up in huge trucks and it was also the first time I’d seen a black person. That was a huge experience for us. They were throwing chewing gum and chocolate from their vehicles, but we were strictly forbidden to take any. The propaganda was terrible. They warned us not to take it, because it was poisoned. But we didn’t die from any of it, that was a lie. Earlier on, I’d already discovered that not all they said was true. Here in the kitchen there used to be a long bench. The Russian prisoners who worked at the rock quarry came here. We heard what monsters Russians were and so forth. I remember three or four of them sitting here waiting for their bread, which wasn’t ready yet. And one of those Russians addressed me in German and asked me what I was learning and doing and I told him everything. They brought us children toys whittled from wood. There were chickens on them and when you touched it, they pecked. At the time I thought all that can’t be true. After that I always tried to look at things broadly and in context.”

  • “We had to line up, some even had a uniform. In the Reich it had been like that since 1933, but we knew nothing about that here. We were on the other side of the border. But we did know some things from our relatives, from one aunt on my mother’s side. Her father, Hans Neumann, was a teacher near Jáchymov and he wrote textbooks, I still have one today” – “Did you have to line up and wear uniforms?” – “Yes, they were compulsory gatherings, just as ordered by Hitler. Back then of course I experienced it emotionally. We lined up. At the time it was a common custom for girls to get earrings from their godparents at their baptism. Not something you’d complain about. I asked them why I had earrings and they told me the midwife had organised it in the first four weeks after my birth. My sister didn’t have anything like that, because it was no longer the custom. Some girls had larger, hanging earrings and our leader from the LGG told us: ‘What do the lot of you have here? German girls don’t wear such negro nonsense.’ I remembered that. Back then I thought something wasn’t right. I also remember what happened to the earrings later. When they kicked us out in August 1945, they searched us again at the border. I still had those earrings and a Czech came along who wanted them. They were taking rings and any jewellery. The earrings didn’t come out easily and I remember he had to tug at them and I remember how much it hurt. You remember those kind of things, as a kid. I have these two memories, these unpleasant things that happened.”

  • “About the year 1945 I can also tell you, one morning a delegation arrived, at the time we were no man’s land. It was about ten young soldiers in uniforms. I remember they were called Svoboda’s units. They told my mother: In twenty minutes, all of you have to be gone. They told us what we were allowed to pack My grandma didn’t even have any spare underwear. We were allowed to take ten Reichsmarks, and each of us didn’t even have our own spoon, which was unpleasant. And then they loaded us up on the truck. Or father wanted to take something extra from the cellar, but they chucked it out.” – “So what were you allowed to bring, then?” – “We had two duvets, no more. I was already packed, because I’d seen and heard a lot beforehand. That’s why I dressed my doll into several layers of clothes, because somewhere I had seen what to do when running away. We still had that dolly for a long time after. On the bed of the truck we drove to Kadaň, where they dragged our father away from us and locked him up in prison. It never occurred to him that something like that could happen. So first of all he was imprisoned in Kadaň, then he was on forced labour in Kladno. He most likely escaped from there in 1946 and crossed the borders in secret. We were close behind the borders, because both Grandma and Mum thought it would take maybe two to three weeks before we went back home. Nobody actually knew what was happening. It was mayhem, there weren’t even orders from the German side. Those were evil times.”

  • “Could you try to describe what the house looked like, all the things that were here, how do you remember it?” – “As soon as I walked in, I knew that the bench was here next to a large table. And when we ate, there were always eight or nine of us. Always. The people who worked here ate with us, it was a peaceful coexistence. I was lucky to have socially-minded parents, if you could call it that. And Christian, mainly Mum.” – “So you ate here. Where did you sleep?” – “We slept up top. Above us there’s a large room, my parents had their bedroom and marital bed up there, I can remember exactly and describe it.” – “Please do.” – “The red room was set aside in 1945 for the refugees. There was also a sofa in front of the beds. At the time living rooms weren’t like they are today. I also remember where our baby bed with bars was. For years I paid no mind to these things, I had too much work and when you’re young you try to have a sense of perspective.” – “So the mill looked like it does now, back then?” – “Yes. I’m surprised to see what the new owner has managed to build from the ruins.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Stráž nad Ohří, 04.07.2021

    (audio)
    duration: 01:37:35
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Return to the mill of my birth

Mlýn ve Stráži, 2021
Mlýn ve Stráži, 2021
photo: natáčení

Annemarie Kist was born on 3 April 1933 at the mill in Stráž nad Ohří, as the oldest of three children of the local miller. For four years, Annemarie attended the German elementary school in Stráž and later commuted by train to the grammar school in Kadaň. Her father Franz Glaser served for almost two years in the Wehrmacht, but worked at the mill for most of the war. In 1945, Annemarie witnessed waves of refugees from the bombed German towns, as well as the march of freed prisoners from the concentration camp and finally the wild expulsion of her own family. They were allowed to pack almost nothing, the father was arrested and the remaining family was taken to the camp in Prunéřov. There they spent several weeks in the assembly hall of a former aircraft factory, until being driven to the Saxony border in carts, then by train to Chemnitz. Their father escaped from forced labour, met up with his family and gradually managed to build up his own mill in East Germany. When it was nationalised and taken from them in 1951, their father escaped to West Germany. The mother, children and grandmother remained in the GDR and the parents later divorced. Annemarie became a teacher, also distance studying in Potsdam. In 1957 she married. She travelled to Czechoslovakia often, namely to Prague to visit her aunt. She’s happy that the mill of her birth is being repaired and was able to give an interview to Memory of Nations directly from the spot.