Günther Klemm

* 1939  

  • “It was a terrible atmosphere and situation, because one of the women began singing the song ‘Good bye dear homeland, good bye’. Everyone who could, joined in, but after a few words they all broke down in tears. And that was a situation that I as a child of six years, all right six and a half, didn’t feel so strongly about as the adults, because it was mostly mothers and children, older people, almost no men, just invalids I think there were only two men in our carriage. And then the train slowly moved out. In my book I describe it: the train moved so slowly, as if it wanted to stop the journey itself.”

  • “That’s how it went the whole time at this slow pace. The train stopped shortly in Ústí, the doors were pulled open and: ‘right, now you can go to the toilet.’ There weren’t any toilets in the cattle car, of course. So all the men, women, young and old, everyone had to get out of the cattle cars and do their business somewhere among the surrounding vegetation. That was pretty terrible. One of the adults commented: what the Germans did to the Jews, Communists and others, that’s what they’ll do to us now.”

  • “Until 1949 we stayed in Altmark, in a farming colony. I went to school there. In 1949 my mother’s sister found us there, people used to investigate through the German Red Cross. Nobody knew where the others had gone, even we had no idea where this would lead us. So only several years later would they find relatives and put people in contact. So our mother’s sister wrote to us saying she had a farming job for our mother. There in the Old March there was no work, there wasn’t much agriculture, the farmers had their workers and something in the summer, but otherwise nothing. And so she wrote she had a job for our mother, but no apartment. But my mother said: working for farmers means food, at least we’ll be fed. We won’t have to steal anymore.”

  • “As a child, as I’ve already mentioned, I was often in Rynartice, in Bohemian Switzerland. And there was a beautiful apple tree with wonderful apples. I used to eat from that apple tree as a little child. And then in 2015 I went to Rynartice with friends, a married couple, and we stopped directly by the house of Mr Eger and I went down to the apple tree, where the house today is gone and I wanted to pick an apple. And from the neighbouring house, this Mr Eger came out and asked me: ‘Looking for something?’ ‘No I’m not looking for anything, I just wanted to taste the apple I’d eaten as a kid.’ ‘What?’ he said, ‘that sounds interesting, please tell us your story, come inside.’ And he invited us into his cottage. He invited us right in and immediately: ‘Please tell us your story.’ He was very interested, so to say, to hear from a witness about the expulsion. Because here, just as it was in the GDR, everything about the expulsion was suppressed, people didn’t talk about it and he’d heard very little from what his mother told him, or the official story, not what was actually true. And so I told him a few things and also said I’d written a short book where I describe the time of my childhood until I learned my trade, so the time before, during and after the expulsion. And he wanted that book at any cost. I call that the story of the apple tree or a new friendship. And he, I think it was in 2017, he sent me an email: ‘Mr Klemm, a calamity! The apple tree died. That apple tree was old and a little rotten, but it still had great apples. But it’s not all bad, I’m sending you the heart of the tree, so we can plant a new tree together and call it Günther.’ And he sent me a wooden badge in the shape of a heart and it had 'Herzliche Grüße aus Rennersdorf' (Heartfelt greetings from R.) burned into it.”

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    Dresden, Německo, 14.06.2021

    (audio)
    duration: 01:28:03
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
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Expelled from the Sudety, unwelcome in Germany

Dvouletý Günther před jabloní
Dvouletý Günther před jabloní
photo: pamětník

Günther Klemm was born on 5 November 1939 in Teplice–Šanov. He last saw his father Hans, a trained cooper, at age two, when he was enlisted into the Wehrmacht. The last letter the family received from him was from Stalingrad. Günther Klemm lived as a single child with his mother, Gerta Klemm, in the village of Klein Augezd (previously Malý Újezd, now Újezdeček) near Teplice, but often spent time with his grandparents in Bohemian Switzerland, in Rynartice. His mother worked in agriculture with their Czech friends. From his childhood he remembers the friendly atmosphere of Czech–German coexistence, as well as the fact that he was the only German child in school after the war (all the other families had either left or were expelled), being bullied by both his Czech teacher and priest. On 20 July 1946 the Klemm family was relocated. The nine-member Klemm family was placed with farmers in the Altmark region near Magdeburg. They lived in poverty conditions for three years, until Günther’s mother was found by her sister through the Red Cross, and she invited her and her son to live with her in the small village of Börde. His mother began working in farming, Günther went to school and initially they had to live in the unused smokehouse. Later, thanks to his teacher, they found better living quarters and their situation generally improved. Günther Klemm studied mechanical locksmithing and later constructed aeroplanes. He settled with his family in Dresden. He was a member of the SED Communist Party, initially working in the army and later as an HR manager or manager of a textile plant. He regularly returns to the place of his birth and took part in a Rynartice pilgrimage. He wrote a book about his memories of the expulsion: Search for a Healthy World with the subtitle Expelled from the Sudety, unwelcome in Germany. His wish is that nobody ever has to experience what he and his family did.