Rosemarie Kraus

* 1941

  • To be completely honest, I do have two houses, we had a large farm before my son became ill, but I only feel at home in the Czech Republic. My children always say: “Mum, you’re a completely different person there.” Although in Chlumec I find it very, very painful. I don’t even go up to the house where I used to live. At most I’ll drive by in the car, head up to the old railway station where time has come to a standstill. Although the sign doesn’t say Kulm any more, but Chlumec… And another thing that really worries me a lot is the grave of Antonín Dvořák’s father. The grave isn’t as well kept as before the revolution, the leaflets say that the municipality of Velvary is looking after it, but… even last time we had pull out the weeds. If it was the grave of Mozart’s mother, people would look after it. I don’t think anybody even goes there.

  • Of course we children were also growing. Our feet were growing. And we still had to fit them into tight shoes, do you understand? That’s why as a child, because we didn’t have any shoes and I had to wear the same pair for three years, well one of my feet was completely mangled and to this day I have problems walking. Later in Bavaria my father, when they allowed him to make shoes again, just had make one shoe a different shape.

  • And then we drove off for the Všebořice camp. My cousin who is ten years older than me told me about it later. We were there for eight days without any food or water. Our grandmother kept walking alongside the fence to see if anyone would throw something over it, but nobody could throw anything: they were being watched. Our cousin said people ate the worms from the rubbish bins, that’s how hungry they were. But I personally don’t remember that. I only know we were in some kind of large space and that there were a lot of items of clothing on the floor. I had a small wooden angel who hung above my bed and they wanted to take it away. A beautiful wooden angel. I can still see that angel lying up there on the bedclothes. My mother pleaded with them to give the angel back and eventually they did. And so today it’s still hanging over my bed!

  • And then, because of my aunt’s two children (she was locked up in Skřivánčí pole), we had to stay in Chlumec, but many had to leave immediately in 1945. The Westphalen count and countess with their children had to leave right away. They had a beautiful chateau in Chlumec, but they went straight up and over the hill with a hand-cart. They still do come to Chlumec once a year. We were allowed to stay, but then we had to leave our aunt’s place and go down to the truck on foot. It was by the church, you have to go down and round the bend, “drehe” we used to call it in our home dialect. And there was an open truck at the church, as they used to be, all open at the back. My parents lifted me up I had a rucksack with my dolly peeking out. We had to leave everything else at home, all our toys. I remember it well, across the way from that place was the farmyard of my great aunt. There were a lot of people standing about down there, my acquaintances and distant relatives who weren’t being deported yet, everyone was crying. And one good Czech woman, who had already taken over the farmyard, she handed us up a bottle of milk.

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Weidenberg, SRN, 27.05.2019

    duration: 01:19:20
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
  • 2

    Pegnitz, SRN, 13.07.2020

    duration: 01:13:22
    media recorded in project The Removed Memory
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

As a relative of Antonín Dvořák I keep returning to Bohemia to play the organ even after the expulsion

Rosemarie as a child
Rosemarie as a child
photo: archiv Rosemarie Kraus

Rosemarie Kraus, maiden name Dvořák, was born on 12 November 1941 in Chlumec near Ústí nad Labem, previously called Kulm in German. She was from a musical family, her great grandfather František Dvořák, brother of the famous composer Antonín, married a German, who then returned to her home region of Ústí nad Labem after his early death. Her grandfather and the composer’s nephew, also named František and who still spoke Czech, lead an orchestra in Chlumec, and her uncle played the organ. However the family otherwise spoke in German, in the Chlumec dialect. Her father Josef was conscripted in 1943 and never returned from the war. He fell into American captivity and later settled down in Bavaria. Rosemarie’s family was at first dispossessed in May of 1945, and then in August 1947 they were deported to the Soviet zone of Germany, with an eight-day stay without food and water at the camp in Všebořice near Ústí nad Labem. Their grandfather who was able to avoid expulsion (not however, dispossession) decided to stay with the family. Rosemarie’s childhood memories of these events are dominated by images of the toys (her doll, a wooden angel), which she brought from home as well as the permanent consequence of her deformed feet which were unable to properly grow as she only had one pair of tight shoes. After several months living in the Soviet zone their mother succeeded in getting permission to leave for West Germany to be reunited with her father, the grandparents were only allowed to follow in 1949. Rosemarie studied the organ in Bavaria at the Sisters of the Cross in Werneck, originally from a monastery in Cheb. After her mother’s death she decided not to continue her university studies, instead she looked after her grandfather until his death in 1965, working as a tax advisor. In the 80s she helped spread a petition for the release of Václav Havel from prison throughout Germany, initiated by the International Society for Human Rights. To this day she still plays in churches, since 1984 she has been visiting and playing in Czech churches. She is worried about the state of pipe organs in the country. Each year she participates in a pilgrimage in her hometown of Chlumec, as well as making an effort to support the renovation of the organ in nearby Bohosudov.