Bernard Materne

* 1933  

  • "And the Polish people who arrived here, the ones who had come from Częstochowa and so on – there were hordes of them, especially in cities – they were looting everything they could. They did not even spare churches – [they were stealing] all kinds of candlesticks. And there, the first Poles – foresters – they gathered all the people, the ones who were walking down the roads, to a courtyard: leave everything here and go back home. They were riding on the trains, the first trains were full of those looters. That is why they said: Polish people are looters".

  • "When I went to school, the majority of the professors came from the east, they were so called eastern intellectuals. In our class there were us, the native inhabitants as well as the newcomers, mostly the newcomers from Kresy, pupils. I would not say that there were some disagreements or something, like the ones people could hear about later on. I do not know anything like that, we were all living together in peace. Today those who in my days attended the same class, we were together, today there are public prosecutors, right now some of them are retired, a famous doctor, a famous attorney, they are all classmates. Back then there were no differences between us or something like that, they would have never called us "Szwab" or "Hanys" or something like that. Or us calling them "Hadziaje", [it did not happen]. I do not recall anything like that from all the time I spent in high school. However later on, [when I was] in a technical college, different times had come. When I attended it, they wanted to make us do something, for example for the parade on the 1st of May, to dress up as Adenauer or as Truman or something like that. I was sixteen or seventeen years old at a time, still I would not make a fool out of myself. After all we did not participate in the parade and it all turned out to be all right. Oh, but they lowered our grades from attitude for the period of one school year, but still we did not obey some stupid things".

  • "All this time, we were still hoping that the border line location would be the same as it had been in 1939. Because everyone kept saying “temporary”, there were all those arrangements in Potsdam, Yalta, whatever it all was called. After all - when was it formally legalized? Just now, when Willy Brandt was in the German government, it was eventually finalized. Because it was arranged with Poland, it was settled neither in the east nor in the west. The west border line is not the only issue. The same problem is in the east. It was not until 1974, during my stay in Germany, when I learnt how huge Poland used to be before 1939. But I passed the final high school exams here, I was going [to school] here and only just there I saw the maps, how Poland used to look like – Poland had lost a bunch of land".

  • "Here I would like to refer to the turn of 1944 and 1945. At that time my mother was all by herself, there were six of us kids, and the winter was severe. The Soviet Army were approaching extremely fast and on the 21nd of January 1945 they had already reached our village. We did not have time to evacuate not only because the railway tracks were occupied by wagons packed with people trying to run away, but also since the roads were full of carts loaded with baggage of the ones who had already fled towards the west. Unfortunately, the winter surprised them and they probably had not managed to run far away. The next military operations did affect us, we had to evacuate and we settled in a nearby mill, in a cellar, where we were with several dozen other people. Meanwhile, all the houses were abandoned, because there was no other option, since all of us stayed together in one place, like for example in that mill. But there were basically no men there, only women and some young people, children. The first Russians just entered, there were mainly woman inside, and the Russians in white uniforms who were instantly checking whether any German units were left. They did not find anything, the whole thing took about 15 minutes, and they left. We thought that it was not so bad after all, but later on, after a few hours, the rest of the army arrived. And then rapes, plunders and so on had begun. When it comes to fights, I cannot confirm that some took place in our village, there were basically no fights there. However, a few German soldiers were shot and they were buried in our cemetery and they are there to this day".

  • "On the other hand, when it comes to the civil population, it was only after the departure [of the Soviet Army] and after the Polish authorities had taken over, when some complications began. When it comes to the Soviet Army, those men who stayed in our area had to register and they were deported to Russia. There were a dozen or so of them and just one of them came back to our village. Moreover, the women were deported, they even managed to meet those men from Krasiejów, as it was said in the relation. Not long ago I was talking to one lady, who passed away last year or so. They met in Kazakhstan. Some of them worked in a lumber-mill, the men worked in a lumber-mill and in a forest and the women somewhere in a brickyard. These were the first changes. Afterwards the expulsions and the relocations began. It was a period of time when the Polish people from Kresy were relocated to the western part of the country. It was a kind of vice versa situation to the one that happened to our people who were deported from here to the west. It must be emphasized that those first ones were not relocations but they were expulsions. People were told to pack their things and they were deported to the west. Truth to be told, here, in our village, there were just a few of expulsions like that, more of this kind of expulsions took place in bigger cities, as here, one could not accuse the local people of doing anything wrong. Another reason was also that before 1945 a lot of Polish people used to work here, in the mill and in the lumber-mill, and they were quite accepted by the local population. In the brickyard there were also some Polish people and at some points they became the defenders of the people [who were being deported]".

  • "What we were left with after the Russians had robbed us, just after the war, the Polish people stole from us in 1945, in July. They arrived at the courtyard and they took from the our house whatever they liked. The clothes from our father, the bicycles and so on. They loaded all the stuff while we were standing at the wall, and then they took our father to the car and let him go only when they arrived to the forest in Dębska Kuźnia. But we didn't want to close the case because we and our distant relative, who was a chief forester, got to the bottom of the case – we found out who those people were. It turned out that in Opole there was the Repatriation Office and it was the ones who arrived just took whatever they wanted from our house. We had an opportunity to get back the things we recognized, there in Opole, that had belonged to us, but we would have to prove that they had been ours. There was also a suitcase there, which contained only documents, and so everything was found. But the main issue was who had done it. It was the officials [from the Repatriation Office] who plundered some houses and villages in 1945".

  • "What should also be marked is that until the year of, until the thirties, still until 1933, one could say that here, in our region, there was an enormous tolerance. This means, for example, that services in a church were conducted both in German and in Polish. People were attending them, children were having religion classes as well both in German and in Polish, so it means that they were prepared in two languages. Besides, most of the priests who were here, were capable of speaking two languages. Although, the truth is that it was not the pure Polish language, but it was the Silesian dialect".

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    Krasiejów k. Opola, 11.09.2012

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We were still hoping that the border line location would be the same as it had been in 1939

Bernard Materne
Bernard Materne
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

He was born in 1933 in Krasiejów in the Opole region which was a part of Germany at the time. His family had been living that area for generations. His grandfather was a train station master next to Głuchołazy. His father - Bernard Materne (born in 1898) came from Ciasna, a place next to Lubliniec, and his mother - Matylda (her maiden name was Pilawa, she was born in 1899) came from Nowa Schodnia, situated next to Ozimek. Bernard Materne had five siblings. During the First World War his father served in the German army in France and in Verdun he was taken captive by the Frenchs. Since 1928 his parents had had a family business: his father had been selling building materials and producing shingle to cover roofs (he completed the relevant education to do it - he had a title of Holz Fachmann), and his mother - household supplies. The shop was shut down in 1942 when his father served in Luftwaffe. He did not participate directly in the fights - as a non-commissioned officer he was a member of the staff which observed the movements of the enemy’s air force and warned against the possible bombings. He was based in Lwów, Rzeszów and Kraków. When the front line passed through on the 8th of May 1945, he was in Wałbrzych, where his unit had backed out. In order to get back to Krasiejów, he had to cross Czecho-Slovakia. After 1945 he was trying hard to continue running his store but the state burdened him with too high taxes so in 1950 he had to close the shop. In 1953 Bernard Materne has passed his high school final exams (“matura”). Afterwards he was commissioned to serve in the army for 27 months. He served by working in a coal mine in Zabrze. After having completed his military service, in 1956 he took a job in the financial department in the foundry “Małapanew” in Ozimek. In 1998 the retired early but he still was running his own business as a tax advisor.