Astrid Pilz

* 1940

  • “My mother and I always stood at the edge of the road and she always forbade me from talking German to her in Ústí. Or to talk at all when a train with prisoners from ‘Skřivánek’ was leaving. Mum always tried to get my sister something extra to eat, but it wasn’t always possible. I always had to stand by in silence.”

  • “And then they took us to a room that we weren’t allowed to leave. They brought one young man there, turned him to face the door of the cupboard and then bashed his head repeatedly against the cupboard. It was supposedly because he took his armband off. The white armband, as we were later told. We had to sit inside there the whole time and we had no idea why. Sit in that room. Nobody had any idea and then it was almost evening, it must’ve been around seven, half past seven, they said we could go home. But there wasn’t time for us to get back to Skřívánek. Before eight, when there was a curfew for Germans. So our mother took us to this friendly baker we knew and my mother rang the bell, the doors opened and they said: ‘For God’s sake, where did you come from?’ ‘The train station,’ we answered. ‘Don’t you know what happened?’ And then we discovered that people who were out in the streets, Germans in the streets, were killed and thrown off the bridge into the river. So we were actually lucky. At the train station, somebody had to be protecting us, some Czech official or officer, or who knows who, I don’t, somebody had to protect us from all that. And we spent the night at that friend’s and the next day we returned to Skřivánek.”

  • “Yes, he had to go to Marienfelder and there (as my father told me, I didn’t have to go with him) explain, why he ran away with his family. And he was also interrogated by the Americans, who wanted to know what things were like in the GDR and we had to submit an official request to travel to the Federal Republic and also provide proper justification. Then we were given a document, in the Federal Republic there was this personal documentation for displaced people and in those papers there was a note saying you were a refugee. That was of course terrible for my parents. They had hardly managed to somehow settle down and establish themselves in Rostock, when they once more had to leave for somewhere else with only a backpack and papers, and had to start all over again.”

  • “I’ve often thought about it… Yes, I feel connected to my homeland or countryside, the place I was born. I still do. But I wouldn’t want to go back there. After living eight years in Rostock, fifteen in Berlin and now so many years since ‘69 in Wolfratshausen, it’s really difficult to say what a home is. My patriotic feelings, I’d say, just as they were before, although I was a small child, are still associated with the area surrounding my birthplace. In Wolfratshausen I feel at home, but it’s not the same. It means more to be at home. All those connections through my parents that I experienced in the land of my birth… I don’t have those in Bavaria.”

  • Full recordings
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    Drážďany, 18.06.2021

    duration: 59:02
    media recorded in project Inconvenient Mobility
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Someone had to warn us, that’s how we escaped the Ústí massacre by a hair’s-breadth

Astrid Pilz in 2021
Astrid Pilz in 2021
photo: Astrid Pilz

Astrid Pilz, née Hausmann, was born on 12 May 1940 in Ústí nad Labem. Her father Alfons Hausman was from a German landowning family from Litochovice (Lichtowitz in German). Shortly after Astrid’s birth, he was called to the front as a German. He and Astrid only met again when she was six years old. Her mother Ingeborg Hausman was from Prackovice (Praskowitz in German), also from a German landowning family. Astrid and her mother became indirect witnesses of the so-called Ústí massacre on 31 July 1945. In August 1945 they were deported via Dresden and Thuringia into Mecklenburg, which was in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Near the end of 1946 they met up with their father, who’d survived the battle of Stalingrad and captivity in a Siberian camp. Astrid began attending school in Rostock in 1947. In 1954 the Hausmanns decided to flee to West Berlin. After studying at the Free University of Berlin, she married the physicist Walter Pilze, also expelled from Czechoslovakia, and gave birth to a daughter. In 1963 she personally attended the speech of US president Kennedy in a divided Berlin. For her husband’s job they moved to Munich in 1969, where Astrid Pilz taught at a local grammar school. She only visited her homeland again with her parents in 1962 when visiting relatives. Today she has a home in the Bavarian town of Wolfratshausen.