Josef Sager

* 1932

  • On the sixth day they grouped us together and we had to head for the station. From our fifty-kilogram luggage only about twenty kilos remained, the rest was divided up by the guards, anything they thought had value. And you weren’t allowed to defend yourself. We marched to the station with our meagre belongings, alongside the street stood gypsies and partisans and fanatics and they beat us, threw stones at us, spat on us. And then when we came to the station there was a train ready with cattle cars which hadn’t been cleaned from the last cattle transport, there were still cowpats on the wagon floor. And we had to get in the wagon by fours, including luggage, including three prams and my father’s push-cart in our wagon. You can image those small cattle cars and how little spare room there was. You basically had to stand, there almost wasn’t room to sit down. Late in the afternoon the train started moving and that was a moment I’ll never forget. Suddenly from every throat (there were eleven wagons hitched up behind the train), from every wagon you could hear the Šumava song “Tief drin im Böhmerwald, wo meine Heimat war.” (“Deep in Šumava Forest, where my home was.”) Tears flowed, old people cried, whoever was still able swore and cursed our new masters. The last ride alongside the town, there the tracks ran all around the town, we still waved and looked and then the next four days we travelled through the Czech countryside and nobody knew where they were taking us. In their panic people were talking about Siberia or Australia, but everyone hoped it wouldn’t go that far, that it’s just for a short while and we’ll soon be able to go back to our homeland.

  • The partisans I referred to previously, they plundered and stole whatever they found. The murdered without regrets and treated Germans as wild game. At the time there were no schools for Germans, they weren’t allowed to attend cultural events, food stamps were drastically reduced, there was no meat, fish, eggs or milk for Germans, you weren’t allowed out after nine in the evening and before seven in the morning, Germans had no rights at all. For instance we had to watch a film about the German concentration camps, even the children had to watch that film with hundreds of thousands of dead, although personally for myself and my family I have to say we knew nothing about these concentration camps until the last days of the war. We were forced to watch these films otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten any food stamps, which were already scarce.

  • At the time many people were trying, because they’d heard the Germans would be expelled, at the time many people tried to get something over the green border. As a fourteen-year-old I also joined one group with a twenty-kilo rucksack, it was night and the mist was down and we crept over the Czech-Bavarian border and stored our things in Mauth, in Bavaria. (We never got those things back by the way, they were all confiscated by the Americans. Only later did we hear that the pub landlady who we stored those things with was hiding hundreds of watches, wedding rings and similar things in her safe, something her heirs later fought over.) Then in Mauth we slept the night, or more like we slept a bit in the evening until it was dark and then returned back over the border. Suddenly, as we were trying to cross the border, the border patrol came out of the woods, fired at us and arrested us. One of us was hit, they killed one and sixteen of us they locked in the cellar in Bučina (Buchwald), there they tied us up in threes and treated us about how you’d expect. They hit us, spat on us, interrogated us and we kept having to explain why we were crossing the border, but nothing helped. We were locked in that cellar for five days. The following day one of us, the oldest, was sent to Vimperk, he had to bring money and pay ransom for three hundred crowns a person.

  • Stockpiles of weapons and ammunition were everywhere. The German soldiers who came through Vimperk coming from the interior were surrendering and their weapons and military vehicles were piled up in Nádražní (Station) Street in Vimperk. And us small boys still had war and fighting in our blood and we did things that seem impossible today. For instance in the munitions storages and dumps we found large shells which were for tanks, these were 40–60 cm long tank rounds. So we knocked the tops off of those shells with rocks and found sticks of phosphorous. So we used those to make fuses and put them under tanks and vehicles. Over these we collected bags of gunpowder and stones and we blew those tanks and vehicles up. Those were dangerous things, unimaginable today. We also found two boxes of hand grenades down by the stream. The grenades had a kind of cap on top that you had to pull to arm them, count to five and throw it. And the caps that stayed in your hands, well we hung them from our belts and were proud of how many grenades we had managed to explode. I had a tragic experience with a friend of mine, he fired off a Panzerfaust. What he didn’t know is that you mustn’t hold a Panzerfaust up to your body, because of the jet of fire discharged from the back. He burned up right next to me.

  • My father did try several times with the leadership in Bann (at the time that was the highest place in the district of the Bavarian Eastern Mark, the highest place of the Hitlerjugend, Bann), he tried to get me out of the Hitlerjugend several times, but to no avail. He just couldn’t do anything about it. And to make things worse, I agreed to it! I kept trying to get myself a medal. It was foolishness.

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Neukirchen, SRN, 03.09.2019

    duration: 01:38:33
    media recorded in project The removed memory of Šumava
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

We’re ready to forgive the Czechs for the expulsion, but forgetting it would be rewriting history

Josef, Vimperk, 1937
Josef, Vimperk, 1937
photo: pamětník

Josef (Sepp) Sager was born on 8 February 1932 in Vimperk (Winterberg in German), raised by his grandparents in the Vimperk suburb of Josefův Důl (Josefsthal) in the valley of the Volyňka river. His mother meanwhile worked as a cook for a Jewish family in Prague. In September 1938 he started his compulsory primary school education, welcoming the arrival of the German Army after the annexation of Sudety into the German Reich. His mother then returned to Vimperk and married Anton Sager, who then adopted Sepp. His stepfather served in the Wehrmacht, returning from the Soviet campaign as a war invalid. In 1942, despite significant opposition from his father, Sepp enthusiastically joined the Hitlerjugend. In April 1945, as a thirteen-year-old, he trained with an anti-aircraft battery firing at a Soviet fighter plane and taking part in street-fighting sabotage against the US Army. He also saw the arrival of Czech Resistance members in Vimperk and viewed mutilated corpses at the local morgue. After the war he took part in a failed German attempt to smuggle property across the Iron Curtain into Bavaria, was imprisoned for five days in a cellar by Czech soldiers and also made to carry out community service in Vimperk as a minor. After staying at the Vimperk collective camp, in August 1946 he and his family were deported to Bavaria. The harrowing journey lasted nine days. In the end they were lodged in a farmhouse cellar in the border town of Grafenau, Josef training as a baker at nearby Schönberg. Soon after, he completed his education and found employment at the local revenue agency, with his many sports accomplishments helping him integrate into German society. Mr Sager has a critical view of his ideological positions during the war, which is why he talks about them openly today. He regularly visits his birth-town of Vimperk and after 1989 he made a number of friends there.