A diary transcript documents the stations on the journey of Eva S.

Monday, July 9, 1945: „Don't go to Kohlfurt! There’s no point. Trains don't run from there! We've been waiting for 14 days for a train to the West!“ That's what people told us when we started out on the road to Kohlfurt early in the morning with our luggage. We were told the same thing from all sides, but we wanted to try it in any case and bravely marched on. Along the way, we encountered a lot of Eastern workers who had to return to their country.1 

Short biographical portrait
Eva S. was born in Oberhausen in the Rhineland area in 1928. Together with her parents and her twin sister Gritta, she initially lived in Rostock during the Second World War. When her father became unfit for military service because of his rheumatism, the family moved to
deu. Wünschelburg, ces. Radkov, ces. Hrádek, ces. Radek, ces. Vinšlburk

Today, the Lower Silesian town of Radków is located in Poland. It was probably founded before the year 1290 and currently has a population of almost 9,000 inhabitants.

in Silesia. A few weeks after the end of the war, Eva S. and her family were expelled from 
deu. Schlesien, ces. Slezsko, pol. Śląsk

Silesia (Polish: Śląsk, Czech: Slezsko) is a historical landscape, which today is mainly located in the extreme southwest of Poland, but in parts also on the territory of Germany and the Czech Republic. By far the most significant river is the Oder. To the south, Silesia is bordered mainly by the Sudeten and Beskid mountain ranges. Today, almost 8 million people live in Silesia. The largest cities in the region are Wrocław, Opole and Katowice. Before 1945, most of the region was part of Prussia for two hundred years, and before the Silesian Wars (from 1740) it was part of the Habsburg Empire for almost as many years. Silesia is classified into Upper and Lower Silesia.

. Traveling on foot, sometimes in trucks, by bus and by rail, they made their way to Bredelar in the Sauerland region, where the family owned a small house. After the war, Eva initially trained as a ceramic painter and potter, but later worked as a civil servant. In Duisburg she met her husband Peter, to whom she was married until his death in 2008.
Historical background
When the Soviet Army captured Wünschelburg in Silesia in April 1945, Eva S. was just 17 years old. The inhabitants of the town were forced to leave after a few weeks. Within the larger context of the escape, expulsion, and resettlement of Germans at the end of the war, Eva. S. thus describes in her diary the middle stage of the forced migrations: Before the end of the war, many Germans had already left for the West, fleeing from the advancing Soviet Army; in the weeks immediately after the end of the war, there were often forcible expulsions, as Eva S. documents. From the end of 1945, in the course of resettlements, the remaining Germans had to leave the areas east of the Oder and Neisse rivers . The paths of the Germans to the West crossed with the paths of former forced laborers, for example, who were striving to return to their countries of origin.
Eva S. was expelled from Wünschelburg together with her twin sister Gritta and her mother as well as with an acquaintance (who is called Annemie in the text) and her little daughter in June 1945, because they had not lived in Silesia at the beginning of the war. Writing in pencil and using Sütterlin script, Eva recorded the events in Wünschelburg after its capture by the Soviet Army and during the period of expulsions in little A5 exercise books. Her mother later copied these notebooks and added small illustrations. The originals have not survived. Therefore, it cannot be determined with certainty to what extent the mother also introduced her own views of the events into the text during the copying process.
The family gave the transcribed version to the German Diary Archive (DTA) in Emmendingen near Freiburg. The transcript is accompanied by a photograph of the twin sisters Gritta and Eva at the age of 17 in Wünschelburg. The agreement with the diary archive regarding the use of the fonds stipulates that only the first name and abbreviated surname of the author may be mentioned in the Copernico portal.
Fear of the Soviet army
Life in occupied Wünschelburg
The diary entries begin with May 9, 1945, the day the Red Army reaches Wünschelburg. At night, the house where Eva lives with her mother and Gritta is ransacked. They manage to sneak out of the house and find shelter in the hospital. Later, they find lodging with the Bienert family, who are friends of theirs. Their old apartment is now used as a telecommunications center. There is a great fear of rape, as Soviet soldiers roam the streets at night looking for young women. Eva, Gritta and their mother are spared because their door is sturdy enough and the soldiers look for an easier target. A similar situation has already occurred earlier on at the hospital. Several Soviet soldiers enter the building and tell all the Germans there that they must be gone by the next morning or they would start killing the nurses. Eva writes about this: „Thursday, May 10, 1945: When we heard them coming, we put on our scarves and shawls very quickly. [...] Scarves meant illness and the soldiers were very afraid of contagion. In this way we tried to escape being violated.2
Everyday life under extraordinary circumstances
Around June 18, 1945, Polish soldiers arrive to replace the Soviet ones. Eva writes that the Poles leave the women alone and go to church, but beat up German men. From June 19, the girls are assigned to forced labor. They must clean and tidy up in the customs house while being supervised by Polish soldiers. Eva describes the work as exhausting, but also fun, because every now and then they fool around with the soldiers or sing a few songs. Their work is not too closely monitored, and so the girls play hooky once in a while. In general, everyday life almost seems to have returned to a kind of normality, for example, there are regular choir rehearsals, in which Eva also participates. She describes a Sunday as follows: „Sunday, June 24, 1945: we went to the Niesels house to play table tennis with Hubert. Werner had also come and brought a 'fiery Hungarian' with him. He was a real farmer's son who spoke fluent German. In the afternoon Gritta and I went to the Tschöckes’ house and sang there, while Dorle [a friend, editor's note] played. Afterwards Dorle and I went for a walk down Strandbadstraße, and Gritta stayed longer at the Tschöckes' and played the piano.“3 
Via Kunzendorf to Waldenburg
From June 26, 1945, there are rumors that the German population will be expelled. The family fears being separated, because Gritta and Eva have been assigned work, but their mother has not. Therefore, they also arrange for their mother to receive a certificate confirming employment. However, only two days later they learn that they have to leave Wünschelburg, since, at the beginning of the war, they still lived in Rostock and not in Wünschelburg. They pack their things and make all the necessary arrangements for their departure, for example they apply for Soviet letters of transit and visit their father's grave to say goodbye.
On June 30, they begin their journey by train via various stations to nearby
Nowa Ruda
deu. Neurode, ces. Nová Ruda

The town of Nowa Ruda is located in Lower Silesia in Poland and first appeared in official records in 1337. From the Middle Ages, textile production predominated in Nowa Ruda, and from the 19th century, mining became the most important economic sector. Today Nowa Ruda has almost 22,000 inhabitants.

. From there they continue on foot until they can take a train again. They spend the night in Waldenburg.4
"Saturday, June 30: From Neurode we walked to
Drogosław (Nowa Ruda)
deu. Kunzendorf b. Neurode

Drogosław, first mentioned in a document in 1352 as "Cunczendorf", is now a district of the municipality of Nowa Ruda.

. This was very tiring with the double layer of underwear, 2 dresses and 2 coats we had on, and with the heavy luggage. After a short rest at the house of some nice people we continued to the train station in Kunzendorf. Now it became even more strenuous, because the road led quite steeply uphill for an hour. At the top we had to wait a long time for the train. There were a lot of Russians there, including some really horrible types. Finally, the ride continued from Zentnerbrunn. Shortly before Waldenburg we had to get off again and walk across a destroyed bridge until we reached Waldenburg. At one point, I had to look after the luggage on my own and three scary-looking Russians surrounded me and sniffed me from all sides. I was glad when Mutti came back! Now we are lying here at the school in Waldenburg where we are spending the night, and I can't see anything at all, it is so dark! But I absolutely have to hold on to this day! May we have good luck as our escape continues! Good night!
A forced stop in Greifenberg due to illness
On July 1, 1945, the family takes a train to
Jelenia Góra

The Lower Silesian town of Hirschberg, now Jelenia Góra in Polish, is located on the Bober River in the Hirschberg Valley at the foot of the Giant Mountains. It was an important trading center in the Middle Ages. A weaving industry was established here in the 16th century, followed by other industries. With the railroad connection in 1866, Jelenia Góra and the surrounding valley also became a popular tourist destination.

and begin a 48km walk to

The now Polish town of Lubań was first mentioned in a document in 1268. Initially part of Bohemian Upper Lusatia, Lauban fell to the Electorate of Saxony in 1635 and to Prussia in 1815. Today it has just under 21,000 inhabitants.

. As they pass a hedge, they are attacked by a swarm of bees. Because of the many stings, Gritta develops a fever and they spend two nights in

The now Polish town of Lubań was first mentioned in a document in 1268. Initially part of Bohemian Upper Lusatia, Lauban fell to the Electorate of Saxony in 1635 and to Prussia in 1815. Today it has just under 21,000 inhabitants.

at the home of the local Lutheran pastor. On July 3, they continue on foot to
deu. Langwasser

Chmieleń is a village in Lower Silesia with about 560 inhabitants.

, where they are allowed to sleep on the floor of a woman's house. The next day they reach
Gryfów Śląski
deu. Greiffenberg

The town of Gryfów Śląski is located in Lower Silesia on the border with Upper Lusatia. It was founded as Greiffenberg before 1354, the year in which it received a first town privilege. Today Gryfów Śląski has about 6,500 inhabitants.

and find lodging with two women, as the refugee shelter is overcrowded. There they spend another day, because Gritta’s fever returns.

Thursday, July 5, 1945: Gritta got a fever again last night, so we stayed here today as well. She lay in bed all day. Mutti, Annemie [the acquaintance, editor's note] and I went into town to do some shopping. At the „Bürgerstübel“, we got a good vegetable soup using a voucher that we had taken from the refugee camp. Mutti and Annemie went to the hairdresser in the afternoon.6

On the 6th, the journey continues in the direction of Lauban. The destruction caused by the war becomes more visible. They spend the night in a refugee camp in Lauban.

Friday, July 6, 1945: When we started walking this morning, Mutti said: „From now on we'll be in the combat zone. We soon saw what she meant. The closer we got to Lauban, the greater the damage became. The roofs of a few houses along the road were torn off, the windows were broken, and telegraph wires were hanging down all tattered.7

From Lauban the four women continue in the direction of

The town of Węgliniec is located in the Polish part of Upper Lusatia and today has about 3,000 inhabitants. It was established around a hammer mill from 1502 and developed into an important junction in the railroad network during the second half of the 19th century.

. They see tanks that have been shot at and smashed and crashed airplanes. They are checked by a Polish soldier who asks to see their passes. They are afraid that he will not return the documents. Without the passes they could be arrested, but all goes well. Before they reach Kohlfurt, they are told that they will have to wait for trains in vain. But they are lucky and get a train that goes to Dresden via several stations.
Monday, July 9, 1945: Don't go to Kohlfurt! There’s no point. Trains don't run from there! We've been waiting for 14 days for a train to the West! That's what people told us when we started to walk to Kohlfurt early in the morning with our luggage. Everyone told us the same thing, but we wanted to try our luck anyway and bravely set off. On the way we met a lot of Eastern workers who had to return to their country of origin. Again, we were again afraid for our few belongings, but we were lucky once again! On the country road we found, one after the other, a lucky penny each! We arrived in Kohlfurt and met a gentleman who shouted to us: 'Go to the station quickly, there is a train to the west ready for departure!' We raced to the station, which was swarming with Russians, and made our way between the tracks to the trains. There were several standing there. By asking lots of questions we found out which train we could take. It was a Russian military transport train. With great difficulty, we climbed onto the tender of the locomotive with our prams and handcarts. None of us remember how we got up there, because everything had to happen so quickly. A Russian woman in uniform stood next to us with a yellow flag and scolded: Quickly! Quickly! Leave everything below! Train depart!!! But we have to climb up, we’ve already put our luggage up there! we shouted, quickly throwing our bags and backpacks up onto the tender, where a couple of helpful German soldiers, Breslau fighters, took our things and pulled us up one by one, after we had climbed halfway up. At the top we squatted between German and Russian soldiers. Suddenly the locomotive blew a shrill whistle and the train slowly started pulling away. At that moment we all thanked God that it had worked out so well! It was not in vain that we had found our lucky pennies!  It’s enough to make anyone superstitious!8
Lodging in Aue/Saxony, music and cinema
In Dresden, as at many of their previous stops, they find a place to stay at the home of a charitable local resident. Mrs. Zahn even opens a jar of cherries for the travelers. They spend two days with her in Dresden before continuing by train via Zwödnitz [read: Zwönitz] to Aue. They stay for two days in Aue and have time to play music and go to the movies.
Friday, July 13, 1945: In Aue we found a place to stay in a beautiful little castle, on a hill, in the middle of lovely parkland, surrounded by a castle wall. The whole thing seemed so romantic because [it] was somewhat overgrown. Annemie and I went for a walk there on that beautiful summer evening. Then we romped around in the grounds in front of the house and discovered a particularly gorgeous spot, a bench surrounded by the most beautiful roses and, in front of it, a small fountain. What’s more, there was glowing evening light and a lovely view of the grounds! Gritta and I got our flutes and played Mozart. It was such a beautiful, tranquil atmosphere! Annemie was so grateful for the flute playing. The peaceful evening did us good.9

Sunday, July 15, 1945: Yesterday we slept late and took a stroll through town. Today we went to a hotel for lunch at 12 o'clock. The waiter was so nice and gave us two lunches for one stamp. Annemie, Gritta and I went to the cinema at 3 o'clock: “Die Sache mit Styx”, a thriller starring Victor de Koroa [sic!]. Aue is a nice little town and has felt nothing of the war. People walk well dressed, and they even wear jewelry! We only see a few Russians, almost only officers.10

From Aue the group travels to Zwickau, where they are lucky to be allowed to spend the night on the train, as there is a bad thunderstorm. Eva notices that the Americans must have been there, as there are posters in English everywhere. From Zwickau they travel via Weimar and Erfurt to Gotha, where they spend the night in a converted school. On the morning of July 18, they continue to Mühlhausen, where they have relatives and they stay with them. For the first time in a long time, they can sleep in real beds. They also have fried potatoes with scrambled eggs. They stay with the relatives for almost two weeks until the end of July, and Eva doesn't write in her diary every day. They enjoy the normalcy that life has brought them.
Sunday, July 22, 1945: yesterday we made a comfortable day of it, slept a lot, and in the afternoon washed and ironed. At half past eight, Mutti, Annemie and I went to church today. [...] Annemie and I then went to the Thuringa-Plalatius [?] concert, where a trio played classical music. In between there were recitations from Goethe's and Schiller's works. It was a very worthwhile program. [...] And then [we] feasted on coffee with cake. Then we played nine men’s morris.
Monday, July 23 to Thursday, July 26, 1945: washed clothes, had hair washed at the barber's and stayed at home.
Friday, July 27, 1945: went to the movies with Annemie: “Das Herz muß schweigen” with Paula Wessely. In the evening the first Americans whizzed by in an open car and I saw the first English car.
Sunday, July 28, 1945: Annemie, Gritta and I took a stroll through town and ate ice cream at the café!!!11
From Mühlhausen they make an excursion to visit relatives of an uncle in Heyerode, near the Hessian-Thuringian border. In this entry, it is clear that the family wants to go to the Western zones and is thinking about how they could succeed in crossing the border.
Friday, July 20, 1945: Today, Mutti, Gritta and I left at 9am by train for Heyerode to visit Uncle K. Zengerling's relatives. There we learned many things about the Witteners, with whom we had not had any mail contact for a long time. Then our host, the mayor, said that the English would probably soon replace the Russians as occupiers in this area. For us, of course, there could be nothing better. If the Russians, who keep the border to the West closed, remain here, then we must dare to cross the 'green border'.12
Bribing border guards
On July 31, 1945, they set off from Mühlhausen by train to Arenshausen an der Leine. Local women get them the tickets, since only local citizens are authorized to buy them. In Heiligenstadt the train does not continue, so they walk the remaining 12 kilometers. In Arenshausen they try several times in vain to cross the border, until they finally succeed by bribing the postman.
Tuesday, July 31, 1945: [...] At Ahrenshausen [sic!] we first went to the station and rested. There were many people sitting there who had tried in vain to get across the border. Some women told horror stories that were enough to make you sick. Some had tried to cross the border in the evening, but were forced into the woods by the Russians, raped and chased back again. Others had everything taken away from them. Everyone had something different to tell. When we had been sitting for a while, a lady came up to us and said: Try to come over now. I was just at the border. The guard who is now on watch seems to be willing to talk. You must hurry before he is relieved! Try your luck one at a time if possible! The five of us immediately set off. The tension in the air between us could not have been greater! [...] Now we had arrived in front of the bridge, where the guard was walking up and down with his bayonet aimed and ready. Four times we approached him without success, then Annemie offered a golden wristwatch as a bribe–and we were over the border! On the other side we fell into each other's arms rejoicing with happiness!13
After crossing the border, Eva, Gritta and their mother reached their small house in Bredelar in North Rhine-Westphalia on August 3, 1945, which they shared with relatives who had also come there. In Kassel, they had separated from their acquaintance Annemie and her daughter, who had moved on to Mainz. A few weeks after their arrival in Bredelar, Eva and Gritta were accepted into a boarding school in Menden near Iserlohn.
The different experiences that refugees and displaced persons had in the regions they arrived in have meanwhile become a subject of research in their own right.14 
Deutsches Tagebucharchiv, Signatur 4372, Eva S.; Vertreibung aus Wünschelburg 1945.
Material from the map collection of the Herder Institute
Source selection and analysis: Johanna Michaela Stevanin
English translation: William Connor
Map mounting: Laura Gockert
Editing: Christian Lotz
This article is part of the series: „Forced migration: people and their escape routes

Siehe auch