In a report, 24-year-old Hilda J.-S. describes her resettlement from Rohnstock (Silesia) to Rosellen on the Lower Rhine area in the summer of 1946.

We are constantly faced with new treks. One meets acquaintances, and everywhere there is the same suffering, the same worry, the anxious uncertainty and also indifference. People are almost at the end of their strength!1

Short biographical portrait
Hilda J.-S. was born on December 29, 1922 in
deu. Rohnstock, deu. Rostock

Today the village Roztoka belongs to the rural municipality of Dobromierz in Poland. It was first mentioned in records in 1305 as "Rostock". The village is also known for its castle of the same name. Roztoka today has about 1,100 inhabitants.

  in the district of

The Lower Silesian town of Jawor is located on the River Nysa Szalona, about 70 km west of Wroclaw, in present-day Poland, and was first documented in written records in the 11th century. Jauer was a center of the Reformation. An important trading center in the 14th century, the town later became known for linen weaving and letterpress printing, and other industries became established from the 19th century.

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.

. She completed a commercial apprenticeship from 1937 to 1939. She married in June 1942; however, her husband was killed in action in the war against the Soviet Union a short time later in December. After the end of the war, she worked for the Polish administrator of the village of Rohnstock without pay until she was expelled to Germany in July 1946 along with all the other Germans living there. Hilda J.-S. travelled partly on foot, and sometimes by bus or train. She found a new home in Rosellen in North Rhine-Westphalia (today Rosellen is a district of Neuss). From 1949 to 1951, Hilda J.-S. studied at the Academy for Public Economics in Hamburg.
Historical background
The diary of Hilda J.-S. describes her expulsion from Silesia in 1946. It gives an insight into the third phase of the forced expulsion of Germans from East Central Europe: The first phase, before the end of the war, was characterized by chaotic escape from the advancing Red Army. The second phase, immediately at the end of the war, was characterized by often violent expulsions. The third phase included resettlements, which were ordered and enforced by the Polish authorities from the beginning of 1946. Hilda J.-S. documents the many stops along her migration route. In this way, the diary provides an insight into the different experiences along the way. Since the author later transcribed her own handwritten diary with a typewriter, there may have been reinterpretations of the events in the original text. This becomes tangible, for example, in the passage describing the receipt of 25 „DM“ [„Deutsche Mark“] in 1946, although „DM“ had in fact only existed since the currency reform of 1948.
Hilda J.-S. made the transcript of the diary available to the German Diary Archive (DTA) in Emmendingen near Freiburg in 1998. In addition to the transcript, the collection contains a handwritten transcript of the farewell sermon of the Rohnstock pastor, as well as several maps of Silesia, a print, and a description of the village of Rohnstock. The agreement with the Diary Archive for the use of the fonds stipulates that only the first name and abbreviated surname of the author is to be mentioned in the Copernico portal.
Preparations for the departure from Rohnstock
Hilda J.-S.'s notes begin on July 25, 1946, the day before her expulsion from Rohnstock in the district of Jauer in Silesia. Even though she wonders why it is happening so quickly, no one in the village is surprised or unprepared.

Hadn't they been waiting for this day for weeks? With backpacks, dish tubs, bed sacks stowed there in some unsuspicious corner, many people had been ready for weeks, ready to leave for West Germany. Arrangements had also been made for the safekeeping of other things – things one wanted to save, especially valuables that we weren’t allowed to take with us – and that was good!2

On July 26, 1946, at 6 o'clock in the morning, the official expulsion of the residents of Rohnstock begins. They cover the first 12 kilometers from Rohnstock to Jauer on foot, some pushing handcarts. The fear of looting is great and the makeshift means of transportation proves difficult.
After two hours of uncertainty as to whether we would get out of Rohnstock with our last possessions, the trek slowly begins to move. Word spreads from the front of the line that the first wagons are already being robbed – that beds, linen, crockery and food are being taken. [...] The first wagons are already lying on their sides, overturned, a broken axle, these are the reasons for the stop. [...] This road is difficult to travel on for the wagons and the travel baskets with fitted axles, which are often pretty makeshift.3
By evening, the Rohnstocker trek has reached the small town of Jauer; little by little, treks from other villages arrive as well. Hilda describes the insecurity and fear that spurs everyone to keep moving.
Everywhere I see the same suffering, the same worry, the fearful uncertainty and also the indifference. People have almost reached the end of their strength! Overexertion and fear of what is to come – such desolate fatigue!!! The summer night was already dark by the time the trek from Ketschdorf arrived. The poor souls, they had the longest journey – about 35 km on foot. Before they reached Leipe, two had already died – young people who weren’t up to the exertion, a lad of 17 and a girl of 19. The next day their funeral was held in Jauer, their relatives were not allowed to attend. Exhausted and destitute, thirsty and hungry, thousands lay down in courtyards, gardens and buildings on top of their last remaining possessions, thinking with horror of the day to come.... Whether it would be worse?4
In Jauer they have to hold out for several days. The wagons arrive in the night from Saturday, July 27, to Sunday, July 28, 1946, but there is no locomotive available. They do not continue until Thursday, August 1, 1946. Hilda describes the days in Jauer, the fear of the Soviet army and the waiting.
We wait for the empty train. We wait until midnight for the sound of the train rolling in – a longed for music, like the bell signaling to children that they may open their Christmas presents. But we were also scared of it because of the Russians! After all, one transport train had rolled in and stopped long enough for the Russians to come frighteningly close to the place we were resting. [...] Despite the darkness and sleeping children, the trains were loaded quietly [...]. The wagon doors were fixed on the inside with wire – we’d been warned of Russian raids by people from the Alt-Jauer camp. And indeed, at about 2 o'clock in the morning, Russians tried to break into the train. Some women screamed, the guard shot a gun... the Russians were driven away and so the night passed.
Everyone is exhausted and keeps asking: When will we go on? When will our locomotive finally arrive?
Again the evening comes and we are still standing in the same spot [...]. The night comes, again we hear screams, right near us, and there is shooting. [...] A terrible thunderstorm begins. Lightning bolt after lightning bolt, it is as bright as day, and hailstones are falling.... the poor people, sitting outside with their luggage and small children, waiting for the next empty train to be loaded! [...] Every night is restless because of the Russians. One woman was shot by a Russian purely out of recklessness.5
Via Liegnitz and Magdeburg to the refugee camps at Mariental and Immendorf
They travel by train via
deu. Liegnitz

Legnica is a city inhabited by 99,000 people in the Polish voivodeship of Lower Silesia. The city is located in the west of the country not far from the capital of the voivodeship, Wroclaw. Legnica was part of the Prussian province of Silesia till 1945.


The Lower Silesian town of Szprotawa is located in Poland today and has about 11,500 inhabitants. It was first mentioned in the year 1000. Particularly in the first half of the 20th century, the economy of Szprotawa flourished due to the success of local industries.

deu. Sagan, ces. Zaháň, . Žahań, lat. Saganum

Żagań is located in Lower Silesia, about halfway between Cottbus and Wroclaw. The city was first mentioned in a document in 1202 and today has around 25,000 inhabitants.


Żary is located in the Polish part of Lower Lusatia and, with just under 40,000 inhabitants, is the second largest city in Lower Lusatia after Cottbus. In 1007 the area "Zara" was mentioned in writing for the first time. In 1260 Sorau was granted city rights. Together with Lower Lusatia, Sorau became part of the Electorate of Saxony in 1635 and Prussia in 1815. In the 19th century it became a center of the textile industry, which flourished in the region.

, and

Żary is located in the Polish part of Lower Lusatia and, with just under 40,000 inhabitants, is the second largest city in Lower Lusatia after Cottbus. In 1007 the area "Zara" was mentioned in writing for the first time. In 1260 Sorau was granted city rights. Together with Lower Lusatia, Sorau became part of the Electorate of Saxony in 1635 and Prussia in 1815. In the 19th century it became a center of the textile industry, which flourished in the region.


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.

. From there, after a two-hour stopover, they continue via Hoyerswerda and Magdeburg to the Mariental camp in the Helmstedt district. Hilda reports little about the journey and the individual stops. She does, however, describe her stay in the Mariental camp (near Helmstedt), even though she only spends a little more than a day there. After that, the journey continues via Braunschweig to the Immendorf camp.6

We [...] continued our journey refreshed! We travelled via Hoyerswerda in the direction of Magdeburg. There, for the first time, we saw the destruction of the war. On both sides of the railway line stood burned-out housing blocks [...].7 

We had already heard a lot about this camp [Mariental], where thousands had already passed through. We arrived there at 2:20am. We carried our hand luggage ourselves, everything else was loaded onto trucks. In the camp we lined up in four rows, men and women separately, for delousing and registration – once again. [...] We were given food, a warm soup, and also our marching rations, for which we paid only 2 Reichsmark per head.  For all Catholic refugees there was holy mass, for the Protestants a short devotion. We wrote the first mail to Silesia and to West Germany, knowing now where we were going. Nordenham is written on the back of the registration papers; [...] Here in Mariental one can see the difference between a German and a Polish camp. Here there is the greatest cleanliness and everything is taken care of, while in Jauer the washing facilities were already in a bad condition, not to speak of the toilet facilities.8
Hilda spends several days at the Immendorf camp and a kind of normality returns, even though questions about the future are always present.
Evening[s] we all get together and sing songs from the homeland and then hold a short evening service. The Ketschdorfer Choir sings beautiful „Heimat” songs, duets are performed – we feel like free people again!!!9

It is the 6th of August. We are still in the Immendorf camp. When will we move on? Are we now going to our final destination or first to a camp again? Are we going to be powdered again for vermin? These are the little questions about our future that occupy us at the moment.10

„Now there are a lot of letters to get hold of, missing relatives to look for at the search center, etc. [...] We spend most of our time here sleeping; finally we’re able to recover from the strain of the long journey. [...] How nice it would be to have your own „home“ again. There is a cinema here and even dancing on the weekends! Yes, if it weren't for the gray, the uncertain nature of the future, the youth in us, after being deprived of all these things for so long, would drive us to plunge headlong into all the pleasures on offer.“11
Arrival in Rosellen (today a suburb of Neuss/NRW)
On August 8, 1946, the train continues from Immendorf to Wipperführt. After an overnight stay there, another train takes the refugees via Wuppertal, Düsseldorf and Neuss to Dormagen. From there they are taken by bus and distributed among the surrounding villages.

On Sunday at noon we were transported by bus to the villages. We were told Norf was our destination, but from here we continued on to a smaller village, Rosellen.12

We arrived: A dirty, dark room, a hall where Eastern workers used to be housed – how desolate it looks here! After a 16-day journey, buckets and scouring cloths were the first things we had to unpack in order to clean a place to sit. In the afternoon we had food from a butcher's shop – we’d worked up an appetite and it was good. In the evening we got 100 grams of sausage per head, what a sensation!!! There was also bread and butter. The next day we got our ration cards from the office in Norf and a one-time allowance for adults to the value of 25 Deutschmark, for children 10 Deutschmark. Once again we went shopping and were able to pay with German money in the store, what a joy! To everyone's delight, there were salted herrings, which we haven’t had for 2 years. There is a lot of work to do and a lot we still need to get and we can make ourselves as comfortable as the circumstances allow. There is a special allowance for detergents. And there are eggs too. It takes a long time for these things to be distributed among all the camp inmates, but we are beginning to feel comfortable.13
The written records by Hilda J.-S. end with this description of the camp in Rosellen. Her double-barreled name suggests that she later married again. Information about her life after this time is not available in the German Diary Archive. The integration of refugees and displaced persons in post-war Germany proved a great challenge. Research literature now emphasizes the importance of refugees for post-war economic reconstruction in both the East and West, for example in the anthology by Krauss, Marita (ed.): Integrationen. Vertriebene in den deutschen Ländern nach 1945, Göttingen 2008.
German Diary Archive, shelf mark 100-1, Hilda J.-S.; Vertreibung aus Schlesien 1946.
Map material from the map collection of the Herder Institute
Source evaluation and analysis: Johanna Michaela Stevanin
English translation: William Connor
Cartographic montages: Laura Gockert
Editing: Christian Lotz
This article is part of the series: „Forced migration: people and their escape routes