The Deathmarch of Bruenn
During World War II, many gruesome crimes were committed and one would have expected, that the end of the war, would have brought an end to all the inhumanities. But unfortunately, it was not so.
Let's start with 1944. The war is reaching Moravia, which was spared until now. Bruenn experienced at the end of August it's first heavy air attack. Dead and damage of buildings were the result. In 1945 it became clear, that the end of the war is near. The Allied Army pushed forward and entered German territory. The Soviet Army is closing in on Bruenn. The German military is still in the city, indicating a relatively normal atmosphere. However, the German troops soon begin to retreat before the Soviets, leaving only women, children and the elderly behind. All men were gone, serving the military.
The majority of the German people who remained in the city, were not worried about their fate. They never hurt or persecuted any Czech person, and therefore never expected any kind of revenge.Their ignorance of the real and present danger, was a result of not listening to the foreign radio broadcasts. Listening to these broadcasts was a practice, ruthlessly persecuted by the secret police (Gestapo). Had they listened, they would have heard President Benesch, who had fled to London, urge the Czech population to arm themselves and to slay the Germans, wherever and whenever possible. The Czechs also listened to similar demands from London and Moscow, namely to "collectively liquidate all Germans". Many Czechs followed these orders and complied with extreme force.
When the Soviet Army occupied Bruenn on April 26, 1945, the situation became much worse and more hatred was ignited. As a result, gruesome attacks, like rapes and severe beatings, began against the Germans. Because Hitler and his army had conquered
Czechoslovakia, the Czechs wanted to take revenge and did so on innocent Germans.
They justified all these misdeeds as revenge for the actions of Hitler’s occupation forces.
Confinement camps, to house Germans, were set up inside and outside the city. The Germans within these camps were tortured and mistreated. Because there was no medical help available for them, many succumbed and died. The revenge for the actions of Hitler's occupation forces was now taken against the innocent.
The sad finale was on Mai 30, 1945, when the remaining Germans were expelled from Bruenn. There were 25 – 30 thousand women, children , sick and elderly.
It started on the evening before Corpus Christi Day, when within a few hours, all Germans were forced to assemble on the street in several parts of the city. Mistakenly, in addition to the Germans, some Czechs and Jews were also brought forward, because they had German sounding names. Some even were from different countries.
The people were only allowed to bring, whatever belongings they could carry. At dawn of this fateful day, these people were mercilessly driven by the thousands, towards the Austrian border, without food, water or medical assistance. They were flanked by armed guards, preventing any stopping and driving the people like a herd of cattle. Exhausted elderly were pushed into the roadside ditch to die and nobody was allowed to help them.
The first stop was in the small town of Pohrlitz, where the majority of the deaths occurred.This town was completely unprepared for the onslaught of refugees. It was unfair for that town, to have to be faced with the odium of this inhumanity. Most of the people that died, succumbed to dysentery, brought on by hunger, stress and fatigue. Several hundreds died on the way to the Austrian border and over one thousand died upon reaching Austrian soil.
Similar events took place in Yugoslavia years later. The term "ethnic cleansing" was used to describe these horrendous acts, aimed at creating "pure ethnic" areas. This undertaking was the result of an uncomparable, long outdated, exaggerated nationalism, which did not know any mercy. The expulsions and dispossessions were criminal acts against humanity, not to mention it being a case of nationwide murder.
The victorious nations agreed later on, at a meeting in Potsdam, to an orderly evacuation, which became known as "expulsion". The enormous "blood letting" ended the era of the Germans' creative productivity. They had made remarkable contributions to the city culturally, architecturally and artistically. Perhaps one day, the Czechs might come to accept the fact, that the Germans were extremely influential and productive, and that for this reason alone, they should be recognized positively and appreciated.
After more than half a century, the Germans are offering to reconcile, because existing hatred should not create new hatred. Czechs and Germans have to live in neighborly unity. They should strive for peaceful terms. The result would be a blessing for both.
There is one more thing, the Czechs would have to resolve, namely to look back into their own history and weigh soberly their share of some guilt. The Germans did this already. We are confident, our peace offering hand will not be rejected one day, even though, the present political rulers are not ready for that.
We, the Germans from Bruenn, are ready to come to an understanding.
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