World War 2: Eye-witness account of Christa Weigand of Frankfurt, Germany, in October 2008.

Translated by her granddaughter, Natascha Raisig.


The Russian army pushed the German soldiers back into Germany in the spring of 1945. The civil population was forced flee. I was born in 1937 and lived with my two brothers and my mother in Kalke Kreis Sorau, near East Brandenburg, at this time. My father was fighting in the war. We had to leave everything behind and had to take flight. The other villagers, most of them were farmers, couldn’t decide whether to leave their animals behind or not, so they stayed.


So my mother escaped with the three of us children alone. At first we crossed the woods. The Russian armors were very close and German soldiers called: “They’ll overrun everything on the street and shoot everything down that is moving.” I was seven years old. My older brother Claus was nine years old; he had to push the buggy with my youngest brother, who was one year old. My mother pulled a hay trailer with only our necessarily things.


We reached a bridge and we saw German soldiers there. They goad us to cross the bridge: “Hurry up!” After we passed the bridge, it was blown up, so that the Russians couldn’t follow us. Refugees were coming from every direction. A long trek was built. We had to walk, walk westwards. There was no rest and we were exhausted and tired. My brother was out of breath, so that my mother had to push the buggy with one hand and to pull the hay trailer with her other hand. In the evening we reached a little village. We were accommodated in camps, barns, classrooms and cowsheds, lined with straw. The straw was warm and finally we could stretch ourselves out.


We went on the next day. Our legs were sore but we had to move on, always westward. Dead horses laid at the wayside with bloated bodies. Again and again low-flying planes came and shot at the trail, we were scared to death, and we couldn’t stop. In the evening we again reached a camp. Other refugees had slept there earlier, so the straw was old and bugs were living in it. We moved on the next day. We had nothing to eat and were hungry. The German Red Cross tried to help, but there were too many refugees and we only got a little bit of everything. My ears started hurting and a fever bothered me.  My mother put me on the hay trailer and had one load more to pull. It went on like that for days; we were exhausted but had to move on. At a rest area tons of refugees gathered and someone called: “There are the residents from Sommerfeld!” That’s the village where my grandparents used to live. So my mother started to look for her parents and she actually found them!


At another rest area my mother went down to a river to wash my brother’s diaper. When she came back our luggage was stolen. Now we only had our things we were wearing.  One time while my mother was begging for food, I had to watch my little brother. So we played for a little while and suddenly I found a can and was hoping that I could find something to eat in it. I couldn’t open it, so I threw it on the cobbled pavement. It exploded. I lost my consciousness. I had splinters everywhere. I lost my teeth and my lips were torn.  My brother happened to be right behind me, but luckily he wasn’t injured. Russian soldiers brought us to a military hospital. Dressing material and medicine was empty; a few splinters were removed out of my skin. My brother and I waited there until my mother came to get us.


We were pretty far [southeast] from Berlin and we were committed in the little village called Rietzneuendorf, with other completely exhausted refugees. The villagers had to host refugees, but a woman with three little children wasn’t wanted by anyone. So we were committed into an unoccupied villa with other people. The villa’s owner had escaped. We were able to give ourselves a rest, but we had nothing, neither food nor clothes – nothing – and it was cold. We survived the first winter somehow, after that it got better.


We’ve never seen our home again. The Oder-Neisse line in Germany became a part of Poland. The Polish had to give land to the Russians in the East instead. Our father was captured and under American control. He was dismissed into the West sector, into Niedersachsen. Via the tracing service of the German Red Cross we were able to find each other. A few years later, in 1949, my mother, my brothers and I escaped from the DDR to live with my father, as a family, again.