Goch und Kleve
An eyewitness story from the Niederrhein:
Kind regards.The hard times had not stopped for us after the experiences at the front. My last hope was to get through to Keppeln and to find shelter in my parents house. Coming from the Holländer Straße we moved on to the Bruns-Reedershof near Uedemerfeld. Twenty enemy tanks were parked there at the edge of the Hohlweg, aiming at the Reichswald. The Germans were still firing from there. The enemy ordered us to lay down on the ground, where we stayed roughly for half an hour before we were able to move on over the fields to Velze Sonskuhl.The Canadian Infantry was there. We hid in the cellar of Herr August.There was fire everywhere. Some pigs trodding along were run over by enemy tanks. We could hardly move on anymore, as there was debris everywhere and we were afraid to be run over by enemy tanks as well. We could not recognise a path, nor a road anymore.
The soldiers shouted „Sieg Heil“ sarcastically at us. On arriving at my parents home, there was no living soul there. The enemy was just shooting the last living chickens. No one could tell me where my relatives were, refugees just like us. I found our former neighbour on the ground of his cellar next to his wife, both suffocated. Sad and with great pain in my heart I left my parents home and walked into an unsure future.
The Canadians pushed us further back to the church in Neulouisendorf. There we found a Red Cross Camp. We hoped to get something to drink here, as we were terribly thirsty. Our dream was not to be fulfilled and so we moved on, approaching the road from Keppeln to Altkalkar. The Schlüters were my brother and sister-in-law and I hoped to be lucky there. It was getting dark and Canadian police moved us on to a barn. Several civilians were there already. Overtired we laid down, only to be ordered to get up again around midnight to be transported to Bedburg, the refugee camp. It seemed like a liberation and all I longed for was a good sleep to switch off my mind.
On arrival at Bedburg, we were thrown into an overcrowded room. I searched out a place for my son and myself on the floor and wrapped him into my coat. The air was stale and made breathing difficult. It was forbidden to drink water.
Next morning I was found unconscious, still holding my son in my arms. People thought I was starving and pushed a bit of cold meat into my hand. I could hardly swallow, but life had to go on as I had to look after my son.
We had to find some old tin outside in the dirt, so we had an utensil to fetch soup. It made me cringe, but that was the only option for us. We were covered in lice. At one time I was able to take a glimpse into the mortuary. Roughly thirty dead bodies were in there. Seven of them were children, they must have longed for a better world. I sat down under a pine tree and cried. I thought about our lost home land. My son was homesick, always talking about his dog and little sheep which we had to leave behind.
Those days went by and one day it was announced that the people from Uedemerbruch, that we were to be released the next day. The whole freezing night I spent walking around being afraid to catch a pneumonia just hours before going home. We were taken home in cars.
Under normal circumstances one would have sung with joy, but we cried as we knew what was awaiting us – a plundered home.
Frau O. from Uedemerbruch