Why some Germans look at Syrian refugees along with see themselves

Christa Nolte as a baby with her mother along with her brother

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Christa Nolte as a baby with her mother along with her brother – she still has the teddy bear

Between 1944 along with 1947, an estimated 12 million ethnic Germans fled or were expelled coming from their homes. Overshadowed by the crimes of the Nazis, their stories have often received little international attention. yet these days, as Bethany Bell reports coming from Germany, the fresh arrivals coming from Syria have awakened old memories about what in which means to flee.

Christa Nolte carefully lifted a little book out of a box of family papers.

“This specific can be what my grandmother, Anna, took with her when we fled,” she told me. “in which was important for her to save in which.”

in which was a pocket-sized Lutheran hymnal, the Silesian Church’s Songbook.

Christa was a war baby, born in April 1943. Her family came coming from the town of Goldberg in Silesia, which back then was part of Germany. Today in which’s in Poland.

“We left in early 1945, my mother, my grandmother, my brother along with me,” Christa said. “The Red Army was coming. in which was very cold.”

The family took very little with them. Just a few pieces of cutlery, her brother’s teddy bear along having a feather duvet, which her mother, Margarethe, stuffed into her pram. Christa, not quite two years old, sat on the top.

“My mother originally wanted to get to her brother in Berlin,” Christa told me.

“yet our train was stopped just outside Dresden because the Allied aerial firebombing of the city had just begun.”

I had met Christa in Saxony, in eastern Germany. She had just come coming from Berlin, where she had taken part in a church choir festival, along having a group coming from Coventry, another city blitzed during World War Two. Quiet along with contained, she told me her story matter-of-factly, without drama.

Outside Dresden, the family set off on foot, through the snow along with extreme cold. They eventually reached a camp a little way off south-east, in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Christa got very sick, with measles along with then pneumonia. The child inside next bed died. She remembers people crying along with air raid sirens – sounds in which still haunt her.

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Christa’s mother’s ID card at the Kladno camp

At the end of the war, the family managed to get back to Goldberg – partly on foot, partly by train. At one point, they were surrounded by Russian soldiers, one of whom accosted her mother, Margarethe. She was terrified he meant to rape her, yet instead he gave her a piece of ham.

When they got back home, everything had changed. Polish families coming from eastern regions, which had been transferred to the Soviet Union, had been moved into Goldberg along with into their family home.

At the Potsdam conference inside summer of 1945, the Allies agreed in which the German territories east of the Oder-Neisse rivers – including Goldberg – should be given to Poland.

So in 1946, Christa along with her family left again – to become part of a mass exodus west. “We were on a train for nine days. We didn’t know where we were going. We all had lice along with fleas,” Christa remembered.

She turned to me, having a rueful smile. “When we eventually got to the Rhineland, west of Duesseldorf, the farmers we were sent to live with didn’t want us either. The first thing they asked us was: ‘Are you Catholic or Protestant?’ They were Catholic. We were Protestants. in which was our biggest mistake.”

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Stories like Christa’s are common. During my short stay in Saxony, I met many people who had come coming from Silesia or East Prussia as children. I also discovered in which the old manor house where I was staying had been used as a refugee camp for Germans coming from the east well into the 1950s.

For many years, the fate of the ethnic Germans has been an uncomfortable topic – always overshadowed by Nazi atrocities, along with repeatedly exploited by far-right groups.

“There are books about in which, along with we talk about in which among ourselves,” Christa told me. “I don’t feel so badly affected. Children manage everywhere along with inside end things didn’t go so badly for me inside West – although the local children called us names for years.”

yet seeing Syrian refugees arrive in Germany today makes her think.

“Their experience can be like ours – like in which of our mothers along with grandmothers – the rapes, sleeping rough, trying to keep your children safe.”

“You mention rape,” I said. “Did in which happen to your mother?”

“She never spoke about in which,” Christa said. “Never.”

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in which was only in 1990, after the fall of Communism, in which Christa along with her mother were able to visit their old home again – Goldberg, today known by the Polish name Zlotorja.

Christa says Margarethe had made peace with the fact in which Polish families were today settled there. “in which could be a huge injustice if they had to move,” she’d said. “Where could they go?”

A week after our conversation, I received an email coming from Christa, who had gone on to visit Germany’s Baltic coast near Rostock. in which contained the photo of a refugee cookery book, recently put together by a local community there. The recipes were coming from Silesia, East Prussia, Afghanistan along with Syria.

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