Your generosity allows us to finance part of the production costs.

Thank you very much for this!

“The Power Of Memory” – film project on the transgenerational transmission of trauma

The film explores the question of how the trauma experienced by parents and grandparents continues to affect subsequent generations as transgenerational trauma and how subsequent generations can succeed in freeing themselves from it in order to make their own decisions and live a self-determined life.

The documentary film “The Power Of Memory” is the sequel to the documentary film “REFUGE-CONFIDENCE-FUTURE | 12 war children remember”.


in November 2023

Movie evening

The parish ST. Thomas in Wolfenbüttel invites you to a film evening:
Friday, 17 November 2023
Start: 6:30 pm
Location: St. Thomas Wolfenbüttel, Jahnstraße 1, 38302 Wolfenbüttel.
Afterwards there will be an opportunity to talk with the filmmakers.


in July 2023

NDR Television

In a short report, the NDR television reported on July 9, 2023 in the program HALLO NIEDERSACHSEN about the project in Essenrode. To the broadcast “Essenrode: The village of the displaced persons” click here.


in June 2023

Polish subtitles

The film ZUKUNFT – ZUFLUCHT – ZUVERSICHT (REFUGE-CONFIDENCE-FUTURE) is now available with Polish subtitles in addition to English and German subtitles.
to the film


in April 2023

Movie afternoon

St.Thomaehof senior citizens' nursing home

The film ZUFLUCHT-ZUVERSICHT-ZUKUNFT (REFUGE-CONFIDENCE-FUTURE) was shown for the first time in a senior citizens’ nursing home in Braunschweig, at the invitation of St. Thomaehof. The event was organized by Tamara Schwab, a geriatric nurse at the home, after she learned that one of the people featured in the film now lived there. Over 30 people attended the screening, and many participated in a discussion afterwards. There was great interest in sharing experiences among the senior citizens, as all of them had lived through war, flight, or expulsion. Some had even experienced the bombing of Braunschweig as children. Some attendees were accompanied by their adult children, who learned new things about their parents’ experiences.

Welcome by filmmakers Sabine C. LANGER, Roland REMUS, Thomas KNÜPPEL
During the film show
Contemporary witnesses: Anni KONNEGEN, Dorchen REMUS, Irmchen REMUS
Exchange in a large conversation group
Residents share their own experiences
...attentive listening
...Experiences are shared
...the round of talks
Much joy in sharing
Refuge experiences are shared
Intergenerational exchange
Info screen in the retirement home after the event
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photos ©:  Thomas Knüppel


in April 2023


Online Call

For German Speaking Audience

on Monday, April 3, 2023 20.00-21.30 Berlin time

Together, lets start opening the space for these conversations. Join us for a free public call on Zuflucht-Zuversicht-Zukunft with Sabine Langer & Roland Remus on Monday, April 3, 2023 from 20.00-21.30 Berlin time.
Join us here:  registration
Together with Sabine Langer & Roland Remus we dedicate this evening to the topic of flight, expulsion and resettlement in German history.
Sabine Langer & Roland Remus will share about their project “Zuflucht-Zuversicht-Zukunft” and especially the resulting documentary film “„Zuflucht-Zuversicht-Zukunft | Essenrode – 12 Kriegskinder erzählen” (“Refuge Confidence Future | Essenrode – 12 war children tell their stories”). We ask that participants watch the film in advance.

You can watch the film in German here: REFUGE – CONFIDENCE – FUTURE
We also invite participants in advance to research their own family history and share the points of departure and arrival of their own/their ancestors’ flight, so that the escape routes can be made visible for all of us to see on the call.


in October 2022

Documentation Centre
will show our film



January 12, 2023

Evening Event:
Thursday, January 12, 2023 | 19 – 21 CET / Berlin
Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation
Stresemannstraße 90, 10963 Berlin

We are very much looking forward to January 12, 2023!
In an evening event, Berlin’s Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation will show our film “ZUFLUCHT-ZUVERSICHT-ZUKUNFT”.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion. Dr. Nils Köhler, head of Documentation & Research for the Centre, will moderate the discussion with us – Roland Remus and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sabine C. Langer (project initiators and editors) and Thomas Knüppel (the filmmaker).
In view of the unclear pandemic situation, the event will be livestreamed beyond the hall.

On the same day, we will also hand our project “ZUFLUCHT-ZUVERSICHT-ZUKUNFT” to the Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation. The Centre was opened in 2021 by then Chancellor Angela Merkel. In talks with Dr. Köhler, we agreed that the entire project  will be held by the Documentation Centre. The project, including the researched stories of flight and expulsion, will thus be preserved in the Documentation Centre and be given an appropriate place in collective. Future generations will have access to the project results, which will also be available for scientific research. We are very happy about this!


in February 2022

BRAUNSCHWEIG: Continuation of talks

From left: Thomas Knüppel, Anke Heverhagen, Dr. Nils Köhler, Lisa Quade, Dr.-Ing. Sabine C. Langer, Roland Remus; Photo: Thomas Knüppel

On Nov. 5 of last year, the project team had handed over the documentary ZUFLUCHT-ZUVERSICHT-ZUKUNFT to Dr. Nils Köhler (Division Director Documentation & Research) at the Berlin Documentation Center for Displacement, Expulsion and Reconciliation. On the occasion of this handover, possibilities were also discussed as to how the project results could find a place in the Documentation Center.

On Jan. 31, 2022, these possibilities were now further substantiated during a visit of Dr. Köhler and Lisa Quade (both oft the Documentation Center) in Braunschweig. In a short presentation, the Braunschweig project team began by giving its guests an overview of the project from its beginning in 2017 to the present day. During a subsequent guided tour through the set-up exhibition, Ms. Quade and Dr. Köhler were able to get an on-site impression of the scope of the exhibition and the available exhibits. Both were impressed by the project and agreed to take over the entire project into the archive of the Documentation Center.

The Braunschweig project team is very pleased with this decision, as the researched stories of displacement and expulsion can thus be given an appropriate place in the collective memory and preserved at the Berlin Documentation Center. In this way, the project results will also be made accessible to future generations and to scientific research.

To the Documentation Center


in November 2021

BERLIN: Handover of the documentary film ZUFLUCHT-ZUVERSICHT-ZUKUNFT

From left: Dr. Nils Köhler, Roland Remus, Thomas Knüppel, Anke Heverhagen, Dr.-Ing. Sabine C. Langer; Photo: Thomas Knüppel

On November 5, 2021, the team behind the documentary, ZUFLUCHT-ZUVERSICHT-ZUKUNFT, traveled to Berlin to visit the Documentation Center Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation. Thomas Knüppel (filmmaker), Anke Heverhagen (production assistance), Dr.-Ing. Sabine C. Langer (project idea & editing) and Roland Remus (project idea & editing) met with Dr. Nils Köhler, the head of the Documentation & Research department.

In atmosphere of appreciation, the group exchanged ideas about the Documentation Center as a place of learning and remembrance, and how the team’s documentary fit closely with the Center’s role. The group considered how the film, as well as the influence and effect of the film, might fold into the Center’s work.  Both sides agreed to stay in contact with each other.

Afterwards, the project team handed over the film to Dr. Nils Köhler. This was a special and emotional moment for the team, especially since the film and thus the experiences of the contemporary witnesses have found a place at the central memorial in Germany for flight, expulsion and resettlement.

To the Documentation Center


in August and September 2021

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Impressions from the reopening of the exhibition

photo: Thomas Knüppel


REOPENING Aug. 28 – Sept. 5, 2021

Photos, videos and exhibits document the experiences of expulsion and flight of the women and men who came to make their home in Essenrode.

Movie night


The Bürgerverein Essenrode e.V. will show the documentary, ZUFLUCHT – ZUVERSICHT – ZUKUNFT, in the riding hall on the Essenrode estate.



Contemporary witnesses take us to the places that were significant for the arriving refugees, describing the perspectives of those arriving and those receiving them.



Drawing from twelve individual interviews, Filmmaker Thomas Knüppel has created the sensitive and touching documentary film ZUFLUCHT–ZUVERSICHT–ZUKUNFT.

Event flyer

All info and dates for the events can be found in this flyer as pdf. download.


Photo exhibition (1945 - 2020) and "narrative café

On March 13, 2020, an exhibition opened in Essenrode as part of the project “Refuge – Confidence – Future”. Photos, videos and exhibits document the experiences of flight and expulsion of women and men from Essenrode. In a “narrative café” integrated into the exhibition, visitors have the opportunity to exchange ideas and tell their own stories after the tour.

Due to the Corona Pandemic, the exhibition had to close its doors again after the opening day. The exhibition will be shown again at a later date. Until then, you have the opportunity to visit the exhibition virtually on these pages.

Virtual tour through the exhibition

Impressions of the exhibition

Photos: Thomas Knüppel & private

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Press reports


Documentary film

Flight and Expulsion | War Children Remember | Refuge-Confidence-Future

ABOUT THE FILM      (English subtitles)
Drawing from twelve individual interviews, Filmmaker Thomas Knüppel has created the sensitive and touching documentary film ZUFLUCHT – ZUVERSICHT – ZUKUNFT. 

A film in which viewers are allowed to accompany the contemporary witnesses to the time and places of their personal experiences of flight and expulsion. The refugees and displaced persons found refuge in the village of Essenrode in Lower Saxony. Most of them and their families still live there today. The year 1945 has left a special mark on Essenrode – like countless other places. With the end of the war, refugees and displaced persons from Pomerania, West and East Prussia, Silesia, the Sudetenland, Wartheland, Bessarabia, the Baltic States, Galicia and other regions of the former Eastern territories came to the village. In the following years, people from the Soviet-occupied part of Germany and later the German Democratic Republic also fled to Essenrode.

The contemporary witnesses share with us their challenges, but especially how they succeeded in taking their own future and that of the village into their own hands.
The idea for the project and the film came from Sabine C. Langer and Roland Remus. In the documentary, they shed light on transgenerational aspects and the importance of remembering from the perspective of the so-called WAR Grandchildren. Roland Remus was born and grew up in Essenrode.
Thomas Knüppel:

Flight of the "Elisenhof-Community"

Contemporary witnesses report on the two-month flight of the “Elisenhof Community” from Preußisch Friedland in Pomerania to Essenrode in Lower Saxony.  The film “Refuge – Confidence – Future” shows how the people experienced their flight from January to March 1945, what happened at the same time in Essenrode and whether it was possible to find a new beginning in Essenrode.
Length: 17:51 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

Contemporary witnesses in talk

Here you will find excerpts from contemporary witness interviews of “war children” describing their experiences of flight and expulsion. People who as children experienced the Nazi ideology in Essenrode also have their say. Contemporary witness accounts about refuge, confidence and the future. The interviews were conducted in 2019. The village of Essernrode in Lower Saxony connects all those interviewed. They came here as refugees or displaced persons or here they experienced the arrival of the refugee routes.
Note: Currently, subtitles are only available for videos with the “English subtitles” option. We are working on subtitles for all videos.

Play Video

Flight & Resettlement | Part 1
On her 13th birthday Anni Konnegen was separated from her family. Together with her sister Grete she tried to flee from the Russian soldiers. The escape failed.
Length: 7:33 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

Flight & Resettlement | Part 2
Anni Konnegen
married, had two children and established a livelihood in Poland with her husband. In 1957 she was allowed to leave with her family to move to Essenrode to her parents. Length: 6: 16 min.

Play Video

Displacement from Silesia
Dorchen Remus was born in 1935 in Silesia. At the age of 10 she was expelled from the county of Glatz in Silesia in 1946. A journey into the unknown begins in a cattle car. Length: 6:50 min.

Play Video

Life in Silesia
When Dorchen Remus was one and a half years old her mother died. Dorchen lets us share in her childhood, in the life in the factory apartment of the weaving mill and the special feature of the proximity of the border to the “Czech Republic”. Length: 3:42 min.

Play Video

My father
Dorchen Remus describes life without a father during the war years and the time spent with his father after the war. “My father told a lot about the war.”
Length: 5 min.

Play Video

The estate in Essenrode
Ernst von Lüneburg experienced the end of the war near Lüneburg as a four-year-old. He reports on the importance of the Essenrode estate during the war and in the first post-war years. Length: 8 min. | English subtitles

Ernst von Lüneburg died on Sept.10, 2021.

Play Video

Escape across the inner-German border
Irma Remus was born in 1935. At the age of sixteen she fled the GDR to the West with two friends. She tells us about her escape, her arrival in Essenrode and the death of her mother. Length: 8:49 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

My way
Magdalene Lück was born in 1930. “Yes, I was a girl. They have nothing to learn!” Magdalene Lück describes the difficulties as a young woman and how she went her own way. “I’m leaving. I don’t care where.” Length: 8:41 min. Magdalene Lück died on Oct. 9, 2020.

Play Video

Orphan at five
Edwin Jakimowitsch was born in Latvia in 1940. In retrospect, he lets us share in the history of his family. “This was a shock to me. I remember sitting there with my grandmother and crying.” Length: 7:21 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

The resettlement was followed by flight
Helmut Schneider takes us on a long and painful “journey” from Galicia to Essenrode. He talks about his father, whom he never met and about his arrival as a “refugee child” in Essenrode. Length: 11:44 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

The flight from Elisenhof in Pomerania
Brigitte Sack and Erwin Grabow describe their flight experiences and their arrival in Essenrode. “They held together. Otherwise we would not have made it to Essernode. We don’t want to experience that again.”
Length: 10:52 min.

Play Video

Life at Elisenhof in Pomerania
Brigitte Sack and Erwin Grabow describe their childhood between cow and horse stables and untouched nature at Elisenhof. “Christmas Eve we were invited to the manor house. And then Christmas carols were sung.”
Length: 9:58 min.

Play Video

Bombing of Brunswick
Thea Schneider was born in 1934 and grew up in Essenrode. She reports on the death of her nineteen-year-old cousin in the Russian campaign and how she experienced the bombing of Brunswick in the cellar of her parents’ house in Essenrode as a young girl. Length: 8:58 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

Childhood in Essenrode
Thea Schneider recalls her admission to the Bund Deutscher Mädel and life as a young girl in Hitler’s Germany. She also describes her experience of the post-war years. Length: 8:17 min.

Play Video

Listening with an open heart
Christoph Pauer was a pastor in Essenrode for over 35 years until 2019. He talks about listening with an open heart and the gift of dignity that lies within.
Length: 5:37 min. | English subtitles

Play Video

Successful integration
Christoph Pauer talks about the success of integration, about trust and confidence and he talks about the importance of remembering for the sake of the future. “Forgetting leads to banishment, remembering leads to redemption.” Length: 6:20 min.

Play Video

Memories of the war
“My grandmother sat on the stove bench and cried. She said, “It’s war!” This is how Waldemar Lück, born in 1937, describes his first memory of the war. He talks about life at Elisenhof, forced labour and National Socialism at Elisenhof, and about escape. Length: 9:47 min.

Play Video

A deep friendship
Hartmut Bosse was born in 1938. As a child he experienced the war and the arrival of the refugees in Essenrode. He tells of his encounters with the refugee child Waldemar Lück and how a friendship developed from these encounters that has lasted until today. Length: 15:31 min.

Essenrode helps

Essenrode offers help

In January 2016, almost thirty male asylum seekers from Sudan move into a residential container park on the former festival ground at Brunsroder Straße in Essenrode as new citizens.

The municipality takes care of their accommodation. The young Sudanese men receive a minimum of basic care from the social welfare office every month and are responsible for their own food. The community of Lehre is working at the edge of what is possible, both financially and in terms of personnel. For this reason, the citizens’ association, together with dozens of volunteers,

Barbecue together in Essenrode; Photo: private

organizes a wide range of help for the refugees.


Maps of Essenrode and the surrounding villages are produced in German, English and Arabic. Bus routes and signs for supermarkets, doctors and pharmacies, and civic buildings are included to help orientate the refugees.

Escort and shopping assistance

Several times a week, a pool of about a dozen drivers provides transport and help with shopping, doctor’s appointments and visits to the authorities.

German lessons

German course at the Bürgerverein Essenrode: The students are eager to learn. Source: Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung; Sebastian Bisch

The commitment of volunteer teachers of German is particularly high. Over a period of eighteen months, two-hour teaching sessions were held four times a week in the village community centre and vicarage to help the Sudanese with their first steps in the German language. Apart from the practical benefits, this fosters good friendly relations. This commitment is recognized in  the summer of 2017 with

the Braunschweiger Zeitung’s “Joint Award” for exceptional volunteer work.

Recreation and Employment

The Sudanese men and inhabitans of Essenrode do not know each other. The many volunteers know that getting to know each other and integrating the newcomers into the community is best achieved by involving everyone in the community. This is done very well through, for example, sport, music, games and common interests. Numerous joint activities and excursions are organized. Visits to museums, the

Visit to the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg; Photo: private

Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, joint cycling tours and much more are on the program.

In October 2017, the Sudanese refugees have to move to Lehre, because the contract with the container park terminates at the end in October. For the citizens’ association of Essenrode with its many volunteers, this brings to an end their help to the refugees. Many volunteers remain in contact with the young Sudanese through personal contact and continue to help them individually. Others play a continuing active role in the association “Welcome to town Lehre”, which helps refugees.
The Essenrode citizens’ association looks back with great joy on its almost two years of help. During this time, the people of Essenrode have shown themselves to be very hospitable, helpful and open.
For the Sudanese, their time in Essenrode finishes at the end of October 2017. During their stay they have met many people and received a lot of help. This cooperation has greatly enriched the people of Essenrode, and they can be proud of their achievement. Source: Photos: Bürgerverein Essenrode e.V.

Seventy-five years ago, the people of Essenrode proved that integration can succeed. In 2016, the villagers showed in an exemplary manner how important it is, especially today, to take care of people in need in a humane way and to help them.

The chapter of the horror of flight and expulsion, of losing one’s homeland, of arriving in a new place and of how integration can succeed, wounds can heal and roots can grow again through openness and dedication, continues to be written every day.

Essenrode – english


Picture postcard: Essenrode c.1955; private

The year 1945 has left a special mark on Essenrode. With the end of the war, refugees and displaced persons from Pomerania, West and East Prussia, Silesia, the Sudetenland, Wartheland, Bessarabia, the Baltic States, Galicia and other regions of the former Eastern territories came to the village.

In the following years, people from the Soviet-occupied part of Germany and later the GDR also fled to Essenrode.

Essenrode um 1830; Quelle: Erzenrod - Eine Dorfbeschreibung im Jubiläumsjahr [1996] von Hartmut Bosse

The small village of Essenrode almost doubles its population by taking in refugees and displaced persons. On October 1, 1928, Essenrode has a total population of 558. The number of inhabitants remains below 550 until 1945. In 1937, for example, the population is 518. In 1946 Essenrode has 973 inhabitants.

retrieved 21.02.2020, 11:10 a.m.

Essenrode um 1995; blau umrandet Essenrode bis 1945 Quelle: Erzenrod - Eine Dorfbeschreibung im Jubiläumsjahr [1996] von Hartmut Bosse

Refuge in Essenrode

The arriving refugees and displaced persons are distributed among the families of the village. This does not happen without resistance from the receiving families, as the community has already taken in almost as many refugees as it has inhabitants. In addition there are bombed-out families from Hamburg and Hanover. For this reason, at times forty-four people have to live with one (!) of the farming families. Eventually, however, everyone gets a roof over their head. With the end of the war the place changes. The prisoners of war working on the farms are freed with the arrival of American soldiers at the beginning of April 1945 and return to their home countries. Many husbands, fathers and sons of families in the village have not yet returned after the war or are prisoners of war. Little by little they find their way to their families in Essenrode. But not all of them return. These belong to the countless dead of a terrible war.

Picture postcard; Essenrode beginning of the sixties; private

Even decades later, the newcomers still remember their first experiences in the village. They tell of the difficulties, the reserve they were met with, but also of the help and support they received.

But you were always the refugee child in Essenrode. You sometimes felt that you were not from here

If you were a refugee child, then you were already classified by the others. Because they weren’t happy when the refugees came. They had to get closer together.

– From the interviews with contemporary witnesses, Essenrode 2019/2020

Today, if you ask the people who came to Essenrode at the end of the war, their verdict is clear. Even if some of them make a distinction between their home and their homeland, they feel today like Essenrode people and part of this community.

I would not like to miss Essenrode. Essenrode is my home village and it will remain so.
– From the interviews with contemporary witnesses, Essenrode 2019/2020

Confidence in Essenrode

With the new settlers, the villagers of Essenrode great challenges. Housing must be found for the refugees and displaced persons. And it is about uniting the newcomers and the inhabitans of Essenrode community. Life in the village and in its associations is shaped by the “new” togetherness along with greater diversity. Many of the newcomers find work on the farms and the estate. Slowly, a new life is being forged through the collective daily routines and confidence is returning. In addition to working together on the land, people soon begin village life. Newcomers and long-established villagers celebrate together, play sports together, sing in a choir or get involved in the fire brigade and other associations, the church council and other committees.
One festival where young people in particular enjoy themselves and become closer is the annual flag hunt. Flag hunting is an event for the whole village, especially for the youth. It is a competition for young men. They ride horses and have to beat a stick into a hanging little iron ring. The one who does it best gets a wooden flag. This flag is carried in a procession through the village to the winner’s house and is attached to his house. At night the whole village celebrates this in a barn dance.

"Fahnenjagen" flag hunting 1957, "king of the flag" Wilfried Wolter; Photo: private
"Fahnenjagen" flag-hunting 1948 in Essenrode; Photo:private

The post-war period is characterized by the desire for enough food and a place to live. There is a silence, however, about one’s own, often traumatizing experiences, during wartime and after the war, these consequence of the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust.

“Normality” returned after the war and the period of economic and political uncertainty that followed. And indeed, in 1948, with the currency reform, the German Mark was introduced, and in 1949 the Federal Republic of Germany was founded. The Germans of the Federal Republic were given a new constitution in which human dignity had a special status. A new government with Chancellor Adenauer was formed and Bonn became the new capital of the Federal Republic.
In the fifties, the young Republic experienced enormous economic growth – the so-called economic miracle. This growth also had an impact on the people of Essenrode. Mechanization and industrialization were increasingly taking hold. While mechanization in agriculture was making workers redundant, the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg was urgently seeking workers. Many of the young men, and later also women, found well-paid work in the automotive industry.

1/2 million VW Beetles; Photo: private
new housing estate "Neuer Kamp"; Photo: private

Bit by bit, people been able to affort something. At the end of the 1950s, the first new settlements were built, whose streets bore names indicating the newcomers’ places of origin, e.g. Pommernweg and Schlesierweg. The home, the VW Beetle and the holiday trip became reality.


Today many families still live in Essenrode whose parents, grandparents or great-grandparents arrived there as refugees or displaced persons and found a new home and a new future. Many of these family names are present in the village and its associations and are connected with Essenrode’s history in a special way.
Most of the refugee and displaced families have remained in Essenrode. Their names can still be found there today, because many of their children and grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, have stayed in Essenrode. They are an integral part of the community.
Today the settlers look back with gratitude. Essenrode has become their new and safe home. It has become a secure base for them, from which they and the coming generations will develop in the world and help to shape the future.

Essenrode today; Photo: Bürgerverein Essenrode e.V.

Resettelment from Galizia

Resettlement from Galicia

Helmut Schneider was born on January 11, 1945 in Lilienfeld in the Wartheland. His early years are strongly influenced by the events of a terrible war and its consequences, which came to a head for the civilian population.

At the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, about 50,000 Galicians of German origin had been resettled in the German Reich. Helmut Schneider’s parents are among those affected.

In order to understand the eventful life of Helmut Schneider, we first need to look back to the year 1781.

Patent of settlement 1781

“At the time of the constitution of the Crown Land of Galicia, the situation of crafts and agriculture was extremely backward in comparison to the Western European countries. Joseph II therefore decided in his settlement patent of 17 September 1781 to recruit tradesmen, craftsmen and farmers for the new crown land. No Germanization of the country was intended here; rather the new settlers were expected to serve as an instructive role model. The Palatinate people from the Rhine were particularly suitable, because, due to the unfortunate division of real estate the farms there, had become so small that on the one hand an intensive agriculture had to be developed, while on the other hand the farmers needed craftsmanship skills for this necessary sideline.

“The incentive to emigrate to Galicia was great, because the authorities provided the new colonists with land, a house, stable, cattle and farming equipment free of charge. The size of the farms was equivalent to about four, eight or thirteen hectares today, depending on the amount of capital brought in, the size of the family and the quality of the land. The colonists were exempt from all taxes for ten years and the farm owners and their eldest sons were exempted from military service.”

“From June 1782 to January 1786 14,735 colonists came to Galicia. They were settled either in newly founded villages or in extensions of existing villages (so-called Attinenzen). Afterwards there were still smaller waves of immigration.” Source:

Helmut Schneider’s ancestors, who also come from the Rhine Palatinate, are drawn to Galicia. The Göres and Schneider families build up a livelihood as farmers with their own farming. The Schneider family also runs small gas mines.


Von Mariusz Pazdziora, translated by NordNordWest - Eigenes Werk, CC BY 3.0,

Helmut’s mother, Emilie Göres, was born in 1919 in Konstantynowka in Galicia. Konstantynowka was a German Protestant colony established in the 19th century. Today it belongs to the Ukraine. Emilie’s later place of residence, Essenrode, is about 1,200 km away.

Helmut’s father, Wilhelm Schneider, was born in 1913 in Gelsendorf, Galicia. It is about 120 km between his birthplace and that of his future wife Emilie.

Hitler-Stalin Pact and the resettlement

To understand how Emilie and Wilhelm come together and marry, and Helmut is born, we need to look at the events of 1939, five years before Helmut’s birth.

“In that year, Galicia was divided between Hitler and Stalin, before the Second World War began. During the war against Poland, a German-Soviet commission was formed and the registration of all persons and their property was carried out. At the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, about 50,000 Galicians of German origin were resettled in the German Reich. This was a very chaotic process in which fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters, were accommodated in different camps. The Germans were taken to the annexed Reichsgau Wartheland. There were families who reached Upper Silesia via detours from camps in Berlin and Saxony. This was the end of the history of the Germans in Galicia.”  Source:;

Reichsgau Wartheland

The Göres and Schneider families are not involved in the first, sometimes chaotic, wave of resettlement. They remain in Galicia until 1941, when they are resettled directly into the Reichsgau Wartheland. They are spared being accommodated in a temporary camp but instead are distributed directly to farms.

On March 13, 1943, Emilie and Wilhelm marry. At this time Wilhelm has already been drafted into the Wehrmacht and is granted leave to marry. His unit is the Guard Battalion, which is initially deployed to protect the “Wolfsschanze”, Hitler’s Führer headquarters in East Prussia. When Hitler withdraws to Berlin, the Guard Battalion takes over the protection of the Führerbunker in Berlin.

In early 1944, the couple see each other for the last time. Emilie becomes pregnant and gives birth to Helmut a few months later, in January 1945, in Lilienfeld in the Warthegau.

Flight from the Wartheland to Sandersdorf

On January 31, 1945, Emilie and her three-week-old Helmut have to flee from the approaching Red Army, leaving Hohensalza in the Warthegau. Women with small children are put on the train heading west. And so Emilie and her little son Helmut are separated from Emilie’s parents. Marie and Johann Göres flee, making the trek with horse and cart.

The train travels to Leipzig and from there it goes to Sandersdorf near Bitterfeld. The village is about 500 km from Hohensalza, the starting point of their escape. Here Emilie and Helmut witness the end of the war. But they also experience the Soviet occupation and the looming formation of the GDR.

Flight from Sandersdorf to Essenrode

In Sandersdorf Helmut’s mother learns that her parents and relatives have fled to Essenrode. Now she supports relatives, who also live in Sandersdorf, in their escape across the inner-German border to Essenrode. Finally she also decides to flee to Essenrode. At the end of April 1949 she sets off with her son for the West. They travel by train first to Oebisfelde, near the inner-German border, and then to the nearby village of Wassensdorf to visit relatives. In order not to arouse suspicion while fleeing: the journey is “disguised” as a visit to these relatives. At dawn on May 1, 1949, Emilie and her son take advantage of the changing of the guard of Russian soldiers at the inner-German border to flee to the West. Their escape takes place at Grassleben. Since roads and bridges are bombed and destroyed, the four-year-old Helmut has to hold on to his mother’s hand to cross the iron girders of a destroyed bridge leading to the West. Again and again his little feet slip off the girders and again and again his mother grips him firmly by his hand. Finally both of them reach Essenrode on the way from Grassleben via Jelpke.

Now there comes to an end an escape which for Emilie, in Konstantynowka in Galicia, 1,200 km away, had initially begun with the resettlement. Even though the war and the flight are over, the consequences of the Nazi terror and the horrors of the war will accompany Helmut throughout his life. He will not meet his father Wilhelm even after the end of the war. The last news of Wilhelm reaches Helmut and his mother in April 1945. Since then, shortly before the end of that inhuman war, Wilhelm Schneider has been missing.

Later Emilie remarries, to Rudi Dosdall, in Essenrode.

Resettlement of the Bessarabian Germans

Resettlement of the Bessarabian Germans

Imanuel Böpple

was born on August 17, 1882, in Seimeny, in Akkermann County, Bessarabia. His birthplace is 1,500 km from the imperial capital, Berlin. Despite this distance, the consequences of the National Socialist takeover of 1933 and its dictatorial tyranny will still affect him and his family in the distance. With the end of the Second World War Imanuel Böpple and his family reach Essenrode.

Else Göres

was born Else Dayss on May 7, 1923, in Parapara, in Ismail County, Bessarabia, to Wilhelm and Katharina, née Gebhardt. Else and her family, like the Böpples, suffer the fate of resettlement and later flight. For both families their escape ends in March 1945, in Essenrode.

Where is Bessarabia?

Bessarabien in Europa;
Bessarabia 1940 Source:

Bessarabia is a historical country in south-eastern Europe, bordered by the Black Sea in the south and the rivers Pruth in the west and Dnister/Dnjestr in the east. The former Bessarabia today largely coincides with the part of Moldova which lies west of the Dniester, only the south (Bujak) and the far north (around Khotyn) belong to Ukraine. For centuries the country was a buffer area between the great powers of Austria, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. In 1812 the principality of Moldova ceded rule to Russia. Afterwards the area, which was mainly inhabited by Romanians, was part of the Russian Empire as the governorate of Bessarabia until 1917. In 1918 Bessarabia was independent for a short time. In the interwar period it was an eastern province of Romania and after the Second World War it was annexed to the Soviet Union. Source:; retrieved 24.02.2020

When did the Böpples come to Bessarabia?

German emigrants, who were called upon to colonize the country by the Tsar in 1813, lived in Bessarabia between 1814 and 1940, working as independent farmers on their own land. In 125 years of settlement they had expanded the original number of twenty-four mother colonies to over 150 Bessarabian-German settlements. The some 9,000 immigrants had increased more than tenfold to 93,000. The privileges initially granted, including self-administration by the welfare committee based in Odessa, were withdrawn around 1870 when the colonist status was abolished. Mainly due to the introduction of military service, many colonists subsequently emigrated to North and South America (particularly North and South Dakota in the USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil).

Gottlieb Böpple was born on January 10,1805, in Kornwestheim in Württemberg. He follows the call of the Russian Tsar and emigrates to Bessarabia, where he marries the colonist Salome Hettig (*1810 in Augustowo in Poland) in 1830.

Imanuel Böpple’s first marriage was to Maria Bachmüller, who died in February 1914. Herta and Olga were children of this marriage. They both will later emigrate to the USA with their own families.

Four years later Imanuel marries Wilhelmine (*1888 in Sofiental, née Steffan, widowed Daffe). The marriage produces five children: Berta, Erna, Florentina, Albert and Adeline.

Unlike many colonists, Imanuel Böpple does not work as a farmer on his own land, but as a master tailor in his own firm in Mannsburg.

Hitler-Stalin Pact and the Resettlement

When Bessarabia was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940 as a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, almost all the “ethnic Germans” living there were resettled in the German Reich. In September 1940 a special resettlement contract is signed with the Soviet Union. The organizer of this campaign under the motto “Home to the Reich” is the Central Office Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VoMi). After a stay in camps lasting up to two years, from 1941/42 onwards the resettlers are given farms in occupied Poland, whose Polish owners are driven out by the German military. When the Red Army advances in 1944, the Bessarabian Germans flee to the west. Among the Bessarabian-German resettlers were also the parents of the later German President Horst Köhler. Source:, retrieved 24.02.2020.

The decisive passage in the call of the German Plenipotentiary for Resettlement:

Organized by the Resettlement Commission, which arrived from the Reich, the Bessarabian Germans leave their homeland within a month in trucks, by train or in horse-drawn wagons on predetermined routes through the border towns of Galatz, Reni and Kilia.

"Reichsgau" Wartheland

Imanuel Böpple is resettled with his family in Posen in the Wartheland. He had founded his own tailor’s shop in Bessarabia in 1902, but later becomes a farmer. In the community of Preisingen, in the district of Gniezno, the family receives a farm with fourteen hectares of arable land. b/b4/20161013234809%21Danzig-Westpreussen.png
Certificate of naturalization

Flight from the Wartheland to Essenrode

In spring 1945, when the Red Army offensive pushes the German troops back ever farther to the west, Imanuel Böpple and his family flee to the west. With horse and cart and the most necessary belongings they set out on their way. Finally they find refuge in Essenrode. Once again the family builds a new way of life.

Imanuel and Wilhelmine’s children marry. Their daughter Erna marries Oskar Dayss, whose families also come from Bessarabia via the Wartheland to Essenrode. Erna and Oskar have four children, Monika, Norbert, Brigitte and Berndt. Two of the children now live with their families in Essenrode.

Else Dayss

was born on May 7, 1923, in Parapara, Ismail County, Bessarabia. Else and her family also suffer the fate of resettlement and later flight. Else’s parents are Wilhlem and Katharina, née Gebhardt.

In contrast to the Böpple family, Else Dayss is not spared a stay in a camp. Only after almost a year is she allowed to leave the camp.

Resettlement Camp

Even after March 1941, Nazi policy continued to focus increasingly on the settlement of the German population in the Wartheland. To this end, a large number of ethnic Germans from conquered areas of the Soviet Union were settled. From 1941 onwards, the Bessarabian Germans, the Bukovina Germans and the Dobrudschade Germans were mostly resettled in the Wartheland. This resettlement was often chaotic and disorganized. Previously the resettled people had been accommodated for months or years in hundreds of camps of the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VoMi). In the settlement area, the German occupying power took the Polish owners’ farms under threat of violence and transferred them to the German settlers. Source:; retrieved 24.02.2020

Else Dayss first goes to a camp in Massersdorf in the “Sudetengau”. There she receives a camp passport with the number: Sudg. No. 53830. Else leaves the camp, to which she is admitted on October 19, 1940, on August 8, 1941. In the camp passport her destination is Litzmannstadt. In fact Else is transferred to a camp in Kalisch in the “Reichsgau” Wartheland on the later date. According to the entry in the camp passport, the camp in Kalisch bears the number 4. The last stamp entry in the camp passport is dated October 7, 1941.

Flight from the Wartheland to Essenrode

Like the Böpple family, Else Dayss and her family flee from the approaching Red Army. In January 1945 the winter offensive forces them to flee; their flight ends in March 1945, also in Essenrode. Else’s father arrives in Essenrode only four months later. At first there is no free apartment. For half a year the family has to make do with a stable as accommodation. Only then they can move into a flat.

In one of the first wedding ceremonies after the end of the war, Else Dayss and Hans Göres, who also reached Essenrode as a refugee, exchange vows. The marriage produces four children: Edeltraud, Eveline, Siegmar and Silvia. They too lived with their families in Essenrode and some of them still do so today.

Resettlement of Baltic Germans from Latvia

Resettlement of Baltic Germans from Latvia

Edwin Jakimowitsch was born in Mitau in Latvia in September 1940, as the son of a German woman and a Latvian officer. His fate is an example of the effects of the resettlement of the Baltic Germans at the beginning of the Second World War and the flight at the end of the war.

Jakimowitsch’s maternal ancestors are Protestants and have lived in Latvia for generations. They are craftsmen, civil servants, doctors, millers, booksellers and journalists.

Karin, Jakimowitsch’s mother, falls in love with a Latvian army officer. At that time it is not common for Germans and Latvians to marry. However, Jakimowitsch’s grandparents tolerate Karin`s marriage to Alexander Jakimovics.

Alexander Jakimovics was “Latvia’s best swimmer”, as the Fiziska Kultura un Sports titled him in 1938 and he took part in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.Fiziska Kultura un Sports; 1938

The young love of these two people would soon be confronted with great challenges and the young woman faced with a momentous decision.

In 1939, the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed, which determined the fate of the Jakimovics family. The so-called “resettlement of the Baltic Germans” from Estonia and Latvia took place six weeks after the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. In his speech in the German Reichstag on October 6, 1939, Adolf Hitler announced the resettlement. The following day, it was announced in the Rigaschen Rundschau and marked the beginning of the National Socialist resettlement program at the beginning of and during the Second World War.

While Edwin’s mother`s family is resettled in the Wartheland, she decides to stay in Latvia with her husband.

Edwin’s mother becomes pregnant with him in early 1940. At first it seems as if Edwin was to be born and grow up in a family with a German mother and a Latvian father. But everything will turn out quite differently.

As a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Latvia is occupied by Soviet forces on June 17, 1940, and is incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Latvia (LSSR) in August of that year. At first, many inhabitants of Latvia rejoice over the invasion of Moscow’s Red Army. However, the joy is short-lived. A little later the sovietization begins.

Edwin’s father, who is an officer in the Latvian army, is arrested and sentenced to eight years’ hard labor in the spring of 1941. He is sent to the Gulag and deported to a penal and labor camp on the Arctic Sea.

In September 1940 Edwin is born in Mitau in Latvia. After the arrest of her husband, Edwin’s mother is left on her own. When she is certain that her husband will not return for some time, she decides to leave Latvia and join her family. Together with her little son she first reaches Heilbronn, only to move on to the Wartheland to live with her relatives in Kalisch.

But even here the twenty-five-year-old mother cannot find a permanent place for herself and her son. The course of the war forces her to flee in 1945. Together with her four-year-old son she flees from Kalisch to Triangel near Gifhorn (Lower Saxony) to escape the approaching Red Army.

Edwin, who has already had to experience terrible things in his hitherto short life, is not spared by fate. His mother falls ill with appendicitis in November 1945, is taken to the city of the KdF Wagen (later Wolfsburg) and dies at the age of twenty-five of a ruptured appendix. Edwin is now an orphan at the age of five.

His mother’s sister is married to a doctor named Riesenkampff. They too have been resettled from Latvia to the Reichsgau Wartheland. Their flight ends in Essenrode in 1945. Edwin, who now lives with his grandmother after the death of his mother, is accepted into the Riesenkampff family in 1950. Dr Riesenkampff sets up a practice in in Essenrode, in their newly built home, where Edwin grows up.

Later Edwin Jakimowitsch will marry and start his own family in Essenrode. There he lives with his wife, as do his adult children.

Edwin Jakimowitsch will later visit Latvia and his birthplace several times. Thoughts of his parents and photographs of them walking happily through the streets of Mitau accompany him.

Displacement from Silesia

Displacement from Silesia

Dorchen Remus is born Dorothea Gebauer on July 8, 1935, her parents´ second child in the small Silesian town of Tscherbeney in the county of Glatz. Soon she is called Dorchen by all.

When Dorchen is a year and a half old her mother dies. After her mother`s death she and her brother Siegfried are separated from their father and go to live with their grandparents. When the father marries a second time, in 1941, Dorothea returns to the family for school enrolment, which in the meantime has moved to a factory building in Sakisch in Silesia. Father and mother work in the Christian Dierig weaving mill in Sakisch-Gellenau. Shortly afterwards, the father is drafted into the army.

Dorchen remains in Sakisch for the time being after the end of the war. Like thousands of other Germans, she is expelled from Silesia soon afterwards. An expulsion is a result of the National Socialists´ tyranny.

“During the time of National Socialism, Tscherbeney was renamed Grenzeck in 1937. As a consequence of the Second World War, in 1945, Tscherbeney / Grenzeck fell to Poland, as did almost all of Silesia, and was renamed first Czerwone and later Czermna. Most of the German population was displaced. Even before that, numerous inhabitants had fled across the nearby border into Czechoslovakia. The new settlers were themselves partly displaced from eastern Poland. In the 1950s, Czermna was incorporated into Kudowa-Zdrój.” Source:

Until the end of the war, Silesia and the Sudetenland were comparatively quiet hinterlands and evacuation areas for the population of the cities and industrial regions located to the west, which had been heavily affected by the bombing.

In January 1945 people also began to flee from the Red Army in Silesia, some to Saxony and Thuringia, others over the Krkonose Mountains into the Sudetenland.

Regions of origin of German refugees and displaced persons. Source:

“From 1944 until the end of the war, up to six million Germans were evacuated from areas east of the Oder-Neisse line or had to flee. Many of them returned when the war ceased. Once back home, they experienced what had already become bitter everyday life for those left behind and for those in areas overrun by the army from the front: looting and mistreatment, arbitrary shootings – and the women mass-raped by soldiers and officers of the Red Army. People hoped that these excesses, fed by a mixture of the rush of victory and the need for retribution, would be temporary and believed that the situation would return to normal after the end of the war.

Poland, which had been divided by Hitler and Stalin in 1939 for the fourth time in its history by Germans and Russians and after the Second World War, did not recover much of its pre-war territory in the East, but was compensated with Silesia, Pomerania and the southern part of East Prussia. It wanted to empty these areas of their German inhabitants as quickly as possible in order to prevent future attempts to annex Germany and to support its thesis that these were in any case reclaimed areas of Unpolish origin. At the same time, the people who were expelled from the part of the country that remained with the Soviet Union were to be accommodated there.” Source:

End of the war in Sakisch

While Dorchen’s father has not yet returned from the war, Dorchen remains in a factory apartment of the weaving mill with her “second” mother and her sister Lenchen, born in 1942, after the war ends. Three days before the Russian army invades Sakisch, Dorchen’s mother gives birth to twins Evi and Günther. The end of the war becomes clear to the nine-year-old Dorchen when she sees Russian soldiers driving through the streets of Sakisch on their way to the hospital. Dorchen and her family have no bad experiences with Russian soldiers in Sakisch. One of the apartments in the factory building where she lives with her family has to be cleared for the Russian command. Later, Polish soldiers live in the apartment as subtenants.Today she says:

This spared us from looting and assault. The Russians were good to us children. They made toys for us and sang songs with us.

– Dorothea Remus in an interview as a contemporary witness, 2019


Dorchen remains in Sakisch with her mother and siblings until 22 March 1946. Then she too meets the fate of expulsion. On that day they, like all the other Germans who remained there, are ordered to leave Silesia, which now belongs to Poland. The apartment must be vacated immediately. They spend the night at the tax office in Glatz. The next morning they go to the train station. From there the journey continues in cattle cars into the unknown.

The train, which is heading west, makes frequent stops along the way. The German Red Cross tries to distribute food as best it can. In Kohlfurt all train passengers are deloused.

“The average stay of the trains in Kohlfurt/Kalawsk should not take longer than three hours. The displaced persons had to leave the carriages and were counted on the platform in rows of two by the British soldiers whose presence was benevolently recorded. Also on the platform, they were then subjected to a procedure which will have remained in the unpleasant memory of all concerned: delousing. Each of them was struck with a vacuum cleaner-like device in five blows, first in the hair, then under the shirt, with a grey powder, DDT, on the skin at the front and back. At that time people were not yet sensitized to the fact that DDT not only effectively combats vermin such as lice, but is also extremely harmful to humans and nature.” Source: MANFRED WOLF, Operation Swallow; Der Weg von Schlesien nach Westfalen im Jahre 1946; Source: Westfälische Zeitschrift 34, 1999 / Internet-Portal “Westfälische Geschichte” URL:

From Kohlfurt the train continues its journey and finally arrives in Helmstedt Mariental. Part of the former military airbase Mariental serves as a transit camp for displaced persons from November 1945 to April 1947. For about 750,000 people, most of them from Silesia, Mariental is the stopover on a train journey into the unknown. From here they are sent to villages and towns.

Arrival in Wendhausen

After their arrival, the people from Glatz stay overnight in the Mariental transit camp before continuing on to Lehre the next day. In Lehre, Dorchen and her family are first accommodated in barracks on the Muna site (an ammunition depot) before being distributed to the surrounding villages. The community of people from the factory buildings of the weaving mill in Sakisch finally end up together in Wendhausen. There the five family members of the Gebauer family are accommodated in two small rooms on a farm. Dorchen’s father is released from the military hospital in Tirschenreuth some time later and finds his way back to his family. He immediately finds a new job with Voigtländer in Braunschweig.

A few years later, as a young woman, Dorchen falls in love with Rudi Remus, who fled from Pomerania to Essenrode in spring 1945. They marry, live together in Wendhausen and in 1958 their son Dieter is born. In the 1970s they will move to Essenrode, where they build a privat home for themselves.

Flight from Walbeck in the GDR

Flight from Walbeck in the GDR

Irmchen Remus was born on July 28, 1935, as Irma Meyer in Weferlingen. On this day, nobody suspects that Germany will be divided 10 years later.

Irma spends the first years of her life mainly with her grandparents in Weferlingen, who lovingly take care of her. While her mother goes out to work during the day, her grandmother works at night. Irma will not get to know her father.

When Irma starts school, she moves to Walbeck with her mother and stepfather. She experiences the end of the war while still at school. At first she is very happy when American soldiers arrive in Walbeck. The children are happy about the chocolate and chewing gum. But a few weeks later the Russians take over Walbeck. As a 13-year-old, she experiences how Walbeck is placed under Russian occupation. Only a stone’s throw away from her parents’ house, Germany is divided. The German-German border is created.

In 1948 the Meyer family have to vacate their house. Since Irma’s parents’ house is located directly on the border to the West, Russian officers confiscate the house. From the house they have a direct view of the border running along Klosterberg. Within four hours the family of five has to vacate its house and is assigned a two-room apartment. 

Irma's parents' house in Walbeck; Photo: private

The Russians stay in the house for one year. Four weeks before Irma’s confirmation in spring 1949 the family is allowed to return to their house.

The inner-German border is at that time not yet fortified, so people still crossing the border from east to west and back again. Irma and her friends also cross the “green border” again and again.

When they cross the border on their way home one day after visiting the Brunnen theatre in Helmstedt, located in the western part of Germany, Irma and her friends are taken into custody by Russian soldiers. However, they are released after a few hours through the intervention of her stepfather.

On July 28, 1949, Irma Meyer leaves the school in Walbeck. While English is taught as a foreign language in schools in the West, Russian is taught in the East. And so Irma finishes school with grade 2 in Russian.

A few months after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in the West, the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, was founded on October 7, 1949, on the territory of the Soviet occupation zone. The securing and guarding of the inner-German border in the east was handed over by the Russian troops to the border troops of the GDR. The border was now gradually becoming more heavily guarded.

GDR flag

For the almost 17-year-old Irma, life is becoming increasingly unbearable. The strained relationship with her stepfather, but above all the increasing lack of freedom in the developing socialist GDR, makes Irma decide to move on. When she hears in town that the border is to be “closed”, she and two boys from Walbeck resolve to flee to the West. On May 13, 1952, the three of them set off with a handcart in the direction of the border. They are accompanied by Maria, the sister of one of the boys. She herself does not want to flee, but only wants to help the others. The handcart is taken along as camouflage – they want to collect wood in the forest. In it, a pair of spare shoes for each of them is hidden, which they will put on after crossing the Riede, a small stream. When the small group meets soldiers patrolling the border, they are stopped. Since the young people know the border guards, they explain that they want to collect wood. They are allowed to move on. Maria takes the three of them down the monastery hill to the small creek. There Irma and the two boys cross the stream, put on their dry shoes on the other side and make their way to the nearby Helmstedt railway station. Later Irma describes the moment in freedom like this:

In Helmstedt we had a feeling, that is indescribable. We were free.

Irma Remus, interview on October 2, 2019

While the two boys stay in Helmstedt, Irma buys a ticket and takes the train to Wenden near Braunschweig to visit an aunt. The flight is not entirely unprepared for the three youngsters. One of the two boys immediately takes a job as a baker in Helmstedt and Irma leaves for Essenrode the very next day. There she is expected by another aunt, who has found her a job with the Gaus family in the household. Later she gets a job with farmer Weber of the same household.

What the three young people had heard some time before – the border is being closed – is now coming true. As more and more people use the permeable border to flee to the West, barbed wire fences are erected and dogs guard it. A few years later, the border will become an almost impassable bulwark.

No one has any intention of building a wall”GDR Head of State Council Walter Ulbricht on June 15, 1961

The building of the wall and the fortification of the inner-German border began with a lie. The journalist Annemarie Doherr of the Frankfurter Rundschau put a supplementary question to GDR head of state Walter Ulbricht at a press conference on June 15, 1961. Ulbricht assured that no wall would be built. Two months later the Berlin Wall was built. For almost 30 years it was to divide Germany.

border near Hötensleben; Photo: private

However, the construction of the Wall had the most painful consequences for the people in East Berlin and the GDR. For they no longer had a “loophole” to the West. And anyone who tried to flee over the Wall or the inner-German border could expect to be shot. The fact that the “order to shoot” actually existed has been documented in writing for several years. Many people lost their lives to flee. Source:–393932, retrieved 19.02.2020

Even before the Wall is built and the border fortifications are erected, people die trying to cross the border. Among the many people who lose their lives at the border is Irma’s father. Two days before his fortieth birthday, on January 28, 1949, Otto Karl Meyer dies at the border. In his death certificate the following is registered as a death sentence: “Death by shooting”.

Otto Meyer had becomes a casualty when he helps people fleeing from Weferlingen to Grasleben to cross the border to the West. On January 28, 1949, at 8:30 p.m. Otto is shot by a Russian soldier in a meadow near Weferlingen on the border. Irma only learns of her father’s death many years later. Otto Meyer is buried in Weferlingen.

A year after Irma’s flight, her younger brother, Heinz, also decides to flee and reaches Essenrode. Mother, stepfather and the youngest stepbrother, Klaus, stay in Walbeck.

When Irma arrives in Essenrode in May 1952, she feels well received and immediately makes friends. The relatives in Essenrode, the new friends and the young company with the “flag hunting” play a big part in Irma quickly feeling at home in Essenrode.
Flag hunting is an event for the whole village, especially for the youth. It is a competition for young men. They ride horses and have to beat a stick into a hanging little iron ring. The one who does it best gets a wooden flag. This flag is carried in a procession through the village to the winner’s house and is attached to his house. At night the whole village celebrates this in a barn dance.

Irma`s mother Martha; Photo: private

Irma especially misses her mother very much. In 1957 her mother visits Irma in Essenrode for her engagement to Paul Remus, her future husband. Shortly after the engagement Irma receives the news of her mother’s death. She dies at the age of 43 on September 21, 1957. Irma and her husband Paul receive permission to enter Walbeck for the funeral. Afterwards it becomes impossible for Irma to visit Walbeck. Due to its location right on the border, Walbeck is a restricted area and may only be entered by citizens of the GDR with a special permit.

In 1958 Irma marries Paul Remus, who had already arrived in Essenrode in March 1945 after a two-month flight from Pomerania. In November 1958 her daughter Bettina is born. Together with the parents-in-law they build a house. In November 1960 their son Roland is born and in February 1968 a second son,Torsten.

Only 33 years later, with the fall of the Wall, that Irma will visit Walbeck again. Since then, she always enjoyed visiting Walbeck and Weferlingen. And the fall of the Wall will be yet another surprise for Irma. Another daughter of her father, of whom she has not known anything until then, appears – Irma`s half-sister Erika.


View from the ruins of the collegiate church St. Marien over Walbeck to the Klosterberg; Photo: private