David P. Boder Interviews Anna Braun; September 20, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: Spool 133. September 20, 1946, Munich at the Funkenkaserne in a displaced persons camp of about 5,000 persons, an immense installation of the former German army which apparently was occupied by the signal corps. Though the windows I see children playing, like children play everywhere. They play all sorts of games, under the directions of teachers or by themselves, There are rows and rows of barracks. My interviewee is Mrs. Anna Braun, who is here with a group of about 500 Mennonites. They live together in one block which I intend to visit later, men and women together as one community and in one large room, separated as I am told by some kind of tent material and sleeping in wide two level bunks, often a different family on each level. The interview proceeds in German.The origin of the Mennonites can be traced to the 16th century Anabaptist movement. Menno Simons, a Dutch religious leader, united the scattered Anabaptist congregations of northern Europe that became called by his name.1
  • David Boder: And so, Mrs. Braun, will you kindly tell me what is your name, how old are you, where were you born?
  • Anna Braun: My name is Anna Braun. I am 40 years old. I was born in Einlage [this sound like a German name but the locality is in Russia, maybe she doesn't get the name clearly] in the district Zaporozhe, in the Ukraine.The Zaporozhye district is located in the eastern portion of Ukraine. The city of Zaporozhye itself is located on the Dnieper River. Mennonite villages were located on both sides of this key waterway.2
  • David Boder: Yes. If you have difficulties just say it in Russian.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Zaporozhe, in the Ukraine. That is your birthplace, is that so?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who were your parents?
  • Anna Braun: My parents were [she hesitates] Cornelius Peter and my mother,-
  • David Boder: Yes. Never mind the names. What was their occupation?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: What was your family doing?
  • Anna Braun: My father was the proprietor of a mill.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Braun: He had a large steam-powered flour mill in Tartiza.The exact location for this town was not found, nor was the exact location of the village of Kitchka mentioned subsequently. [???]3
  • David Boder: Oh, then he was not a farmer?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: Oh. Now you have with you here two children? How old are the children?
  • Anna Braun: My oldest daughter, my stepdaughter, is twenty years old and the younger is ten years old.
  • David Boder: Were you married twice?
  • Anna Braun: No, I married a man in 1935, a widower.
  • David Boder: And you took his daughter with you?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now, Mrs. Braun, will you tell me where you were when the war started and what happened to you during the war up to this date.
  • Anna Braun: I worked in Zaporozhe as a technical draftsman in the Dnieper Steel Works...[a pause] When the war started many were dismissed from that plant. I remained until the evacuation, that is until the whole plant had to retreat.The German invasion proceeded initially with devastating rapidity resulting in the conquest of large parts of the Soviet Union and the capture of millions of prisoners. Orders were given to evacuate as many factories as possible beyond the Ural mountains out of the reach of the invading Germans.4
  • David Boder: You mean the plant was evacuated.
  • Anna Braun: Yes. The whole plant was to be evacuated. Since the plant was located on the right shore of Dnieper while my home was located on the left shore of the Dnieper, I went back to my family on the left shore.
  • David Boder: That is then east?
  • Anna Braun: [Hesitating as if trying to orientate herself] Yes, eastward.
  • David Boder: Yes, the Dnieper flows southward.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: So you went to the side nearest to the Russians.
  • Anna Braun: [confused] Yes.
  • David Boder: The Germans came from the West. The Russians and you went back to the other side?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. Then I didn't know it whether it was on the German side or the Russian side. At any rate we came home. I stayed home for two days, and here the Germans arrived.
  • David Boder: Who was at home with you?
  • Anna Braun: With me at home was my step-mother and my two daughters.Mrs. Braun misspoke here. She had a stepfather not a stepmother. The fate of her mother is not mentioned in the interview.5
  • David Boder: And where was your husband?
  • Anna Braun: My husband was arrested already in 1936, on the 16th of October.This was just prior to the 1937-38 Great Terror, years of mass arrests and executions which spread from the communist party hierarchy throughout Soviet society. From 1918 on, however, mass arrests, deportations, incarcerations and executions had taken place in the Soviet Union. The arrest rate among Mennonites was considerably higher than that for the general population.6
  • David Boder: Why? Would you please tell me in detail the whole story. Why was your husband arrested, and other people of your sect as well?
  • Anna Braun: Why? We never learned the reason, but it must have been on account of our religion. When my father, already in 1919 was killed by a band, my mother married a second time--that is my step-father.
  • David Boder: Your mother married a second time?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. He also was my uncle. My step-father was the elder of the[one work not clear]Mennonite community, of the congregation. Rather of the Polish.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Braun: Already in 1929 he and my mother were deported to the Ural.It is not clear if this refers to Ural Kazakhstan or to a location in the Ural mountains.7
  • David Boder: Yes. Your step-father was deported to the Ural?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well....
  • Anna Braun: That was on account of our religion because he was the older of--
  • David Boder: The Mennonites?
  • Anna Braun: Of the Mennonite community. There he remained for five years.
  • David Boder: And you remained at home?
  • Anna Braun: And I remained at home. And only after my father returned home I got married.
  • David Boder: Then your father had returned from the Ural?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: With your mother?
  • Anna Braun: With the mother.
  • David Boder: So. What was it? Did he serve there a term as punishment and was then sent back?
  • Anna Braun: He apparently was there as punishment.
  • David Boder: Well, he was sent away and then returned.
  • Anna Braun: He was sent away and the returned.
  • David Boder: And when did he return?
  • Anna Braun: He returned in 1935.
  • David Boder: What did he tell you? What happened to him there at the Ural?
  • Anna Braun: He personally worked in an office at the Ural. The food was bad, just like for all the others who were there. There were all kinds of people at the Ural. Most of them starved to death there.
  • David Boder: And so your father and mother came back--that is your step-father--in 1935?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: So was he then with you when the Germans came?
  • Anna Braun: No. After he spent three years at home, that is, at Einlage, he had no home any more, his home was taken away from him. After he was here three years in Einlage...
  • David Boder: Is Einlage the name of the town?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. Einlage is the name of the village.
  • David Boder: Yes. Did the village have the German name?
  • Anna Braun: Einlage.....Yes.
  • David Boder: And what did they call the village in Russian?
  • Anna Braun: Kitchka.
  • David Boder: Kitchka. Well, go on.
  • Anna Braun: After three years in Kitchka he was arrested again and he was put in prison. And up to this day we have not heard from him.
  • David Boder: You mentioned something about a death sentence. How sure are you of that?
  • Anna Braun: In '35 I got married. In '36 they took the man, after six months.
  • David Boder: Whose husband did they take?
  • Anna Braun: My husband.
  • David Boder: Oh, then it was your husband.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: And in '35 you weren't married.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: And in '36 they arrested your husband?
  • Anna Braun: They arrested my husband.
  • David Boder: Did you have already the baby?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. It was three months old.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Anna Braun: And so one night they fetched my husband after they searched the house for three long hours.
  • David Boder: Yes. What were they searching for?
  • Anna Braun: They took with them foreign correspondence. Otherwise I don't know what they were looking for.
  • David Boder: So what kind of foreign correspondence was it?
  • Anna Braun: We had only the letters from our relatives in America.
  • David Boder: Oh. From the Mennonites in America.The Soviets were deeply suspicious of anyone who had contacts with capitalistic America, an arch-ideological enemy.8
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Anna Braun: All these letters were taken and they were never returned, and my man was taken and after six months of imprisonment he was sentenced to death by the Kharkov Military Tribunal.Kharkov was the second largest city in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Kiev being the first. During the Holocaust 21,685 Jews were murdered in Kharkov.9
  • David Boder: Were you at the trial?
  • Anna Braun: No. I was not admitted.
  • David Boder: Were you in Kharkov?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Then who told you what sentence he was given?
  • Anna Braun: In Kharkov at the offices of the Military Tribunal they told me so. The third of July, '37, I was told the sentence was upheld in Moscow, in June, '37.
  • David Boder: Yes. Have you seen your husband after he was sentenced?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: Were you not permitted to see him?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: So. And what happened afterwards?
  • Anna Braun: Afterwards...you see the sentences was pronounced in Zaporozhe. From Zaporozhe my husband was taken to Dnepropetrovsk.Dnepropetrovsk is located just northwest of Zaporozhye.10
  • David Boder: But you said something about Kharkov.
  • Anna Braun: The Kharkov Military tribunal tried him in Zaporozhe.
  • David Boder: Oh. Well, go on.
  • Anna Braun: And then he was taken after a trial from Zaporozhe to Dnepropetrovsk. There I was still able to bring him food up until June, the middle of June.
  • David Boder: What were you doing, going there everyday?
  • Anna Braun: No. I went there once a week. And I would bring him food and clean underwear. Everytime they accepted from me these things and every time my husband had to write on the slip of paper on which I had enumerated all the things that I brought for him: that "all these things I have recieved".
  • David Boder: Was he able to return the soiled underwear?
  • Anna Braun: Yes, he also would send back the soiled clothes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Braun: [Hesitant] And the things were always very dirty.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Anna Braun: [She hesitates and weeps.] Once the things were so soiled and moist.
  • David Boder: What do you mean?
  • Anna Braun: [Breaks out in tears.] They were stained with blood.
  • David Boder: So, well.
  • Anna Braun: Before I hadn't noticed it. The things were full of sweat and yellow, but every week I brought him new underwear.
  • David Boder: Clean underwear or new underwear?
  • Anna Braun: Clean underwear.
  • David Boder: Yes, go on.
  • Anna Braun: At any rate he received the things every time. Then it was the end of June. I jouned again to Dnepropetrovsk in order to bring him food and clothes and he wasn't there any more.
  • David Boder: And what did they tell you?
  • Anna Braun: And so they told me "departed", and nothing else. Such an answer could as well have been given by the clerk of an hotel upon inquiry about a guest who is not there any more. it is possible that the prison, being under civilian authority, had nothing to do with the execution of sentences of military tribunals. This was in the hand of the military; they often demanded the surrender of the prisoner who as far as the warden of the prison was concerned was then simply considered discharged or so to speak out from under the warden's jurisdiction.The use of euphemisms by bureaucracies of totalitarian regimes is quite common. It serves to still consciences and mask brutalities.11
  • David Boder: Departed?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. Departed. I immediately journeyed to Kharkov.[She hesitates]
  • David Boder: To the authorities?
  • Anna Braun: To the authorities of the Military Tribunal and there at the office they looked him up and told me that the case is known to them and that the sentence was confirmed in Moscow in June. And so I asked them: 'Is there anything I can still do?' --because I had been in Moscow already three times so they told me, 'Not a thing'. And since then I know nothing about my husband. The 16th of October it will be 10 years.Mrs. Braun's unceasing efforts on behalf of her imprisoned husband are most laudable.12
  • David Boder: Tell me Mrs. Braun, were there other people sentenced with your husband or was he alone on trial?
  • Anna Braun: Ten men were sentenced together with him on the same day. All of them lived before in Kitchka--Einlage. All of them except three...also seven of the men were Mennonites and three were not Mennonites.
  • David Boder: How did they happen to get together into the same trial?
  • Anna Braun: That I never could find out because the other three, the non-Mennonites, I had never known and I had never heard that my husband had known them.
  • David Boder: What were they accused of? What was the indictment?
  • Anna Braun: They always refered to the case of GESTA but I don't know a thing more about it.False charges of sabotage and/or espionage were used to get rid of so-called enemies of the state who could also be blamed for production shortages or bureaucratic malfeasance or incompetence.13
  • David Boder: What is GESTA?
  • Anna Braun: That means the Hydro-Electric Generating Station.
  • David Boder: Oh. Did your husband work for the GESTA?
  • Anna Braun: My husband worked in the main office of GESTA.
  • David Boder: So. What kind of a job did he hold there?
  • Anna Braun: [hesitantly and in between sobs]He was an economist.
  • David Boder: Oh, did he study economy?
  • Anna Braun: No, that he did not.
  • David Boder: Oh. But he has been working in the department of economics?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. He worked there and had a great deal of experience.
  • David Boder: And then. [She hesitates again] Continue, Mrs. Braun. [The pause continues for a long time] So you remained alone. Did you ever get a certificate that you are a widow?
  • Anna Braun: Never.
  • David Boder: They did not give you such a certificate?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: Do the Mennonites consider you a widow?
  • Anna Braun: [After a pause] Neither. I am definitely convinced that my husband is dead.[ here she weeps again] But my oldest daughter as well as many Mennonites--and that is because they have such a firm faith that the Lord will not permit such a thing to happen--so we also believe in a miracle that somewhere in some way my husband may still be alive. My daughter constantly tells me this hope nobody can take from me.
  • David Boder: Under such conditions you could not get married?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: Do widows among the Mennonites marry in general?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, Now then what happened when the Germans came. You went to the other side of the Dneiper, you were telling me, to your family?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Anna Braun: When the Germans came the locality where we lived was exactly at the front. This lasted for about a month and a half and then we had to leave our home and our belongings and had to be evacuated. But not far away, about 20 kilometers from our home. Afterwards, when the Russians retreated again and the Germans marched on we were able again to return home. Much was destroyed, but in our home besides the window panes nothing much was damaged.
  • David Boder: How long were you away from home?
  • Anna Braun: We were away a whole month.
  • David Boder: Now what happened. The Germans came and then the Russians returned?
  • Anna Braun: No. Then the Germans came and the Russians retreated. And so we remained for a year. But then the Russians came again.In fact, the Mennonite communities of the Zaporozhye district were under control of the Germans for two years. The German defeat at the epic battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1943 marked the turning point in the war with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the German defeat in the battle of Kursk in July-August, 1943. From then on the Red army was on the offensive.14
  • David Boder: Oh, so that was how it was. You remained for a year under the Germans. You did not leave.
  • Anna Braun: No, we did not leave, but when the Russians approached again and the shooting started and we found ourselves again on the front and many homes were destroyed, and there were quite a few casualties we had to leave again our house and our belongings. Now we were embarked into trains.Mrs. Braun describes an unpleasant and arduous rail journey, but one that was markedly better than the deadly rail journey taken by Jews to extermination centers.15
  • David Boder: By whom?
  • Anna Braun: By the Germans. We were embarked into trains and we did not know where we were going but we traveled ahead....
  • David Boder: Towards the west?
  • Anna Braun: Towards the west.
  • David Boder: Will you please tell me something about these trains. How were you embarked? How many people were on the train, and in general what were you told?
  • Anna Braun: We were told that we should take with us only our food. We were assigned thirty-five people for one cattle car.
  • David Boder: Thirty-five?
  • Anna Braun: Thirty-five people and all our belongings.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Braun: The sick were embarked separately in passenger cars. There were among them very sick people.
  • David Boder: Were they all Mennonites?
  • Anna Braun: There were.....no. There were all kinds of people. Mennonites, Russians, also Ukrainians. There were few Russian Ukrainians but there were many volks-Germans from various places. Refugees.
  • David Boder: By volks-Germans you mean those who lived for generations in Saratov and thereabout, the German colonists, is that so?
  • Anna Braun: The Germans colonists. Yes.
  • David Boder: Of course, they were not all Mennonites?
  • Anna Braun: No, no, no.
  • David Boder: They were just volks-Germans and you were embarked about thirty-five in one cattle car with all the belongings and so you were evacuated.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: How were you fed? What kind of toilet facilities did you have?
  • Anna Braun: There were no toilets. For hours we were traveling and then finally the train would stop at the station and everybody would go down. Otherwise there was no chance "to go out". For the children the women had their toilet pots with them and the content was poured out of the window, while the train was in motion.
  • David Boder: What kind of windows were in these cars?
  • Anna Braun: There were small windows near the ceiling which could be either kept open or shut.
  • David Boder: And where did you finally arrive?
  • Anna Braun: Then we arrived....
  • David Boder: Were there any benches in those cars?
  • Anna Braun: No. There were no benches. We sat on our bundles.
  • David Boder: You are talking now about the evacuation arranged by the Germans?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now go on.
  • Anna Braun: People sat on their things. On trunks, bedding......
  • David Boder: Trunks, bedding and bundles?
  • Anna Braun: ...and bundles, yes. People took turns to sleep on those thing because people would just fall over each other.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Anna Braun: Because during the trip the doors were locked. Nobody could get out. The air would become heavy.
  • David Boder: Go ahead.
  • Anna Braun: Then we arrived...we traveled for 14 days until we arrived at Lipmanstadt. [Footnote: Like in the case of so many DPs, here geographic orientation is confused.]Mrs. Braun is confusing Litzmannstadt (what she terms Lipmanstadt), the German name for Łódź, with L'viv (Ger. Lemberg), a large industrial and cultural center in western Ukraine. Of a Jewish community of 110,000 at the start of the war, only a handful of the Jews of L'viv remained alive at liberation.16
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Anna Braun: Lipmanstadt is in Poland.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. How do they call that town in Polish?
  • Anna Braun: Lwow.
  • David Boder: Oh. Lwow.. Oh, Yes. You got to Lwow..
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Anna Braun: There we got to a transient lager. There we bathed and changed our clothes. We were given hot food, and from there we proceeded to Neustadt. That is in West [?] Prussia.Neustadt (German for "new town") is the name for a number of towns in Germany. The northern German city of Neustadt where Mrs. Braun and her daughters were interned is now in Poland along with the nearby city of Danzig, now Gdansk.17
  • David Boder: Neustadt. West Prussia.
  • Anna Braun: Neustadt. West Prussia. In Neustadt there was a very big lager. And there our transport disembarked. There were in the lager more than two thousand people.
  • David Boder: Who were they? Were there Jews among them?
  • Anna Braun: There were no Jews.
  • David Boder: Who were there? Were there any gypsies?
  • Anna Braun: There were many different nationalities, but no Jews.
  • David Boder: I have asked you before, were there any gypsies?
  • Anna Braun: [Hesitantly, as if suprised] Gypsies....
  • David Boder: Well, you didn't see any?
  • Anna Braun: No, I have not noticed any gypsies.
  • David Boder: Let's go on. Were there any Russians? French?
  • Anna Braun: Russians. Frenchmen.These were undoubtedly forced labor workers whom the Nazis deported to work in German war industries. They were not exterminated like Jews and Gypsies (Roma) but were conscripted against their will and lived under the trying conditions Mrs. Braun describes.18
  • David Boder: Well. Now describe the life in such a lager.
  • Anna Braun: Life in such a lager was terrible. First, such a lager was full of bedbugs. That was the most terrible thing in these lagers, the bedbugs. One couldn't sleep nights the bedbugs were so bad. And it was obvious that they cannot be driven away. There were no means to get rid of them.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, how would the day pass in such a lager? What time did you get up?
  • Anna Braun: Well, that differed. Those who worked had to get up early.
  • David Boder: And who had to work?
  • Anna Braun: Everybody, young people up to the age of 40 had to work.
  • David Boder: Were you compelled to work?
  • Anna Braun: I, too.
  • David Boder: Your daughter?
  • Anna Braun: My daughter.
  • David Boder: And the little one?
  • Anna Braun: The little one--she did not work.
  • David Boder: Well, she wasn't then yet ten years old.
  • Anna Braun: She is now ten years old. Then she was--
  • David Boder: Eight?
  • Anna Braun: 1943...she was seven years old.
  • David Boder: What was the little one doing all day?
  • Anna Braun: Since in a room about [she stops, searching apparently for words to describe the size of the room]
  • David Boder: Was it the size of this room?
  • Anna Braun: The size of this room.
  • David Boder: Well, this room is about four by six meters.
  • Anna Braun: Since ten to twelve people had to live in a room like this one.
  • David Boder: Well what do you mean people? Women...
  • Anna Braun: Women and men as well. And children with them.
  • David Boder: Men, women, and children in the same room? How many men were there in the room which you lived?
  • Anna Braun: In that room there was one man...and the others were women and children.
  • David Boder: Now how were the beds arranged? One over the other at three levels?
  • Anna Braun: No, the beds were of two levels.
  • David Boder: Was the man there with his wife?
  • Anna Braun: The man was there with his wife.
  • David Boder: Well, go on.
  • Anna Braun: So there was always somebody in the room and I could leave there my little daughter.
  • David Boder: Oh. So you left your little daughter with somebody in the room?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did the little one go there to some school? Did they play some games? Did they teach her something? Was there some entertainment [for her]?
  • Anna Braun: No, there was no school for the little one. The children gathered in the yard and there they--
  • David Boder: Passed their time?
  • Anna Braun: Passed their time. I worked....
  • David Boder: When you got up in the morning did you get something to eat?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. In the morning we fetched our food from the central kitchen.
  • David Boder: And what was that?
  • Anna Braun: That was coffee and black bread. The rest of the cold supplies we were given once a week.
  • David Boder: That was what?
  • Anna Braun: That was butter....
  • David Boder: Margerine?
  • Anna Braun: Marmalade, no. We also got butter sometimes, butter, margerine, marmalade.
  • David Boder: Any sausage?
  • Anna Braun: Some sausage.
  • David Boder: Well, so you got your coffee. Did you have an appel? Did they count every morning the people in the lager?
  • Anna Braun: No. That was not done. Possible--there was in every room a room trustee--maybe he had to report it.
  • David Boder: But you had no appel?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: And then you would go to work? What kind of work were you doing?
  • Anna Braun: I personally would come home only once a week because I worked away from the lager.
  • David Boder: And your older daughter?
  • Anna Braun: My older daughter worked there in the lager.
  • David Boder: Where was the place outside of the lager, and were did you live?
  • Anna Braun: I worked 36 kilometers away from Neustadt.
  • David Boder: In what capacity?
  • Anna Braun: As a technical draftswoman.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes, you were a technical draftswoman already at home. And so you worked as a technical draftswoman for the Germans. And what were you drafting?
  • Anna Braun: I drafted some diagrams and curves.
  • David Boder: For what purpose?
  • Anna Braun: That was for an experimental laboratory. They wouldn't give me even titles of the drawings so I never knew for what purpose the drawings were made.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, Mrs. Braun, the Mennonites are against was and do not bear arms; isn't that so?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Isn't it the same thing to help the war when you participate in the construction of war material?
  • Anna Braun: Of course, it is the same. If one does it intentionally it is the same thing.
  • David Boder: And you didn't know what you were really doing?
  • Anna Braun: No. I didn't know up to this date. I don't know whether I worked for the war.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Anna Braun: On Saturdays I would return to the lager. There I remained over Sunday and Sunday night I would return again to the shores of the Baltic sea. I worked right on the Baltic sea.
  • David Boder: Oh, you worked on the Baltic Sea. Is Neustadt near Koeningsberg?Koenigsberg was then in East Prussia. Today it has been renamed Kaliningrad and is under Russian control. Though on the Baltic, it is considerably east of Danzig (Gdansk).19
  • Anna Braun: Yes. Neustadt is not far from Danzig. And this experimental laboratory was called experimental plant Grossendorf. That's what they called it. No other name.
  • David Boder: And how did the Germans behave towards you?
  • Anna Braun: That varied a great deal. There were such who behaved themselves well. But there were also such who behaved very badly.
  • David Boder: In what way?
  • Anna Braun: Well, at work they treated me well because they were satisfied with my work. You see all my life I liked drafting a great deal and so my work was very efficient. And so as technical draftswoman I was always treated well. But when one would return to the lager one was not well treated by the lager commander.
  • David Boder: Did he beat the people?
  • Anna Braun: Yes, he used to beat the people!
  • David Boder: For what reasons?
  • Anna Braun: There were people who did not submit to the discipline of the lager, and for that they were punished. They were beaten, by the lager commander as well.
  • David Boder: So there was direct corporal punishment?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: And how long did that last? How long were you there in Neustadt?
  • Anna Braun: In Neustadt we were....[pause, reminiscing] nearly a year.
  • David Boder: And then it was already what year?
  • Anna Braun: It was--we arrived there in 1943 and stayed there until December of '44.
  • David Boder: Until December of '44. Well, what happened then?
  • Anna Braun: Well, then they evacuated the experimental plant in which I worked. They evacuated the plant to Czechoslovakia. We came to Czechoslovakia. There we continued working. All those who worked at the plant had to be evacuated with it. And so I personally with my family was for a time separated from the rest of the Mennonites. That lasted four months in Czechoslovakia. Then we had to evacuate from there as well and were to go directly to Munich, but we didn't get that far. Approximately 60 kilometers from Munich we saw the approach of the Americans.At the time it was not known as Czechoslovakia. The Czech portions of prewar Czechoslovakia had been taken over by the Germans and renamed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Slovakia became a Nazi puppet state.20
  • David Boder: In what kind of trains were you transported?
  • Anna Braun: We traveled by automobile.
  • David Boder: Passenger cars, trucks?
  • Anna Braun: Trucks.
  • David Boder: And how many people on a truck?
  • Anna Braun: We were twenty-two people on a truck with our bundles.
  • David Boder: Then you were sitting on your bundles?
  • Anna Braun: We sat on our bundles.
  • David Boder: And so 60 miles from Munich you met the Americans. Who were they? Tell us something about the liberation?
  • Anna Braun: We arrived by truck to Heilenbach near Rosenheim. Here our transport--fuehrer abandoned us. He told us the Americans are near and so he left us simply in that little town and he himself got away with the truck. We remained simply on the street. Nobody wanted to let us in. It was pouring and we were all wet.[Here Mrs. Braun cough repeatedly. This is akin to the coughing and choking which some interviewees manifest when they speak of the disinfecting procedures, or travel in bad weather]
  • David Boder: About how many of you were there?
  • Anna Braun: We were twenty-two people.
  • David Boder: Oh, there was only one truck.
  • Anna Braun: There was only one truck. We were separated from the others en route.
  • David Boder: Who was that fuehrer? Was he an SS man? Who was he?
  • Anna Braun: The fuehrer was an engineer of the firm for which we worked. His name was Larson. He himself was a Swede, but he worked in the plant for the Germans, out of free will. Afterwards he has so swindled us and deceived us that he has stolen nearly all our things because we had a trailer on the truck and there was a large part of our baggage. The trailer had to be left in a certain place and we never saw our things, although he had promised us to bring them to us, but we never saw our things again. Later we heard that he was arrested in Frankfurt.......Nazi collaborators, such as the Swedish engineer described by Mrs. Braun, assisted them in their nefarious undertakings. They were motivated by various factors such as attraction to Nazi ideology or material gain. Since the Swedes were neutral in World War II, Larson was indeed, as Mrs. Braun points out, a willing collaborator. At the time, he was the leader (fuehrer) of the group.21
  • David Boder: By whom?
  • Anna Braun: He was arrested by the Americans, who tried and sentenced him to 12 years in prison; and later he was sentenced by a Swedish court also to 12 years imprisonment, so in total a sentence of twenty-four years.
  • David Boder: Well, so he simply abandoned you.
  • Anna Braun: He abandoned us.
  • David Boder: What happened then? The people in the village wouldn't accept you?
  • Anna Braun: The people of the village would not let us in. We went to the mayor. Also to the lager fuehrer because there was a lager in that village, but neither the lager fuehrer nor the mayor would take us in. We sat on the street with the little belongings that we still had. We were all wet. It poured, but still our pleading was of no avail, and since I was the senior among them I had to go plead everywhere while the whole party sat on the street and wept[here she herself weeps]
  • David Boder: [After a pause]Were there men and women?
  • Anna Braun: [Still sobbing]There were only women except for one man who had lost a leg.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Anna Braun: It was a young man who we were forced to pick up on the road. He did no belong to our firm nor to its personnel. We simply picked him up.
  • David Boder: Were all the people on the trucks Mennonites?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: Who were they?
  • Anna Braun: They were people from Russia, from Leningrad.
  • David Boder: Christians?
  • Anna Braun: Christians, yes.
  • David Boder: Well, what happened afterwards in that village? Did the people in that village know that the Americans were coming?
  • Anna Braun: The people in the village knew the Americans were coming.
  • David Boder: And still they wouldn't accept you?
  • Anna Braun: And still they didn't want to have anything to do with us. We remained there still the whole day on the street in the rain. Time and again we went to the mayor and pleaded. Finally we asked him to give us at least shelter in the school building. So he told us he expects a great deal of military men and the school already has been billeted. All houses are already billeted. There is no room for us, for twenty-two people.
  • David Boder: You mean twenty-two women?
  • Anna Braun: Twenty-two women.
  • David Boder: Was your daughter with you?
  • Anna Braun: Both of my children were with me. Almost on our knees we begged that man and finally in the evening, because he was afraid that we may come to his home, he told us we may go into the school building until the military arrives. 'But should the military arrive even in the middle of the night I shall throw you out of the school building.' So we went into the school. And sure enough the soldiers came at night but they did not disturb us in our room until the next morning at 10:00. The next morning at 10:00 they threw us out.
  • David Boder: This concludes Spool 133, a report of Mrs. Anna Braun, a Mennonite widow whose husband perished or was executed in Russia. Mrs. Braun interrupted the discussion quite frequently, swallowing tears and suppressing sobs. She also weeps now. We are continuing on Spool 134.The post traumatic stress exhibited by Mrs. Braun was due to her harrowing experiences both prior to and during the war. Understandably, it was not uncommon among postwar refugees.22
  • David Boder: Munich, September the 20th, 1946. This is Spool 134 a continuation of Spool 133 giving the story of a Mennonite woman, Mrs. Anna Braun, age 40, a widow, who went throught the war first on the shores of the [?], and then came to Germany and was employed, or forced labor at technical drawing. And we are in the middle of the story where they were abandoned by their escorts when the Americans approached. And where, in a little German town where they could not get any accomodation until finally they were allowed to sleep over in a school. And we are now at what happened the next morning.
  • David Boder: And so, what happened the next day?
  • Anna Braun: The next morning at 10 o'clock we were thrown out of the school building. The mayor did that. So we went again to a lager where we found numerous refugees. Here we were finally accepted.
  • David Boder: Who were those refugees in the lager?
  • Anna Braun: Most of them were refugees from Jugoslavia.
  • David Boder: What happened then?
  • Anna Braun: There we spent three days. We were admitted "as guests" and so for three days we got no food and finally this lager also had to be vacated because they needed this place too for the Military.
  • David Boder: Where was it? Sixty miles from Munich?
  • Anna Braun: That was fifty miles from Munich.
  • David Boder: What was the name of the city?
  • Anna Braun: Heilenbach, near Rosenheim. It is really not a city but a most beautiful spot in Bavaria. A nice corner in the mountains. From here we also were to be thrown out because they needed the place for a German field hospital.
  • David Boder: Now what kind of refugees were there?
  • Anna Braun: There were refugees from Jugoslavia and Roumania.
  • David Boder: Not workers, not deported people?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. They were all deported people [Verschlepte Personnen].Verschleppen is the German word for "displaced."23
  • David Boder: No Jews?
  • Anna Braun: No Jews.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Anna Braun: Then the Germans field hospital arrived. They stayed here for some time. We were crowded together into a few rooms. So far they didn't throw us out. It was to happen every day. But then the Americans arrived, the American soldiers. The American soldiers took immediate command over the field hospital and they gave orders that we should not be thrown out.
  • David Boder: What kind of soldiers were there? Were they on foot? In tanks? On trucks? Who were they?
  • Anna Braun: They were in tanks and automobiles. Only a few automobiles arrived. Altogether maybe five or six automobiles. That's all that came to this place. They took charge of the lager and soon afterwards we got--we did not get any ration cards, these were given to the lager authority, and we were given general maintenance right there in the lager.
  • David Boder: Did you have any money on you?
  • Anna Braun: Oh, we had very little money.
  • David Boder: Were you paid for your work in Neustadt?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: What were they paying you?
  • Anna Braun: I as a technical draftswoman received 180 marks a month.
  • David Boder: Including maintenance?
  • Anna Braun: Food and lodging were extra.
  • David Boder: You had to pay?
  • Anna Braun: I paid for my maintenance and lodging.
  • David Boder: Well. So you remained in the lager which was taken over by the Americans.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: And who managed then the lager?
  • Anna Braun: As long as the field hospital was there it was the field hospital that also managed the lager because the lager fuehrer who was there at the time when we arrived was immediately arrested. He was immediately arrested and we never saw him again. And so the lager was managed for four weeks by the field hospital. When the field hospital moved away--
  • David Boder: Was it an American hospital?
  • Anna Braun: No, that was a German hospital. And this German hospital--
  • David Boder: Yes. And this German hospital, the German nurses and German doctors all stayed with it?
  • Anna Braun: For the time being they stayed with it. And they also took care of us.
  • David Boder: Well. Now, how did they behave after the Americans arrived?
  • Anna Braun: Oh. After the arrival of the Americans they behaved very well[a pause]
  • David Boder: Tell me, Mrs. Braun, you speak German well. Did you ever discuss matters with the Germans, before liberation, after liberation? What did they think about the whole situation?
  • Anna Braun: There were among the Germans very different people. As far as I could understand at the beginning the Germans--at least many of them, probably most of them--had quite a different opinion about the events. But gradually they were so influenced by the fuehrer and his followers that they were gradually compelled to arrive at the belief that that may possibly be the right way. However, there were whispers. I knew quite a few Germans who told me: 'we have no faith in it. We have no faith in it. But we must believe in it. We force ourselves to believe in it and we imagine that we do.' Real sincere followers the fuehrer had but few.The indifference of the majority of the German population to the heinous crimes of the Nazis, especially the Holocaust, was a major enabling factor. 24
  • David Boder: Now if the fuehrer had so few sincere followers how do you explain then--you know what happened to the Jews, the lagers--how do you explain that?
  • Anna Braun: I often asked the German soldiers, 'How can one do such things?' I mean for example, Jews. I never could stop brooding over this question. And time and again I would ask that question. Just as I could not reconcile with the Heil Hitler salute, I never could understand it, because we as Mennonites were deeply religious and in our Lord's Prayer it says 'Holy be thy name' (geheilegt werde dein Name) which meant that Heil may be applied only to the name of God. And so would I say, 'How could you sanctify the name of the fuehrer? That is wrong. And so it is wrong the way you treat the Jews, murdering the Jews, who are the chosen people.'The Mennonites and some other Protestant sects regarded the Jews as "the apple of God's eyes" due their regard for and understanding of the Hebrew Bible.25
  • David Boder: Did you know what was happening to the Jews?
  • Anna Braun: Who, I? Indeed.
  • David Boder: How did you know?
  • Anna Braun: Because in the region where we lived there were also many Jews. And the Jews would also dissapear.
  • David Boder: You mean in the region of Neustadt where you lived?
  • Anna Braun: No, about this region I know but little, I have in mind Russia.
  • David Boder: You mean to say that while you were still in Russia they have taken away the Jews?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. During the time we were still in Russia the Jews were taken away by the Germans and many German soldiers were telling us what they were doing to the Jews. We even had such a case. In general the Mennonites are not permitted to marry outside of their group from among other people, from other religions. But because among us one Mennonite woman had married a Jew so she had a child from that Jew. So I know this story for example definitely for certain. About the other things I just know from hearsay, what happened to the Jews and one wouldn't know should believe it, things were really so horrible. But about this woman from whom they have taken away the child because it had a Jew for its father and that the child was killed, that we know, and we knew through it what they have been doing to the Jews[she begins to sob] The child was poisoned.Indeed, the crimes of the Holocaust were so despicable and so irrational as to be initially "beyond belief" even for many Jews.26
  • David Boder: How come? Did the woman really know that for sure?
  • Anna Braun: For the moment she did not know that they were poisoning her child, but the German soldiers came to her home and they had orders. There were among them such who also had a heart.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Braun: And they came to fetch the child. It was a darling little blond curly baby with long hair. A beautiful baby girl, and when they came to fetch the child some of the German soldiers said, 'I can't do it. I can't take away a child from the mother.' But one day--the mother would not surrender the child--so one day they called for the mother in an automobile. They took her with the child to Zaporozhe. Then on the trip to Zaporozhe they poisoned the child. Somehow they did something under her nose. They touched her with the fingers. The woman didn't notice it, but all at once there she stands with a stiff, dead child in her arms. [Here follows a long crying spell].It is unclear how the baby was murdered, but the Germans used all sorts of deceptions and diabolical methods in carrying out their murderous actions.27
  • David Boder: Has the woman returned?
  • Anna Braun: [Through tears] Yes, the woman came back. I think she was brought back sick and for weeks she lay sick at home. They didn't let her take the child.
  • David Boder: Did she have a chance to bury the child?
  • Anna Braun: So far as I know, no.[a pause]
  • David Boder: Now you stayed for about a month with the German Red Cross. What happened afterwards?
  • Anna Braun: Then the German soldiers were demobilized or sent away somewhere that I don't know. And the deportees and refugees remained alone in the lager. And so these refugees and deportees elected a man and there comes a new mayor to the town and he ordered that this man should now be in charge of the lager, he should handle the administration, and that a new chef should be chosen for the kitchen or be appointed. And so I too was assigned to the lager kitchen as second cook. And so I did the cooking for nine months.
  • David Boder: Who provided the supplies?
  • Anna Braun: The economic authority was in charge of providing supplies.
  • David Boder: Was that a German economic authority or were you getting the supplies already from the Americans?
  • Anna Braun: No. We were already getting our supplies from the Americans.
  • David Boder: Was it already the UNRRA?
  • Anna Braun: That was not the UNRRA, no. Then after nine months--we worked there for nine months but we did not get any money for it. Sure, we got our maintenance free. We worked in the lager without monetary pay. I worked from early in the morning until late at night. Since we had no more money, all our money was gone; we had no money whatsoever; and we needed money for shoes, clothes, for repairs and such other things. I told my daughter, 'We can't stay any more in the lager. We have to look for work somewhere where we are officially employed so that we could earn something.' And so we went to the employment service and we were given jobs, nine kilometers away from Heilenbach, in a soap factory. But since I suffer from a heart ailment...
  • David Boder: Since when do you suffer from a heart ailment?
  • Anna Braun: Already for twenty years. And since I had to work standing on my feet and since I could not stand for long stretches of time, I worked only for half a day. But I got swelled feet from standing and it became obvious to me that I can't continue with this work. But our wages were not enough to live on. I together with my daughter earned twenty-six marks weekly and we spent on food alone twenty-eight marks. And so again no money was left for the repair of shoes and the kind.
  • David Boder: Will you tell me, what is the cost of living in Germany if one lives on his own. For example, what could you buy for twenty-six marks? What does the German pay for bread?
  • Anna Braun: With twenty-six marks one has to buy only his ration cards. One can't buy anything directly from the peasants. One can buy only those things which are being sold on ration stamps.The information supplied here by Mrs. Braun reflects the straightened circumstances in not only the displaced persons but also the vast majority of the German population faced in the immediate postwar period.28
  • David Boder: Does that mean that the German peasants sell on the black market, is that so?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: The German peasants run a black market?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: And for what do they sell their products? For money, or what do they take?
  • Anna Braun: We never went to the peasants because we had no money. One can buy from them only for very big money and one can get everything. That should not be so but on the black one can get everything. At least then it was so. And we worked in that soap factory only a short time, about a month and a half. Then we received word from our relatives.
  • David Boder: Where from?
  • Anna Braun: From Munich. They were located here in this lager in the Funkenkaserne[the army of the signal corps]
  • David Boder: How did you happen to get the word? How did that come to be?
  • Anna Braun: We received a telegram.
  • David Boder: How did they know where you were?
  • Anna Braun: We learned already that our relatives were on a farm in a small village. This information we had received already. And all at once we received a telegram from Munich, 'We are here in Munich at the Funkenkaserne.' We learned that there was in Munich an immigration lager, and since we from times before had the intention to immigrate to America our relatives came immediately here to Munich and sent immediately a telegram so that we too should come here.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. Now tell me; where to you plan to go?
  • Anna Braun: We want to go to British Columbia, to Canada.Canada had accepted a significant number of Mennonite refugees in the 1920s and became the preferred destination for some in the postwar period.29
  • David Boder: Who do you have there?
  • Anna Braun: There I have the brothers of my husband. My husband has there three brothers.
  • David Boder: What is the name of the city in British Columbia? Do you know where they are?
  • Anna Braun: Coch [she hesitates].
  • David Boder: Well? Never mind. Are there many Mennonites?
  • Anna Braun: In Canada there are many Mennonites.
  • David Boder: And in British Columbia?
  • Anna Braun: In British Columbia there are also many.
  • David Boder: Tell me, have you already made contact with them? Have they sent you affadavits?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. We have already received the papers. And my brother-in-law who made the arrangements wrote us in a letter that he has already made a down payment on our passage and they hope that we will be there by Christmas.
  • David Boder: Why should it take so long?
  • Anna Braun: The arrangements for immigration in Canada are still not entirely completed. The separate provinces are willing to permit it but it is still not yet ...[she searches for words]
  • David Boder: Not yet completely approved.
  • Anna Braun: Not yet approved.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, this is a somewhat personal question. You were all this time together with your step-daughter. How were you getting along?
  • Anna Braun: We are on very good terms. We are getting along very well and we should not like to be separated.
  • David Boder: Well, Mrs. Braun, is there anything that you would like to tell us more?
  • Anna Braun: I can only add: We were four siblings. From these four I am the only one who remains. My brother was also in 1935 condemned to death by the GPU. He too spent two months in the death cell of Dnepropetrovsk. After we have tried everything. After we have given all our possessions to the lawyers that they should try everything in order to at least have the death sentence commuted. In this we succeeded and the sentence was commuted to twenty-five years imprisonement. However, in two years my brother died in prison.The Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, MVD and KGB were all acronyms for the Soviet secret police.30
  • David Boder: What for was he sentenced? Not because he was a Mennonite?
  • Anna Braun: No. But he was elected to the council on the parish. And because there was no freedom of religion. At the end we were not permitted to follow our religion and my brother up to the end was repeatedly making attempts to get for us the permission to hold church services and for that reason he disappeared one day. More we were unable to learn about him. Later it was said he was accused of the possession of a radio because his radio was taken away right with his arrest.
  • David Boder: Was it not permitted to have a radio?
  • Anna Braun: It was not prohibited officially but from the Mennonites all the radio sets were taken away. And from my brother they took it at the moment of his arrest. And so he died after two years imprisonment. But earlier, 1935, we still could write letters to each other, to the prison. As I told you before, among us Mennonites it was not permitted to marry with people of another nationality or religion, but my sister, my younger sister married a Tartar. He was an engineer and was assigned to work between Leningrad and Onega Lake. They were building there the functions in the systems of canals.
  • David Boder: Near Leningrad?
  • Anna Braun: Near Leningrad. There he was working.
  • David Boder: And what lake did you mention?
  • Anna Braun: Onega Lake.
  • David Boder: Oh. Onega Lake.
  • Anna Braun: Onegskoe Ozero.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. Onegskoe Ozero. How well you pronounce it in Russian.[They both laugh heartily]Onezhskoye Ozero is a large lake northeast of St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). Bratke (sp.?), which Mrs. Braun mentions in connection with her sister, could not be identified. [???]31
  • Anna Braun: Yes. And since then I know nothing about my sister, nothing about her whereabouts. Then there was my other sister. She too was away in Bartke[?]
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Anna Braun: In Poland. And afterwards we were unable to find her, but through America we have now received from her a postcard. She has written a postcard from Siberia to America and our relatives in America have copied for us the postcard and sent it to us and that is how we know the address of my sister.
  • David Boder: Well, she was not deported to Siberia?
  • Anna Braun: We don't know.
  • David Boder: Life in Siberia as such is not so bad.
  • Anna Braun: Oh, no. It is not bad.
  • David Boder: Well, that is fortunate. Oh, yes. She was in Poland and so many from Poland were evacuated to Siberia. That is very possible. Many who survived were evacuated to Siberia.
  • Anna Braun: And so we don't know why she has been sent there.
  • David Boder: Now tell me how do you live here in the lager? How many Mennonites are here in the lager and how do you live here?
  • Anna Braun: We are here about six hundred Mennonites.
  • David Boder: About how many men, women and children?
  • Anna Braun: [Hesitantly]We have here about 300 to 350 children.
  • David Boder: Is that so?
  • Anna Braun: The rest are women and men. Among them mostly women. The number of men is relatively small.
  • David Boder: Tell me approximately how many women are here with their husbands?
  • Anna Braun: We have here very few women with their husbands. We have here either women without their husbands or men without their wives.
  • David Boder: Did any marriages take place here?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. One marriage.
  • David Boder: Only one case of marriage?
  • Anna Braun: Only one.
  • David Boder: Now, and how do you live in a block or do you have a house for yourself?
  • Anna Braun: Yes, we live here in a block.
  • David Boder: You see I have no time really to visit the place and that is why I am asking you about it.
  • Anna Braun: Yes. Most of the Mennonites live here in block 8. The rest live in block number 24, and in block number 6.
  • David Boder: Now, how do you live there in block 8? Are these large rooms? How many people are you in one room?
  • Anna Braun: Our rooms are from thirty to forty square meters and in one room there live about twelve people.
  • David Boder: Do you mean women and men?
  • Anna Braun: Men and women together. But we have arranged the rooms by means of beds in such a fashion that the men and women.....
  • David Boder: ...are separated?
  • Anna Braun: ...separated.
  • David Boder: What do you have, curtains?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. Every room is first of all partitioned by means of those tall double level beds and then we have the corners partitioned off by means of blankets. We live here in this lager very well.
  • David Boder: And who takes care of the food supply here?
  • Anna Braun: Among us Mennonites all capable to work are working.
  • David Boder: Are they being paid?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. They get better maintenance, better food. They get their working men's card. They get also a card for working. They get also a card for clothing.
  • David Boder: With such a clothing card, where do they buy their clothes?
  • Anna Braun: They get their food and their clothing without pay. Every month the person who works gets two pieces of clothing and on the clothing card they then mark down what one has recieved.
  • David Boder: Are you working?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. I work but I am working in the social service department. I work for charity, I don't get any pay.
  • David Boder: Is your daughter working?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher.
  • David Boder: And your daughter has a working card?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. She has a working card and for her work she gets cigarettes.
  • David Boder: Cigarettes?
  • Anna Braun: Yes. [They both laugh]
  • David Boder: How many cigarettes does she get?
  • Anna Braun: She gets....before it was more, now it is somewhat less. At present she gets 10 packages per month.
  • David Boder: That is 200 cigarettes per month.
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Does she smoke?
  • Anna Braun: No.
  • David Boder: Will you tell me then. What does one do with those cigarettes?
  • Anna Braun: With the cigarettes one can do all kinds of things. Let us say we want to repair our shoes. We have no money, so we pay with cigarettes.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. And how many cigarettes do you give for a pair of soles on shoes?
  • Anna Braun: I can't tell you that exactly. A package of cigarettes for a pair of soles.
  • David Boder: And that includes the leather?
  • Anna Braun: Yes, everything.
  • David Boder: That is very interesting. Now tell me, what do then the other people do with the cigarettes? Who finally smokes the cigarettes, if everybody uses them to trade?
  • Anna Braun: The men do smoke the cigarettes. The Mennonite women do not smoke. This is prohibited by the religion.
  • David Boder: But you get your cigarettes?
  • Anna Braun: Yes.
  • David Boder: Do the other inhabitants of the lager get any cigarettes?
  • Anna Braun: No. Those who do not work do not get any cigarettes.
  • David Boder: Well, Mrs. Braun, it was a great satisfaction to talk with you. You threw in here and there a sentence in Russian and you speak such a wonderful Russian I almost think we should have made the recording in Russian. But there are more people in [America who understand German]. What did you say?
  • Anna Braun: I speak German [?], but I lack somewhat in confidence with the Russian language.
  • David Boder: Yes. At school of course you studied in Russian?
  • Anna Braun: Yes, Russian, and German as well.
  • David Boder: Well, I thank you very much. I am sure you have given me some important material and I indeed appreciate you patience.
  • Anna Braun: You are welcome.
  • David Boder: This concludes Spool 134, at 25 indicator minutes: an interview with Mrs. Anna Braun, the Mennonite widow of the age of 40 who is now here at the Funkenkaserne in Munich. She is a member of a Mennonite colony of 500 people. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  1. The origin of the Mennonites can be traced to the 16th century Anabaptist movement. Menno Simons, a Dutch religious leader, united the scattered Anabaptist congregations of northern Europe that became called by his name.
  2. The Zaporozhye district is located in the eastern portion of Ukraine. The city of Zaporozhye itself is located on the Dnieper River. Mennonite villages were located on both sides of this key waterway.
  3. The exact location for this town was not found, nor was the exact location of the village of Kitchka mentioned subsequently. [???]
  4. The German invasion proceeded initially with devastating rapidity resulting in the conquest of large parts of the Soviet Union and the capture of millions of prisoners. Orders were given to evacuate as many factories as possible beyond the Ural mountains out of the reach of the invading Germans.
  5. Mrs. Braun misspoke here. She had a stepfather not a stepmother. The fate of her mother is not mentioned in the interview.
  6. This was just prior to the 1937-38 Great Terror, years of mass arrests and executions which spread from the communist party hierarchy throughout Soviet society. From 1918 on, however, mass arrests, deportations, incarcerations and executions had taken place in the Soviet Union. The arrest rate among Mennonites was considerably higher than that for the general population.
  7. It is not clear if this refers to Ural Kazakhstan or to a location in the Ural mountains.
  8. The Soviets were deeply suspicious of anyone who had contacts with capitalistic America, an arch-ideological enemy.
  9. Kharkov was the second largest city in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Kiev being the first. During the Holocaust 21,685 Jews were murdered in Kharkov.
  10. Dnepropetrovsk is located just northwest of Zaporozhye.
  11. The use of euphemisms by bureaucracies of totalitarian regimes is quite common. It serves to still consciences and mask brutalities.
  12. Mrs. Braun's unceasing efforts on behalf of her imprisoned husband are most laudable.
  13. False charges of sabotage and/or espionage were used to get rid of so-called enemies of the state who could also be blamed for production shortages or bureaucratic malfeasance or incompetence.
  14. In fact, the Mennonite communities of the Zaporozhye district were under control of the Germans for two years. The German defeat at the epic battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1943 marked the turning point in the war with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the German defeat in the battle of Kursk in July-August, 1943. From then on the Red army was on the offensive.
  15. Mrs. Braun describes an unpleasant and arduous rail journey, but one that was markedly better than the deadly rail journey taken by Jews to extermination centers.
  16. Mrs. Braun is confusing Litzmannstadt (what she terms Lipmanstadt), the German name for Łódź, with L'viv (Ger. Lemberg), a large industrial and cultural center in western Ukraine. Of a Jewish community of 110,000 at the start of the war, only a handful of the Jews of L'viv remained alive at liberation.
  17. Neustadt (German for "new town") is the name for a number of towns in Germany. The northern German city of Neustadt where Mrs. Braun and her daughters were interned is now in Poland along with the nearby city of Danzig, now Gdansk.
  18. These were undoubtedly forced labor workers whom the Nazis deported to work in German war industries. They were not exterminated like Jews and Gypsies (Roma) but were conscripted against their will and lived under the trying conditions Mrs. Braun describes.
  19. Koenigsberg was then in East Prussia. Today it has been renamed Kaliningrad and is under Russian control. Though on the Baltic, it is considerably east of Danzig (Gdansk).
  20. At the time it was not known as Czechoslovakia. The Czech portions of prewar Czechoslovakia had been taken over by the Germans and renamed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Slovakia became a Nazi puppet state.
  21. Nazi collaborators, such as the Swedish engineer described by Mrs. Braun, assisted them in their nefarious undertakings. They were motivated by various factors such as attraction to Nazi ideology or material gain. Since the Swedes were neutral in World War II, Larson was indeed, as Mrs. Braun points out, a willing collaborator. At the time, he was the leader (fuehrer) of the group.
  22. The post traumatic stress exhibited by Mrs. Braun was due to her harrowing experiences both prior to and during the war. Understandably, it was not uncommon among postwar refugees.
  23. Verschleppen is the German word for "displaced."
  24. The indifference of the majority of the German population to the heinous crimes of the Nazis, especially the Holocaust, was a major enabling factor.
  25. The Mennonites and some other Protestant sects regarded the Jews as "the apple of God's eyes" due their regard for and understanding of the Hebrew Bible.
  26. Indeed, the crimes of the Holocaust were so despicable and so irrational as to be initially "beyond belief" even for many Jews.
  27. It is unclear how the baby was murdered, but the Germans used all sorts of deceptions and diabolical methods in carrying out their murderous actions.
  28. The information supplied here by Mrs. Braun reflects the straightened circumstances in not only the displaced persons but also the vast majority of the German population faced in the immediate postwar period.
  29. Canada had accepted a significant number of Mennonite refugees in the 1920s and became the preferred destination for some in the postwar period.
  30. The Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, MVD and KGB were all acronyms for the Soviet secret police.
  31. Onezhskoye Ozero is a large lake northeast of St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). Bratke (sp.?), which Mrs. Braun mentions in connection with her sister, could not be identified. [???]
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English translation : David P. Boder
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz