As the Russians invaded West Prussia near the end of World War 2, they rounded up abled bodied Germans to ‘work’ as slave labor in their Gulags. These ‘unlucky’ Germans (some three million) were shipped by train to forced labor camps in the far East. Frieda Senger, along with her friend and neighbor, Edith Ebel, were among those shipped by rail into the Russian Gulags; in her case, the trip was to prisons some 1700 miles or 2700 kms east. She, like many others, was deported from her and her husband’s lands (which were now in the hands of the Russians) and forced into slavery; she was not seen or heard from again for some 2 and one half years.
She was taken a prisoner by the Soviet Army on March 17, 1945. She had been a member of the Reichsluftschutzbund (RLB) since 1935 (see note 1 below). On July 7, 1945 she was transferred from the camp 507 (Cheljabinskaja region/ Satkinskij district/ village Bakal) to the working battalion No.1083 (Cheljabinskaja Region/City Kopejsk/ Station Potanino) of mobilized Germans. She was discharged for repatriation on July 1, 1947. Her diligence, hard work and energy made it possible for her to be one of the first Germans released from the camp. Her friend Edith Ebel was not so lucky- Edith died, along with some 90% of the internees, in the camp. Frieda’s two plus years were spent mining rock salt, cleaning the camp floors with broken glass (an activity which left her hands permanently scarred). Her diet consisted of water, cabbage and potatoes.
Late in 1947, Frieda weighing a mere 60 pounds, returned from her two plus year ordeal in the Russian gulags.
On 9 October 2011, I received an additional insight into this time from the niece of Frieda Senger, Frieda geboren Wedhorn: [Frieda Wedhorn] […] mentioned that the deportation of Frieda Senger might have been the result of a mistaken identity, that the Russians were looking for some other Senger, but they went to the wrong farm where they found Frieda Senger and they did not want to continue searching. Frieda Wedhorn remembers her Tante Frieda telling her that the Soviets probably were looking for Johanna Senger who was also called “Tante Hannchen” because she supposedly had not been nice to some Poles. Johanna was the wife of Julius Senger who must have been neighbors of Richard and Frieda Senger. The Soviets just went to the wrong house and discontinued their search because they had found a woman with the family name Senger. This Johanna Senger later died of “Fischvergiftung” (fish poisoning) while still living in Zeyersvorderkampen, Westpreußen. (Her body was interred by Richard and Julius in the former Mennonite cemetery, because the Evangelisch cemetery had been destroyed by Soviet artillary in their advance on Zeyer.)
Based upon research conducted on our behalf by the Deutsches Rotes Kruez, we finally know the names and location of the Gulags in which she was interred. Until we find better photos, Perm in the Urals provides a reasonable example.
The photo (right) is of Frieda Senger in 1951 following the marriage of her daughter Luise to Frederick Rabideau. She is wearing a coat sent to her by Leona Rabideau, mother of Frederick Rabideau.
The Reichluftschutzbund was placed under the authority of the Luftwaffe and performed mainly non-combat support roles such as ground crew training and search and rescue. The group remained relatively small and, as a paramilitary organization, was overshadowed heavily by the National Socialist Flyers Corps.
During World War II, the Reichluftschutzbund performed in air defense support manning anti-aircraft emplacements in Germany’s major cities. In 1945, the Reichluftschutzbund ceased to exist with the fall of Nazism. The Reichluftschutzbund, however, was not condemned as a criminal organization since the group was technically a branch of the Air Ministry and not a paramilitary group of the Nazi Party proper.