By the end of WW2, the destruction of Germany was nearly total. Almost every city had been leveled; the remnants of families were scattered all over Germany, Europe, North and South America. Everyone had lost family members or friends. According to Wikipedia losses in the Third Reich were:
|Country||Population 1939||Military deaths||Civilian deaths||Jewish Holocaust deaths||Total deaths||Deaths as % of 1939 population|
|Germany (within 1937 borders)||69,310,000||4,456,000||700,000 to 2,284,000||160,000||5,316,000 to 6,900,000||7.7 to 9.9|
|Ethnic Germans from other nations||7,292,000||601,000||200,000 to 886,000||801,000 to 1,487,000||11.0 to 20.4|
|Soviet citizens in the German military||800,000||215,000||215,000||26.9|
|Totals||84,045,000||5,533,000||958,700 to 3,228,700||225,000||6,716,700 to 8,986,700||8.0 to 10.7|
A Heimatsortskartei was set up in post WW2 Germany for the purpose of identifying and locating people in the catastrophic aftermath and destruction of WW2. Finding loved ones and discovering their fate was essential.
The Heimatortskartei provided hope and was the resource. Although these files may not be readily accessible in Germany because of the infamous Datenschutz -data protection laws; they are available through the LDS Church Archives.
And now a personal history of the Heimatortskartei use…
Date: 1998/05/30 20:16:45
From: W. Fred Rump [email address removed]
Many months ago I promised Wolfgang N[...] a report on what is to be found in these films [Heimatortskartei]. Below is a sample of the contents of the film available at the LDS for two particular houses in Elbing, West Prussia as of January 1945.
The following residents were found in a film obtained from the FHC in Salt Lake City entitled: Heimatsortskartei Danzig-Westpreussen. It particularly references certain streets in Elbing, Westpreussen among which is the one I was born on, namely Tannenberger Allee. Some background and recollections are included in this report which I just wrote while traveling across the US.
In my visit to Elbing in 1995 I found #97 still standing and in need of some maintenance like most other houses in the area. The old red brick which I still remember was now gone and again, like most other houses, was now stuccoed which patchy gray cement. I don’t have too many memories of my childhood or Elbing. This is rather strange to me since I lived there from my birth in December 1937 until our sudden exit in January 1945. By then I was eight years old and should really have very vivid recollections of earlier times. What exists is not fluid but rather come in bits and pieces mostly of times when I got into some kind of trouble. Other memories are confused as to whether they are from stories told by my mother, other relatives or from pictures I’ve seen. It bothers me greatly that I don’t have better recollections of my pre-1945 childhood. Time seems to have started with our flight from the Russians and everything before that is very blurred and fragmented. I suppose what I know is a mixture of things. I will never know what is real from my experiences and what came to me from other sources later in life. In any case, my youth and size influence the pictures I have formed at the time. Things simply used to be much bigger and more impressive from what I saw in 1995.
I remember the front steps. I sat on them quite often and the individual steps were much higher. I had to climb up three individual steps to get into the house. Today these same steps went down. They were also very normal in size. The street had been raised as the rubble of the destruction of the city was simply used to elevate many streets of the city and then resurfaced by the new occupants of the city after the war. The big chestnut trees were also gone and smaller trees now stood in different locations. Those chestnuts provided much fun as my sister and I created little figures out of them by joining various sizes with little sticks and carving eyes into them.
The other major change to my view of the street was the missing house next door (#95) where my Aunt and Uncle, Erna and Fritz Gro[ss] lived among other residents. Their children, Waltraut (Traute)+ and Erwin, today live in Eschweiler near Aachen. I suppose that house was bombed or burned and never restored. We lived right across from a railroad freight yard and I expect that quite a bit of fighting was going on there along with bombing of the railroad. There used to be a path, the width of a small driveway, which permitted access to the rear of both properties. It was in back of #95 where our huge garden was located. How small it had gotten.
The garden is where the Stachelbeeren (gooseberries) grew. There were fruit trees back there and many delicious items could be retrieved in the summertime. I had always dreamed of this vast garden of my childhood and here in 1995 it was but a small patch of nothingness. It is possible that a couple trees still standing dated to pre-1945 but they looked nothing like the large trees of delicious magic which I thought had stood there. The garden was a big, big disappointment to me. What did they do to my garden?
Turning to the rear of #97 there was another set of steps there. This time they still went up just as I remember them. My grandfather’s work shed was still there too but it used to be so neat and always seemed to be freshly painted. There was no evidence of any paint ever having touched it left. Back to the front of the house I look up to what used to reach to the sky. Three stories of windows had shrunk to just a normal house. An old lady with one gold tooth looks out the bottom floor window and smiles. What a view!
It is difficult talking to her but I suppose she knew why we were there. Most people know that the Germans who come to visit used to call this home. The current residents are almost embarrassed at the set of circumstances but are friendly and open to the situation. We get a drift of complaints from our one- tooth lady. Nothing is ever fixed in the house. It belongs to the city now. We try to get away from her as communications is not going well. I walk down the front steps into what is the Treppengang (stair entrance to the various apartments).The tiled floor is still the same. That seems odd to me. I rush up the steps just to see if the door to our place is where I thought it was. It’s still the same. I try to take a picture but the camera does not want to flash in the dark and I’m too nervous to fix the problem. I have to leave and go away.
I shoot some outside pictures and promise myself to reconnoiter the railroad on the other side. That’s where the near empty drum of tar used to be were I just had to climb in to see what was there. One of those eventful happenings a boy tends to never forget. Of course there are many other recollections mostly of the ‘getting into trouble’ kind but these will be written up in a section of my growing up.
My mother inherited both properties from her father upon his death. My parents paid the other children their appropriate shares as my grandfather had wanted. My parents were deeply hurt when after the war some of my mom’s sisters had casually forgotten these payoffs and now claimed equal shares of the little money my parents received from the German government under the term: Lastenausgleich. The idea was to provide a small amount to start anew and also to relinquish what was now in Polish hands. Luckily the legal papers were found and the entire matter was cleared up but the hurt remained. I had often wondered as to who all the people were who lived in our houses. My parents often spoke of such and such and I never paid too much attention then.
From a friend I met on the internet (Wolfgang N[...]) I found out that the LDS has films of the Heimatortskartei which were collected by the various refugee groups in order to find lost relatives. I ordered these films back in November of 1997 and did not get to see them until May of 1998. I do not know if the list includes everyone or is just a listing of those who had an inquiry posted about someone.
In any case, for the sake of history here are the listed residents of #95 and #97 Tannenberger Allee. We start with what was found in house number sequence for #95:
- Ausgestellt (submitted) 3.4.53, (by) Erna Gross, nee Robiller; born 4.3.04 in Elbing, nach (went to) Finow/Mark (Brandenburg), Kastanienallee 23; dann (then) Emden, Auricher Strasse 23, dann Eschweiler/Kr Aachen, Kreichsburg 16. Sucht (is looking for) Gross, Fritz, 24.3.05, Elbing, Maschinenschlosser bei Schichau. +31.12.45 ?
- Ausgestellt 1.6.56, Erwin Gross, 9.11.31 Elbing, dann Ludwigshafen-Friedenheim, Hindenburg Str 2, Suchdienst fuer Fritz Gross am 19.3.45 von Polen verschleppt.
- Waltraut Gross 15.1.30 Elbing, Angestellte, Eschweiler Eisenbahn Str 16, Phoenix Str 16
- 9.5.57 Gustav Fischer, 7.7.91 in Falkhorst, Pr. Holland, dann Barchel/Bremerfoerde; Flucht am 23.1.45
- Bertha Fischer nee Rossmann 9.11.90 Siebenhufen, Pr. Holland [Frau von Gustav?]
- Edith Eichler nee Fischer 30.12.18 Guhrenwalde, Kr Pr. Holland, Flucht 23.1.45 dann Barchel/Bremerfoerde [Tochter der obigen?]
- Eva Bindig, 19.9.25 Elbing, (Kaufmann) nach Russland verschleppt 12.3.45 sucht Frieda Pfal nee Bindig 10.9.12 Elbing wohnte, 1.9.39 Saarlanderweg 35
- Neuhoff, Hans 18.5.15 Mohrungen (kath), Lobberich, Ostdeutscher Weg 8Neuhoff, Hedwig, nee Wedtke (Schneider) 24.10.17 Neukirch-Hoehe
- Neumann, Maria nee Laur, 23.6.14 Melkerin, Wiesbaden-Bergheim, Hauptstr 3 (1960) Flucht 24.1.45; Kinder: Hans Juergen 8.11.38 Elbing, Erika 26.2.42 Elbing; Braunsfeld, Friedrich Schmidt Str 50, Oberaussern, Keusterstr. 23
- Stiever, Elisabeth nee Gottschalk 16.6.79 Succase, Helzerheide
- Thimm, Aloysius 9.3.10 Elbing (kath), Postfacharbeiter, Postschaffner, nach Hamburg?, 20.6.46? Frau: Thimm, Ella nee Aust 4.12.12 Lauenburg,Elbe; verheiratet 25.3.30, Flucht 1.7.45, verstorben im Lager /4 Kopeisk Juni ’45; Kind: Karin 23.4.41
- Winkler, Paul 20.7.94 (Klempner) Unna/Westf, Kl. Burg Str 3 Gertude, nee Marx 12.9.97 Elbing
- Ausgestellt 4.8.55 unter #95/97 Gemeldet von 99526 DRK W. Gro( (Tannenbergerstr 95)
- Ehefrau Elisabeth geborene Robiller 17.9.08 Elbing Kinder: Anneliese 17.8.33 verh. Merder Wolfgang 1.12.39 [wrong birth year s/b '37]Werl, Soest, Baeckerstr
- Heinz Borowski 16.9.29 Elbing (Dreher) Duisburg, Stauerstr 58 (Kriegsgefangener ’44 bis 18.2.48)Anna, nee Gottschalk Sachsenhausen, Kr Oranienburg, Thaelmannstr 3
- Hredina, Martha, nee Makowski 6.12.21 Erkenfoerde, Holstein, Prinzenstr 45
- Kuelper, Anna, nee Kneff 24.7.84 Gr. Warzmierz Hammeln-Pyrmont, Galgenberg 35Ehemann: Willi 28.6.97 Marienburg Kinder: Werner 6.10.31 Elbing Waltraut 10.1.24 Elbing
- Makowski, Johanna 15.4.95 Eckernfoerde/Holstein, Prinzenstr 45 Unbekannt verzogen
- Salome, Alfred 1.5.18 Elbing 1947-56 Wismar, Mecklenburg Amoneburg, Kr. Marburg, Hessen
- Saloma, Gustrav 29.1.92 +13.8.61 [Z,F]eyer, Kr ElbingEmma, nee Liedtke 17.1.95 Elbing
- Sommer, Anna, nee Borowski 14.6.98 Frauenburg