As I mentioned yesterday, June 17 is the anniversary of my wife Dymphna’s death. Until today, when the translation below arrived in my inbox, I wasn’t aware of any other significant event associated with that date. Now I know that yesterday was the sixty-eighth anniversary of the popular uprising against the communists and the Soviets in the DDR.
Many thanks to Hellequin GB for translating this article from Junge Freiheit:
June 17, 1953: “The sheer hatred of the communists”
Interview June 17, 2021
by Moritz Schwarz
At the end of the war Walther Frielitz fled from Silesia to Thuringia as a child, where he witnessed the popular uprising against SED [Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, Socialist Unity Party] rule on June 17 in 1953 . Today nobody wants to hear the contemporary witnesses. But he fights against oblivion.
Mr. Frielitz, you saw the end of the war….
Walther Frielitz: Yes — I didn’t catch a bullet until June 17, 1953 in Thuringia, even though I didn’t come from there.
Frielitz: My grandfather was a shoe manufacturer in Waldenburg near Breslau. As a trained businessman, my father and my uncle took over the company with around eighty employees. But both were drafted in 1944 — and stayed in the war. When the Red Army approached in 1945, my grandfather decided: “There is a hospital train going west and you are going with us! I was able to get tickets for you guys!” I was nine and it was an enormous sight. The train consisted of many, many cars and was pulled by two locomotives! Wounded, Red Cross personnel and only refugee families with children were allowed to go with them.
So you could escape relatively “comfortably”?
Frielitz: Yes, but when we crossed our feet while we waited, I was amazed: What is there in a row under blankets? — They were dead soldiers! Each time the wounded were unloaded who had not survived the rigors of the transport or who had succumbed to their wounds. In the rush they were simply placed on the platform and the journey continued — just get away from the Russians! We were unloaded near Gera, namely in Weida in Thuringia. And so we were spared from being overrun by the Russians. Because Thuringia was conquered by the Americans and only later handed over to the Russians in exchange for West Berlin.
“Those were terrible pictures”
Wasn’t that a shock then?
Frielitz: It was bad that the Russians took the animals out of people’s stables. The Americans didn’t do that. Which does not mean that they did not steal: The refugees were distributed in Weida and we were quartered in a manor in nearby Mosen, the owner of which had fled to the west. When the Americans came, they just took everything there that was valuable. Then when they evacuated Thuringia, of all people they warned us about the “thieving Russians”. But rightly so, because they now stole from the manor what was not valuable enough to the Americans, i.e. actually everything that was not nailed down.
The Russian soldiers were also dangerous, especially to the women. In any case, the Americans were well cared for by their army, even for us children sometimes something came our way. The Russians, on the other hand, had to rob or starve. They were very, very poor people anyway. We witnessed how they treated their own soldiers: inhuman, absolutely inhuman! If someone did not toe the line or perhaps had stolen, they would be ruthlessly beaten! I thought: My God, they’re killing their own people! Well, they beat them half to death and then they left the poor devils, covered in blood, unconscious on the street. Those were terrible pictures.
You were a middle-class merchant family. Weren’t you afraid of persecution by the Russians and, after the DDR [Deutsche Demokratische Republik, German Democratic Republic] was founded in 1949, by the SED?
Frielitz: Oh, we had lost everything, our house, the factory, everything was gone. We didn’t even think about politics, we were concerned with survival! My mother was happy when she saw her four children go to school again. When I came home from trade school one day sometime later, on June 17, 1953, it was like wildfire: “Did you hear? Strike in Berlin! And it’s starting in Gera, too! We have to go there!” A couple of drivers came with their trucks ready to support the strikes and to carry all who wanted to take part to Gera.
But you said you were apolitical.
Frielitz: We all were. Capitalism, communism — most of them didn’t understand what it was. But everyone had learned by now that one had to be afraid of communism — and what kind of people they were!
“Files flew out of the windows and the SED people fled”
Frielitz: The SED had a lot of dodgy people — all of whom could not be trusted, who cheated others, who had no morals. The communists gave them advantage and influence if they participated. That was how the bottom came up — dissolute guys pestering people. And if you opposed it, you risked [being sent to the] camp!
So you jumped on a truck?