Notes on my life – Wend Ewest
Drafted after “The Biography of the Ewest family” written by my sister, Frieda Hilgendorff.
Our parents were: Paul EWEST, born on 23.09.1862 in Groß-Behnitz, Westhavelland county/the Margraviate of Brandenburg and Margarete Lambeck, born on 08.09.1863 in Gurske (Górsk) near Thorn (Toruń)/West Prussia, vicarage. They got married in 1889, my father took over the administration of the estate in Zackenzin (Ciekocino), Lauenburg (Lębork) county/Pomerania, which belonged to Mr. von Braunschweig. My sisters were born there: Frieda, Erna and Margarete (called Dete). Around the year 1896 my father bought the estate in Schönehr (Szczenurze) in the Lauenburg county, were the fourth daughter, Ilse (v. Wittke), was born, and then four sons: Heinz-Hermann 1899, Hans-Harald 1900, me – Wend 6.03.1902 and Paul-Werner 1903. Later, my father’s parents also lived in Schönehr. He took them with him. When my father sold Schönehr, my grandparents moved to a Baltic resort Leba (Łeba), where they died. They are buried on a small, private cemetery in the park in Zackenzin. I have very little memories from Schönehr, because in 1905 my father bought Zackenzin from Mr. von Braunschweig, after selling Schönehr. Old Braunschweig offered the property at a fairly low price, I think he had enough, he said: “You know the estate well and I’m sure you’ll manage”. As soon as we moved to Zackenzin, the residential building burnt down. My parents first lived in temporary quarters in the stable. Later, my father bought the estate in Bychow (Bychowo), approx. 4000 morgens, where we, the boys, moved in after a while. At that time my sisters were in Gdańsk (Danzig), in a boarding school. Before the three of us came to Bychow (my eldest brother, Heinz-Hermann, died as a small child in Schönehr), we lived with the Wittke family in Prebendow (Przebędowo) – an estate next to Bychow. Together with uncle Curt’s younger brother, Herbert, we were always getting into mischief. Once we tied a mouse trap to the dog’s tail and he ran up and down the stairs tapping the trap. Another time, uncle Curt’s and Herbert’s father took us, little rascals, to his cabinet where he took out a bottle of vodka and said: “Boys, I will give you a schnapps now”. Herbert was our age, he was born in 1900, and was a true incarnation of evil – he caused mischief all day long and brought his mother and an old aunt, Gustchen, to despair. Then the three of us went to Bychow, where we lived for several years until my father built a new residential building in Zackenzin. The most beautiful childhood memories I have are from Bychow. We enjoyed the freedom that only a child living in the countryside can enjoy. My mom took care of our education and every afternoon a teacher from the neighboring village, Rensius, visited us. We then sat by the window and looked at him, and when the weather was bad, we were of course glad, that he did not come. Unfortunately, our freedom did not last too long, and all three of us went to Gdansk, where we joined the Königliche Gymnasium (Royal Grammar School) where we attended pre-school classes, and came home only for the holidays.
In Gdansk we first lived with aunt “Hans” (Hanna Nissen). She was one out of many of my mother’s sisters, a widow and the mother of the great singer Hans-Hermann Nissen. I always had a lot in common with uncle Hans, all my life, because we grew up together, even though he was a few years older than us. He went to the same grammar school and he could perfectly mimic the teachers, which obviously made them very angry. For example, they used to say: “If you don’t stop aping the way I speak, Nissen, you little rascal, I’ll write a note to your parents about your behavior”. Or: “Shut up when I’m talking to you. Me and this wooden block will teach you some respect!”. Uncle Hans built a large birds’ cage 1m x 1m and held around 20 forest birds. He built kites with us and we flew them together. At that time he was always with us. Then, after graduation, he entered the profession of a merchant, and later went to Berlin (his mother went to Berlin with him) to train his voice. We went to live with the Scheibel family, Trojangasse (Seredyńskiego) 8. We spent the best times of our boarding school there, because at aunt Hans’s it was always a bit strange. She was always short of money, whereas at Ms. Scheibel’s we had the best care. For example, she sewed sailor clothes for us, very popular at that time, and to the great joy of my mother even replaced them when the old ones wore off. She cooked and took care of us – and did a great job. Even today I remember her roast pork with crust and yeast dumplings. My mother often came to Gdańsk and enquired at the school how we were doing. She went to the director and he called on individual teachers. At Ms. Scheibel’s we also suspended bird cages over the beds. And when my mother came to Gdansk, we looked for new birds in the pet shop and dragged her there, so she would buy these birds for us. My father rented a garden for us. He sent a garden house from Zackenzin, which was built by our wheelwright. And so we – rural kids – had our own place to play in. We could also keep rabbits and sell the skins. I have great memories from Gdańsk. We learned to swim at the military swimming pool, we visited the sailors on the ship and were very proud when they sold us old naval ties. Unfortunately, Mr. Scheibel died a few years later and his wife no longer wanted to run a boarding school for children. During our school years we came home for the holidays. We also had ponies in Zackenzin. Once, my brother, Paul, painted his pony with pitch and turned it into a zebra. It took a lot of effort to restore it to its original state. After Mrs. Scheibel we went to live with our sister, Ilse, who lived in Gdańsk. She was married to Lieutenant Sigurd Eschenbach, who later died during the war (she then married uncle Curt von Wittke). But we didn’t feel well with Ilse, she always had something on her head and hardly cooked. So we moved to live with our oldest sister Friede, who also got married in Gdańsk. There we slept with her eldest son Jochen, who was 3-4 years old. At that time is was just Paul and I who lived in Gdańsk. Hans-Harald went to the School of Agriculture in Schiefelbein / Pomerania. Paul and I, we were confirmed in the beautiful church of St. Mary by pastor Daniel. The pastor lived near us on Hildegardstraße in Wilmersdorf, but unfortunately, I did not know about it. I found out only later from his obituary, which was a shame as I would love to visit him, and he would probably be happy to see his former confirmation pupil from Gdańsk after all these years. My sister, Erna, died of pneumonia as a young girl, even before the war – when my sisters lived in boarding school in Gdańsk.
And now I would like to say something about the property in Zackenzin. When the big house was ready to live in, my parents moved there and we lived there when we were at home. The weddings of my three sisters were held in the house, Frieda was the first to get married in 1911. My mother had a lot of sisters. Once my father even said that he did not know how many sisters his wife had. When he got married, the sisters started to show up, and those who earlier lost their husbands used my father’s support. That’s why we, the boys, were sent to aunt Hans in Gdańsk. When the house in Zackenzin was being built, one of my father’s brothers lived there with him and helped him run the farm. And since he was not married, one of my mother’s sisters, Aunt Martha and her daughter Resi, came to live with him to run the house. So we can say that Resi actually grew up in Zackenzin and until her wedding day spent a lot of time with us, which to this day she remembers very well. There were also other “aunts” – my mother’s sisters – aunt Ronchen (Veronika) and aunt Trusch (Theresa), both not married. Ronchen was a teacher and Trusch was a great cook and prepared the most beautiful, refined dishes for all my sisters’ weddings and other occasions. On one of those occasions she prepared a tree cake – then it baked o open fire. You had to turn it all the time and after each turn pour it with thick dough (with 60 eggs!), so it looked like a tree with rings of annual growth. Then she fainted from the heat – they say she just said “turn it, turn it, do not stop,” and then fell. The aunts had a house in the Baltic resort of Łeba, which took in tourists. Holidaymakers came every year because aunt Trusch was such a great cook. My mother also had a house there, a villa, as it was called, where we, the boys, were often sent for our summer vacation. Sea water was brought in a water cart drawn by ponies, which was then heated in the bath furnace and we bathed in the water. We also rode our ponies on the beach, which made the holidaymakers angry because obviously the ponies polluted the beach. Guests often visited my parents at their house in Zackenzin, including four painters: Saßnick, Genutat, Götze and Wohlgemut. They often stayed with us for weeks and we had a lot of really good paintings. Later, I had all those paintings in Gliegig [probably Glienig – translator’s note]. A large painting of St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk was in an exhibition in Paris in 1911, and my mother bought it later in Gdańsk. And one of the paintings, painted by Wohlgemut in the park with the oak of peace, is now in Paul-Heinrich’s collection. We also had guests during hunting trips, we often visited our neighbors. In the winter we organized hunting on horseback and battue hunting, and after some time we, the boys, could help with the battue. Uncle Hans Nissen often visited us – as often as he could – he loved my parents, especially my father. In terms of landscape, Zackenzin was a very beautiful property. Down in the valley was the stream, from which the property takes its name. There, under the stones (just like in a mountain stream), and tree roots were crayfish and in the stream there was trout, which we caught and ate. There was a beautiful forest, and an appropriate proportion of fields, meadows and fenced paddocks, as well as a distillery, as in all the estates in Pomerania and Brandenburg. Often the fields and meadows were far away, so they were difficult to farm. The Bychow estate was perfect in terms of landscape – flat as a table. But my father, who was in the neighboring Zackenzin, was not able to run the farm, so later he sold it. My parents, especially my mother, loved Zackenzin. From the tower we could see the Baltic Sea! We drove to the sea mainly on Sunday afternoons by cart and the trip lasted a good hour. Apart from the stable (which my father had built anew), the property included a barn, a distillery, a wheelwright’s workshop, a smithy and living quarters for laborers. Further on, in the direction of the village there were a few farms and a church. Every Sunday we drove to the service and our large family took up the entire bench. Later, when I was in Berlin on Brudhsalerstr, our new house owner, Mr. Schmöckel, once came to us and said: You are the spitting image of your father, and he remembered my parents well, especially my mother. He said that it was an honor for him that Mr. Ewest’s son was his tenant. When we asked how he knew me, he said that he had an uncle in the village, in one of the farmhouses, where he used to spend wonderful holidays, and he lived in Stolp (Slupsk). He spoke about my parents with a great deal of respect. So the memory of my parents brought us blessings.
During World War I, my father had 400 Russian prisoners of war whom he used to farm the marshy meadows and similar areas. These people lived in the so-called “working barracks” – a big house, where in the time of peace during the potato harvest Polish migratory workers, who did piece work on a regular basis, lived along with their cook. Father also found a place where there were deposits of lignite. But the operation would not pay off, as it was officially stated. For many years, however, we extracted peat, which was used in the distillery. The officers from the prisoners’ unit lived in our house, ate with us at the same table and felt very much at home. My mother gave one of the officers, who as a civilian was a doctor, a German dictionary and he quickly learned German. He always said: “I will never forget babushka as long as I live”. The house had a tall hall, where we always put up the Christmas tree for Christmas. The teacher would come over from the school with the children and they sang Christmas carols, and then all the children got gifts.
When I left school, in which I had a one-year service, first I stayed at home for half a year and learned farming with my father, and on 01.04.1920, I was accepted as a student with Mr. von Lettow Vorbeck in Hoffeld (Dargomyśl), Regenwald (Resko)county. On 04.01.1921 I moved to another farm, to Mr. Schulz, a cavalry captain, in Wendisch-Buckow (Bukowo), Schlawe (Sławno)county. Both estates had distilleries, and in Hoffeld there was also a cereal factory. In order to improve my skills in cattle breeding, on 04.01.1922 I went for half a year to East Prussia, to Mr. Rosenow, counsellor in the state property of Brandenburg, Heiligenbeil (Mamonowo)county. In those times it was hard for young people to find a place where we could practice farming and actually learn anything. The sons and sons-in-law returned to the estates from the war and were employed as apprentices and inspectors (agricultural officials). There were three of us and we all wanted to work in farming. It was even harder to get a position of junior agricultural clerk. For this reason, my father leased the property of Kaffzig (Kawcza), Rummelsburg (Miastko) county, where my oldest brother, Hans-Harald, first went. My brother Paul-Werner (called Paul or Pauli) and I went to Göttingen to study agriculture. I could only stay for two semesters, as Hans-Harald unexpectedly died in a train accident on the way to Kaffzig. So I had to go to Kaffzig, where I stayed from 01.04.1923 to 01.01.1926 and farmed on the leased property. The buildings and stables were quite neglected and ruined and my mother sued the owner for years, because under the terms of the lease, the owner was responsible for the maintenance of the buildings in good condition. Finally, the court granted her right and she won the case. Then the lease expired and I returned to Zackenzin on 01.01.1926. I had to run the entire farm and help my mother, as my father was seriously ill (cancer) and suffering. He went through surgery, had an artificial anus implanted, and was no longer able to take care of the estate. Besides, he suffered from very painful trigeminal neuralgia, which was treated with injections of alcohol (in those times the ailment was not operated), and because of which he lost one eye. After that he always had a glass eye. My brother Paul emigrated in 1926 to South-West Africa [today Namibia – translator’s note] to become a farmer and – after a difficult start – became quite successful. He did not see any opportunities to succeed in agriculture here. When our father started, also as a young man without any funds, he could always count on cheap loans with low interest rates. In this way he managed to purchase three estates: Schönehr, Zackenzin and Bychow and the price of land was low and stable. The years after World War I were the heaviest for agriculture. The war was lost, the economy ruined, the living conditions and habits changed completely. First inflation, then deflation. And then the global economic crisis. The lowest fixed prices for fruits, high interest rates. High prices for fertilizers and seed. We paid off several smaller mortgages, we took one from the RVA (Reich Insurance, today BFA) and the mortgage was fully compatible with the capabilities of the property with the initial interest rate. But suddenly the interest rates jumped and RVA wanted 1.2% per day! That meant more than 180% per year. And we did not manage. In those years, the so-called “chivalry” appeared, which converted debts and employed a good administrator in the estates which were in trouble. However, this was practiced only in the Margraviate of Brandenburg and not Pomerania. My mother turned for help to the General Directorate of Szczecin, whose director, Mr. Fließbach-Kurow was our neighbor, and which converted debts on a small scale. And they sent a woman who allegedly had experience in salesmanship. My parents had to leave the property for several months, and I stayed and run the farm with this woman. She did not know anything about farming and did not help us whatsoever, so we were glad when we got rid of her. In these hard times smaller and bigger estates and farms everywhere, not only in Pomerania, went bankrupt. That’s why Hitler created the so-called “Erbhof” [inherited farms]with the surface area up to 400 morgens, which could not be sold or auctioned off. The bad times lasted until 1932. Then RVA established an administrative receiver in Zackenzin and I got the position. They assumed that I was not responsible for the bad financial condition and I knew how to run a farm. In 1933 Zackenzin was auctioned off. My mother died suddenly on 19.06.1932 of embolism. So she was spared the loss of Zackenzin, to which she gave all her heart and for which she fought for many years, she did not have to go through it. That would have broken her heart. Fortunately, she also did not live to see the death of my sister Ilse (v. Wittke), who in 1934, at the age of 34 and being in good health, after only a few days of suffering died from diphtheria of the larynx (she choked).
Zackenzin was bought at auction by the county veterinarian, Dr. Kroops, who did well during the war. At the time, steady shipments of cattle and swine were transported from East Prussia to the Reich, and the border crossing with the Polish corridor was located in the Lauenburg county. Kroops, as the official veterinarian, had to inspect the animals to see whether they were healthy. In practice, he only looked into the wagons which arrived sealed and put a stamp that all the cattle was healthy. He got one DM for a pig! And respectively more for a piece of cattle. And now, try to imagine how many pigs can be placed in one car. But Zackenzin did not bring him happiness. His wife did not want to move there for the world (he lived in Lauenburg) and finally took her life in Lake Łebsko. Two of his sons went hunting in Zackenzin, planted themselves on the opposite ends of the meadow waiting for prey and shot each other. One was killed and the other one died during the Second World War, and he was left with one son, the third one, who was paralyzed from childhood and was in a wheelchair.
My father moved to aunt Dete to Bad-Polzin (Połczyn), where her husband, Dr. Werner Duwe (aunt Hanni’s brother) was the head of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. I went to Paul to South-West Africa with the intention of staying. But at that time there was nothing interesting, cheap to buy, the good times for immigration were over. And to be honest, I did not like the dry country very much – contrary to Paul, who fell in love with it from the very first day. After a few weeks uncle Paul sent me in a horse wagon across the country, so that I could see everything. In July 1936 I came back to sell the house inherited from my mother, Villa Margarete in Łeba, and I was planning to return to South-West Africa. That’s why I left all my things, my hunting weapons, etc. with Paul. Then, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he sent it all back to me, together with the hunting weapon which I gave him. Because when I came here, Hitler had introduced a new law on defense and I wasn’t able to leave. I took various positions in administration and in the fall of 1936 I met my future wife. We got engaged on 16.05.1937 and were married on 2.11.1938 in Frankfurt an der Oder, in a beautiful old St. Mary’s Church, where my wife was baptized and later confirmed. I was still looking for something of my own. It was very difficult to find anything sensible. If something was available, it was neglected or had poor soil and it was unprofitable. And we didn’t have too much money. And so, at the beginning of April 1938 we found and acquired Glienig near Dahme/Marchia, Jüterbog-Luckenwalde county. It was a property parceled out of a larger estate after the first world war, with a closed distillery, which hadn’t been properly managed for years. It was passed from hand to hand, and everyone just wanted to grab something for themselves. The distillery was sold, as well as the good fields and a forest, and the previous owners had lived far beyond their means, holding saddle horses, etc. But the buildings were first class and the previous owner completely refurbished the residential building, and even installed central heating.
The Glienig property had an area of 550 morgens, including 200 morgens of very good forest, so with good management something could be done with it. And it wasn’t expensive, because there were hardly any animals kept for farming purposes, and only dead stock in a pretty bad shape (machinery, ploughs, etc.). The estate was situated approx. 130 km to the south of Berlin and, as in all villages in Flämming, the meadows were not included in the property. They had to be leased in Baruth from duke Solms, who had 80 000 morgens of meadows in the Valley of Ursprungstal. When it was time for haymaking and we went to Baruth, we could see an infinite string of carts with hay. I run the farm economically and I managed to push things forward. First, I closed all three gates, because the local peasants used to pass through the courtyard, rather than steer clear of it, catch everything that fell into their hands of and take off with it! Then I replaced the broken ploughs, etc. with new, modern ones from the equipment dealer at Dahme. Then, for the first time, I acquired stock: 10 young cows with calf and 6 horses. A farmer needs to know how to trade from the earliest years, so I forced my price with a sly horse dealer. He then said that “he had done business many times before, but never like that”. He was left with one old cow and a lousy old horse. To bring income, I immediately signed a contract with a dairy in Dahme and took over the transport of milk in six municipalities. After a year, still before the war, I bought a Normag-Diesel tractor, which was used to transport milk in the morning, and in the afternoon it was used for field work. After a year I managed to get a permit to “cultivate potatoes for reproduction”. Seed potatoes always bring more money than industrial potatoes or edible potatoes. I didn’t have to buy any equipment, because I had enough furniture from my parents, which was made partly at my uncle Curt’s in Prebendow, and partly in the forwarding agency in Lauenburg. We brought it and plenty of linen, curtains, etc., some of which your mum uses to this day. We didn’t have bedroom furniture. But we didn’t want to buy new things. I had a bed which belonged to my mother and your mum from her father. Two different bedside tables and two different cabinets. But we didn’t mind. We invested all the money in the farm and all the money that was to be your mum’s dowry to buy necessary living and dead stock (machinery, cattle, etc.). And of course no “saddle horses” and no administrator. And I had my little car –a master class DKW. At home your mom had one girl to help her – a peasant’s daughter – then two “Pflichtjahrmädchen” [in the Third Reich, girls obligatory working in the household to learn how to run a house – translator’s note], and at the end a very reliable and honest Polish girl. From the beginning I made efforts to restart the distillery, and then obtain and purchase a new permit to operate it. This was the most difficult part, and finally, as the property was too small to have its own right to the distillery (distillery machinery had too much power) – I was granted a permit for a cooperative distillery. Together with the neighboring property and several peasants from Glienig, we managed to bring the distillery back to life. However, it was not easy to convince the farmers how valuable the distillery was. This is how it is done: the potatoes are washed, barley malt is made. Then it is all cooked, simmered. Sugar is made from potato starch and malt, alcohol is made from the sugar through fermentation, then the alcohol is distilled. What we get is almost a 100% spirit and, above all, the residue from potatoes and malt in the form of “Schlempe”- a dense, sweet potato soup, which was fed to the animals and which is very nutritious. During the winter you have cheap feed, all you need is just a bit of chaff and hay, and you also get money from the spirit. What’s more, you can use potatoes which grow on the fields nearby, you don’t have to drive for hours to the train station to load the goods, because the nearest train station was 20 km away. The distillery equipment was in a very good condition, the entire distillery – a decent building, with a house for the distiller – was even then worth 100 000 DM (which was not compensated later with Government compensation after the war). The distiller lived in the village and married into a small business. It could not be better, and so we made spirits, until the last winter of the war. Which was very fortunate, because when the Russians came, they expected full barrels, and thank God everything was empty, and the barrels were dry! Otherwise, it would have been much worse. Generally, the distillery only worked in the winter. The property consisted of a residential building, big, massive farm buildings with a pig sty, barn, a stable and a launderette. Then two large barns, two residential buildings for workers, a baking oven and the distillery, an electric pump for water supply – previously a windmill- a large courtyard, a vegetable and fruit garden. We also had three beehives. On the ground floor of the house there were 8 large rooms, a large kitchen, a pantry, a bathroom, toilet, and upstairs 4 smaller rooms and a loft. At the top of the house there was a clock tower with the clock mechanism on the ground. The clock had to be wound every week, striking at full hours and every quarter of an hour and it was heard as far as the church tower clock (the Church was located in the neighboring village, and the pastor was pastor Thiel, who baptized all three of you). Behind the fence was a former “Castle” with adjoining buildings and we were always glad that the old hovel was not our property together with the park. It belonged to a pawn shop owner in Berlin (Mr. Michel), a nice guy. He also leased the right to hunt that is the opportunity to exercise the right to hunt. However, in 1942 the lease expired and I took it over. I shot a lot of wild boars in Glienig, because there were mainly boars. The castle was sold after the division after the first world war. Meanwhile, two former families of workers came back to me, when they found out that I had built a decent farm. Also the peasants, mainly from the small farms, quickly noticed, who was running the farm now and that they will not be able to take everything with them, but they told me the truth and we always got along well. Only the so-called “Mayor,” as the village leader was called in the days of Hitler, and the leader of the local peasants, both a 100% party comrades and small-holders, made problems during all those years and got on our nerves. Ultimately, however, they couldn’t do anything to me. Everything was going well, when after 1 ½ years – the war broke out on 1 September 1939! I was immediately drafted, but also considered the only breadwinner, although I was able to serve in the war. And that didn’t change throughout the entire war. I was more needed in the house to provide people with food, rather than as a soldier on the front. However, all my horses were immediately confiscated. I quickly bought a wood gas tractor, because they appeared at that time, and then 4 draught oxen. The car was left as an “assistant delivery vehicle”, which had a monthly allotment of 30 liters of gasoline to the end of 1942. Then this privilege was abolished and I bought two so called “doppelponies” (a little larger than ponies – more like small horses) to be able to move around. To go to Dahme, Jüterbog (and Luckenwalde to the district authorities) – both towns were about 40 km away from us. All my people were drafted into the army. For the potato harvest, which began shortly after the outbreak of the war, they sent me students, factory workers and shop assistants from Berlin! Terrible people. There was a rural pond on our property, available to the public, where geese and ducks used to splash around. Of course, these “harvest helpers” demanded roast geese – preferably every day – and did not believe the birds did not belong only to us. I was saved by the arrival of Polish prisoners of war after the campaign in Poland – very good people and excellent farm workers. Because the distillery was not working yet, and the distiller lived in the village, they were lodged in the distiller’s house. Your mother had to cook for them and bake bread. The following spring, in 1940, the Poles were released, that is, they were left as civilian workers in the farms nearby, and I got a group of French prisoners of war. At first I was very skeptical about how the French will manage as farm laborers. But they were just as good as the Poles, and soon even better, mainly because of their way of thinking! They were all farmers from Brittany. I never had such good, reliable people ever again. They enjoyed complete freedom, especially after two years when the guards were called off (2 German soldiers) and I was appointed the auxiliary guardian. Every day one of them, Joly, took the milk to dairies in Dahme on a tractor with a trailer on rubber wheels. We got him a fur coat, because the winters were very cold. The French (12 men) also lived in the distiller’s house and had their own chef. When it came to food, your mum was angry only with the guards, because one wanted homemade food and the other one wanted a roast from the inn every day. We were happy when they were finally called off duty. As for the French, I asked for an additional blacksmith and wheelwright at the Luckenwalde Stalag, as I had a smithy and wheelwright’s workshop on the estate. Thanks to these two, I managed to bring everything to order, and if it wasn’t for them, I would have to spend a lot of money on artisans from neighboring villages. There was a weighbridge on the property, which the wheelwright, along with other French workers, repaired, so once again I could weigh things myself. The wheelwright was very talented, once he carved a beautiful deer for us. And for you, two little boys, PH. and Bua, he made two wooden horses and two small trucks, where the horses could be harnessed. He repaired the cart and the hay wagon, he made new tracks for the box, new wheels – in fact, he made a brand new cart. I had enough wood in the forest. He made new doors in the big stable. I ordered the French to take off the wind rose from the broken wind turbine, because it was quite rusty and creaked loudly. I also asked them to dig out the water pipe leading to the house and burry it deeper. The water supply system was located only half a meter below ground level, and the winters in Fläming were always very cold and snowy and in the first two years it regularly froze. Besides, I had a selected breeding bull and a selected breeding boar and I got money from the covering when the peasants came to cover their animals. My father, as long as he lived (up to 30.01.1942), came to us a few times a year, stayed for a few months and was happy to see how the devastated property changed. With the help of the French I could bring everything to order and make a lot of improvements. At that time I only had two German families, only women and children, but also some foreign families who lived in the living quarters, which we could fully equip with all the necessary furniture, because I had enough of it from Zackenzin. I had a very reliable Pole in the stable, a Russian family, two Russian women, mother and daughter, one family from the Ukraine, a Polish woman with a 14-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old girl. The little one used to play with you children, and the older one – Irene – helped in the house until recently. The distillery, as a cooperative, was subject to the association of Raiffeisen Verband, and several times a year they sent over an inspector, who lived with us for a few days and did the tax return. When he was drafted to the army, we took his wife and two children, to protect them from air raids. We prepared two rooms upstairs for them and built a separate kitchen. I rented out the hayloft, which was above all the stables and barns – very solid – and which I did not use in all is capacity, to the Berliners so they had a place to store their furniture, and the Todt Organisation. When defeat came in 1945, Glienig was in an excellent condition. People used to say that with me “ even a Thaler would have two sides.” I also had the best, the most modern agricultural machinery and a new threshing machine. We had everything we needed. At the end of the war aunt Lotte, mother’s relative, an old teacher, came to us from Silesia – as a refugee, besides, grandmother was always with us, so our house was always full of people. At the end of the war I was drafted into the Volkssturm. That’s why we didn’t leave in a timely manner, like we had planned, and on 20 April 1945, the Russians swept through us. One could write volumes about what happened then. Two days earlier, your mother and I buried a wooden box in the forest with my good hunting weapons, lined with tar inside and outside to protect it against moisture. It’s probably there to this day, because the nursery-garden has grown into a tall forest. Next, we buried our silver and jewelry (after a few months we dug it out). The Pole who was working in the stable came to me after a few hours and said the Russians were asking people where they were working and they said: at the estate. The Russians asked: is the boss good or bad? We said good. If we said you were bad, they would come for you right away. Fortunately, the large castle didn’t belong to us, and I was never in the Nazi party, or in any of its structures (the Russians immediately checked this), so they didn’t do anything to us and allowed us to live on. But they immediately searched my desk and cabinet looking for documents. Our house was exposed to the mercy of looters. And, unfortunately, I have to say this, the village was full of women – runaways and those evacuated from Berlin – and they were the ones who looted. Almost all the food stored for our own needs, from our own slaughter – in the countryside you are self-sufficient after all. Soon all the cattle was chased away and the pigs were slaughtered. The breeding boar lay on a pile of dung eaten away by worms. Potato storage clamps were dug out, seed and sowing grain stolen. The car, tractors, ponies taken. After a week the property was completely devastated. In two days our house was broken into two parts, and all the stables, cowsheds, barns and the distillery were destroyed. In the first week, our workers, especially the foreign ones, brought us something to eat. After a week, all of them were taken away and sent back to their countries. But the French also brought us something to eat. Fortunately for us, a Russian company came to us in May and organized a large bakery. The officers lived with us in the house and the rest lived in the distillery. They chased away the looters who now came in groups, so we were protected. The Russians brought us milk and they were very good to the children. Throughout my entire life I demanded people to work, but they were always treated well and fair. The Polish girl in our house always got the same food as we did. And this was confirmed by the French and foreign families. Otherwise, we would be in serious trouble, as was the case with the other owners and administrators, as we learned later. How we managed to survive that summer, I do not know, but somehow we did. The fields were not cultivated. All the vegetable seeds which belonged to your mother were gone. There were seven of us and at the end of August aunt Dete came to us with her youngest son (13). The Russians always gave the children bread. It was a kind of dark bread usually given to soldiers and they gave the children enough, so that we could also eat. The children were always running after the Russians and begging: “bitte, Russian, gib Kleber” [literally: please, Russian, give us glue, but the German word Kleber, pronounced with a long vowel e and r, sounds similar to “a” and resembles the Russian word "chlieba," namely bread – translator’s note] and Bua, who was four years old, was always there! At the beginning of August a division of GPU (secret police) arrived, stopped for a day in our house, and in the evening they took all the men who were left in the village, including me. They brought us to Luckenwalde, to the basement of the factory, where about a hundred people were held since April. The Russians often took people at random and locked them there. Mom managed to contact a certain gentleman in Luckenwalde who was going to help with restoring the farm. She got two horses and could ride a small cart to Luckenwalde. She often took Paul-Heinrich with her, to our dentist who had children of the same age. This gentleman, a plenipotentiary at the farm, sent his aunt a few times to the factory, where we were locked up, and she gave me food. Through him, your mom met a certain Jew, who helped her get into the courtyard of the factory and she was able to see me and all of us. One day, the Russians announced that “whoever believes to be innocent, should come out”, so I did and they actually let me go. Otherwise they would have taken me to Russia. We found out about this much later from our teacher from Glienig. He was taken to Frankfurt an der Oder, but because he was old and sick, they sent him back. I was young and healthy and certainly wouldn’t be sent back. Then I ran home all night from Luckenwalde – 40 km and in the early morning I knocked on your mother’s window. We were very happy to be together again. Meanwhile, in Glienig, as elsewhere, the process of expropriation began and mom would have to leave the house with you, the children, with grandmother, aunts Dete and Lotte, and Christian. Only because I had never been in the Nazi Party, which was strongly emphasized by the new mayor, Mr. Möller, we were all allowed to stay. And after the division of land, I could, like everyone else, “settle down” on my own land of 30 morgens. But they immediately lodged a large family of refugees with us.
In February 1946 we had to leave Glienig within days and were relocated to Klein-Ziescht near Baruth, a distance of about 30 km to the already divided farm. The parents-in-law of an expropriated peasant who had to leave were also moved there, and we had to share a little house that was about to collapse. We had a little cell, a room and a kitchen. Grandma and aunt Lotte were living somewhere else in the village. Before Christmas, Dete and her boyfriend were transported to West Germany. All the peasants in the Klein-Ziescht were poor. They had a few acres of fields, meadows and a large part of the forest, which, however, was too far away and wasn’t of much use. The house (half-timbered) was terribly old and so destroyed that the cat entered the room through the holes in the walls. Of course, the toilet and water pump were outside. The room and the cell where you, the children, slept had one stove, which burnt in the kitchen. The stove had a big opening to the furnace and was previously used for baking bread. It used much more fuel than we had, so as a result, it was always cold, and the water for washing froze in the room! We could, however, take all the furniture, 2 horses and a heifer (which did not give any milk yet) – and once again, we started from scratch. When the cow finally calved, I learned how to milk it. However, we could only keep half a pint of milk for you, the children, and the rest had to be given away. Thus, somehow we managed with the food until harvest. Mom had to help with the field work and I had to do all the work, all the physical work, which until now we had never done or didn’t know how to do it. We managed to get an old lawn mower and the most necessary machines. So I could start growing the field. We also had a few chickens and two geese – 1 pair – which later had 8 young geese. Unfortunately, one night in December, when they were fit to be killed, they were all stolen (there was a burglary). It was a bitter experience for us. In July 1947 I repaired the room and the cell and rebuilt the stupid stove. When everything was done, we had to leave again. The craftsmen barely received their pay. They were to take us to a Russian camp, where they separated families, and transported them to Russia. With the help of two illegal commodity traders from Berlin we managed to escape to Berlin with good furniture, two horses and clothes. Meanwhile, aunt Lotte died. We came to Berlin on 20.09.1947. Your mother had a bike made from several bikes, which she often used to go to church in Baruth. Through the superintendent from Baruth we got a room in the barracks of the “Forest House” (a clinic for neurotic patients of an internal mission) in Nikolasee (grandmother stayed with friends) and we stayed there until December, when we finally got the opportunity to live in Berlin and were allocated 2 and 1 / 2 rooms in Halensee at Joachim-Friedrichstraße 52 with Mrs. Struckmann. We were overjoyed when we finally got food stamps. Within 3 months we sold everything that was not necessary and your mother sold the family jewels (which we dug up after some time in Glienig) to buy bread, powder milk, a bag of potatoes and a bag of carrots on the black market. Your mom cooked on a stove in the room. But what is a farmer without land to do in Berlin? First, during our flight to Berlin the two thugs stole our horses. After a lot of effort and with legal help, I managed to recover one horse. I reported this horse to Haselhof forwarding to work for feed. Someone broke into the garage, where we kept our stuff and our clothes were already prepared for transport. So I had to try and find another place to store our belongings. I succeeded in the forwarding agency at Moabit-Waldstr. The people from the agency took the furniture by cart, unfortunately, the beautiful, old furniture I inherited from my parents was destroyed. Then I managed to sell it in an antique shop, but this was before the currency reform. I had to start all over again for the third time and I wanted to open a transport company. For this I needed a permit to conduct business activity and I had to prove that I had experience in this field. In those days, you, the children, looked so poor that even in hungry Berlin people stopped us on the street. Your mother was pregnant at the time with Eckhart and at the beginning there were some problems, so she spent several weeks in hospital. But then she went to Dahme and obtained the contract for the delivery of milk, which I signed in Glienig, from the head of the dairy, who fortunately was still there. I myself could not go to Glienig, because I had an arrest warrant. Thanks to the contract, I received an “official authorization to operate in the transport of goods.” At the beginning I started to help with the removal of rubble with one horse and wagon, which I somehow obtained. I had to load and unload everything by myself! I unloaded the rubble in Lochowdamm at Insulaner, I unloaded a similar rubble hill near the radio tower, but then it was taken away, when the city highway was built. Later, I delivered mail. It was good, light work, but after a year it came to an end, because the post office purchased its own cars. Then came the time for scrap. I passed an exam in the purchase of scrap and metal in order to be able to acquire it. I then took the scrap to Johannes Haag [the factory]. In March 1952 I fell ill with severe pneumonia. At that time I already had a second horse. Shortly after the birth of Eckhard, at the time of the blockade, the horse hung itself in the stable on the bridle, because there was no litter. Later the English lent me a horse, which I could buy cheaply after the embargo was lifted. When I recovered in September I got steady work with Johannes Haag, where I could transport all the materials. I was an independent entity and was paid per hour. During my illness, your mom left the horse in Kladow at the Arbeiter-Wohlfart [AWO – a German self-help organization – translator’s note.]. AWO provided shelter to young refugees from the GDR in a former Wehrmacht camp. There were all kinds of craft workshops giving employment to young people. The horse performed only light work (there was a smithy on the spot), it was almost like vacation and it was healthy when I could take it back in September. But I sold it then, the cart too, and bought a small delivery vehicle (a rebuilt, passenger Opel with a single-axis trailer). With this car I first transported scrap, and then, as I said, I worked for Johannes Haag. In the following years, I bought a good second-hand 1.5 t car twice, until everything at Johannes Haag came to an end when this almost 100-year-old factory went bankrupt in 1964. Then I wanted to be a taxi driver (it all happened in 1964) and I passed the exam and received a permit to “transport persons”. And then, through Pastor Trompke, I received the position of a cemetery administrator in a parish in Rudow. But you know all that. I had many professions in my life and I always had to start from scratch. I did everything for 7 years: 7 years of Zackenzin, 7 years of Glienig, 7 years of scrap and rubble, 7 years in the Rudow cemetery. On my 40th birthday there was a raging snowstorm, which I will tell you about later. Shortly after my 50th birthday I suffered from severe pneumonia and spent 4 months in the Auguste-Victoria-Krankenhaus hospital, my 60th birthday was a working day, and besides that everything was normal. On my 70th birthday I was lying in the Oskar-Helene-Heim in plaster. My 80th birthday was the most beautiful, because all four of you were present! Oh, my 40th birthday. Winters in Fläming were always freezing cold and snowy. The tractor with milk was covered with snow. People from the neighboring villages had to come over to clear it of snow. When the front wheels were cleared of snow, the back wheels were covered with snow again. The milk got to the dairy in the afternoon and the tractor came back late at night. In every town it had to be recovered from snow. I hadn’t experienced anything like that even in Pomerania.
I tried to tell the story of my life in a nutshell. The initiative came from Paul-Heinrich in August 1986, when we were in Altmühtal. He believed that we should write it all down, for you, so that it wouldn’t be forgotten.”
P.S. “Dad and I finished this story just before Christmas – I wrote down what he said. Unfortunately, dad can no longer sign this. I wrote everything down again, and I really wanted to show you dad’s story as his legacy. Dad suffered terribly, especially physically, and always cared about all of us, for which we will always be very grateful.
March 1987. Your mom, Birgitte Ewest”