Massacre of Landskron (Lanskroun) on May 17th, 1945translation from a report from Julius Friedl, translated by SL, New York
On May 9, 1945 the last combat on the hills above the valley at Landskron began. The invading Russians did not pay much attention to the frightened German population during the first days. They looked for alcohol, they plundered and they organized regular hunts for women at night. One could hear all night long the cries of the victims of this pursuit.
At first the few Czech residents did not know themselves what to do, they were also worried about their possessions. The German male inhabitants of the town, who had had to work at clearing the streets, were suddenly sent home, without reason, in the morning hours of May 17th.
About I I o'clock of the very same day hundreds of armed Czechs, so-called partisans, arrived in trucks. They gathered in the market-place for a demonstration; a Russian officer made a fervent speech, which was greeted with roars of approval. As if by previous agreement, the Czechs then dispersed in all directions. It was not long before we knew what was going on. The German men and with them many women and children were driven in larger or smaller groups to the market-place, the houses were thoroughly searched to insure that all of the men were present, old and young, also invalids and those seriously ill. The individual groups of Germans were escorted by yelling Czechs, heavily armed, who shot blindly in all directions and knocked down anyone who came in their way. Meanwhile, other troops of Czechs drove to the surrounding villages and brought the men back to the town. More than a thousand German men were rounded-up in the market-place in the early hours of the afternoon. They were ordered to fall in and they stood there with their hands above their head, waiting for what would happen next.
There followed the most horrifying scenes which human beings ever devised. The men were forced to lie down on the pavement, to stand up quickly and then get in line again. The Czechs passed down the lines, kicked the men preferably on the shins or in the genitals. They hit them with whatever lay convenient to their hands; they spit at them and loosed off wildly with their rifles. Many men were too badly wounded to get up again and lay in great pain. But this was still not enough. There was a large water tank for air raids in front of the town hall. Into this, the victims of this terrible madness, were finally thrown one after the other. As they came to the surface, they were struck at with sticks and poles and kept under water. The Czechs even shot into the mass and the water slowly reddened. Whenever anyone tried to scramble out of the tank, they stamped on his fingers; some of the men were fished out of the water, but they were already dead. Others, who were prostrate on the ground, were squirted with the fire-hose, which had been fetched in the meantime, or were tortured in indescribable ways. While all of these atrocities were taking place, the so-called People's Court established itself on the si 'dewalk in front of the District Council Building. Behind the tables, which had been set up, the Czechs seated themselves; among them were the following persons:
Hrabacek, owner of a saw-mill at Weipertsdorf,
Wilhelm Pfitzner, clerk to the workmen's sick fund, Landskron,
Franz Matschat, weaver in the firm of Thoma, Magdalenen Str., Landskron, Bernhard Wanitscheck, shoemaker, Karl Str., Landskron,
Stefan Matschat, weaver in the firm of Thoma, Landskron,
Friedrich Bednai, carpenter for the tobacco-factory, Landskron,
Polak, officer of the gendarmerie,
and a woman, probably, Mrs. Lossner from Landskron.
Around the table stood a number of Czechs, who functioned as prosecutors and who selected the individual Germans out of the rows. One behind the other, with their hands above their heads, the Germans had to appear before the tribunal. The first man in each row had to carry a Hitler picture, covered with excrement, which the man beside him had to lick off. The last 20 or 30 paces up to the tribunal had to be made in a creeping position. Arriving there, each one of them received his sentence, which was written on his back with a piece of chalk. About 50 to 60 meters (167 to 200 ft) distant from the tribunal, on the opposite side, was a gate; up to this the victims had literally to run the gauntlet. Many of them collapsed on their way, even before the sentence could be carried out. The brutality which took place there cannot possibly be written down.
One of the first victims was Karl Piffl, a master joiner. After he had been selected, driven into the water and dragged out of it again half dead, he was beaten to death and trampled to pulp.He was followed by the overseer of the firm of Pam at Landskron, a man by the name of Reichstaedter, who had already been so badly beaten up that he was unrecognizable. Nevertheless, he was placed against the wall of the town hall and shot to death by the Czechs with their automatic pistols. Josef Neugebauer, an engineer from Landskron, came running out of the little street which led to the prison, covered with blood. He, too, had to stand against the wall with his hands raised and fell without a word before the bullets of his executioners. Another engineer, Otto Dietrich from Landskron, met his death in a similar manner. Viktor Benesch, a farmer, ended his life at the same place with the top of his head shot off.
The outcries of the bleeding victims soon drowned out all of the other sounds; many of the living sat or lay with the indifference of despair beside the bodies of the dead. At 7 o'clock in the evening, the majority of the men, who had been rounded-up, were taken into custody; only a few were sent home.On May 18th, the victims were again driven together in the market-place and the tortures and the brutal mistreatment were continued. Josef Jurenka from Angerstrasse, Landskron, a plumber, was sentenced to death by hanging. He was strung up on a street-lamp, after he himself had placed the noose around his neck.
Robert Schwab from Ober-Johnsdorf, an employee of the District Administration, died in the same manner. The Germans were forced to keep the bodies of the hanged men constantly swinging.One Koehler from Landskron, an engineer of Reichs German origin, was dragged in, dressed only in his leather shorts; these acted like a red rag on the howling mob, who impaled him on their metal-pointed sticks.
On the same day, dreadful scenes, even worse than on the day before, took place. A number of Germans were ordered to undress, to put on a show of price-fighting and beat each other up.
Terrible screams sounded all day long across the usually quiet market-place. About 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the excesses suddenly came to an end as a result of the sacrifice of Mrs. Auguste Heider. Her place of business was immediately behind the "People's Court" which had been set up, and probably she had been watching from her attic the atrocities taking place close by. She decided to make a desperate end of it all by setting her house on fire and hanging herself in the flames. The conflagration caused a sudden panic and set an unexpected early term to the amusements of the Czechs. In front of the town hall, at the place where the executions ordered by the People's Court had taken place, the Germans lay in a great pool of blood, some shot down, some felled and literally trampled out of recognition. The victims included the following:
1. Victor Benesch, farmer and deputy-Ortsbauernftiehrer (Chairman of the Local Farmers' Association), leader of the Association of Veterans of the First World War,
2. Josef Neugebauer, engineer and architect,
3. Otto Dietrich, engineer and architect,
4. Koehler, engineer and works-manager,
5. Leo Janisch, director of the employment office,
6. Karl Langer, clerk of the employment office,
7. Josef Langer, clerk of the employment office,
8. Karl Kowarsch, butcher, shot by his assistant,
9. Theodor Benesch, Director of the Forestry Administration, retired,
10. Rudolf Gerth, Sergeant,
11. Hubert Lug, farmer from Lukau,
12. Johann Klement, electrician,
13. Reinhard Schwab, manufacturer of articles in cement,
14. Karl Schmidt, tinsmith,
15. Josef Jurenka, locksmith,
16. Robert Schwab, official of the District Administration,
17. Richard Antl, farmer from Rudelsdorf,
18. Marek, railway man,
19. Josef Koblischke, teacher, retired,
20. Karl Piffl, master joiner,
21. Leopold Hafler, workman,
22. Julius Reichstaetter, clerk,
23. Josef Linhard, farmer from Lukau,
24. Zandler, farmer from Rudelsdorf.
The bodies of these victims of mob-justice, remained lying there until May 19th. On the late afternoon of that day, Eduard Neugebauer, a farmer from Anger Strasse, Landskron, was ordered to take them to the cemetery. The doctor who inspected the corpses - a German, but whose behavior placed him outside the pale - reported that he had been unable to identify the men tortured to death. They were buried without ceremony in a mass grave.
Small wonder that many Germans committed suicide in consequence of these horrors.
Among the suicides the following can be named with certainty:
Auguste Heider, widow of a salesman, market-place, Landskron,
Eduard Maresch, draper, together with his wife, Magdalenen Str., Landskron,
Hubert Richter, shoemaker, together with his wife, Magdalenen Str., Landskron,
Wenzel Riedel, retired gendarmerie-sergeant, Magdalenen Str., Landskron,
Hans Waschitschek, popular lecturer, together with his wife, Badgasse, Landskron,
Killer, farmer, Anger Strasse, Landskron,
Karl Janisch, gardener, Friedhof-Str., Landskron,
Josef Jandejsek, tax-collector, retired, together with his wife, H. Knirsch-Str., Landskron, Otto Portele, shoemaker, Stadtplatz, Landskron,
Wenzel Kusebauch, retired major, together with his wife, Anger Str., Landskron, Gerlinde Knapek, nee Ringl, market-place, Landskron,
Anna Piffl, nee Schreiber, widow, together with her daughter, Ingunde llgner and her little baby, Knirsch-Str., Landskron,
Dr. Franz Pelzl and his wife, Mathilde Pelzl, nee Nagl, Johannesgasse, Landskron, Richard Rotter and one of his children, Landskron,
Karl Langer, official of the Municipal Council, Schulplatz, Landskron, Viktor Schromm, road-surveyor, Landskron.
In most of the villages these days passed in the same way. Further cases of suicide are known of from the following villages:
Hilbetten: more than 60 persons, among them the doctor of the village in whose house many sought death;
Tuerpes: the wife of the mayor, one Mrs. Schmidt, shot her children and then herself;
Ziegenfuss: the hereditary judge by the name of Franz Huebl shot his family of eight persons, only his father, who was 60 years of age, remained alive;
Rudelsdorf: a considerable number of people committed suicide;
Abtsdorf: the owner of an estate, Heinz Peschke, committed suicide together with his wife and his son, the same did Max Wilder, the Mayor, together with his wife and their three children.
A number of murders also took place. In the village of Triebitz Julius Klaschka, a farmer, and at Sichelsdorf Franz Kaupe, another farmer, were both shot down and at Tschenkowitz there were also several persons shot.
Dr. Franz Nagl, who had been Mayor successively of Landskron and Leitmeritz, was murdered at Koeniggraetz.
The Czech shoemaker, by the name of Janecek, from Hermanitz showed special brutality. Later, when in jail, he boasted of having killed 18 German soldiers, who were walking through the woods unarmed, by shooting them from ambush.
At the same time, Germans who were capable of working, were formed into groups and handed over to Russians, who shipped them off to the Soviet Union. Many of them, after months or even years of hardship, never lived to return home.
The names of other Czechs of the Administration, who took part in the outrages against Germans, in robberies and looting, criminals responsible for everything that took place, are the following: the two Mayors of the town, Losser and Hejl, as well as Zidlik, Vagner, Dr. Rehak, Wanitschek, Kudlacek and Pfitzner, who were town-councillors, and Dr. Skala, the Chairman and a certain Vodicka.
I should like to stress especially the names of Hrabacek, the owner of the saw-mill, and Polak, an officer of the gendarmerie. Hrabacek later fled from Gottwald's Czechoslovakia via Germany to France, where he is today working as an agricultural laborer. Polak's destiny was also not a glorious one.
I affirm that the statements above are in correspondence with truth.