Das LAGER - Zeitzeugen erinnern sich

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DP camp Schierholzstr. 41

Witnesses who lived in the DP camp Schierholzstr. 41and remember. The interviews were predominantly accomplished with members of the second generation, those who lived. The statements of different group interviews are summarized here.

Classification
"Homeless foreigner / Polish inexplicably" who were kidnapped forced laborers first got a IRO document of identification, of 25.4.1951 which stated the DP's status "homeless foreigners / Polish originating from Poland inexplicably". Who possessed this status, were to a large extent on an equal legal footing with the Germans. However, "homeless foreigners" were not allowed to become officials, nor get a visa as needed for journeys abroad, so long SI yet the German nationality did not have, i.e. for example a journeys to Italy, in addition, to Poland! Poland, which could not be repatriated until 1955, i.e. returned to Poland, did not lose the Polish nationality. In the 50's, repatriation for the DPs was not just a mere topic; until then they still were in Germany, generally always remained. It is frightening that still today this status is current: The daughter of a "homeless foreigner" was born 2001, her status is still likely to be "homeless foreigner". After the war, Polish could become Germans only if they could be in-patriated, since in the FRG the blood right applies, but in addition needed them the confirmation the fact that they were not a Poland and but required its homeland much money. (The passport fee amounts to approx. 75% of the monthly salary.)

Emigration
"Heimatlose Ausländer" (homeless foreigners) were those who could not emigrate from Germany. Only healthy humans, who could do physical work, were desired into the typical emigration countries like USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Therefore, many families remained in Germany.

Inhabitants
In the 50's, DP camp Schierholzstrasse 41 held approx. 1400 people, was constant also in the 50's with approximately 1200 inhabitants, i.e. to 80 - 85 %, occupied. Of this, roughly on the average 80% were from Poland, others Czech, there was Letten, Ukrainian, Russian (a minority) and starting from 1956 relatively many Hungarian, who had participated in the Hungary rebellion and had to flee from their homeland. Due to the high number from Poland in the camp, mainly Polish was spoken. By the 60's, the number of the inhabitants was estimated at 500 to 800.

Blocks
At the beginning, there was a limited fence around the camp, but was later torn down. At the corner of the camp of barrack 8, a German neighbor kept the fence set up since he felt apparently threatened by the inhabitants of the camp. The individual barracks was not to be locked by stone.

In each barrack, there were six toilets for all inhabitants. These were distributed per 16 - 22 rooms (size of for instance 4m x 5m) and between 14 - 22 families who lived in large block.

The buildings had a center corridor on its longitudinal axis, the course were 1,5m - 3m broad. There stood bicycles, cabinets etc., because in the dwellings there wasn't enough room. For small children there was a "Pinkelpott", so that they did not have to run at night over the whole corridor. In each case, 4 persons to a room, larger families could request a second room. The rooms were all equipped with different furniture. And Sundays possible for showers only Saturday and cost about 50 Pf were - 1 DM.

Block 14, for example, looked about in such a way: in front a meadow, eingangstuer outward, a toilet and a zinc tub for cooking and baking. Since there were no wash basins in the rooms, each family was assigned a "wash day", the wash basin was on the corridor in the wash kitchen.

Here lived among other things. Mrs. Katarina Z, their family worked on a property became acquainted with it there their man. They were sent to 1950 with 8 people from camp to camp and came into a room in the block 14.

Life circumstances in the camp in front it is to be said that all camp inhabitants had the same conditions to the life.

What did one eat?
The camp inhabitants ate mainly bread. Old bread was not thrown away, but put in the pan angebraten, in with vegetables, like Kohl and Gurken, grown in their small "gardens", e.g.. cultivated in front of the block mainly. Only once in the week there was meat from the butcher. Sometimes also house rabbits were available, which some people bred.

It was possible to purchase items both in the camp and outside. There was much, but special things, like pots and needles etc., one had to drive with a bicycle to Hanover Buchholz. In Hanover Bothfeld there were two Aunt Emma shops. In the camp there was Nowak's Grocery Shop, where there was nearly everything, whatever one needed for daily use; in addition, one could buy here also on credit.

Additionally, dealers (partially with shops) came into the camp. The fruit and costermonger, who sold also eggs and sausage, came daily with his car, while the coal man came only once in the week. Both suppliers had a quite friendly relationship with the camp inhabitants. One could receive alcohol with the manager of the camp.

Clothes
New clothes hardly were available, most people had only one item, two at the most, two trousers and/or sweater for changing. From time to time came auxiliary packages with second-hand clothes, which were given out by the women, just as already existing clothes of the more frequent were changed. Whoever could afford a hairdresser, didn't have to go far, since there was a hairdresser business directly in the camp.

Medical supply
"Normally" a medical practice was in the camp and in close proximity, in the silver route, was a pharmacy. Otherwise, the camp inhabitants took care of their pain by herbs and natural cures.

Since the money was limited, physicians took barter and were paid with cigarettes and chocolate. Unemployed persons were patient-insured by the sozialamt. Who was ill, however not insured and had no money for a treatment, one treated also in vain, one operated or one supplied with medicines.

State of health
Of all the illnesses, the lung illness, tuberculoses, was by far the most common. Reasons for it were the war, the living conditions of the hard labor, hunger, bad nutrition, bad accommodations (cold areas and leaky windows), etc.

Support of the children for the children of the camp organized "Kinderhulp" starting from 1962 of vierwoechige stays in Holland, where they drove together with the children of the camp sticks with the bus.Their parents had only to pay the bus travel (20 - 30DM). Locally (in Groningen) the children in families were accommodated.

Journeys, contacts to Poland
Before the era of the "new east politics" of the Brandt government to Poland to drive, if one ran frequently over the "ZGODA" the (Bund that wanted Poland in Germany) as network entity between Poland and the Federal Republic. ZGODA was in 19th century based, based with beginning of the Second World War dissolved and 1946 again. It helped to drive above all communist Poland to Poland. Poland there was also communist. This politically on the left of aligned society worried about passports and visas.

Contacts, social relations in the camp
The tendency between the nations within the camp was positive, held together due to the same fate. For example, Mr. B. in block 5 was German Russian and his wife Russin. Nevertheless, the members of the certain nationalities bonded more strongly to each other: between Polish and the Russians and the Ukrainians and the Russians occasional fights broke out; sometimes also even to Messerstechereien.

Although the need was great to have contact in the homeland and residents wrote much, there were no visitors from Poland before approximately 1970. (The letters to camp inhabitants were addressed as follows:

    "NN Schierholzstrasse 41
    barrack number...
    Room number....
    Hanover Buchholz "
A special building in the camp was the cafeteria between block 5 and 7. It had approx. 30 seats and was central meeting place: "There was always which the matter!" The popular Wirtin Anni Holik led the organization over many years, up to the closure of the camp.

Relations with residents outside of the camp, except for relations with German dealers who came into the camp, in the everyday life there was hardly any contacts with Germans, since they discriminated against the camp inhabitants mostly. The camp inhabitants were regarded by many Germans as criminals. Therefore, German children were often forbidden to play with the Polish children. "The camp was like an island."

Education, training
In many camps, school started immediately after the end of war. First, provisional chapels or churches and schools were furnished, in order to refurbish or obtain the so-called agricultural engineerings again, because many former forced laborers had received hardly any school training. In addition, the switching of knowledge from Polish history, culture and policy appeared absolutely necessary. Thus there was in Camp Buchholz already started in 1951 privately organized instruction in the so-called auxiliary school for Poland, also later for the Ukrainians. Since the majority of the camp inhabitants in the camp spoke Polish and the children entered German schools, at the beginning primarily, they had great language difficulties. Discriminations however was only partly experienced by the pupils. They were nevertheless a group which can be differentiated clearly, for example a "free drinker" received plain milk, while others drank cocoa. School books were received free. All was common to them: "we were the camp children."

Professional training
The greater the distance to the Second World War became, the more normalized themselves the questions of the training and professional training. It is reported that in the school substantial impulses for the occupation choice were set.

Work
After the war, it was not easy for foreigners to find work. On the one hand, the formal education conditions were relatively low with many forced laborers, since many had been kidnapped at the juvenile age by the Germans. Additionally, that many Polish came from predominantly rural, i.e. rural range originated and with them brought "only" that training, which excluded crafts and industrial qualification which were needed.

In the beginning, when the 'wirtschaftswunder' did not start yet, Germans were preferred in the search for employees. Therefore many DPs did not work outside of the camp; it was an exception if one found work outside. However already early on, the English military government and its army offered possibilities: The MSO (Mixed Service Organization), an organization of the British Army of the Rhine, assigned places to the job-seeking DPs. They were employed there for instance as 'awake people'. The remuneration existed at the beginning, frequently in chocolate, cigarettes etc.

Church, religion
The Catholic church was both the religious center of the life and cultural center of the camp. Here meetings and larger celebrations took place. In addition in the church, Polish instruction was offered. Except that politically linking were very religious all and went regularly into the services. Many had a strong orientation in the church. The minister at that time Dubjen was employee of the Englishmen and at the same time also ministers in Braunschweig. Mr. Scholz was a priest in this and other camps. The Ukrainians first used the church in Block 15, then later had their own church.

Culture
The culture played a huge role in the camp inspite of the difficult life circumstances. There were folklore story telling, dances, singing and group theatres. A group of theatres created by the church arose with its pieces in German schools. The group of ORZEL BIALY, "white eagle", became, famous from here, also internationally kown. In addition there were groups of leaders, who oriented themselves at English models in the camp promptly. They were created not by the church, but were not cared for in the context of their cultural activity. The excursion leaders offered the possibility of community experiences, if they made their travels, of international contacts and common activities to the young people outside of the camp.

Criminality
A main reproach and a prejudice in the German public opinion against the camp inhabitants was their alleged criminality. Long it is proven that the borders between legality and criminality in the direct post-war period were exceeded by many humans - not least from pure emergency - frequently.

It was an obvious problem, which cannot be projected however solely on the inhabitants by DP camps. Germans became just as frequently criminals as members of other nations, sometimes still more frequently! Between the camp inhabitants, under the nations, there was little criminality. After the memory there was nothing remarkable, sometimes food was stolen (in addition, coal, wood and clothes) due to emergency (no money) and/or from revenge at Germans.

End of the camp
Twenty years after the war, the camp was still inhabited by many former DPs. In the same location subsidized low-rent housings were completely developed , which offered a new lodging for many, so that the remaining former camp inhabitants, that could take DPs off.

Result:
Still today most the former DPs regard Poland as their homeland and feel connected to this country, also, frequently travel there themselves.

The co-operation between the camp inhabitants is seen retrospectively as a positive element. Everyone knew when someone was ill or who had a birthday. Everyone helped each other, whenever they could, for example, in the care of children. Each assisted each other, particularly in an emergency.

Recalling the most negative impression that remains, living in a closed community: "the housing conditions were the worst!"


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