Wednesday, 30 November 2011


After the war the Amis (Americans) came. But at first they were afraid to come into Gardelegen because they thought there were soldiers hiding in the woods. It was daft. The soldiers wanted to surrender before the Russians came, but the Amis were afraid of their own shadows.

They were very lawless days, so Dad locked up the gates of Isenschnibbe, and wouldn't let anyone in. He and the other men guarded the boundaries. There was a lot of looting, and the pigs beyond the walls got stolen.

One day I looked over the wall and saw a black man wearing a top hat and tails. It was the first time I had seen a black person.

In the two days before the Amis came to take Isenschnibbe, a train carrying slave workers from Nordhausen came into Gardelegen. The war had ended and the SS officers in charge were told to shoot them. So they were rounded up in a barn and shot, and the barn burnt. It was on the Isenschnibbe Estate, but a mile away from where we locked in, so we didn't know.

Some of the prisoners escaped, and the Gardelegers helped them by hiding them in ditches.

It was terrible, but we didn't know it was happening. Maybe if the Americans had come in time, it would have been avoided.

This account is slightly at odds with what I have read about the story online. From the distance of so many years and knowing what we now know, it seems impossible to imagine this happening so close to your home, but things were very confused and frightening. Law and order had broken down, and they were difficult days. I am not sure the people locked in Isenschnibbe and the other Gardelegers could have prevented this from happening, even if they wanted to.

Rosemarie initially thought that the victims were Jews, not slave workers, but we read the story of the slave workers in the Information Office in Gardelegen. This may account for the description of slave workers in the following link: It is without a doubt a terrible crime to have happened in Gardelegen, but I genuinely don't believe the majority of Gardelegers would have wanted it to happen. (Isenschnibbe was two miles from Gardelegen, and the barn a mile away from where Rosemarie's family and estate workers were holed up. People were very afraid, and many would have stayed in their own homes. The reports seem to suggest that German soldiers, and Hitler Youth were involved, but I don't know how local they would have been. ) Having said that, Rosemarie has an album with pictures taken of the bodies, and it is truly horrific. A dreadful blight on a beautiful town.

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