July 27, 1945
Finally—we are in Wurzburgl
After seven long days and nights without sleep.
The head is dizzy.
A little bit about our journey from Hamburg:
After a full week of trying to secure permits to cross the river Elbe, after one week of incredible bureaucracy, we spat at it and decided to go without permits. All we had in our hands was a filled-out questionnaire, which we signed ourselves; the British captain refused to sign it.
* A note made on July 5, 1949: A man I met today told me that Dr. Antanaitis is now in a mental hospital, somewhere in Germany, he broke down.
"You cannot travel now. You have to stay here," he told us.
We were angry. We came back to the barracks, looked around. No, we said. We are going, permit or no permit. They cannot treat us like children. We go South. To the South, where the magnolia trees bloom!
Bridges in the rivers. Huge craters on both sides of the rails. Junlyards of dead war machinery.
Only the small towns are still there. Hannover, Kassel, Giesen, Wurzburg: completely leveled, gone.
The trains are overcrowded with German refugees. They are going home. Some of them. Others, they are searching for home. They are just going. Anywhere, no matter where, lilke us. Some carry nothing but a suitcase: that's all they have left.
Then you see others, sitting on the platforms, with piles of sacks and boxes, waiting for trains. The trains are going without timetables, any time. If you travel light and alone, you can, somehow, jump into the train, any train. But if you are loaded with boxes and sacb goodbyel You may sit on the platform for days, and the trains will come and go. Every train, every car is full. The heat is unbearable. And no water.
Some are returning to their home towns. As the train pulls into the town, they squeeze to the windows, to the door. They search for their streets, houses. But all they can see is a field of bricks. No streets. No houses. And nobody waiting.
A trainload of Russian war prisoners passes by, on their way home. Their cars are decorated with red flags, portraits of all the "saints," na rodinu (to the homeland), singing Katiusha, they shake their fists at our train, they shout curses, they stick their tongues out, they throw stones.
On Sunday we came to Bremen. The train stopped a few miles before the station. Had to walk. We sold our bikes in Hamburg. The worst part is that nobody knows where the station is. One gets easily lost in the labyrinth of broken cars and ruins. After walking a mile we sent out a sentry, to climb the mountain of bricks. He comes back and reports that there is absolutely nothing in sight—nothing to the north, nothing to the south, nothing to the east and nothing to the west. No station. A child who happened to be passing by shows us the direction to the station.
Ten at night we arrive in Hannover—that is, what's left of it. We sleep right there, in the station, crouched on our suitcases, with our feet in the broken bricks. Tired, uncomfortable sleep. All kinds of types slinking around, looking for something to steal. We lie, half-awake, and we listen to the whistles of the locomotives in the canyons of the destroyed station.
Arriving in Gottingen we find out that there is only one small train going from there, once a day. It's only for the military workers. No civilian travelling. You need a special pennit. From here on begins the American Zone.
We ran out of our food coupons a few days ago. In Flensburg they've told us that there was a Lithuanian refugee committee in Gottingen. We decided to find it.
We found the Committee. They gave us some soup and a place to sleep. They live like kings here. They have private apartments and their own restaurant. They aren't really refugees: they are kings. Professor Skardiius, the linguist, works for the Committee. It's a closed camp for some privileged refugees, they don't permit new ones.
We revived a little bit.
The next day we go back to the station. This time we manage to get tickets. We leave for Kassel.
In Kassel we ran out of food and water. We walked miles through the ruins of Kassel searching for Ernehrungsamt (Food Permit Office). Nobody in sight. Only occasionally we met someone, walking through the clay and concrete path dug out across the mountains of devastation. Sometimes on the piles of rubbish we saw men and women cleaning, collecting the bricks, putting them in neat piles. From another mountain of debris you could see smoke rising: someone must be living deep under there, under the bricks. And here it looks like there was a church here. Their broken arms pointing upwards, without heads, scattered lie the saints.
I don't have any idea how they're going to clean up this mess. It's easier to build another city in another place, and leave the old city as is, as a testimonial.
All along the road, along the railroad line, countless military trucks, guns, railroad cars, burned out tanks. Persistent young grass and tall weeds are beginning to cover everything. The weeds are reaching up to the backs of the trucks, are growing into the mouths of huge guns. Some burned out trucks have been made into living, or rather "living," homes. Families of refugees, children. On the burned out tanks they are drying lines of dothes. Children are climbing the guns, it's their playground, their kindergarten. These will be the great memories of their lives.
We see many children on the road. Alone. Here is one, maybe ten years old, maybe eleven. A great time to be a child. . . He is pulling his rucksack with him, trying to hold onto a moving train. We help him in. His father was killed at the front. His mother was killed by bombs. He had to join Hitlerjugends, was taken into the depths of Germany from Strassburg.
"There is one thing of which we have a lot," say the Germans, "and that is time."
"Time will straighten out everything," they say. Nobody's in a hurry. Apathy in their faces, in their bodies.
A young woman, her face loo}s as if she lived one hundred years.
A young man, his face without a drop of energy. He has resigned himself to his fate.
Oh, yes. Time will straighten out everything
He walks around the pile of rubble, picks up a brick here, a brick there.
In the American Zone the railroads are worse than in the British Zone. The journey is much slower. In Munden we have to disembark: there is no bridge ahead of us. The river is there, all right. . . For two kilometers we drag our bundles, to the other side of the river, across a newly built foot bridge. There we sit all day, waiting for another train. The train comes, we board, we continue towards Giessen. After ten miles the train stops again. We have to disembark. They aren't sure the bridge will hold. We cross the bridge on foot. The train inches across the bridge. It holds. Only yesterday they finished this bridge. Ours is the first train to cross it.
The train is more than overcrowded. People hanging on to the sides, sitting on roofs of cars. Even women with children are on roofs. Long wailings in stations and before the semaphores. People jump off the trains, run into the fields to pick up some fruit, and jump back on.
Late at night we arrive in Giessen. A huge crowd waiting in the station. Nobody knows when the next train will come or go You have to wait and be very fast when you hear a train coming. We don't sleep all night. Around three in the morning we jump on a coal transport train going to Austria. That's what we overheard somebody say. It runs via Wurzburg, they said. We left Giessen early in the morning. Huge crowds of people on both sides, tired, sleepless.
Transport trains move faster. They seldom stop in stations and when they do, the stops are brief. We covered a lot of distance.
From the coal and the wind we soon became completely black. The coal dust got into everything: our clothes, our bags, our hands, our skin. We tried to hang to the outside of the car, but in our sleepy, tired state it was too dangerous. We crawled back on top of the coal pile.
Near Hanau we decided to jump off. It became too unbearable. Our lungs were full of coal dust. We were spitting pure coal.
We found ourselves near a small, dirty stream. We washed ourselves as much as we could. Still, we looked like chimney sweeps. The hunger kept eating at our stomachs. On the railroad tracks we found some green apples. We tried to eat them but they were too green, too sour.
We dragged ourselves to Hanau, to the railroad station. We found the station empty and bombed out. No trains. I left Adolfas with the bundles and went to search for water and food. I soon found out that there was no water here. All the wells are contaminated. Signs everywhere: DANGER. CONTAMINATED WATER.
After hours of walking and asking I located the local refugee camp. They told me that there was an active railroad station on the other side of town, a few kilometers further.
The camp looked so dreary, so depressing that I decided we should move on.
The day is hot, sizzling. We are dead tired, hungry, sleepy. Every two minutes we have to stop to rest. Our suitcases and bundles fall out of our hands, our legs sink. We leave a few heavy books on the roadside, including the collected writings of Goethe.
I don't know how we managed to reach the station. A train was just leaving for Wurzburg. We jumped on.
You cannot sleep on the train. It's all standing, and you can't sleep standing. At least I can't. Some do, I've been told. They slept standing in water, working on the Hamburg fortifications.
We pulled into Wurzburg early in the morning.
We had barely enough energy left to find the refugee center. There, we collapsed in the corner and we slept, right there, on the floor, oblivious of whatever was going on around us. We dept like stones, all day, and all night.
Slowly, very slowly we woke up.
It was like waking up from a long nightmare.
The sun was hot and bright, the sky was blue.
Around us hills, orchards.
And the people—they are somehow different here. Not the hard Hamburg types, with their faces full of wind and salt. None of that hard character here.
Maybe the sun, or the orchards—but the people seem to me much more open here, there is more sun and light in their faces.
We walk through Wurzburg. We look to the left, we look to the right: it's a desert, there is nothing in sight. Not even a ghost. Nothing moves. Nobody's walking through these streets now, on no business. Not a single sound building in sight. The air smells of smoke, and decomposing bodies, deep under the bricks and concrete. Here are the ruins of a theater; and here are the leftovers of a church. Here, it looks like there was a university here.
August 11, 1945
We decided to remain in Wurzburg for a week. To regain our strength.
The refugee center is in the suburb, on the side of a green hill.
The only person we feel like talking to is Butenas. We brought him a letter from his letter, from Flensburg—the teacher who was writing the rules for the ideal D.P. camp. . . A very bright young man. We talk a lot about languages and literature.*
We are walking through the fields. We climb the hills, we look down into the valley of the Main. Its bridges fallen in, a maze of steel and iron.
Steep slopes, vineyards run down the hills, summer.
I am sitting on a hill and I am looking down.
Wurzburg below, in ruins, a river, a blue mist covering all. Ah, how different is this landscape from the landscape of my chilthood!
Breathing heavily I climb to the very top of the hill.
He was shot by the Soviets around 1950 while attempting to bring a message from Iithuanian anti-Soviet partisans, out to the West, while crossing the boarder from East Germany to West Germany.
LIFE IN A DISPLACED PERSONS CAMP
The author settles down in the Wiesbaden D.P. camp. Editing the camp's daily bulletin. The growing disillusionment with the Big Powers, hopes dim for a quidt return home and for a free Lithuania. Miseries of communal livnng. The cold. At the University of Mainz. About eating unearned bread without feeling guilt. The camp is transferred to Kassel. Days of hunger and travd.
August 12, 1945
We eat and sleep in the refugee transit house.
There are no beds. We sleep on the floor.
Our "mattress" neighbor has been just released from the German army. He says, he was drafted last month of war. Twenty six years old. In his muscle sits a bullet.
"When I go home to my father," he says, "I'll be a perfect barometer, the bullet always tells me the weather."
In Italy, he says, Lithuanians used to desert from the Wehrmacht, run for the mountains. But without-any contact with the Italian partisans, tired and hungry they used to come back again.
Regaining our strength, reviving. Making plans.
Our first thought was to try, again, to go to Vienna. But they tell us that Austna is keeping out all refugees. Our second option is to go towards the Rhine. We are leaving tomorrow. Everybody tells us to stay in Wurzburg. But we say, no, it's too depressing to stare at the ruins all the time.