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July 1999


Adolf has strong memories of the area before the war: his fellow Germans in Upper Silesia were “a God fearing people. All they cared for was the faith and the work”. It was also a community in which “the traditions were very rich”. He seems to have continued the focus on religion and hard work, and turned his hand to many tasks and skills to make a living and survive the early difficulties of being a German who stayed in the area after WW2, when it became part of Poland. He thinks he was “lucky to settle in Waliszow” in Lower Silesia, where “there weren’t so many Polish settlers around, we were all German, except the teachers”. Although he does give examples of individual tensions and hostilities between Polish settlers and German residents, he also stresses that there was much cooperation. However “when we started to succeed, and we had more than the other farmer, only then did the envy start growing”.

As more Poles started to arrive in Lower Silesia, “nobody would call us anything but ‘a German’, ‘a Kraut’. It’s been like this until this day. You could say everyone looks for their own folks and we’ve found other families, people of German origin”. As a result, he “didn’t have much contact with the local people” until the local priest set up a theatre group “to unite the people from central Poland and those from the east … those were very nice experiences”. His roots remain important: “recently, I went to a German mass in Bardo. When they started singing, I cried. I couldn’t sing, the experience of my childhood songs was [so] strong”.

The extraordinary events of his life and location have left him with a hatred of borders and political difference, and a desire that all people should be seen as the same. He recommends reading the Expatriates’ Chart, created in 1952 by people who “were driven away from Silesia” and who wished that “no-one in the world [would have] to go through similar ordeals…”. In it, they suggest “working towards uniting Europe” and that borders should be abolished “so that the ruling powers could never chase anyone from their homeland ... it is an act of love, solidarity with other expatriates”.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Early history: born in Stolarzowice (then Schtielesfeld). Remembers the start of the war and “sitting on a fence and watching the troops going to Poland”.
Section 2  His family was “very critical of the war” and as a result they “were treated as second-class people”. Recalls 1945 and the Russians arriving. They had to “Polonise” their names and attend school in Polish, which they didn’t speak.
Section 3-4  In 1952, he moves with his large family to a “farm in Waliszów as a part of the population dislocation activities”. His mother was now widowed and they were very poor and hungry: “you could see that on our faces”. Much interesting detail on these early years and how Russian policy affected ordinary families. He was dismissed from his job for refusing to join the Communist Party, and was continually harassed by the police. Joined the army briefly, then took up any jobs going in the area. By 1958, he was able to open a carpentry business.
Section 5  Describes Upper Silesia before the war: “no political problems … until the times of Hitler, church services were held in German and in Polish”. Recalls some of the cultural traditions: saint’s days, church fairs with merry-go-rounds.
Section 6  More memories of the past – cuisine, children’s games. They were richer then so “my mother could afford to perform various experiments in the kitchen”.
Section 7  Wishes his family could have left: “we wanted to leave for Germany, but the authorities wouldn’t let us”. Good detail about the difficulties for the Germans displaced from Poland, some of whom developed the Expatriates Chart, as well as the problems encountered by both Polish settlers and the few Germans remaining in Silesia.
Section 8  Some “unpleasant experiences” (attempted recruitment by counter-intelligence). They applied to go to Germany, but their letters were intercepted and “we were never able – because of that – to get an invitation to Germany”.
Section 9-10  Talks about how much he likes life in mountainous areas, though he recognises that Polish settlers from the “flatlands” have found it hard, especially as the State doesn’t “create conditions for proper living”. It has “closed down shops, schools” and now the isolated villages and farms are being deserted.
Section 11  Today, when Germans return to their old villages, “most Poles receive them very warmly … even offer to sell them their houses again [laughs]”. He raised money from Germany to help flood victims but was saddened by the envy and resentment this and his personal acts of charity caused: “We started working at [a neighbour’s], removing the damage and she was very glad…, but when we started working at other people’s, she wouldn’t talk to us.
Section 1213  His history and that of the region have clearly shaped his views. He says more about the Expatriates’ Chart. “The world belongs to everyone, not to a particular country. There should be no borders…. young people [should] discard false history and try to look for the truth in the world on their own…. to see for themselves what people are like there, that they are the same, that they should love them. So that there were no political differences.” Interested in acupuncture, solar energy, diet and his health, but his “main occupation now is winning the heavens. I want to get prepared for death”.