Imprisoned by the Gendarmerie and the Security Police in Gross Sankt Nikolaus as an innocent 15-year-old schoolboy (by Josef Tittel and Hans Schimmel, translated by Diana Lambing)
During the elementary school year of 1947/48, Josef Engelmann and I were in the 7th class at our village school in Neusiedel auf der Heide. All the subjects were still being taught in the romanian language. As there were already many colonist children of school age in the village, we had two teachers at the school. Radu Petru was the headmaster, and taught the 5th, 6th and 7th classes, and the teacher Maginta Ilie came to Romania from Yugoslavia and spoke romanian, but very poor german. Despite this, he was supported by the german population. A list of signatures was gathered by the parents who had children at the school, and put before the school inspector of the Temeschburg region, asking that he could remain a teacher in our village. As the Communist Party held power in Yugoslavia under the Tito regime, this teacher was a model example for those Romanian people who also wanted to establish a Communist Party, as they received sound pieces of advice from this teacher. After King Michael had been deposed on 30th December 1947, the Russian military occupation put pressure on Romania to establish a Communist Party, which should then take over the government. So elections were announced in March 1948 for all parties. Different party posters appeared already in February, stuck or nailed to the walls of houses or wooden fences in the village. On them was written 'Votate soarele' or 'Votate ochlu', i.e. 'Vote for the sun' (which was the Communist Party), and the other was 'Vote for the eye' (which was meant for another Liberal Party). Because of the bad weather and a lot of rain, the posters got wet. On top of that, gales blew for weeks and ripped many posters completely away and blew them into the middle of the streets and even further out into the fields. Very few tattered posters remained hanging by just one corner.
The school Spring Holiday that year was at exactly the same time as the Catholic Eastertime. We boys loved to play ball. On Wednesday during Holy Week, towards evening, I went with the twin boys, Adam and Hans Schimmel, to my school friend, Josef Engelmann, who lived on the corner on the southern side of the main street, to play ball. As our friend, Johann Goschy, lived only 100 yards away in the neighbouring street, I called to him to come and play ball with us, too. So the five of us played on the corner in the next street, on the children's playground. Only two boys played against each other, and the other three watched. Because we were getting bored, as boys do, we also ran around the street, competing with each other. Suddenly, we heard a gramophone playing in another side street. We could hear the music coming from the house where our friend, Nikolaus Kowatsch, lived. So Josef Engelmann and Hans Schimmel ran along the side street to the end of the Wolzwagner's garden, also known as Hollosch, and listened to the music. On the way back, both of them had another bet and ran to the Wolz's well, which was in the main street, next to the big entrance gate. They pumped the handle to get drinking water. Josef Engelmann drank first, and then he went to the corner by the Wolz's house to wait for Hans Schimmel. As Josef lost patience waiting, he ran across the main street to his friends on the corner. Meanwhile, the Romanian Communist Party Secretary, Buda Ion, who had been talking to a Romanian colonist in Wolz's yard, came out into the street and saw an election poster lying on the ground. As we five boys were playing ball on the corner on the other side, Buda Ion came over to us and asked us why we had torn the election poster off the wall. We said we didn't know anything about it and we hadn't done it. But he blamed us and he took us to the village hall. There were two Romanian night-watchmen there. One of them had to call the Romanian teacher, Maginta Ilie, over. This teacher, who was very anti-German, came and phoned the Alexanderhausen 'Gendarmerie' (police station). The police officer said that the two night-watchmen should bring us five boys to Alexanderhausen police station that night. There, we were arrested and locked up for the night. During that night, a siren wailed, as there was a house on fire somewhere in the village, so the police were busy dealing with the fire. The following morning, we were interrogated by the police. They crushed our fingers in the door and clipped us around the ears. A statement, which we had to sign, was written, which stated that we had torn down an election poster. Young and inexperienced, we signed the statement. And so on Thursday afternoon, accompanied by a policeman, we five boys were taken to Lovrin police station in a horse and cart, which the village of Uihel had to provide. The driver happened to be Hans Goschy's father. Josef Engelmann sat in front, next to the driver; the twins, Adam and Hans Schimmel, on the seat behind the driver, and Josef Tittel, with the policeman and Hans Goschy, sat right at the back. The policeman told us his gun was loaded and that if anyone ran away, he would shoot. Josef Tittel was so quick off the mark and wanted to know if the gun was really loaded and he quickly took the breechblock from the gun. The policeman grew frightened, as five boys on a country lane six miles long could easily run off. He spoke very politely to us all the way to Lovrin and didn't get the breechblock back until we reached Lovrin. As a punishment, Josef Tittel had to clean the chicken shack and the yard at Lovrin police station. The other four had to clean everything in the cellar, where we were also locked up for the night again. During that night, another older man, Nikolaus Gehl, who had had an argument with the judge in Billed, was locked up with us in the cellar. This man told us we would be taken to the Regional Security Police station (called 'Asiguranza') in Gross Sankt Nikolaus. There, we would be beaten until we admitted being guilty for whatever the police authorities needed. Whether we were innocent or guilty would be up to them to decide. The Lovrin police took us by train to Treibswetter police station, where we were locked up for a night in a cellar again. On Easter Saturday, a policeman travelled with all six of us on the train to Gross Sankt Nikolaus and handed us over to the Regional Security Police, also called 'Asiguranza'. There were several Romanian youths from the village of Valcani in one room, and one asked us what we had done. 'Nothing', we said. Then another of the boys from Valcani said, 'After the interrogation is over, you'll be able to tell the police what your grandmother cooked three years ago, even though you can't remember!' So we gathered from these young lads that we would be beaten, too. All six of us were taken to a room. During the night, every single one of us was taken to another room for questioning. First of all, we were hit on the hands with a hard stick, and later with a rubber truncheon, like the ones used to beat soldiers in the Romanian army - 25 strokes on our behinds. The soft skin turned black and blue, and the skin broke in several places. When our friend, Josef Engelmann, received a second lot of 25 lashes with the rubber truncheon, he agreed that he alone had torn down the election poster, which had been hanging only by a corner, and that his four other friends had known nothing about it. During the day, we had to chop wood and carry it into the cellar and pile it up. On Easter Sunday, the Catholic priest from Gross Sankt Nikolaus sent food over to the 'Asiguranza' for the prisoners - bean soup. On the same day, our friend Hans Goschy was called to a room where a police officer said to him, face to face, 'Tell your father he should bring a little Easter parcel with some ham, money and a litre of brandy. Then you'll be set free on Easter Monday after the elections.' The parents of the Schimmel twins donated the ham, and the other parents gave money and got hold of a litre of brandy, which Hans Goschy's father brought to Gross Sankt Nikolaus. Hans Goschy hid the money between two tiles in the cellar and left the other stuff in a corner. Early on Easter Monday, a police officer said to all five of us, 'You are going to play a game.' We were to set fire to some wet wood on a stove with a match. If we couldn't get it to light, then our partner had to give us a clip on the ear. Josef Tittel was partnered by Hans Goschy. I only gave Hans a gentle clip. The police officer gave me a hard slap across the ear and said that was how I should do it. Half an hour before the train arrived at Gross Sankt Nikolaus station on Easter Monday, we were released and we arrived home in Uihel at midday. This is how the Romanian Communist Party Secretary, Buda Ion, secured his career - with such treachery. On the other hand, we five boys were marked down as 'unreliable people' in the Communist regime. So our lives were made difficult at school, and also for a long time in our jobs, as references were frequently demanded by our employers from the Communist Party branch in our village. Maginta Ilie, the teacher, stayed only for a short time longer at the school and then fled back to Serbia, as it had been established that he was a Serbian spy.
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