The Forgotten War Orphans - Hitler's Last Victims?

THE FOOTBOARD TRAVELLERS: Some German Wolf Children reached Lithuania by train. They were named "the footboard travellers", because they jump on to the train when departing and stood on the footboards. This picture is taken just outside Taurage, the first Lithuanian town after the Kaliningrad border.
  • In 1944-1945, millions of German Civilians from East-Prussia (what is today Kaliningrad and the eastern part of Poland) and other areas of the Baltics had to flee from the Red Army. Additionally, several hundreds of thousands of Germans were displaced by force from their homes in what are today Polish and Lithuanian territories. The Red Army’s revenge on civilians was merciless.
    • There are credible estimates that 25.000 German children lost their parents during the flight, and wandered around in East-Prussia on search for food and work. About 5.000 of these children reached Lithuania.
    •  Only a few hundred of the children survived. Some were “adopted” by Lithuanian and Russian farmers. They represented free labour force, and were often treated purely as slave workers.
    • The Wolf Children were given a new Lithuanian or Russian identity, and many forgot their real names, origin and mother tongue. The Soviet rulers did not allow the adoption of German children. In fear of getting deported to Siberia, those who adopted German kids prohibited them to speak German. Mostly these children did not get a chance to go to school in their new country either.
    • After Lithuania had got its independence, a group of former German war refugees gathered in Klaipeda and formed “Edelweiss – Wolfskinder” – the organisation for the Wolf Children – in 1992. The organisation counted about 250 members on its biggest. Today there are less than a hundred German Wolf Children left in Lithuania.
    • Only few Wolf Children returned to Germany after 1991. Those who remained in Lithuania got support from the German authorities until 2005, when Lithuania had joined the European Union. Today (in 2007) they receive Lithuanian monthly pensions between €28 and €200.
    (Sources: Der Spiegel (07/2007), Wolfskinder - Grenzgänger an der Memel (2003: Kibelka) and the organisation for the Wolf Children.)

    Left Behind in Lithuania

    AT THE SPOT: The so-called “Wolfskinder Denkmahl”, the Wolf Children Memorial, was erected in 1992 at the cross-road between Kaliningrad, Taurage, Silute and Kaunas. Head of the Wolf Children group in Taurage, Bronius Dapkus, is also the main caretaker of the memorial.

    The frost-bitten, six-year old Uwe Tritz could not walk, and became a burden for his sister. Left behind, he grew up under harsh conditions in Soviet-occupied Lithuania. Today he is Bronius Dapkus, and thankful for his life.

    MIKYTAI, LITHUANIA - Bronius Dapkus is looking thoughtful at the memorial for the Wolf Children. His eyes are focused at the inscription and his mouth is tight-lipped.

    “It is much nicer here in the summer. Then we plant flowers around it, and the forest behind it is green and smells so good”, says the 68-year old in a manoeuvre to get his thoughts over to something brighter than what he probably was thinking of in the first place.

    A place for choice

    The memorial is placed just besides a cross-road in the Lithuanian countryside. It is not a coincidence that it is located just here: In the end, and just after World War 2, thousands of children were escaping East-Prussia (today Kaliningrad) in search of food and security.

    This was a place for choice for those who had crossed the border from East-Prussia to Lithuania, just five kilometres southwards:

    Take the western route, and you would end up in the towns of the old German “Memelland”.

    Take the eastern route, and you would end up in the big, but rather poor, cities of Kaunas or Vilnius.

    Continue straight ahead, to the north, and you would first reach the custom’s town of Taurage, then the heart of Lithuania or even Latvia if you walk far enough.

    Bronius Dapkus, or Uwe Tritz, which was his German name, did not have a choice.

    “Little Nazis”

    “I can only remember fragments, since I was only six years when we escaped”, says Uwe.

    What he remembers, though, is that he was together with his sister and his brother.

    “We had to evacuate from our home when the invasion came. When we returned to the house, there were Russians living there. They told us ‘little Nazis’ to get away, and so we did.”

    They had been separated from their mother, and had to take care of themselves. It was shortage of food in East-Prussia, but his older siblings had heard that there was plenty of bread in Lithuania.

    And so they landed in Lithuania in the end of the year 1945.

    “She said I was dead”

    The winter was terrible. The three children lived in shelters for a month.

    “In the end I were so reduced and frozen, I could not walk. My sister had to carry me”, Uwe recalls.

    The next thing he remembers is that he was taken care of in a cabin.

    “It was warm in there, and the people there gave me something strong to drink. I think it was vodka.”

    By this time, he had become a too heavy burden for his brother and sister. They left him there, and promised to come back after him. But they did not.

    “My brother, my sister and my parents managed to get to Germany. My sister told them I had died. It was probably easier to settle with a dead child, than to live in uncertainty with a missing one”, says Uwe, quiet.

    Thanks to the German Red Cross, he managed to get in touch with his family again, but this was several decades later.

    “I met mother again in Germany before she died in 1985, but she would not believe I was her son.”

    Working and reading

    In Taurage, Uwe was adopted by a farmer. He worked all day, and did his school work late in the evening. Many times he was so tired that he fell asleep by the kitchen table with the oil lamp burning.

    “My adoptive father enjoyed drinking. When he came home late and found me like that, I got a proper beating.”

    Uwe managed to complete his primary education, learned to speak Lithuanian well, to read and to write. That made him to get slightly better off then a lot of Wolf Children who have lived with illiteracy all their lives.

    That’s also the reason why he is the head of the biggest Wolf Children group in the country, today counting some 20 members.

    A good heart

    As the Wolf Children are dying out, or moving to Germany, it is not much of activity in the organisation anymore.

    “All the ones who spoke German in Taurage have moved back to Germany. We have no one here to represent us towards the German authorities, or to help us writing letters with relatives in Germany”, says Uwe, who has also forgotten the German language.

    “Practically, we are left alone. But we take care of each other as good as we can.”

    Even though he suffers from rheumatism and has been heart-operated four times, he makes an effort in voluntarily helping the members of his group and maintaining the memorial over the Wolf Children in Mikytai.

    “My doctor says my health problems are related to the frost injuries and strains from my childhood. But I think making good deeds is good for my heart”, smiles the 68-year old Wolf Child, who is free of grudge towards anyone, and grateful towards the Lithuanians:

    “They actually saved my life.”

    "Am I More German or Lithuanian?"

    OLD DAYS: Erika Sauerbaum-Kaziuriene was lucky and rescued some of the photos from her childhood. She remembers all the years, places and people on the pictures, without having a second thought.

    Erika Sauerbaum-Kaziuriene is one of the oldest living German Wolf Children in Lithuania. She feels caught between two worlds.
    JONAVA, LITHUANIA - Erika Sauerbaum-Kaziuriene closes the album, and puts it on the coffee table together with her written memoirs and the latest issue of Ostpreussenblatt, the East Prussia Magazine.

    For her, Kaliningrad is still a German town – her hometown – even though it is not anymore. Consistently she uses the German names of the city, Königsberg, and calls the now Russian province of Kaliningrad East Prussia.

    Unlike many other Wolf Children, she always knew she was German, that she was Erika Sauerbaum.

    ALTAR OF RELICS: Memories from a lost country. The East-Prussia hymn, pictures from the old city of Königsberg and a school photo decorates the wall. Underneath is a photo of her grandson.


    Still, she feels most Lithuanian, because she has lived here all her life. But for the Lithuanians she will always be a German. Her German background is especially visible because she speaks Lithuanian with a German accent.

    But in Germany she will also be a foreigner. She has lived most of her life in Lithuania, and has a Lithuanian passport. Some Germans also thinks she speaks un-normal.

    STILL SAFE: Erika holding her doll, surrounded by her parents, her brother and an uncle in 1939.

    Or Lithuanian?

    Nevertheless, when in Lithuania she dreams about Germany, but when in Germany she misses Lithuania.

    She has the possibility to change her citizenship and move to Germany, but refuses that.

    “What should I do there? I don’t have many belongings, but what I have is here. I have my little apartment and my family here in Lithuania. I will spend my last years here.”

    Then she recalls an old saying:

    “You don’t re-plant old trees. They die when the time is ready”.

     LAST CLASS: School photo of 1944. Erika stands behind the teacher, in the middle.

    Raising Awareness About the Wolf Children

    The for so long hidden and forgotten victims of World War 2 are slowly getting more visible through media, school projects and exhibitions – at least in Germany and Lithuania. Now, two permanent exhibitions about the Wolf Children are planned in Lithuania.
    SILUTE, LITHUANIA - The destiny of the Wolf Children was first publicly known after the release of the book “Wolfskinder Grenzgänger an der Memel” in 1996 (in English “Wolf Children. Wanderers on the border”).

    The author of the book, Ruth Leiserowitz-Kibelka, is a recognized German historian. She grew up in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and did not have the possibility to take an education before the Berlin Wall collapsed. This was because she was active in civil rights’ organisations.

    A “House of Wolf Children”

    Now she leads the work with collecting stories, documents, letters and photographs for a permanent exhibition about Wolf Children near the border to former East Prussia (Kaliningrad).

    The organizer of this new “House of Wolf Children” is Ricardas Savickas, who is the son of one of the Wolf Children. It is planned that the exhibition will be accompanied by educational programmes especially aimed at school classes.

    The first Lithuanian exhibition about the Wolf Children took place in a church in the same area last summer.

    Permanent exhibition

    Also in the town of Silute, the local museum wants to focus on the destiny of the Wolf Children, of which many landed in this region of Lithuania.

    “It is a difficult task to visualize it. What we got is stories and a few photos. Mostly we do not know where and when the photos are made, and who is on them”, says Rosa Siksniene, the head of the Museum of Silute.

    But the collecting of material is still going on. An own hall is dedicated to the history of the Wolf Children, and the exhibition will be installed when the EU supported renovation of the museum building is complete.

    There is no competition between the two planned exhibitions:

    “We are actually cooperating”, says Siksniene.

    School project

    Last year, a group of pupils from a local school exhibited their project about Wolf Children in the museum.

    “The theme of the project was whether the war was over after the signing of the peace treaty. We found out that there were still living old German war refugees in our town, and we even got to interview one lady”, says the teacher Jurate Guseviene, who think it is very important that we are aware of all innocent victims of war.

     “When I grew up in Jurbarkas, which is near the border to Kaliningrad, there were so many children with ‘funny’ names as Ruth, Edith and Karl. Those names are not common in Lithuania. In the latter years I have realised that these must have been the sons and daughters of the Wolf Children, which escaped from Kaliningrad after 1945.” says the Lithuanian teacher Jurate Guseviene and confesses;

    “They lived in my neighbourhood, but I did first know about these Germans in Lithuania in 1993, after the Wolf Children organisation was established and they appeared in the newspapers”.

    Until now only in Germany

    Several books about Wolf Children are now available in German. So are also a number of TV programmes and documentaries. One of the latest ones is the docudrama “The Children of Flight”, which was sent on the channel ZDF this winter.

    By now, the only country which has given the Wolf Children serious attention since they revealed their real identities after 1991, seems to be Germany - and Lithuania to a certain degree.

    “I did never translate my work into other languages than Lithuanian, but the interest in other countries (read: English-speaking) was pretty low as well”, says Leiserowitz-Kibelka to Euroviews.

    Who said we must never forget?

    The Least Unfortunate Child

    PRIVILIGED: Luise was renamed Alfreda, but still she had luck with her “new” parents who let her get an education.

    Luise Quitsch-Kazukauskiene had luck in her bad luck. Today’s leader of the organisation for the Wolf Children got stolen by the right people.
    VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - “Mother made me repeat the phrase ‘I am Luise Quitsch’ until I had learned it, and told me that I should say it to people I met. I found it incredible strange, because I was only ‘Luise’. But mother knew what was going to happen”, says the 67-year old women, who is the leader of the organisation for the German Wolf Children in Lithuania.

    Mosaic of memories

    She was only five when she had to flee from the advancing Red Army. It is not much she remembers from those days; she describes it as she has a mosaic of small bits of memories.

    She was together with her mother and sister in Königsberg (today the city of Kaliningrad). She remembers they were at the train station, and that she had a dark blue coat.

    The next thing she remembers is dead horses, suitcases and toys lying in the ditches. And that she wanted a teddy bear, but was not allowed to pick it up.

    She remembers a burning forest – the trees looked beautiful, like big candles.

    She remembers she starved, and that she walked and walked.

    How she lost her mother and sister is just a black hole in her memory.

    A freak of chance

    The next thing she recalls is Russian soldiers, and that she lived in a barrack with them in a military camp.

    “From this point, I can tell more, because here my adoptive family is included in the story”.

    Through a freak of chance, one of the soldiers had a local girlfriend. He told her that they had such a cute little girl in their camp, and she went home and told her parents.

    Since their children were all grown ups, they decided that they wanted to adopt the little girl.

    “One day I stood by the fence and looked out, they came and started to talk to me. The daughter picked out some candy from her bag and lured me to go to a hole in the fence. I crawled through, and then they ‘stole’ me”, says Luise and smiles.

    Got an education

    She really has a reason to smile today. The couple who adopted her treated her well. Her new mother was a teacher, and let Luise go to school.

    Her new parents did only speak Lithuanian with her. Soon she stopped saying “I am Luise Quitsch” as she had enough to do with learning Lithuanian in first grade, and Russian in the second. Lithuania had become a part of the Soviet Union.

    Thought it was a dream

    During the first time in school, she was mocked by the other kids.

    “They gave me cruel names and so on. They probably just said what they had heard their parents say at home, but sometimes children can be so much crueler than adults.”

    But after some time, though, Luise got totally assimilated. She forgot her language by her 10th birthday. Her life before Lithuania turned into being just a vague dream. She started believing that she was reunited with her real family, and that her name was Alfreda.

    WORTH TWO VODKAS: This iron basket hung on Luise’s mother’s kitchen wall, even 50 years after they had to leave their home. The old, alcoholic Russian lady who lived in her old home now, was happy with two vodka bottles in exchange for Luise’s mother’s old belonging.


    First 35 years after, when she had turned 45 and worked at a ministry in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, she understood that it was not a dream at all:

    On her way to work, she passed by a toy store. In the window she saw a wooden toy, which she suddenly called “Hampelmann” (a jumping jack). That was a word she didn’t knew, from a language she had forgot a long time ago.

    Declining group

    In the beginning of the 1990s, Luise re-learned German. Today she speaks it perfectly again.

    The retired engineer is the leader of the organisation for the German Wolf Children of Lithuania. Some of the aims of the organisation are to maintain the interests of the old refugees in the approach with public authorities, and to search after their lost families.

    On its biggest, the organisation had about 250 members in Lithuania. Today it has less than 100, and is declining steadily as the youngest Wolf Children are in their late sixties.

    Unknown Wolf Children

    Luise thinks there might be more Wolf Children out there than only the members of the organisation.

    “They probably do not remember their refugee past. Or they do not feel the need of searching after their original identity in their old days, when they already have lived more than 60 years with a Lithuanian one.”

    GERMANY: Last year, Luise Quitsch-Kazukauskiene accompanied some of the members of the organisation she leads to Germany. For many of the Wolf Children, that were the first time they stood on German soil since 1945.

    The Destiny of a Displaced Girl

    MARKED FOR LIFE: Aldona Zigmantiene (left), can not get peace from thinking about how her life could have been like if she had not been given away to a Lithuanian farmer when she was eight years old. Erika Sauerbaum-Kaziuriene (right) is a good friend and supporter.
    Aldona Zigmantiene (68) had to short legs and could not run fast enough, 60 years ago. That has weighed her down ever since.
    JONAVA, LITHUANIA Erika Sauerbaum-Kaziuriene (today 79 years old) had always known that there lived another German in Jonava, the small town cituated an hour ride from the capital Vilnius. But it was dangerous to be curious in the Soviet times.

    In 1993 a friend of Erika pointed out the other German. By coincidence they were both visiting the cemetery one day. Erika approached the women and asked:

    “Excuse me, but are you a German?”

    Aldona replied quickly:

    “Do I look like one?”

    The two friends burst out in laughter of the story about how they first met, and since then have been friends. Actually, they smile for the first time during the whole interview; because they have been telling about their past, and their stories are far from merry.

    “I will come and get you”

    In 1947, Aldona’s mother was laying in Königsberg, seriously ill. A friend of the mother took eight-year old Aldona with her to Lithuania for some days to beg for bread. Everything went as planned, until they should return home.

    “The train was leaving, and we had to run after it. Mother’s friend jumped onto it, but I was too small to manage the same. I fell, and the train was going faster and faster away from me. The last thing I heard her scream to me, was that I should run back to the people we spend the night at. She would come and pick me up, she said.”

    Aldona has to take a small pause. She has a clump in her throat, and her eyes are shiny.

    A bitter betray

    Little Aldona went back to the people they had slept at the last couple of nights. But there she could not stay long, so they took her to a childless farmer, in the outskirts of Jonava. There she grew up as a farm hand and a servant for that farmer.

    ”Once I was in the church, when I was 14, I met this woman: ‘I have to give you my apology, because I have made a big mistake’, she said to me.”

    It was the woman who had given her to the childless farmer six years ago. Her mother’s friend had actually returned to take her back. But this woman had lied to her, said that it had been an explosion and that Aldona had died.

    “I have carried that certainty whit me all my life; that everything could have been different; that I could have grown up in Germany as a child, not as a small worker, together with my family.”

    Both Aldona and Erika, who interprets her Lithuanian story into German, have shaky voices. It is a hard story to tell. The bitterness and the frustration have bothered Aldona since that day in the church.

    Found the brother…

    As one of the few Wolf Children which have not forgotten the German language, Erika helped her fellow members of the Wolf Children organisation to fill out forms and search after relatives in Germany. She also helped Aldona.

    “Suddenly, a guy from Stuttgart came forward. That would appear to be her old brother. To prove that he was her brother, he told a story in one letter.”

    He wrote that Aldona, once in her childhood, had fell down and hurt the corner of her mouth.

    “Take a finger and let it stroke from just below your nose and down to the right corner of your mouth. There you will have a scar, he wrote. And that was correct”, tells Erika.

    … and the house, 50 years later

    Aldona’s brother could also give her the address of where they had lived in Königsberg.

    So, one day in the mid-90s, a minibus full of Wolf Children went to Kaliningrad to find their old homes. Equipped with a Russian street map, the older Wolf Children filled in the old German street names, and that way they managed to find the street of Aldona’s childhood.

    “When we found her street she said ‘go further, further’. Then we stopped outside her house. Nearby it was situated some trenches from the war, untouched. Aldona walked up to them and said; ‘It is here… it was here I fell and hurt my cheek that time’”.

    They rang on the door, and a young Russian woman opened the door. They were invited in for tea, and Aldona could take a tour through the house. Forgotten memories were rushing to her head.

    Asthma and minimum pension

    Aldona always knew she was German, and not Lithuanian or Polish. But the German language she forgot, as she was not allowed to speak it.

    “On the other side, she did not have anyone to talk German to”, Erika inserts.

    Only four grades in Lithuanian school were Aldona able to finish, as her labour force were demanded in the collective farms and the state-run glass wool factory.

    For her life of hard work, she is rewarded with asthmatic problems and a minimum pension.

    Partners in an Unfortunate Fate

    THANKFUL: Hilde Horn-Miliauskiene (71) and Heinz Willeweit-Miliauskas (74) are thankful to have survived a difficult life as Germans in Lithuania after World War II. Giedrie (16) and Ingrida Lutautaite (21) are proud of their grandparents.

    Hilde Horn-Miliauskiene (71) and Heinz Willeweit-Miliauskas (74) are both German Wolf Children. They were forced to forget their mother tongue, and didn’t get any education in Lithuania. Still they are grateful to the Lithuanian people for sharing their bread with them, over 60 years ago.
    TAURAGE, LITHUANIA - “It was the destiny which lead us together”, says Heinz Willeweit-Miliauskas.

    Once he got invited to a wedding in his neighbourhood. There he met a girl which had experienced the same as him; the escape from Königsberg (today the city of Kaliningrad) to the promised land of Lithuania.

    “We have now been married for 51 years”, he tells, while exchanging a warm look with his wife.

    The escape

    When the shortage of food got precarious in Königsberg, Heinz and his brother left the city to satisfy their hunger. “In Lithuania they have bread”, the brothers had heard. So Lithuania became there goal.

    First, they went to the village where their grandparents lived, but they weren’t there anymore. Some Russians had moved in to the house, and chased the boys away as they knocked on the door.

    For weeks they slept in stables and sheds, until they reached the border-town Tilsit, today called Sovjetsk. The bridge over the river, which makes the border between Kaliningrad and Lithuania, was blown-up. But a ferry took people from one side to the other.

    The Russians wouldn’t let them enter, but they managed to hide. In the middle of the river they got caught, and the shipmen threatened to throw them overboard. But they didn’t.

    “Adopted” by a farmer

    On the Lithuanian side they were catched again, but the two boys managed to escape. From farm to farm they went, begging for food. Sometimes they were lucky, and got bread, eggs and some meat.

    The brothers worked at several farms, until Heinz met one who would give him permanent work with taking care of his cows. But the farmer took a chance by “adopting” a “small German”. He couldn’t risk that any Soviet official heard his little helper speak German – then he and his family would get a one-way ticket to Siberia.

    Therefore, Heinz and his brother were separated. They didn’t see each other for eight years.

    “I weren’t allowed to speak German at all. They wanted me to forget my language. I went to school for three years in Germany, but not at all in Lithuania. Today I can’t neither read nor write. I’ve also forgot how to speak my mother tongue”, says Heinz.

    His wife has suffered the same destiny.

    All alone

    “My mother died, my father was in the ‘Wehrmacht’, the German army, and my sister and my brother also died. Consequently, I was all alone in the world”, says Hilde.

    In 1946 she came to Taurage with the train.

    “We hide ourselves under the benches. An old lady told us that we had entered Lithuania. We went of at the next stop and started begging for bread”, Hilde recalls.

    “It was a hard time, because I couldn’t do much work – I was still small child! And we weren’t allowed to sleep in the house; we had to sleep in the stable, with the animals”, says she.

    First, she was taken as a bandit, because she could not speak any Lithuanian. Things got slightly better as she got a permanent place to live. But still; without any proper education, she, as many other Wolf Children, ended up as an illiterate, doomed to a life of hard physical work in the Soviet Union.

    Proud of their grandparents

    The grandchildren Giedrie (16) and Ingrida Lutautaite (21) live in the same house as their grandparents, one floor underneath. ”We are proud of our grandparents. They have worked a lot, and they have worked hard. Extremely hard. And they can’t read and write. Therefore we come and help them as often as we can”, says Giedrie.

    “Just think how young they were when they had to flee. All alone in a foreign country, and they didn’t even know the language! If such things had happened to me today, I’m not sure if I would have made it”, says Ingrida, and starts doing the dishes.

    Thankful, without resentment

    The old couple has indeed had a hard life, but they do not bear a grudge against anyone. The only one, if any, is Hitler.

    “He brought us into the misery. But we are forever thankful to the Lithuanian people. They did also have problems, but they shared their bread with us. In the end; that’s the reason why we can sit here and drink coffee today”, says Heinz Willeweit-Miliauskas.

    Wolf Children Still Care About Each Other

    HAPPY MEETING: Bronius Dapkus (right), or Uwe Tritz in German, is glad nothing has happened to his friend Horst Potschies (left) at the border.

    “We have to go down to the border and look after Horst. He doesn’t answer his phone, that’s not like him. I fear something could have happened to him”, says the leader of the Wolf Children in Taurage, Bronius Dapkus. The 67-year old is worried for his ten year older friend who lives at the border to Kaliningrad.
    PANEMUNE, LITHUANIA - Just as good people took care of the German Wolf Children over 60 years ago, the old Wolf Children now take care of each other. The remaining Wolf Children in Lithuania mostly live in remote areas, many of them with bad health, aging without any proper public services for the elderly.

    Bronius Dapkus drives as fast as his German Opel can bear along the straight-as-an-arrow A12, down the 30 kilometres from Taurage to Panemune. The village counts one border check-point, one bar, one sauna, a handful of houses and 324 souls. One of them is German.

    “Herzlich willkommen!”

    “Mein Name ist Horst” – “Welcome! My name is Horst”, says the old man in perfect German language. He welcomes his visitors with a firm hand-shake outside his run-down house. No doubt that Horst Potschies (77) has once been a very strong man. But the years have haunted him, and the health is worsening.

    “Oh, I’ve gone through a lot in my life”, he says, when he has given his two guests a seat in his living room.

    Horst is a Wolf Child, but not eager to go into details with the earliest part of his story, when the war ended. That is still too hard. He was 14 years old when he had to flee East-Prussia.

    Run through the forest

    “I was all by myself, and had to flee through the forest. I feed myself with whatever I could find, or get. At one point I reached Lithuania, and worked at a farm from 1945 to 1949. The farmer had lost one arm in the war, so you can think how much work I had to do…”

    In 1949, collective farms were established in his village. There he worked almost as a slave worker for one year.

    “That was bad times. It was even better during the war”, he thinks.

    “Infiltrated” the Red Army

    Thanks to a sympathetic Lithuanian mayor who claimed that Horst was a Lithuanian, the strong and healthy young man got out of the collective farm and into the Red Army.

    “Potschies could have been a Lithuanian name; it sounds so strange, doesn’t it? And what do the Russians know… Anyway, I was drafted for three and a half years and stationed in the mountain artillery in Chechnya. This was directly after the Russians had transferred all the Chechnyans to Siberia, poor them. But for me, the military service wasn’t bad at all. I was dressed, warm and filled up. It hadn’t been like that since I was a kid.”

    Thanks to a good ear for languages, he had already learned Lithuanian, but now also Russian. His German identity had to be hidden, for every price.

    “I some sort of “infiltrated” the Red Army, he-he-he. I can’t imagine what they would have done to me if they had found out that I was actually German”, he says.

    Not far, but still distant

    In 1960, six years after he was dismissed from the army, he disclosed his German secret to his wife. “Without any trouble, luckily.”

    Since that time, he has visited his childhood home in Kaliningrad several times. It’s situated only some 30 kilometres from what has been his home in Lithuania for more than half a century.

    After Lithuania entered the EU, visiting his old home town is more difficult. Though, every year he applies for a visa.

    Panorama to the border

    Since Horst retired from his work as driver and construction worker, he spends a lot of time at home. Beside him in his couch lays a pair of binoculars. Watching what’s happening at the always busy border checkpoint is as good entertainment as watching the telly. “I’ve picked up the spying from the old days”, says the 77-year old and laughs.

    “But why didn’t you answer your phone?” asks his friend Bronius.

    “Oh, the battery on my cell phone is “kaputt”. I have to buy a new one. Maybe I’ve talked too much with my old brother in Germany?”