Monday, 23 April 1945

Hermsdorf: Identity card of the forced labourer Marino Arletti

On April 23, Soviet troops from the north advance to Berlin-Tegel, where they engage in three days of fighting with a factory security battalion. Meanwhile, individual units bypass the area via Waidmannslust, Wittenau and Hermsdorf. Here the 22-year-old Italian forced laborer Marino Arletti is freed. In a note on the back of his identity card he records:

"Berlin, 23. 4.1945. A day I will never forget. I thank God that I am healthy and safe. Yesterday the Russian troops arrived, they came to liberate us. I never thought they would be so good. A Russian sergeant came to me and I made his beard. But enough of that, I have to go and prepare the sauce ... we are cooking gnocchi."


Montag, 23 April 1945

Tegel: Liberation of Jean René

Jean René was born as the child of a farming family in 1905 in Bazas in the Gironde. Working as a carpenter, he was drafted by the French military for artillery in 1939. On June 18, 1940, German units capture him near Paris and take him and other prisoners to Stalag IIID near Berlin. As a prisoner of war he has to work hard in Berlin, first in a waterworks, then in a shed at Grünau station, then for cement work at the Rohmberg company. From the camp in Grünau, René is transferred to Mariendorf. He makes his way to work every day by underground. In November 1944, he is transferred again, this time to a camp in Berlin-Tegel. René now worked for a carpentry workshop. Jean René writes vividly about his experiences in Berlin and his liberation in his diaries, which are only found many years later by his son Hervé:

"I had a pretty good night's sleep, despite the constant shooting. No work today: I think that the work at the brick works is over. Last night, the boss came to say goodbye; he had tears in his eyes. The tone of voice has changed over the five years. It is sad, despite everything, because here it is like everywhere else: there are good people, who unfortunately are not in the majority, and it is they who suffer.
It is 8 o'clock. I will sleep in the bunker, because the bullets are coming from all sides, it is not a good idea to sleep in the barrack! This morning I thought I saw the Russians at Tegel, but it's still thundering. It's true that it's not yet evening...

I had to stop writing this morning when at eight o'clock, just when I least expected to be liberated today, the first Russian soldiers passed by. We saw infantrymen first. I can't express in words how happy we have been since 8 o'clock this morning, because not far behind the infantry came tanks and hundreds more. All the foreigners are on the sidewalks and the joy is written all over their faces. The Germans are hiding in the houses; many vehicles have stopped to give us cigarettes and bread."

(Source: "A plaything in the turmoil of war. Diary of a prisoner of war," edited by Hervé René, Saint-Denis: Edilivre, 2017)