Tuesday, 24 April 1945

Lichtenberg: Umberto Palo and Rosemarie Heinze

"All the bunker doors were firmly locked and secured. Outside, the battle raged. It went on. From mouth to mouth it spread: The Russians are here! On the calendar it said: 24 April 1945. So now the time had come: Everyone seemed very calm - very quiet. In the lock chamber, the few men with the bigger boys worked like hardworkers on the wheel of the air supply system, which could be turned in an emergency. I think they saved us from suffocating to death.

(Memoirs of the Berliner Rosemarie Erdmann, née Heinze; http://www.kindheit-und-politik.de/)

As a young girl Rosemarie Heinze was enthusiastically involved in the "Bund Deutscher Mädels" (BDM). As befitted a member of the Nazi youth, she collected raw materials for victory from door to door. After the outbreak of the war, her attitude soon changed: Again and again she observed how a train of miserable characters passed by almost daily from the notorious "Arbeitserziehungslager Wuhlheide" (Work Education Camp) in Friedrichsfelde - a sight she will never forget. When Soviet troops reach Berlin, Rosemarie Heinze experiences traumatic rapes by Russian soldiers. A liberated forced laborer from Italy becomes her protector: Umberto Palo, from the meat factory in Lichtenberg Triftweg where Rosemarie's father had his workplace. For several weeks Palo and other liberated Italians provide the family with food. From the liberation until his return to Italy, Umberto Palo remained a close friend of the Heinze family. 15 years later Rosemarie Erdmann visits him together with her husband in Battipaglia near Salerno.

(Source: Nazi Forced Labor Documentation Center)

Tuesday, 24 April 1945

Neukölln: "Long live the Great Red Army!"

"Long live the Great Red Army, our liberation army!
This day is the happiest day, you might say, in my young life. I, a seventeen-year-old boy, was deported to Germany under force, condemned to suffering and grief. The Red Army liberated us in the end. Now I can return home, now I can breathe home air with my full chest in and out. I will work freely for my country.
When the conquest of Berlin began, the skies were filled with Soviet planes. The fascists entrenched themselves very well. I was with a friend in a hiding place near our barracks. The fighting was fierce... The Germans were still shooting with machine guns from the neighboring houses. But the battle was already won by and large. Now I saw the Red Army's strength with my own eyes... Now we are among compatriots. I was so happy! I started to cry."

(From the diary of the former forced laborer Wasyl Timofeyevich Kudrenko)

Vasyl Timofeyevich Kudrenko is 16 years old when he is deported from a Ukrainian village to Berlin in 1943. As a "conscript" he has to dig graves in Berlin cemeteries. Together with about 100 other "Eastern workers", Kudrenko lives in a forced camp run by the Protestant Church in the cemetery of the Jerusalem and New Church congregations, between Hermannstraße and Tempelhof Airport. In his diary, he notes day after day his view of life in the camp, the hard work, hunger and the daily threat of bombs and the Gestapo. Like most of the male former "Ostarbeiter", Kudrenko is interrogated after liberation and then incorporated into the Red Army to do his military service.

(Source: Wasyl Timofejewitsch Kudrenko, "Bist du Bandit?", Berlin: Wichern-Verlag 2005, p. 72)