Wedneday, 9 May 1945

Going home? - Interim camp Berlin-Biesdorf

"People had brought in sewing machines from surrounding houses, with which they made national flags of their countries of origin from scraps of fabric." (Memories of Werner Sedlick, a resident of the area)

Werner Sedlick is 14 years old when the war ends in Berlin in spring 1945. He lives with his family in a house in Berlin-Biesdorf. His father works as a nurse at the Wuhlgarten Hospital (later Wilhelm-Griesinger-Hospital). In May 1945, a car repair shop is set up in a barrack opposite the family home by Soviet soldiers, who soon maintain friendly contact with the family. Not far away, a "wild" transitional camp for liberated forced labourers is established:

"A few weeks after the end of the war, a collective camp for liberated fourced labourers was established on the open field between Grabensprung and Köpenicker Straße, north of the railway embankment. More than 1,000 men and women lived there under the most primitive conditions for about 2-3 months. Italians, Poles and so-called Eastern workers...
Since my father was a nurse, it turned out that he often cared for the sick and injured in the camp. Now and then he took me there as a support. Previously brutally exploited, the liberated forced labourers, regardless of their origin, were now very grateful for interpersonal assistance ... Most of the former forced labourers lived in tents and huts they had built themselves. The materials and facilities for this were taken from surrounding gardens and apartments. The people used the nursery across the street to provide their necessities. Living together there was also characterized by frequent scuffles. Again and again there were also injured people.
The liberated foreign workers were transported home from the collection camp. Most of them were taken on horse-drawn carts in the direction of Kaulsdorf station. The transport was probably organized by Soviet soldiers."

The former French forced laborer Jean René also remembers such a camp:

"May 9: We don't know what will happen next. At the moment we are in Biesdorf... I didn't sleep much last night. The nights are too cold to sleep in the open air, so we have built a small barrack... There are about 20.000 of us and more are coming from all sides. It'll be a temporary camp. People from all over the world to be divided up. This afternoon we received official word that the war is over... If only an order could be given that we can leave this unlucky country."

(sources: Interview with Werner Sedlick, March 17, 2020; Jean René and Hervé, "A pawn in the turmoil of war. Diary of a prisoner of war, Saint-Denis: Edilivre, 2017)