the last twelve months was compiled by priests of the district and reaches us from absolutely reliable sources.
A YEAR OF TERROR IN NEISSE, UPPER SILESIA
IT was on March 24, 1945, that the Russian troops entered the town of Neisse in Upper
Silesia. Approximately 20 priests and lay-brothers, 200 nuns—who cared fen the aged and sick—and 2,000 civilians had remained in the town. In spite of the bombardment and a siege lasting for eight days the &image was tint very extensive. Of all the beautiful and ancient buildings only the Jacobskirche had been set on fire through bombardment by the Russians in the afternoon of March 21.
And then, like a flood, the Red Army poured into the town, forcing its way also into the house occupied by the remaining priests. The first thing the soldiers grabbed were the -watches belonging to the priests, the nuns and all other inhabitants. Under threats they asked for the Mass-wine and finally looted the whole house. They spared not even the altar in the cellar, where Mass had just been celebrated. Monstrances and chalices were taken away with special eagerness.
Without interruption all the girls, wonted and nues were raped. The soldiers, headed by their officers, formed a queue in front of their victims. During the first night already most of the nuns and women were raped up to fifty tithes. Nuns who resisted with all their strength were either shot or so terribly ill-treated that they could not resist any longer because of their physical exhaustion. They were thrown on the floor, trampled on, hit on their faces and on their heads with pistols or rifle-butts until they were covered with blood, torn to pieces, incredibly deformed and rendered unconscious, thus beio,g helpless victims to a concupiscence incomprehensible to us in its sub-human perversity. Similar dreadful seerics occurred hi the hospitals, homes for the aged and other institutions. Seventy or eighty nuns lying ill or completely paralysed in their beds were again an again ill-treated and raped by [twee debauchees. Not. as One might think, in secret or in a dark corner ; no, in front of everybody, even children, in the streets, in public places nuns, women, and children as young as eight years, were raped again and again. Mothers in front of their children, girls in front ,of their brothers, nunsin front of young boys, were raped till they died, not even their corpses being spared. Priests, who wanted to protect the nuns, were seized and tuken away under threat of death.
In the afternoon the remaining population was rounded up and held in a narrow space in order to get free access to all their belongings, which were looted, and there was no end to all the acts of violence.
The same night we were dragged 'off into complete uncertainty, After a long March we came to a village and were pressed so tightly into a small room that nobody was able to sit or lie down. The following day each priest was questioned by an officer of the N.K.W.D. (G.P.U.). This officer was lecturer on " Leninismus" at the University of Leningrad. Ile tried to persuade us to put ourselves at his disposal. for the purpose of propaganda for the Red Army, and promised us for the future large churches, a safe and influential position.
His educational standard was shown by the question whether the Pope was a Catholic or a Protestant. After having taken notes about our activities during the past ten years, the priests Were sent off in an easterly direction. Identity papers or military protection were _denied to us, leaving us at the mercy of the Ruseian‘soldiers. This meant that we were constantly in danger or being deported for forced labour. Wherever we went we were questioned, examined and " treated " with rifle-butts. Every village was completely devastated. The churches we passed were ransacked without exception, altars, pictures and' statues smashed, the tabernacles forced open, the poor-boxes pilfered, vestments torn. Most of the chgrehes were used as stables. The villages were empty but for the gills and women kept hack by the Russians to work for them, having to experience all the horrors previously described. We tried to find shelter in these devastated villages. living on scraps of foodstuffs lying about, It was impossible t:o Nay Mass, as there was willing left.
For nine long weeks we had to live in this uncertainty. After the armistice we were at last allowed to return to Neissc. We had heard a lot about this town while on our wandering, but what we saw was beyond our worst tears. We Were the first priests to return into this completely dead. binned and evacuated town. The first thing we did was to bury the corpses of the raped nuns. There were more than thirty of them. In the adjoining monastery of the Franciscans the Father Guardian and live lay-brothers were murdered.
Gradually the fugitives returned, full of hope to be able to rebuild a new life. through peaceful work, As most of the houses were destroyed they tried to find shelter on the outskirts. It took many days to find a little space which could be rendered habitable as here, too, every house was ransacked, furniture demolished. covered with excrements. corpses and limbs lying about in scattered flour and so on. The churches were in a like state and we did everything to enable the population to have Mass again which' they had missed for so long a time. This task was all the more difficult as the Russians continued their work of dcsIrtredon on exactly the same lines as in the days of war.
The Russians Make Way for . the Poles
A new period of suffering began when the Russians made way for the Poles. There nev,er were any Poles in the district, but German services were foehidden at once. The Gospel was to be read in Polish and the faithful were not allowed to pray or sing in their native tongue, In Neisse we tried everything to comply with the new regulations concerning Polish services. But in the country, where we had no Polish-speaking priests, we had Low Masses only. The Polish Militia was behaving in exactly the same way as the Gestapo and the N.K.W.D. (G.P.U.), looting everything brought back by, the people who had escaped into less dangerous parts of the country. This Polish Militia is an arbitrary organisation under Communist leadership and has, in a most brutal and inhuman way, carried out the deportation of the inhabitants, consisting mostly of women, children and old people. Since July the whole of the population of the villages round Neisse have heen turned out of their houses and farms, herded together like cattle in the smallest space, exposed to heat and rain, hunger and illness, beaten and ill-treated. Sick people, small children and aged people died already at the beginning of their sufferings through the inhuman outrages of the Militia.
From time to time some of the victims, being completely exhausted. starved and sick, were loaded into cattle-trucks and sent to the west. In most of the towns the Germans were pressed into ghettoes, living twenty or more in one room, without furniture, without food, heating, light, or medical attention. often even without clothes. People suffering from typhoid were thrown out of their beds in tke middle .of the night and left without clothing in the streets. Whenever the Militia got hold" of a man, he was immediately separated from his family and sent to a special camp.
These men, not members of the N.S.D.A.P., but mostly good Catholics, during the past years had suffered for their religious and political conviction. They had lost their jobs because of their anti-Nazi attitudes and had, therefore, remained in their towns and villages because they thoueht themselves safe. These men were tortured to death in an indescribable manner. With all sorts of instruascots, evert iron hare, they were beaten till all their bones were smashed. Swastikas were cut into their flesh with knives and bayonets: when unconscious. cold water was poured over them in order to torture them further. Prisoners of war eomipg from the British and American zones to find their families were treated in a like manner. Not even priests got spared. A Catholic priest, of South American nationality. was beaten and tortured in the prison cellar for a whole night and he would have been tortured to death if his nationality had not saved him.
The Russians, Communists and Poles did not care for the land as such, their only interest being to torture the German population. Instead of providing
food they took away the little there was—the scanty crop and the cattle thus condemning the population to starve. Fruit was torn from the frees, vegetables taken from the gardens. The Germans were forbidden to go into the fields to gather a few stalks that were left behind. Their only Food consisted of a few potatoes bidden during the day and collected during the night in the Fields around. But woe to those who were found out! They were dragged into the former " Brown House " and so ferociously beaten that they not only lest consciousness but often even their mind_ Later on ration cards were introduced but distributed only to those Germans who worked for the Poles. The ration card entitled the holder to purchase bread and salt, but they never got anything. There were only a few shops left and the Poles had to be served first ; nothing was left for the Germans. Hutteer-typhoid was raging and not only the children and old people, but even strong and healthy men and women died. The death-roll was ten times as high as during the war.
Under these intolerable circumstances many people voluntarily left their old and beloved homeland. They went to the west, hoping to find a living, though very modest, but at least in security and peace. They were allowed to leave and to take 40 lbs. of their belongings with them. But there was great difficulty in obtaining the necessary, emigration permit ; 10 Zloty had to be paid and Polish currency was unobtainable for the Germans. The same difficulties arose for the payment of the fare, and so it became impossible to use the railways. If, nevertheless, somebody was fortunate enough to obtain some Polish money it did not mean that he was safe in using the railway. He, wits dragged out of the train, looted, put to forced labour for weeks, to find himself eventually in one of the big camps near the Goerlitzer Neisse.
Everyone is glad to cross—the frontier. The material losses were great and painful, but worse are the sorrows about the unhappy homeland. Silesia, and especially Upper Silesia. is a country in chains, enslaved and subdued by men living only for their lowest instincts and wildest thoughts of hatred and revenge, exercising a Bolshevist tyranny to which nothing is sacred.
[That the above account is .by no mean,,, unique is borne out by the coincidence that we have received from American sources a description of the occupation of Danzig based upon the reports of an American travelling in the British zone of Germany who lied the chance of interviewing a great 1114111her of refugees from Danzig. Here again the evidence is that bad ON the Russians were, the Poles acting under the present achninistration were etch worse. We have also a copy of a letter signed by a well-known German 'TU. gions writer and journalist written from a parish near Breslau. It was dated September 3, 1945, and It includes the following sentence: "If our Jives are to be saved, immediate and energetic help is needed to end this terror. . . . I can anticipate my own fate. I hope I will he strong enough to say yes, and with this ` yes ' conclude my life in dignity and thankfulness for all graces received."—EDITOR, C.H.1 Films By Grace Conway
A Tortured Genius
Afamous conductor once said to me that he considered all creative artists should be segregated from the rest of the community— especially musicians He would subsidise them—sec that they were properly housed, fed and clothed, given the tools of their Haute and left to get on with the job. Ile thought that, in this way, much creative work which normally goes down, the drain because of the poverty endured by artists, would he salvaged for the world while the workaday people got on with their own jobs unhampered by the presence of the artistic temperament in their midst.
All very nice and tidy. He ignored one hard fact—that the bulk of creative artists are exhibitionists and that they like to rub shoulders wish ordinary humanity and also to take humanity by the scruff of its neck and look, read or listen to what they produce. Take Berlioz, for instance-' whose life is the subject or Symphonic Fantastique, the second French film to be shown at the, Curzon under Mr. Rank's new scheme and which will later go to the provinces. Berlioz was the supreme exhibitionist• He liked to rush down from his seat in the gallery, seize the baton horn the maestro's hand and conduct the orchestra himself—as a protest against some omission in the work tieing performed. He became a " fan" of an Irish actress, Henriette Smithson, who was playing Ophelia at one of the Paris theatres, literally flinging himself at her head—the titm even sbows hint riding on the step of her carriage declaring his undying love. When he got quinsy he used the tough and ready medical knowledge • he had of anatomy (his parents wanted hint to be a doctor) to lance his own throat—an operation which the film shows in detail. I'm afraid 1 was coward enough not to look until the operation was over.
The neglect and long delayed recognition of his genius on the part of publishers, not to speak of academicians, caused him untold and Igegdrawn out agony—all of which the Olin allows you to witness. TO offset this you are allowed to witness and hear some superb performances of hi,s major works, including the Te Delon al it was sung at the Paris Exhibition—with three large choirs and a huge orchestra, and the symphony of the title.
Jean-Louis Barrault plays Berlioz for an the part is worth. The film is not one of France's best, but it. is interesting and really does give you an idea of Paris of those spectacular days.
While the French film seethes with melodrama and temperament, Britain's offering this week—Lisbon Story—at Warners is phlegmatic to the point of dullness. It is just the musical comedy of the name photographed but without the colour.
The Great Victor Herbert (Plaza) is a revival and would have been better it it really was about the popular Irish composer and not about a couple of his leading actors.