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In a letter to his daughter in late September 1945, Robert Niebatz, a 70-year-old blacksmith, described conditions in Cottbus after the city had been occupied by the Red Army during the previous April:

Arnold killed his entire family on the Wednesday before the Russians marched in, and now I am living over the forge as a tenant. Lotte has been living with me since 5 May, as her flat was confiscated. My old flat and the entire neighbourhood was burned down on Sunday, 22 April. The day of the entry [of the Soviet Army] was quite a drama. Your flat is half occupied… There are no more pensions. 10 Marks welfare payments per month is sufficient to buy what no longer is available… Even if I do everything possible to shield you from hunger, there will be little in the way of fats except for fresh eggs…. I have, thank God that I stayed here, saved four of Arnold’s hens, from which I have two layers which have produced 18 chicks.

By the time that Cottbus was captured by Soviet forces on 22 April, it had been bombed repeatedly, and in a city whose population had numbered roughly 51,000 before the war, fewer than 8000 were left. More than 1000 German soldiers had died in the senseless final battle for Cottbus, leaving the city ringed with mass graves. One hundred and eighty-seven Germans (including the ‘fortress commandant’ Generalleutnant Ralf Sodan) had committed suicide. Cottbus had become a field of ruins, littered with corpses.

Nevertheless, in the midst of this terrible scene survivors felt the need to re-establish every-day routines which were life affirming: caring for hens, which, in a landscape of wartime destruction, would provide eggs and chicks.


Source:

Bessel, Richard. “Conclusion: Life After Death.” Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York, NY, HarperCollins, 2009. 394-95. Print.

Original Source(s) Listed:

Robert Nebatz to Freda Petzold, 28 Sept. 1945, cited in Heinz Petzold, ‘Cottbus zwischen Januar und Mai 1945’, in Werner Strang and Kurt Arlt (eds.), Brandenburg im Jahr 1945 (Potsdam, 1995), pp. 106-7, 125.

>In a letter to his daughter in late September 1945, Robert Niebatz, a 70-year-old blacksmith, described conditions in Cottbus after the city had been occupied by the Red Army during the previous April: >*Arnold killed his entire family on the Wednesday before the Russians marched in, and now I am living over the forge as a tenant. Lotte has been living with me since 5 May, as her flat was confiscated. My old flat and the entire neighbourhood was burned down on Sunday, 22 April. The day of the entry [of the Soviet Army] was quite a drama. Your flat is half occupied… There are no more pensions. 10 Marks welfare payments per month is sufficient to buy what no longer is available… Even if I do everything possible to shield you from hunger, there will be little in the way of fats except for fresh eggs…. I have, thank God that I stayed here, saved four of Arnold’s hens, from which I have two layers which have produced 18 chicks.* >By the time that Cottbus was captured by Soviet forces on 22 April, it had been bombed repeatedly, and in a city whose population had numbered roughly 51,000 before the war, fewer than 8000 were left. More than 1000 German soldiers had died in the senseless final battle for Cottbus, leaving the city ringed with mass graves. One hundred and eighty-seven Germans (including the ‘fortress commandant’ *Generalleutnant* Ralf Sodan) had committed suicide. Cottbus had become a field of ruins, littered with corpses. >Nevertheless, in the midst of this terrible scene survivors felt the need to re-establish every-day routines which were life affirming: caring for hens, which, in a landscape of wartime destruction, would provide eggs and chicks. __________________________ **Source:** Bessel, Richard. “Conclusion: Life After Death.” *Germany 1945: From War to Peace*. New York, NY, HarperCollins, 2009. 394-95. Print. **Original Source(s) Listed:** Robert Nebatz to Freda Petzold, 28 Sept. 1945, cited in Heinz Petzold, ‘Cottbus zwischen Januar und Mai 1945’, in Werner Strang and Kurt Arlt (eds.), *Brandenburg im Jahr 1945* (Potsdam, 1995), pp. 106-7, 125.

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