|One Horrible Sunday in Arzis, June of 1940
Ein Schrecklicher Sonntag im Juni 1940 in Arzis
Ziebart-Ruer, Elvera. "One Horrible Sunday in Arzis, June of 1940." Mitteilungsblatt, 16 June 2005.
Translation from the available German text to American
English by Alex
Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
June 25, 1940 was a nice Sunday in Arzis. Linda Ziebart was quietly
while sitting on the veranda of her mother's home. For one thing
happy to have a day off from her work at the School for Housekeeping
but for another she was anxious for the day to end, simply because
bored. Of course she could have participated in an excursion or
a walk with
some of the young people of the village, but she just wasn't interested.
Well, there had been this nice young student from Germany, but he
Germany before they were able to get to know each other sufficiently
Just at that moment Alma interrupted her reverie. The urgency in
and her tense movements suddenly demanded Linda's full attention.
you need to listen -- the radio says that Russia has given Romania
to leave Bessarabia within 48 hours. Can you believe it? What do
will happen to us?"
"Nothing, I hope," replied Linda, "We are Germans,
not Romanians. Let's find Mama and see whether she might have heard
the news." "We have no time for that. A number of our
friends are already on their way to the railroad station. Someone
heard that a train loaded with Russian soldiers is about to arrive.
Let's go there and see what's going on ..."
Without waiting for a reply, she grasped Linda's hand and, against
resistance, pulled her down the front steps. They joined a group
that was just
passing the house and discussing how these political happenings
them. The rumor, if indeed it was a rumor, had already attracted
a number of
people to the railroad station. Most of the Russian youngsters of
already present and were waving red flags as a welcome to their
Jewish youngsters had joined the welcoming committee, perhaps to
be on the right
side of the friendly party. Even some young German people, like
Linda, had come, if only out of curiosity.
But just as the growing multitude was streaming onto the hobbly,
patched-together platform, Romanian government officials and soldiers,
apparently heard the same rumor, began to evacuate the station.
Realization that they
were numerically inferior forced them into hurrying. But they had
valuable time preparing, and before they were to retreat, they were
taking along what they deemed to be theirs. Many German stores and
warehouses were broken into and wagons were loaded to the brim with
friends and relatives in Romania. (Note by the [original] translator
German]: the Romanian administrators and military certainly would
need means of
transportation for their loot, so they arbitrarily confiscated wagons
horses, causing many German farmers to hide their horses in the
Brienner Forest, in
the woods, in the reeds on the Schlaag River, and in "der Ground,"
low-lying area. Neveretheless, wagions and horses in Arzis were
with the promise of using them only temporarily, just up to the
hill. Some farmers accepted this promise and went along in order
their horses. Days alter they would return, without their horses,
and with at
least a beating.)
Just as the crowd reached the platform, a train moved into the
accompanied with joyous shouts and flag waving. However, the expected
infantry did not emerge from the train. Instead, a handful of partisans
out of a train car and began to distribute rifles and ammunition
to some of the
youth standing nearby, then disappeared into the crowd. Linda noticed
a Jewish youngster had accepted a gun and was hoping that he would
get rid of
it as quickly as possible. Disappointed that no Russian soldiers
arrived, the crowd began to disperse and move out just as a Romanian
driving his car around the corner of the station. Suddenly the quiet
Sunday was interrupted by a gunshot, and the soldier in the car
his seat. "He's one of the Romanians!" someone shouted.
Linda had just been looking in the direction of the car as the
out. "We can't just leave him lying like that," she said
to Alma, "he might
need help." This time it was she who grabbed Alma by the arm,
they proceeded against the stream of the crowd. They found the man
place where he had fallen out of the car. His comrades had already
in an effort to locate his attacker. The girls bent over the bleeding
"I think it doesn't look too bad," whispered Alma. But
she had discovered an
ever widening red spot on the shirt over the soldier's chest. "We'll
take him home, where we can do something for him," said Linda,
her indecisiveness of a half hour earlier. "Help me to put
him back into the
car, then we can take him to Mama's." A few of the young people
back out of curiosity, but nobody offered the girls any help in
wounded man back into the car. In just a moment's time, the street
completely deserted. As they were driving home, the soldier occasionally
they knew that he wasn't dead.
Having arrived at their gate, they tried to lift the unconscious
of the car. The man had turned white as a corpse. The worried girls
actually thought about whether it might be better to carry him.
They had to find
mother quickly. She would know what to do.
Before going to look for her mother, Linda covered his wound as
well as she
could. Both girls were so preoccupied with their efforts of helping
wounded man that they failed to notice an approaching soldier, and
heard the threatening screeching, "Here he is, sergeant! They
are about to
Linda and Alma were shocked that they in particular would be accused
an intention. They looked at each other, and suddenly it was very
them that they had unknowingly gotten themselves into a difficult
Eva, who had been working in the kitchen and had heard the excitement,
hurrying out of the house door when she saw how one of the Romanians
pulling Linda and Alma out of the car. Within seconds she descended
stairs and was ready to defend her girls, but the sergeant, who
was standing over
the girls, seemed unaware of the resolute elder woman. Fingering
of his revolved, he demanded, "Who here knows who shot at my
man? And don't
try to protect your friends! It would not be good for you!"
Linda found her voice first and tired to explain the situation:
"We did not
see who shot at him. We only wanted to help him. I'll go quickly
the doctor!" But the Romanian was in no mood to accept Linda's
But he had been ordered to leave the occupied country without a
fight, and to
obey such an order seemed a bitter pill for him. Someone had to
for this shameful act -- even it was these innocent girls. He screwed
upper lip and yelled, "You're lying! You know exactly who shot
it'll be better for you if you tell me!" He lifted his hand
wanting to strike
her, but Linda jerked away to hide behind her mother. Eva stood
eye to eye
with the threatening military hunk. She said, "We have no weapons
house, and there is no one here who carries one. When my daughter
doesn't know who shot at your comrade, she does not know. My children
lie! And now lower your voice! Today is Sunday, the Lord's day!"
"Search the house!" commanded the red-faced sergeant.
And turning to Eva he
said, decisively, "Whether we find something or not, you'll
have to answer a
Eva quickly checked for her children. All except Trudi were present.
where was she? She must be with Elsa Herrmann. Dear God, let her
The hasty house search resulted in neither weapons nor anyone hidden,
the Romanian soldier was not prepared to let the Germans off so
ordered that all renters who had been driven out of their houses
by his soldiers
line up in the garden, along with the Ziebarts. With his hands behind
back and a riding crop on his shoulder, the sergeant slowly walked
up and down
the line of people. The street, filled with the noise of people
back and forth only and our earlier, was now as empty as a ghost
the shutters on the houses were all closed.
The sergeant decided to try again. He stopped in front of Eva and
"Either you tell me who shot at this man or I'll order all
of you standing here
to be shot. Understand?" "Yes, I understand," said
Eva, unable to hide her
contempt she felt for this man. "We really do not know who
shot at this man.
The girls tried to help the wounded man, and if you do not stop
time unnecessarily, he'll die, and it will be your fault!"
The opponent lifted
his rifle and swung the thick end so quickly that Eva did not have
move aside. Wood and metal met flesh and bone, and Eva's face became
flush with pain. Linda and Alma hurried by to defend their mother
now dearly wishing Gerhard were there. The sergeant lifted his gun,
things got really tense.
"Quick! Mama, Vera, get down! He'll shoot!" warned Linda.
hesitated to be asked a second time. They had just hit the ground
whistled above them. The whole time Vera had grabbed her mother
tightly and now
climbed under her large dress. The Romanians had hoped to intimidate
enough for someone to come up with a confession. But when the sergeant
there was none, he ordered everyone to get up and to march down
the street to
the railroad station, with their hands above their heads, like dangerous
The wounded soldier became delirious, made loud noises, and occasionally
called out names. Linda was watching the red spot on the bandage
applied hurriedly. Having reached the end of the village they met
the captain of
the patrol, who reprimanded the sergeant for his overreaction. The
looked at the wounded soldier and then looked accusingly at Linda
and said, "Do
you know who did this? Why was he found in your garden?" Linda
what had happened, wishing with all her might she could have had
the sense to
stay home this afternoon.
The captain observed the face of the pretty girl, and she repeated
entire story, speaking perfect Romanian, and just as he was about
to ask her where
she had learned it, the wounded man awoke from unconsciousness.
at the annoyed face of the captain and the horrified face of the
suddenly remembered. "It was not she," he whispered, it
was someone in the front
row. She had been farther back." The strain proved to be too
him, and he fell back unconscious. The silence produced incredible
Finally the captain broke the silence: "Well, then, it seems
been exonerated. Go home. But I advise you to stay away from street
Eva accompanied her brood the way they had come. She was not about
into a dispute with the sergeant. Still, she was very angry and
the manner in which she had been treated. She shuddered at the thought
they all were almost shot. Having reentered the security of her,
closed the door and bolted it. Looking at her daughters one security
home, she sternly said, "Do you see now what a well meaning
in? I do not know how many more demonstrations we'll be experiencing,
will never again, especially just out of curiosity, go with whatever
that comes by. Is that clear?"
The girls nodded, the events they had just experienced having left
still too shocked to be able to answer. Their intentions were honorable,
apparently not all good intentions come to fruition. After the scare
waned, Mama suddenly feared the Romanians might come back. We therefore
our house through the back door, and as soon as we were sure that
no one had
seen us, we ran to the Herrmann house on the other side of the wide
The entire village still seemed as if it had died out.
Before the day was over, not a single Romanian was left in Arzis.
disappeared the way they had arrived -- quickly and without a big
shoulder was painful and swollen, but Dr. Gerstenberger found that
she had not
broken any bones and had no serious injury. "You were lucky,
Eva. He could
have smashed your head." "Better me than my children,"
attempting to shrug her shoulders, and the pain made her cringe.
Additional Remarks: Concurrently, another critical situation took
place in the lower part of the village. A large crowd of Russians
and Jews, also some German youngsters, marched from the Klettstrasse
to the village end in the direction of Gnadental. A rumor was circulating
to the effect that a vanguard of the Russian army, coming from Gnadental,
would be entering Arzis within hours Just as at the railroad station,
the crowd desired to welcome the new masters properly. Soon a number
of troops actually did approach, but again it turned out not to
be the expected Russian vanguard, but a Romanian rearguard. When
the Romanians saw the crowd waving red flags, they feared an attack
and began to fire several salvos with a machine gun. Within a few
moments, all seemed to have been swallowed up by the earth, hiding
in straw piles and chaff storage huts. Nobody dared to go onto the
street till the next morning. However, a few onlookers had been
nabbed and taken away. Days later they were able to flee into corn
or grain fields and returned home beaten black and blue. Thus the
evacuation of Arzis nearly ended in tragedy. Even later, there was
no investigation, and no one ever knew who had shot at the soldier
at the railroad station. It is also not known that similar events
took place in other communities.
An authorized excerpt from the biographical book "The Last
Bridge" -- Die Letzte Bruecke -- by Elvera Ziebart-Reuer, (Rendered
from the American by Sigmund Ziebart).
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.