Schreckendorf, The Home My Family Left Behind


Note- I told this story without any extra input from my mother… I’m sure that she will add to the story some day.

This isn’t really my story to tell, but, I’ve cobbled together a few bits and pieces from stories my mom told. I remember the old picture from photo albums… it was just always there. The newer photo hung on the refrigerator for a while; Mom’s memory of a trip home with her sister.

The House in Schreckendorf in the 1930s

My Great-grandfather built this house and store in Schreckendorf, Silesia back in the late 1800s. This big stone home fronted a road, and behind it ran a creek where the kids played. Mama was born there in 1941. My Opa Pangratz came from a family who ran a Pangratz Glasshutte, they were glass carvers. This is where they lived during the war. Opa made shoes, Oma ran the store, and her older sister went to school.

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In the 1940s the trees were gone.

Operation Swallow

In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Operation Swallow was put into effect, all of the German Nationals were expelled from the countries in Eastern Europe. Over 12 million people were affected by this… families who had lived outside Germany for generations. People were loaded onto trains and transported either West to Germany or East to Siberia. Their land, businesses and homes were turned over to the State.

The Russians cleared all Germans out of Schreckendorf. Everyone in town could take one suitcase, and then friends and family were sent to the West. Lives were turned upside down. Although she was young, the home left a strong memory. The things they had to leave behind… toys (a dollhouse with real lights), dishes, linens; the everyday stuff that our lives are made of, and their home.

Schrekendorf, the oldest town in the Glazer Land, was turned over to Poland, and renamed Strachocin. The Glasschleiferei was destroyed.  The borders of Poland were shifted to the west, then homes and property were all turned over to Polish settlers, who the Russians installed as a buffer.

My mother, her sister and parents were moved from place to place. They were lucky, because the family could stay together. For a while they lived with other families in a Barn. Eventually they were settled in Nord-Rhein Westfalen. Life returned to normal… or as normal as possible in post-war Germany. People cleaned up, rebuilt, started over, and moved on.

For many years, the home in Schreckendorf was just a memory. As German citizens, my parents were not allowed to cross the border into the Ostzone. There was no way to go home to that house by the creek.


Visiting their home in Schreckendorf in the 1990s. So much stayed the same.

And then the wall came down. Families who hadn’t seen each other in 40 years were able to re-unite. And families who had been displaced could go back and see where they came from.

Mom and her sister went home to Schreckendorf. They found the house, and they met the couple living there. With mixed emotions, they lied a bit about who they were, just saying that they had come from the area and remembered the place. The couple invited them in.  Inside the home, time had stood still… the same furniture, the same wallpaper, even the same Kaffee dishes. They thanked the kind couple for the coffee, and left.

I’ve heard similar stories from other Fluchtlinge who went back. Farms and houses taken over, and everything just as it had been when they packed to go.

Today, Schreckendorf / Stachocin has undergone change. The world is modernizing, and taking this little part of the world along with it. Schreckendorf, once the oldest Dorf (town) in the Glazer land, is Polish, and the Germans who lived there have long moved away.

And I’m sure that by now, even the wallpaper has changed.




Read More About the Post WWII German Relocation Here–>

Click here to read my review of Orderly and Humane

More books on the subject-

Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World WarOrderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World WarOrderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World WarThreaten to Undo UsThreaten to Undo UsThreaten to Undo UsLast Waltz on the Danube: The Ethnic German Genocide in History and Memory 1944-1948Last Waltz on the Danube: The Ethnic German Genocide in History and Memory 1944-1948Last Waltz on the Danube: The Ethnic German Genocide in History and Memory 1944-1948German Boy: A Child in WarGerman Boy: A Child in WarGerman Boy: A Child in War



37 thoughts on “Schreckendorf, The Home My Family Left Behind

  1. I Really love your mother story I have read a lot of Holocaust Story’s like that and I in joyed them thank you very much

    1. Keep in mind… this isn’t a Holocaust story… My mother’s family were just ordinary Germans who became refugees after the Russians threw them out of their homes.

  2. Thank you for sharing. My cousins wife came from part of Germany that was East of Berlin(name slips my mind). That is now part of Poland. Her family left in 45, to flee from the Russians. She and my cousin(my family is from the Rheinland Pfalz area) went back to the home of her birth in 2003. She was able to find her former home and had a similar experience. The house was as her family left it. From the thatched roof to the broken window and the bullet ridden stucco. The Polish family who now resided there, were very friendly and open and welcomed them into the home. It brought back many memories both good and bad..

    1. A visit like that would bring mixed emotions. I’m fascinated by how friendly the Polish families are to the visitors. I think if someone came to my house, I’d be suspicious… but, they seem genuinely warm.

  3. Thank you for this! My mama was born in Silesia in 1940 and had also told me stories of having to leave in 1945. This sounds so similar. My mama and her family ended up settling in Finthen, a small town outside of Mainz. I was born in Mainz. My mama was never able to go back to Silesia but she remembered a lot for a five year old. She alway’s hated the Russians too! She passed away in 2008. Thank you again. I alway’s enjoy your pages and post’s.

  4. My dad came from East Prussia. The parents and his brother stayed. They also had to flee the Russians leaving behind the farm that had been in family for 3 centuries. My Grandmother died during the walk. My uncle started the government organization for Displaced Persons. He died before seeing the wall come down. Our farm was used for military and have been told only rubble is left.

    1. My dad and his brother lost their mother while fleeing Russians too. Horrible stories came from that time.
      Does your Uncle’s organization still exist? Is there a link we could share to help others?

  5. My mother-in-law’s grand father was born in Politz , Pommern, Prussia. We have tried for over 50 years to find his father and mother. Wilhelm F. Schmidt was born 7 December, 1850 in Politz, Pommern, Prussia. Wife is Augusta Pauline Grohl born 7 April, 1854 in Doelitz, Pommern, Prussia. They were married 5 April, 1877. A brother is August Ferdand Schmidt born 19 December, 1858 in Politz, Pommern, Prussia. Two sons were born in Prussia–August Herman born 22 April, 1878 in Politz and Herman August born 6 September, 1880 in Politz also. The family immigrated in 1881 to Minnesota, USA. Does anyone know who Wilhelm’s parents are?

        1. Thank you… I will add this to the genealogy page

  6. I read your stories and it brings tears to my eyes. By birth I’m a German citizen, my birthplace Posen, Poland 1941. There are plenty of bits and pieces that I remember. East Germany went through hell. I am 73 years old my emotions are still raw when I think about what my family had to endure.
    I’m glad some of our younger people take an interest in the European history.

    1. It was a terrible hard time… it’s important for the next generation to know what happened. Thank goodness it’s mostly behind us. And I hope such a thing never happens again.

  7. My father, his mother and brother were driven out of their home in Silesia. There are many stories he has told us, some very dark. Your mother’s story sounds very familiar.
    My mother and her family lived in Yugoslavia, near Bosnia. They were interred in a “work camp” by Tito’s (Allied) forces. Not happy times, but they did all survive. I think this is a story that the vast majority of the world has never heard. I have tried to find more information, but I wonder if in this case the victors determine history.
    In 1955 my mother’s family went to the US on a military ship which transported European refugees to the US under the Refugees Relief Act. My father travelled alone, and brought his mother and brother over a few years later. They met on the ship and were married two years later (lucky for me!)

    1. I think you are right… the history books are written by Victors.. this is why I believe that these stories should be written down BEFORE they are lost.

    2. My mother also came from this area but married and moved to Vienna before the war. Her mother and grandmother were not so lucky the Ended up in a work camp an died there by 1953. One froze to dead and the other died of starvation. So sad. My mother never was able to go back she died young.

      1. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. It was such a horrible time.

  8. My Great Grandfather Josef P. Wolf 1841-1906 and his whole family of 8 children along with his wife Anna Stache left Schreckendorf in 1883 and settled in Olean, NY. They were preceded by Anna’s sister and her husband Franz Hoffman. They communicated with family there up to the 1940’s. They were Mrs. Elizabeth Stein and Mrs. Ida Miller. Also Enoch Ignatz Wolf left Shreckendorf for Texas in 1880 with his family of 4 with his wife Karolina Lehnhart and was in contact with relatives in the 1920s named Anna Simon-Wolf and she mentioned another there at the time Lazel Wilhew. Maybe your mother may recognize a name?

    1. I will pass this information on to her… Isn’t is interesting how small the world is?

    2. I am interested in the last name Stache. That is my last name and my ancestors came from Schlesien also. The name Stache was very common in all parts of Schlesien. Interesting to see that you have that last name in your background

  9. I would love to hear from some Germans who are from East Germany.
    I was born in Silesia and we were thrown out by the Russians in 1946. We were distributed in the West. My family is in Germany. I am the only one in America. I am here since 1966. At that time i lived in England and was hired to train as flight attendant in Kansas City with TWA.
    I have written and published my memoir from these horrible times and how I created a life to forget the war time. I am now 78
    Looking forward to hearing from you

    1. what is the name of your memoir? and where can I buy it? I would love to read it.

  10. Change a few details and my mother could’ve written that story. My grandparents came to the US in the early 1920s , leaving their parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, and nephews behind in Bauerwitz (Kr. Leobschütz, about a far southeast as was possible in Schlesien without crossing the border into Poland or Czechoslovakia). My mother talks about how my grandmother cried for days, weeks, months on end as letters arrived after the war telling of her sisters’ deaths after all of the town’s residents were forced to live in the town’s brick factory after the Russians moved Poles into their homes. No proper sanitation or hygiene — many died from disease. In 1984, my mother and I traveled to then West Germany and visited all of her cousins who had survived the war. The oldest, who was 12 or 13 in 1945, told us about how he and a cousin had to personally dig a grave and bury his mother in a sheet after she died. Absolutely heartbreaking. After several failed attempts, being turned back at the border, what was left of my family eventually escaped through Czechoslovakia, resettled in West Germany, and started over.
    So few people know this bit of history about the displaced persons in Europe after WWII. I was glad to read your account.

    1. It’s horrible what our families had to endure… and to me, shocking that this history is virtually unknown outside of Europe. If you want to read a more scholarly history of the time, I recommend ” Orderly and Humane”. It’s dry, but details exactly how all this happened.
      Other books like “Last Waltz on the Danube” are more personalized. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. In September, 1942, when my father was 7 years old, his family was driven out of their home in Petrovopolje, Yugoslavia by the Germans. They were forced onto a train and shipped to Poland. They were displaced living in atrocious camps, barns and ditches moving every several months until 1948. (They were only 30 miles from Dresden when it was bombed and if it weren’t for a cave that my grandfather found, they wouldn’t have survived the shock waves of the bombs.) They eventually made their way (a family of 9!!) to Germany where they remembered they had distant relatives and finally got their own home in 1952. My aunt and I are working on the family story to preserve it for our children and to honor our brave Oma and Opa.

    1. If you ever want to share your story on the website, I would be happy to publish it. Or I can link to your online story. You can email me at [email protected]

  12. Hi Karenanne, the story of your family is very sad. I am Polish and my family live in Schreckendorf now. I member that my grandma told me that German people who left their homes was not able to take too much, so they left everything, furniture, pottery…. I also know that German family visited once my grandparents, made some photos of their old home to save memories. Polish people try to be polite, but many of old homes in Schreckendorf is now in bad condition, it’s also very sad. Karenanne, thank you for your post about your family.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It was a sad time, but it was a long time ago. My mom has memories, and she is happy where she is now.

  13. Witam właśnie przeczytałem te historie i bardzo mnie zaciekawiła z kilku powodów. Obecne mieszkam od 9 lat w Nordrhein Westfalen ale pochodzę ze Stronia Śląskiego tam sie urodziłem, znam ten budynek jsk również ludzi którzy tam mieszkają.
    Czy posiadają Państwo jakieś zdjęcia z lat przedwojennych?
    Pozdrawiam Filip

    1. Muszę użyć programu tłumaczącego, więc przepraszam, jeśli jest niepoprawny.
      Będę musiał zapytać mamę o zdjęcia. Może mieć część rodziny.

  14. My grandmother was born in schreckendorf! She remembers it well, she’s 87. What an interesting life.

    1. I’m guessing she had to leave too? My mom is a few years younger… but I wonder if the name Pangratz means anything to her

  15. My Grandparents lived in Schreckendorf, my Father was born there. Their home is now a pallet factory. The last name is Berg. Thank you for sharing!!!!

    1. The world is so small…. I’ll ask my mom if she remembers the name. She was so young when they left though

  16. My family comes from Elbing , Prusia, they are refugees too , now it is Poland, My mom got out with my 2 sisters and my brother , while going out one of my sisters died , she was 15 month old ,…My mom and her sisters had horrible things to pass, until they reach to the west, a lot of violatios from the russians etc , My mom got pregnant ……….. My dad pased 6 years in prison in Rusia, he was lucky to survive ,….everybody has stories yo tell ..I can write a book .I luckly was born in the West ,

    1. It was a horrible time. Please, write down your story. It’s so important that they don’t get lost.

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