My cousin Doris Winkelmann Sonntag’s branch of the Winkelmann family was caught up in the expulsion of German-speaking Prussians from parts of the former Prussian Empire that had been returned to Poland after World War II. These are some of the stories from what her family went through.
“My family had been living and farming in the town of Stieglitz [Kreis Czarnikau, Posen, Prussia] and the surrounding area since at least the 1870’s. They did not leave voluntarily. “The Expulsion” was the result of the Second World War and the subsequent Potsdam Agreement. Before World War II, East Prussia belonged to Germany. After the war the lands were redistributed by the Allies, and the end result was that nearly all Germans were expelled from these formerly German territories which now fell inside the borders of Poland.
My mother, Herta Erna Meier, was from Niekosken (Niekursko, Poland today) near Schönlanke. She had to leave her home with her family in November 1946. My father, Otto Paul Winkelmann, was forced to leave nearby Stieglitz with his family in January, 1947. Both families had to travel on foot, with only a few belongings, to the railroad station at Schönlanke (Trzcianka, Poland today). From there they were taken by train to Dresden in Saxony and came to a resettlement camp. They called these refugees “Umsiedler” or “resettled” people. There were many such resettlement camps in Germany. From these camps, people were eventually relocated more permanently to cities and villages in Germany. My mother’s family ended up in a village near Leipzig, Germany, and my grandfather Hermann Winkelmann, after several temporary settlements, eventually settled in Groß Schönebeck about 40 miles north of Berlin, Germany. Some families remained in East Prussia. They had to accept Polish citizenship to do so, but later in the 1950s most were relocated to West Germany.
My father Otto Paul Winkelmann had been a soldier in the German Army. When he was released from captivity after the war, nearly everyone he had ever known had already been relocated and he could not return to his home town of Stieglitz. He had to find his family.
In May 2012, I traveled with my husband to Poland. We visited Stieglitz, Carolina, Niekosken, and other towns where my family had lived. We also went to Pila (Piła), Poland to search the archives and found German records for our family from their time in Posen.”