June/July 1945 - from Spandau to Neustadt

"By the time we have sorted out all our things, the night is almost over. Early in the morning we are back on the station platform, even though train won’t leave until evening. But we heard about a milk train, which is also meant to stop. With Ingeborg’s Czech birth certificate, and the Czech travel permit, we manage to persuade the officer at the front that we’ve been given a Russian travel permit to travel on this milk train. He lets us through. But the train doesn’t come. "

A welcome cooler day of 27 degrees. Still hot, but manageable.

Steph and I will part company in Berlin, as she flies back to England this evening. But before we do we decide to walk together through Spandau. We are both so glad we take this time. Yesterday, with the heat and the inability to move anywhere we barely noticed our surroundings. Spandau felt cold and uninviting. Yesterday, a man sitting next to us had said, into his phone “yes yes, I’m just in the old town for a beer” – and I couldn’t understand what he was referring to – all we had seen was modern, ugly shopping malls so far.

21st July - Spandau to Neustadt
Now, Spandau reveals itself to us as a beautiful, ancient town – once completely self contained and separate from Berlin. Its’ beauty is still very much there to be seen.

Steph tries to get us entry into the old town offices to look around or find out more, but the grumpy gate keeper tells us to look up what we want to know on google, and eyes us suspiciously until we leave
We say our goodbyes at the train station – it is too hot to linger up here – and with some sadness but also curiosity, I head off for the first time on my own. I have decided to walk out of Berlin and then take a train, so I don’t have to walk in empty countryside on my own on my first solo day. Funnily enough the routes here are almost as deserted as our countryside walks.
On my route I pass through a large park with lots of smaller lakes, and come across a memorial site for what was a small concentration camp in Falkensee - connected to the Sachsenhausen camp - which mainly imprisoned people from France, Poland and Norway, who were sent to work in the armaments factories. One of the houses has been left standing, the rest are marked out on the ground. I spend some time here.
The rest of the walk is unremarkable. My train journey is also quick, and I arrive to Neustadt (Dosse) in the pouring rain, under a large thunderstorm. This gives me the chance to take stock of the station – this one is also crumbling and old, and likely to have been here, at least in part, when she passed through.

This is a station that she spent a very uncomfortable night in, surrounded by other refugees, all trying to get somewhere.

My on-the-road research has shown me that the population of all these smaller towns grew massively in 1945, often up by 30-50%, which means many many of the people she was on the platform with must have given up hope of getting home, or had no home to go to, and stayed.
"We wait for hours and wait. Again we are plagued by hunger. Frau Neumann leaves the station to organise some food. She goes to the Spandau town hall, but only manages to get tokens. In the mean time the train arrives. And it is not empty, but full of refugees. "
"[…] It’s now just as full as all the other trains. Frau Neumann still hasn’t returned. An hour passes. Cold sweat runs down my back. […] just as the train goes to leave, Frau Neumann appears with a tin bowl filled with stew. As if it were nothing, we carry the heavy prams across the tracks, right up to the train. We assail the conductor, who actually manages to find us a space. Frau Neumann runs back to get the steaming stew – there’s no way we could give it up!!! We all have to eat from one bowl, but are in good spirits. The train is going towards home! "
"In Neustadt (Dosse) we have to leave. Another station with countless refugees. We stay on the platform all day. All the refugees get is coffee. […] We drink a lot. There is nowhere to sit. The evening comes, and with it the night. We are still on the platform. Ingeborg is in the pram, Gerlinde and I lie in an air-raid sand pit, covered by my coat. In the early morning we wake stiff and frozen. No train comes. "
Spandau 'Rathaus' (town offices)
The town itself is spread out along a long road, and the hotel is about 1km away from the station. I arrive rained-on but happy, and do little except venture out for some food, where I meet some friendly other hotel guests.
En Route
Neustadt station