Roland Hering

* 1942

  • "Straubing was bombed. At first, they locked the cells and later reopened them. He said that then, around four or five thousand prisoners marched, nowadays we call it Death March, to Dachau. For the political prisoners, or for the people in this Death March, this would have been certain death. Fortunately, and the SS or the guards, the police or the court clerks did not consider that Dachau had already been freed by the Americans. En route, they received this information. Then all of them were sent back, towards Hof. After a few days they arrived there and were detained again. Well, and then the Americans finally arrived and freed the camp."

  • "For him it was… he always differentiated and said, “In prison, it was much… it was much easier for the prisoners to survive. In comparison to concentration camps. But”, he said, “in the concentration camps, it was easier to communicate, to organise living together.” This was not possible in prison, especially in Straubing, as he said. There, he worked in different workshops. They made things there for the airplanes, for Messerschmitt, if I remember correctly. They had the possibility to work slowly, to organise something, to build something incorrectly, but it was very complicated. There were criminals and political prisoners. And you had to differentiate, “With whom can I speak?” He tried to get by. Sometimes, he was punished and had to pay a fine. I have all these documents and reports. But… he sometimes was put in solitary confinement, where he had to stand for a day or two in a dark cell. This is how they tried to isolate political prisoners. He never mentioned that it was especially severe but it was… well it was the imprisonment of political prisoners."

  • "And these heavy machine guns… they needed… water cooling, back then. As I already mentioned, my father was sometimes quite impulsive in his decisions and actions. And this was in a time, in ’38, where the tide of war turned against them. There was this… He participated in the Battle of the Ebro and during this battle, as I said: heavy machine guns, water cooling. Now the machine gun needed water. Ignoring the enemy fire – he was warned, “Arno, don’t go! Stay here! Don’t go!” There was water nearby and he tried to get water. And he was wounded by a shrapnel, his thigh and head were severely injured. The scars were visible for the rest of his life. Yes, and this was his… this was the end of his service in the Edgar-André-battalion. His comrades retrieved him from the line of fire at the risk of their own lives. Then he was brought to Mataró, to the central military hospital of the international brigade. And then there was this… this… there was this horse-trading by the League of Nations, that the international brigades were supposed to surrender their arms and that the war was supposed to end. Some fighters from the international brigades did this but neither Franco’s troops, nor the Condor Legion, which was the German troop, surrendered their arms. And so it was decided to try and defend Madrid and later Barcelona. Even though my father’s wounds had not completely healed yet, he went to the front again where he was until the end, at the last try to defend Barcelona. He participated in the final parade of the international brigades in Barcelona. And then there was this… the arms were laid down and then the surrender, or internment in France. And there, he was detained in several camps."

  • "And, yes, this was in ’33. Yes, the seizure of power by the NSDAP, the Nazis. The next step, as he was on the very top of the list, was first going into hiding and then later emigration. There was one episode that he… or that affected me. I had asked him, “Tell me, dad, where were you when you went into hiding? You weren’t abroad yet.” And he said: no, he stayed in Struppen with the housekeeper of the local minister in the rectory. And I said, “How was this possible?” He said, “She was, this woman, it was… she was not in any political organisations. She was simply a good person.” And I noticed this often in later conversations with my father, also concerning what happened later in the GDR. He always looked for the unifying, the humane, to say, “Solidarity is important.” He stayed for three or four days with her in the rectory, without the minister knowing about it."

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Resistance fighter, Interbrigadist and concentration camp survivor

Witness Roralnd Hering in 2022
Witness Roralnd Hering in 2022
zdroj: Photo by Dominik Janovský

Roland Hering was born in 1942 in Freiberg. His biological parents passed away shortly after the end of the Second World War but he was soon adopted by Arno and Gerda Hering. Arno Hering was born in 1907 and grew up in Struppen, a small town near Pirna. Early on, he was exposed to communist ideas since his father was very active in the KPD [Communist Party Germany]. Arno Hering himself joined the KPD in 1926 and was even elected as leader of the local KPD in Struppen. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, Arno Hering emigrated to Czechoslovakia and smuggled newspapers and leaflets over the border to Germany. There, news reached him that his father had been arrested and tortured to death in the concentration camp Hohenstein. In 1938, Arno Hering joined the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, fighting against the fascists under Franco. He stayed in Spain until the end of the civil war, when the remainders of the republican troops surrendered. The members of the International Brigades were turned over to France where they were detained in camps and in 1941, Arno Hering was turned over to Germany. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison for preparing high treason. He was subsequently imprisoned in Straubing were he was subjected to forced labour. In 1945, the prison was freed by American troops and Arno Hering was able to return home to Struppen. Soon, he married his brother’s widow and together they adopted Roland Hering. In the early days of the GDR, Arno Hering pursued a career in politics which abruptly ended in 1962 when he changed career paths and joined the customs office.