4th March, 1915
4mar15

(Well, my beloved Mouse, now I am again with you. I thought I might not be able to write at all today as I have been very busy since yesterday. The officers’ assembly has appointed me deputy editor of the newly founded POW newspaper and there is a lot of preliminary work to be done for the first issue. Still, I have now taken some time off work to adhere to my chatting hour with you which is now so dear to me. Our days here are so uniform and monotonous that it is very difficult to give up voluntarily any of one's habits, as one might go off the rails completely. The main thing is that time is passing and that at last the day must come when we’ll be off to our homes. For the time being, the chances are not very good but it is the hope that keeps everybody going.

Today I want to tell you about the journey to Siberia. On the whole journey I was mentally so down that I was unable to keep even an itinerary, so I have to rely on memory to produce at least a sketchy description. At home I will certainly remember further details which I can tell you then.)

So the morning of the 22nd Dec, saw me and 11 other officers of the regiment as prisoners of war. The others were: Cpt. Munzberg, Lt. Zarkowsky, Lt. Protst, Lt Psotta, Lt Hollein, Lt Sehwarz, Ens Holzel, Ens Lauger, Ens Scholz, Ens Lauger, and Kreys. When we were being taken prisoners my servant Karnovsky got separated from me and with him most of my things. We were first taken to Kie (Kic?) where the first higher Russian Command was located. They took us to a small empty room in a farmhouse and we were thoroughly searched. The revolver was of course the first thing that had been taken from us before; now everything that could be classified as war material was confiscated. Field glasses, compasses, torches, maps, report pads, whistles, pocketknives and especially diaries were taken from us. We all considered it as extremely hard that we had been robbed in this way but, as we learned later from other prisoners, the manner in which we were treated was relatively splendid; others had virtually everything taken away such as underwear, valuables, watches and money as well.

Not having eaten anything (we had had our last meal in the evening of the 20th), we were sent onward. On relatively well-maintained roads we were taken for a boring march of about 35km to Kielce. At a stop on the way (the name of the place I have forgotten), we were “interrogated” by staff officers of the Russian Divisional Command, i.e., we were asked questions. It was remarkable how well they were informed about our positions. In Kielce we were taken to a spacious, well-heated room where 11 of the officers of the 54th infantry Regiment were accommodated already. Here we were given soup, bread and tea. Having slept marvelously, though on the floor, the 22 men strong group (Ens Holzel had been wounded and was sent to a hospital) were marched off again. That we slept well was no miracle- we had not closed our eyes since the 19th, led by Cossacks we marched all day and arrived around 8p.m in Podzencyn. We were billeted in the local council building, had to pay for our food and slept again on the floor. The same pattern repeated itself every day now. On the 24th we were at Wiscnowca, on the 25th at Ostrowice, 26th Siennna, 27th Ciepelow, 28th Svolen, 29th Nowo – Alexandria. In total we had walked about 250km.

On 24th at Wiscnowca we “celebrated” Christmas Eve by singing “Holy Night” and “Beloved Home”. We had to pay for food ourselves and our purses, which had not been too full to start with, were shrinking rapidly. We paid for instance 1 crown for a small loaf of bread, 60 – 80 hellers for a small piece of sausage (now our main sustenance), 1 crown for a pound of sugar and so on. In Ciepelow we were allowed to find accommodation ourselves, and our triumvirate (Lt. Psotta, Probst and myself had soon formed a cooperative) was lucky. We found quarters at the choirmaster of the church who, apart from good Christmas cakes and a piano, had a young nice daughter who spoke German and was a talented singer. We were invited to the family supper which was followed by music and singing. We went to bed late that night; being the oldest I slept on a sofa, the others on palliasses on the floor.

On the 29th we crossed the great bridge over the Visla and were then billeted in the barracks of Nowo-Alexandria. At the hotel Bristol we ate for the first time in captivity at tables covered with linen and did ourselves proud. Already at Ostrowice we met a new transport of prisoners among whom I found my servant; regrettably we had only a few of my things since the Cossacks had liked most of them. In Swolen we were joined by another transport of officers, so that our number had now grown to 74.

On 30th December at 2.30in the afternoon we were loaded onto railway carriages and our journey to Siberia began. More about that tomorrow.

© The estate of Otto Feldmann: Monica Lanyado, Tzafrah Shushan and Aya Shochat