A young woman visits Bratislava in March 1945

Many thanks to Zbyšek Šustek, Slovak Numismatic Society at Slovak Academy of Sciences young woman Bratislava 1945

A journey of a young courageous Viennese window-dresser to Bratislava on 28 March 1945

The passport of Margarete Heinze shows that her trip was less dramatic but doubtless had very unpleasant consequences. Her journey took place only four days before the complete liberation of Bratislava by the Red Army, and she passed the only bridge in Bratislava crossing the Danube only two days before its destruction on 2 April 1945 by the retreating German troops. In the last days of March, the front line might run about 20 km easterly from the Bratislava center (Fig. 1) and rapidly near to it. young woman Bratislava 1945

young woman Bratislava 1945
Fig. 1. Dynamic shifts of front lines during the Bratislava-Brno operations of Red Army in March and April 1945 (green – state on 31 March, yellow – state on 1 April)

Some words about the bridge history

The bridge was built up in 1889-1891 and ceremonially opened by the emperor Franz Joseph I. Therefore, until 1918, it bore his name. In 1918-1919 it shortly became the border bridge between Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Then from 1919-1938 under the new name Štefánik´s Bridge, which connected Bratislava with the village Petržalka (Hungarian Ligetfalu, German Engerau), laying on the Danube right bank, which was connected to Czechoslovakia (Fig. 2). Between November 1938 and spring 1945, it again played the role of the border bridge, now between III. Reich and (shortly) Czechoslovakia and, since 15 March 1939, between Slovakia (Fig. 3-4). After the W.W.II, the damaged iron construction (Fig. 5-6) was built anew by the German prisoners commanded by soviet officers; after reconstruction, renamed to the Red Army’s Bridge and in 1990 into the Old Bridge. From 2013-2016 its construction, damaged by corrosion, was replaced by a new, of similar appearance. At both bridgeheads, little toll houses were situated to collect excise. They played the role of the border checkpoints in 1918/1919 and 1938 – 1945. They are preserved up to nowadays. One is transformed in a coffee, in other a little Custom Museum was shortly established in 2015.

The passport and Margarete´s journey young woman Bratislava 1945

Fig. 7-1. Cover of Margarete´s passport with a seal of the Viennese Municipal Authority and one schilling tax mark from 1950

Margarete got her passport in Vienna on 27 March 1945, only 16 days before the liberation of Vienna by the Red Army on 13 April (Fig. 7: 2-4), but with an “optimistic” validity of one year. On the same day, she also got a permit to travel repeatedly to Slovakia (Fig. 7-5) and to use only two border checkpoints – Marcheg, a railway checkpoint near to Bratislava, and Engerau at the Štefák´s bridge, a road checkpoint. She was using other checkpoints between III. Reich and Slovakia would have required to travel trough the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which was administratively a little complicated. The next day, on 28 March, she promptly got Slovak multiple (permanent) service visa, valid one month, to 28 April (Fig. 7: 6). The next day, on 29 March, she exchanged 3480 Slovak crowns (Fig. 7: 7 above), a considerable amount of money, equivalent to 280 Reichsmarks according to the official, artificially depreciated clearing exchange rate, but according to the Bratislava Stock Exchange Market in 1944 and simultaneously black market 890 Reichsmarks. This sum corresponded to 7-8 average monthly salaries of workers, 1.5 – 2 salaries of well-situated persons, a superior radio cost 2750 crowns. young woman Bratislava 1945

On the same day, she came to Bratislava, stayed there for two days and on 31. March, she returned: to III. Reich (Fig. 7: 5 and 6). However, the momentary situation on the front did not allow her to return home to Vienna. What happened exactly is unclear. But she was attached to an evacuation transport of the Foreign Ministry that ended in a small town Kitzbühel in Tyrol, in west Austria. This fact was confirmed (Fig. 7: 7 in the center), on 1 May in Kitzbühel, by the plenipotentiary of Foreign Ministry for Sudeten (Sudeten – in a proper sense the German name of the Jeseníky Mts. in North Moravia and South Silesia, but on a broader sense all border areas of Bohemia and Moravia populated until 1946-1947 by German majority and in autumn 1938 annexed by III. Reich). This indicates that this transport might pass through the southern parts of Moravia and Bohemia. young woman Bratislava 1945

The purpose of the Margarets trip is unknown. Just hypothetically, based on her service visa and a considerable sum of exchanged money, we can presume that she went to Bratislava to buy something for her profession of window-dresser. Her next destiny is also unknown. It seems that she stayed in Vienna, and at the beginning of the 1950s, her passport was registered by the Viennese municipal authority for the tax of one schilling (Fig. 7: 1), perhaps in connection with asking a new Austrian passport. young woman Bratislava 1945

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  1. Thank you very much for the fascinating article about the “Young courageous Viennese window dresser”, who visited Slovakia during the last days of the second world war! The only question I have is about the word “courageous”. I have some doubts if that lady was really “courageous”; The problem is, that during the last days of the second world war quite a lot of the people believed their own german propaganda, that “Endsieg” will come soon. That was the reason, why for example, planning of an evacuation of a lot of civilians in eastern Germany started much too late. Too many people only died, because there was no information about the real situation of the fightings. Maybe that lady was courageous, maybe she was only badly informed. But in any way, she was very lucky! Some days later, she would have maybe ended her life in Siberia…

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