Bautzen Branch, Dresden District

Roger P. Minert, In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-day Saints in World War II (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 227-9.

The city of Bautzen is located forty miles east-northeast of Dresden on the main railroad route from Dresden east to Breslau in Silesia. In 1939, the city had a population of about 40,000 people. The branch membership was only forty-nine persons when World War II began. It is interesting to note that nearly three-quarters of the members were adult females.

Bautzen Branch[1]1939








Other Adult Males


Adult Females


Male Children


Female Children




The meetings of the Bautzen Branch were held at Gerberstrasse 16 in the apartment of the Nikol family. Hermann and Martha Nikol had two sons and two daughters. Marianne (born 1922) recalled that her father was the branch president and the only elder still active after the first year or two of the war. Some of the members lived out of town and transportation became increasingly problematic. “Sometimes we only had three or four people in our meetings,” Marianne explained.[2]

On the other hand, Marianne told of holding meetings at other locations:

We also met in some restaurants during the war. We had nice rooms until the missionaries left, then we lost those. We rented the back rooms of hotels or restaurants. One was in Nordstrasse [the Gewerkschaftshaus] and another was Gaststätte [restaurant] Spenke in Wendischer Graben [where we held meetings for some time].

The Nazi Party was not a positive factor in the life of the Nikol family. Hermann declined to join. According to Marianne, “Thanks to his opposition, I was denied a place in a higher school, or so a teacher told me.” She instead attended business school for two years, during which time the war started.

Besides the absence of young men and the occasional tragic news from the battle front, the war did not come home to Bautzen until the last year. Marianne recalled shortages of food, but explained that ration cards were not used in Bautzen: “The merchants would run out of [certain items]; then they would tell us to come back when there was more.” Other shortages were also apparent, such as in the world of entertainment. Marianne explained that dances were cancelled and movies were rare in her town.

From 1942 to 1945, Marianne was assigned to the staff of the regional Wehrmacht command office near Radebeul (northwest of Dresden). One of the privileges of the office was that she and her friend were allowed to issue themselves passes for public transportation, until the firebombing of Dresden occurred on February 13–14, 1945. Marianne gave this account of conditions at the time:

That night [February 13] we had to walk for ninety minutes to our apartment because the streetcars did not run. From there we could see the flares over the city. It was horrible. We watched as the planes attacked the city. . . . Then we saw the planes coming at noon [February 14]. It was really terrible. After the attacks, I saw the downtown. It was a catastrophe. You cannot possibly imagine how terrible it was. [Many] people were burned [to death], and the survivors had swollen red eyes from the smoke.

A few days later, Marianne used one of her self-produced passes to take the train home to Bautzen. Soon after her arrival, it was time for civilians to flee the city: the Red Army was approaching. Marianne’s description of the family as refugees reflects reality for most Germans living in the path of the invaders:

When we left, we took a Leiterwagen with some bags of clothing and bed linens.[3] We put our grandma with her heart condition on top, my three-year-old brother on her lap. My sister and my mother pulled the wagon, and I pushed. We left the city near the end of the war [April 1945]. . . . We walked from Bautzen [southwest] to Neukirchen and on to Bad Schandau [by the Czech border].

Near Bad Schandau, they encountered their father, Hermann Nikol, who had been inducted into the Volkssturm (where he was fortunate to be assigned noncombat duties). Brother Nikol told his wife and his daughters to go back to Bautzen as fast as they could; he believed that they would be safer there. They hurried through the night to complete the journey of twenty miles home. As they entered the city over an obscure bridge on the south side of town, they could see that many structures in Bautzen were still burning.

To their relief, Sister Nikol and her daughters learned that their home was intact—except for the damage done by enemy soldiers who had quartered there for several days. Marianne described their home in May 1945:

Our windows were broken, but we were able to use our shutters to close the opening, and we could lock those. It was dark, but we were safe. We used wood and cardboard to cover the windows. We were very fortunate. Our cellar was cut out of stone [and went back into the yard, but you couldn’t tell it was there, so it had not been ransacked]. My mother had put up lots of potatoes and bottled fruits, so we had food to eat when we got home.

Now and then, Red Army soldiers came to the door of the Nikol apartment. Because they seemed to have evil intentions, Marianne’s aunt kept a constant vigil. She was fluent in both Russian and Polish and was therefore able to give them a good tongue-lashing whenever she felt that they were after her nieces. She did indeed save the girls from abuse.

With the war over in May 1945, the Latter-day Saint branch in Bautzen slowly came back to life. There is no record of any members of the Bautzen Branch losing their lives in World War II.


[1] Presiding Bishopric, “Financial, Statistical, and Historical Reports of Wards, Stakes, and Missions, 1884–1955,” CR 4 12, 257.

[2] Marianne Nikol, telephone interview with the author in German, June 26, 2008; summarized in English by the author.

[3] The typical Leiterwagen was the size of a Bollerwagen, but had frames like a ladder (Leiter) rather than solid panel sides. Cardboard could be added to make the frame sides into panel sides. See the Halberstadt chapter for a photograph of a Leiterwagen.