1941 Reich Labour Service

I had registered with the Lotte-Haus for four semesters of medicine to become Medical Technical Assistant. My heart’s desire.
But how it happens with desires of the heart, it did not come to pass.

I was informed that I had to serve in the Arbeitsdienst. And since that was a half year away I was ordered to works as Home Helper for 6 months. This time I spent working for Family Goetz at a large estate by the river in Gruenau.

(I already told you about that, that was the lady with the clever time management.) After she was done delegating to the cook, nanny, maids and me she secluded herself in nice weather to the garden. If the gardener was about she laid down on bench with a book. I still see her today, legs up for her health. When her husband returned of an evening she was busy clip-clopping all over the house. When they sat at the fireplace she had her big sewing basket by her side. He was probably impressed by all her housewifely skills.

I learned a lot from the cook. Under her supervision I made my first Cumberland Sauce.
But I didn’t like the whole situation much. I was much relieved when the half year ended.

Now I was facing a half year of Arbeitsdienst. Today I would be afraid of this. Then I was optimistic and curious. And I was sent a long way from home. To the far southwest corner of East-Prussia. Much farmland and woods. What a collection of girls! Oh my God! But I was lucky. In my room everybody was acceptable. And one I liked especially. That was Irmchen. We are still friends to this day.

Every four weeks we got shifted to a new farm. My lot varied. For one farmer I had to go sell bread in the morning. I had to use the horse, something I had never done. A frightening event daily. Directing the horse, making it stop and go. And to make sure I got paid correctly for all that bread .Uijee!

At the last place I was treated best. The farm wife treated me like a home economics student whom she would teach as much as possible in the most friendly way. I liked that. And the food was great too. And most importantly, of an evening she gave me a huge double bread sandwich with lots of butter and cheese to take back with me. In the room all the girl were waiting eagerly. We divided the sandwich into 6 parts and ate it slow with much enjoyment. This was special. It was war and at the camp we only got margarine, if that.

But no roses without thorns. The thorn in this case was a lake with ducks and geese which I had to pass every morning. For some reason the geese had it in for me. They hissed and tried to get at my legs. I had to carry a stick for defense. Nothing seriously happened but I dreamed fearful dreams about those aggressive geese.

Camp life was dull but bearable. Our leaders were relative humane. And we adored our group leader. She seemed like a tragic person. Later I heard she was lesbian. But she never came near any of us.

In the winter when the snow was real high our group leader organized sleigh tours a couple of times. On a Sunday we rode through the woods for hours. Under thick fur blankets it was a real joy. I never got to do that again later in life.

But toward the end we all were ready to leave. I really wanted to finally get going at the Lotte-Haus.
Then they told us we all had to do another half year war service. Crying didn’t change that. We had the choice between streetcar service in Danzig or hospital service in Marienwerder. Of course I asked for the latter since I was still planning on becoming a Medical Technical Assistant. And that would have meant staying together with Irmchen,

And again nothing happened as planned. Our group leader determined my fate. How very much so she surely did not know herself. Our groups was divided about 50/50. I alone was left standing there. Then I heard “and you will become Neu –Teacher”. (A brand new job description born of the last years of war). I never heard the term before. And I never would have thought of it either. I didn’t want to have anything to do with school anymore.

I had not cried as much as I did on that day in years. But to no avail.

With a single train ticket I was sent off to Nakel. A long train ride through polish territory. I had been given a room address. The landlords, a Polish family, was real nice to me. But my inside was the blackest black.

My fear ratcheted up when the school director informed me the next day that I would be teaching 7th grade. I didn’t have time for further hysteria since he took me to the classroom and opened the door. I was met by 30 pairs of eyes. Curious and interested but friendly. And all my fear fell away and my fate was sealed. Something I did not yet know at the time. But I stayed in the teaching profession all my life.

For Irmchen the hospital service was a turning point also. She had already trained as hair stylist. And she continued in that profession after the service.

But when she married and moved to Berkenbrueck the local doctor asked her if she would be willing to help. And she agreed. She found such satisfaction in nursing that she went back to school and became a registers nurse. She remained the village nurse until her retirement. Toward the end when the doctor only had time to come once a week, she did all the health care the other 6 days a week. But it was her passion


NEXT: 1942 – 1944

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