1945 Berlin

That these eastern regions were lost to Germany forever was quite clear.

But I still thought of my husband as alive, though missing since June 6, 1944. I was counting on him having been taken prisoner, and that he was in England, Canada or the US.

Meanwhile the bombing of Berlin got very serious. And mother wanted me and Klaus to be safe. So he and I went to Zwickau to my father-in-law who had become a widower. My mother-in-law was the only one who could feel that Ehrenfried was dead even though he had said that he would try to be taken prisoner. In reality he died of a head shot. My mother-in-law became increasingly more depressed. It started on June 11, which turned out to be the exact day he died. She was sent to a Neurological Clinic were she took her life.

So my father-in-law was happy to see us. His apartment was big enough.

In April the Americans reached Zwickau. Klaus and I ran to the attic to see them come down the hill. Our fear was that a few stray German soldiers would try to defend the town or even possibly our house. But they all fled into the houses, and ripped off their uniforms, and from every house there flew white flags. Doors and windows opened all over and white bed sheets appeared. A few hours later the American took over the town. Everybody came out of the basements, and started unpacking their bags. For us the war was over.

Now there only remained the question for the final end of Germany.

We had not hear from mother.

That the Russians already were in Berlin, that Hitler had shot himself and his wife, none of us knew that.

For us it was hope and wait, trying to make do with the sparse food. Cooking was not easy for me. My father-in-law had always been a big eater, and Klaus at 14 and growing was always hungry. We made do but it was hard. And the uncertainty about mother was harder yet.

On May 8 it was finally all over. It was the day of total capitulation.

But until the postal service worked again it was many more weeks. Mother did not write us how sick she was and how bad it was under Russian occupation in Berlin. She advised us to stay.

It was hard with my father-in-law. He only thought about eating.

It was nice for Klaus and me when we traveled to Glauchau to Ilse Hildebrandt, a cousin of Ehrenfried’s. We got along well with her, her two young daughters and her parents. We had many good hours especially in their big home with a nice garden . Ilse’s husband had fallen too, but we were as unaware of that as we were of the death of Ehrenfried.

After the death of her parents, many years later, Ilse and her daughters fled to Munich with the help of her brother. We (you, Maiky and I) visited her there a couple of time. Years later she died there of cancer.

Her brother, Dr. Bock lived in Berlin after 1945. Also at the time of Susanne’s birth. So he became her Godfather. Later he moved to Cologne, and then he bought a house in Hamburg where he still lives today. He even married. Susanne, Marianne and I visited him once and we undertook the never to be forgotten trip to Helgoland.

But back to 1945. My fear was that there would be an eastern zone and a western zone, and we might not be able to return home. But then Berlin was partitioned into 4 sections. For giving up the whole western part of Berlin to the Americans, the British and the French the Russians were given two whole German provinces. Thueringen and Sachsen. So now we found ourselves in the eastern zone and there was nothing keeping us form returning home.

I will never forget the day of the trade. Klaus and I stood on the balcony in Zwickau. We lived on one of the main main streets. For hours they moved below us. On one side of the street the Americans moved out, on the other the Russians moved in. The American motorized with trucks and Jeeps. The Russian on foot. Humping their gear. Nobody exchanged so much as a glance. That was a sight. It gave a hint of the future to come. No union of  winners there.

At the end of July Klaus and I started on our way home. Unforgettable. It took us three days. Bombed out train stations. No or overcrowded trains. And only stretches of rail were usable. You took what came. One night we spent on the coal pile of a cargo train. I was sure my thin brother was going to get blown off. In Wittenberge we had to stay the night in the bomb shelter until another train arrived. This one we rode on the roof. The running boards were too crowded. This turned out to be lucky for us. When the train started up the looters came running and ripped the last few possession from the people who hung on the outside of the trains.

Short before Berlin the train stopped, and we were told to get off. This was the end of the line since inside Berlin there was no single train station left that was not bombed out. So we took buses, a stretch here, a stretch there. We got stuck in Schoeneweide but eventually a bus came. Finally we reached Gruenau. We hugged and cried. Mom looked like a little dried up Chinese. Jaundiced and only 64 pounds from the roughest of labor. The removal of railroad ties. And all without any food. She even picked up TB but luckily that encapsulated itself.

Klaus and I were slim a Pine Trees form hunger. We had to stand in line for hours for everything, Every single thing. Every ration was handed out separate. Every ration required again hours of waiting in another line. One time we even got a dollop of Jam on a peace of packing paper. So you can say, from July it started to get better, slowly, but better.

In Zwickay we had had the feeling that peace had arrived the day the Americans occupied the town. In Berlin that feeling did not arrive till end end of June the beginning of July. But then it was there for real! I was still so young! I wanted to live!

Mother suffered more than Klaus and I. She had the responsibility to feed us. And our house was overflowing with people. Families who were bombed out or from the Walchensee Strasse who had to give their houses up to Russian officers. All three of us lived in the back bedroom. This lasted many months. It got difficult at times. Mother was sewing in the room to trade clothes for food, Klaus was doing school homework, and I was studying also. I was studying for my first Teacher’s Exam. Everything in that one room. Today we can’t even imagine that.

In September things started to move. My Denazification went smooth (the form had 131 questions!) Thanks to Ehrenfried’s suggestion that I leave the Bund Deutscher Maedels, and that I never was a member of the party. So I was able to apply for a teaching job. I was forthright when applying that I had not finished High School but had already taught.

In October of 1945 I was accepted as Teacher. And I got a full time position right away. In the following spring I started my teacher education on top of the full time work. Two afternoons and once or twice night school. I had no problem managing it all. I was young and in good spirit. And it helped fill the time of uncertainty about Ehrenfried. I had written the Red Cross in Geneva with all the information about him that I had. In the second year of waiting I got my answer. Ehrenfied had fallen on June 11, 1944.

At first I could not comprehend it. My distress was immense. But my work helped me through it. And I was still so young and wanted to live.

Shortly after I got the news about Ehrenfried a stranger showed up. He was one of the small group which had planned to defect. When the shooting started they all flattened themselves out, Ehrenfried had jumped up. That is how he got killed. Horrible. The rest of the group managed to get taken prisoners, just what I had expected to be Ehrenfried’s lot.

After that I felt like a widow for real. And it turned out my mother-in-law had felt Ehrenfried’s death. While I had no such feeling at the time. I was so sure he was alive.

Another chapter of my live had closed.


NEXT: 1946 – 1952

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