He was born in the beautiful port city of Bremen Germany in 1930. As a child growing up in war torn Germany, to say it wasn’t easy doesn’t seem to credit his hardships, racing to the bunker five, six, sometimes seven times in a day. On this one day, while he was running to the bunker during an air raid he heard a women screaming for her child. A bomb hit her home and her baby was trapped inside, the building was burning to pieces. Without hesitation he ran from his mother and sister, while bombs were still dropping, to save the baby from the burning building. As he brought the unharmed little girl to safety he suffered shrapnel wound in the back of his leg, a scar he emotionally and physically carried with him the days of his life, he was ten years old.
The siren had sounded that the air raid was over and it was somewhat safe to head back home. His older sister took him to the first aid bunker. They stood on a long crowded line, while waiting to be seen; he kept looking around and began to notice how much worse other people around him were injured. People with missing limbs, adults sobbing over dead bodies, blood was just everywhere. He felt a rush of embarrassment come over him that his wound was so minor compared to what he had seen. He turned to his sister and said “come, mommy will fix it” grabbed her hand and just ran home.
During the war it was common to send rather evacuate the children from their homes and families to the country side for safety. Living in Bremen meant he was a city boy so off he went. They traveled by train, sometimes military trucks, when you boarded the train , some children were given post cards to send home to let their families know they were still alive. If you were a family with money you had the option to make private arrangements, he did not. He was separated from his mother even his sister and brother, many times for a duration that could last up to six months. They were sent to live with strangers that didn’t really want their company. It was an intrusion to them. They were given lessons on how to use gas masks, ration food and in case of emergency, shoot a gun. Because the children were not a welcome site to most in the country they were the last to be fed, given a drink of milk, or bath. Yet, they were used first to do chores on the farm and in the home. These children all slept together in barns or rooms with blacked out windows. Although the many propaganda pictures may indicate that the children seemed to be having fun, they were not.
In unity there is strength, so the children believed, which is why they banded together to form a bond, to look out for each other. Some children were treated worse than others. Some were used in trade with other farmers that needed helpers or for lack of a more precise term slaves. He was quiet, did his jobs and did them well. No one really messed with him and he was also one of the few children that could speak English, Polish and Ukraine, his mother could speak five languages and always told him how important it is to learn about all cultures and people. One day after work was done, the children went for a little walk, and while playing on a dirt road he heard whispering in the bushes.
He and his friends, about four of them were called into the bushes by what they found to be German soldiers. Not just any soldiers, but the much feared ss soldiers, oddly enough they were scared too. They were hiding from the Americans that were coming from the other way. The children were so nervous, afraid to make a sound, but inside were crying and breaking apart. The soldiers were bribing the kids with money and metals they had to help them. How in the world could they help? They never expected to see anyone from any military where they were. But the Germans were making their way out to the country because they knew it was a safe haven for the children and they thought it would maybe be their way out, away from Germany and the war.
As the Americans started to get closer to where they were hiding, the ss were telling him what to say. They chose him because the other children knew he could speak English and told the ss this. He ever so slowly crept out from the bushes and quickly the Americans drew their guns. “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot” he screamed waving his arms in the air. The Americans were very friendly to him; one knelt down while the others stood guard. He proceeded to tell them about the soldiers in the bushes and that they wanted to surrender. He told them that the soldiers had no weapons, no ammunition; they were tired and done fighting. They want to come out,” but please don’t shoot them!” He was trembling all over , his arms his hands he couldn’t control it , a scared little boy, without his mother, his family, negotiating for war criminals and American soldiers, he thought he was going to die.
The Americans took custody of the German soldiers, and from up the dirt road came another, with his hands in the air screaming “I surrender” the Americans took aim and shot him, a broken promise to a little boy , however a necessity. It was so far in the distance they couldn’t see if there were more or if it was a trap. He clung to the Americans leg and started crying and screaming, “Please no shooting, you promised no shooting”. After it was over the Americans made sure the kids were brought back to the farm for safety. They made sure they were given fresh milk and bread to eat .They warned the farmers that if they didn’t take care of the children they would be back to arrest them too.
Morning came; the sun was shining bright. Some of the children were out collecting eggs for breakfast; he was sitting outside the barn he was sleeping in thinking about what had happened the day before. He looked up to find a women walking toward him in the distance, as she got closer he recognized that it was his mother. Afraid to make the slightest motion, except for the tear running down his cheek, he sat like a statue. She had managed to sneak onto a train out to the country , a risk getting around in a very unsettling time , because even though she was a German citizen she carried papers with her that read from Ukraine not Germany. She walked up to her son and grabbed his calloused little hand, wiped his tears from his face and said “Enough of this, you are my son and I love you, if we die, we die together” and back home to their one room apartment they went.
His mother was a courageous, smart, strong woman that endured much hardship. She was born in a very small city in the Ukraine and traveled to Germany in search of a better life and more opportunities. After she married and had three children the war broke out. They would run to the bunker for safety and she would help everyone to get there. If it became crowded the people inside the bunker would demand to let out the people that weren’t “pure” German, such as herself. However, the people didn’t know she was Ukraine in the beginning because whenever they ran to the bunker her husband was with her a few times and had on a Red Cross band around his arm so they never really bothered with her. She would always stick up for the citizens that they wanted out and they wouldn’t dare fight her. She was an excellent cook and became chef to the wealthy, the upper crust of her city and dealt with their snootiness. When home she would make big pots of stew or soup and bread and wait for the work trucks to come with prisoners aboard that were sent to clean the destruction caused from on going combat. When the trucks stopped and prisoners were waiting to be unloaded she would wait for the right moment , sneak out of her building and put the pot nearby and try and get the food to the prisoners. Then, when a German soldier saw it, he would kick the pot over and demand to know who placed it there. Though everyone in the neighborhood knew of his mother the great chef, no one said a word.
Living in fear, grew the will to survive. Courage then blossomed and by the end of the war, the confidence to strive for success and the freedom to live and fulfill a dream seemed possible.
What happened to this young boy, his mother and family? Was he even able to dream a child’s dream or was he haunted by the memories of the nightmare that he had been living?
To be continued — — ..