We couldn't keep the Soviet soldiers out of our
house, and there was a constant problem with their
ignorance of our Western ways. One of them roamed through
my kitchen and picked up my meat grinder which aroused
his curiosity. Full of expectation, he turned the handle
again and again, finally throwing it on the floor and
exclaiming, "Nix music? No good. Kaputt!"
(The author's brother Günter as a naval officer.)
in our basement a Soviet soldier proudly showed off the
treasures he had collected in a suitcase, which he
laid open on our large table. Electric wires were dangling
out on all sides because he had packed it so tightly.
Looking closer, I recognized an assortment of light switches
torn out of walls of other houses and also several loose
bulbs. Now he began to demonstrate: "This here,"
pointing with a switch to the wall, "and this here,"
holding a bulb to the ceiling, and with a big grin he
exclaimed, "Ahhh, light!" We pretended to admire
his great idea for his native village, which had no electricity.
They also collected
telephones. They tore them out of the wall and carried
them around under their arms. Again and again they would
try to talk to somebody and wondered why it would only
work for Germans. They figured this must be another case
of witchcraft. Fascinated, they kept carrying them around,
hoping someday to get an answer to their frequent "Hellos."
The closer we
got to Fahrland, the more shallow graves we saw along
the side of the road, one hilly sand pile after another
marked with plain wooden crosses. We stopped and began
to read names and ages. They were all twelve and thirteen-year
old boys from the area who had been hastily buried where
they had been killed. We were shocked at the sight of
so many graves of children. They had been drafted into
the Volkssturm during the last days of Hitler's senseless
resistance and were cruelly sacrificed by an inhuman government
when confronted by Soviet tanks. They would remain there
as a grim memorial until they could be afforded a proper
burial by their families, if they had survived.
eventually reached Fahrland which had been badly damaged
from the fighting that took place there. Our farmer was
located on the other side of the village and the farmer's
wife remembered me from my previous visits. Her husband
had not yet returned from the war and her life had become
frightful. We shared our own experiences of the war's
end. On our first visit we did not have anything to barter,
but she accepted money and sold us vegetables anyway,
including a lot of potatoes because we planned to plant
some in our own garden, and she taught us how to do it
properly. We were very generous in our payment, having
in mind to return again and being remembered favorably.
(The author - above.)
There was no
time to rest very long because of the curfew. We heaved
our heavy knapsacks bursting with potatoes onto our backs,
and with each hand grabbed a bag filled with carrots and
cabbage. Looking like a parade of backpackers we started
the jog-trek back. We needed every last breath for the
long route home. I never knew that you can feel every
single potato on your back. When we reached the main highway
we dared to rest for a short while on a green embankment,
realizing by now that we had also acquired sore feet.
for endless hours, we finally reached the destroyed
Wannsee bridge again. That sorry sight gave me shivers.
Yet, with mutual support of fellow sufferers, and trembling
with fear, we made it safely across without losing our
balance or any of our precious cargo. By now the heavy
knapsacks had drained every ounce of strength from our
feeble bodies. Totally exhausted, I just collapsed right
on the curb of the Potsdamer Chaussee, all three of us
close to tears. Our legs ached and I swore that I couldn't
go any further and would die right here. I dropped everything
and groaning, rested my head in my hands. Finally Mutti
said, "we can't wait here to die. It takes too long.
We have to be home before the 6 p.m. curfew." How
true! We laughed, even though it was not funny at all.
Adding to the
torture, our old boots were killing us. With desperate
determination we began trudging along the seemingly endless
road, finally making it home just in time. Our family
was in despair since we had returned so late. So much
could have happened to us. Finally we could afford to
really collapse and remove the tormenting boots from our
swollen and blistered feet. We swore that we would never
make that trip again. But, of course, we did ~ we had
to. Our life was a struggle for survival.