THE ROLLER COASTER OF LIFE
returned to Berlin on November 1, 1945, loaded down
with all we could carry, including a duck for Mutti. But
our happiness was short-lived. Though it was peace time,
my parents received an eviction notice the next day. They
had to be out by noon the following day, November 3. Their
entire quiet street was confiscated. Theirs was just one
of more than two thousand homes in the suburb that were
being seized for military quarters. No one was allowed
to remove anything other than personal clothing. American
soldiers immediately swarmed through all the confiscated
villas to take inventory while the occupants were trying
to recover from their initial shock. Many still didn't
know where they would go for shelter. For my parents there
was a refuge on Limastrasse nearby. But first things first.
As soon as the
soldiers had left, we decided to "steal"
as much as possible of our own furnishings and other personal
belongings before the military moved in. Since a soldier
had been posted outside the front door, we carried everything
we wanted to save out the back door and over the terrace
into the back yard where our long-time neighbors, the
Doneckers, were already waiting to store it in their house
for later pick-up. There went Mutti's and Papa's beds,
mattresses, tables and chairs in exchange for the Donecker's
old pieces from their air raid shelter which kept the
furniture count the same as on the American inventory
sheet. There were just a few substitutes!
With rail service
now operating sporadically, we could visit our farmer
friends in Beelitz more often. They would willingly sell
us eggs, which I carried in a linen bag separated into
different compartments to keep them from banging together
and breaking. I fastened this bag around my waist under
my clothing so that the eggs were dangling between my
thighs. In addition to the eggs, one time they even sold
us a skinned wild rabbit, which was going to present a
problem to get home safely.
It was a long
animal, so I tucked it into my corset and laced it tightly
with the head between my bosom and its body stretched
down between my legs. I looked grossly out of shape and
overweight, but our valuable cargo was out of reach of
the East German border patrol. Walking was not too bad,
but when it came time to enter the train, I had to develop
an awkward twisting motion in order to climb the steep
steps without bumping the eggs against any metal corners,
because the rabbit was in my way. People watching my peculiar
slow motions trying to enter the train exclaimed, "Oh,
that poor woman. She is pregnant. Let her have a seat."
But, sitting was one thing I could not do with that cargo
under my clothing.
The last S-Bahn
had already departed by the time we reached Wannsee,
so Mutti and I had to spend the night on the stone staircase
close to the platform where American soldiers were still
patrolling. I wanted to get the rabbit out of my corset
so I started downstairs to the restrooms, but half way
down I heard women screaming who were being raped by the
Soviets. Horrified, I returned upstairs. But now what?
The rabbit tortured me. Resolutely Mutti held a coat over
me while I set the animal free again.
We settled on
the steps against the wall with our cargo secured between
us as we tried to sleep. We dozed off many times. Finally
the big clock showed 2 a.m. We dozed off again, and this
time when we awoke, the big clock still showed 2 a.m.
How could that be? Oh no, to add to our misfortune, this
was the night we went back to standard time and gained
one hour. What a double misery for us when others enjoyed
an extra snooze at home in bed.
that, too. We had no choice, even though we didn't
know who was stiffer, the dead rabbit or we, but we caught
the first S-Bahn home to find frantic husbands because
we hadn't returned home the previous day.