Calm Before the Storm
While Erwin was marching to the Ruhr, Sudetenland, Poland and France, Heinz was in Romania guarding the big guns. He got bitten by a poisonous snake and spent a long time in hospital. Günter was happy sailing the high seas. In 1944, the dreaded moment came when Georg got his call-up papers. For a few short months he would be trained. Breslau had always been a garrison town. His barracks were on the outskirts and we could visit him most Sundays. The day came when they were told to say their farewells. Lots of parents were there. The boys were in good spirit; singing and laughing. Mum took the youngest girls home. She was overcome by sadness. I was allowed to stay a while longer. The excitement grew as everybody got ready for the march to the station. I was proudly walking beside them. Some of Georg's friends thought I was his girlfriend. We arrived at the goods station where the boys were loaded onto the train - their legs dangling over the side. The trains did not leave straight away, and as it began to grow dark, my brother begged me to go home as mum would be worried. I did not know then that it would be 12 years before seeing Georg again.
I felt lost and lonely without my brothers. Getting used to my sisters is something I never quite managed. They were playing with dolls and I would rather be outside. We wouldn't be long before we quarrelled. Mum knew I was like a bird and had to be free, so within reason and with a strict time limit, she gave me that freedom. I found interest in anything and everything, from market places to large stores, museums, cathedral, sports-centre, even a cloister with nuns. All those things were within a short walk from home. I loved music, people, noise, but also the quiet of the convent. The nuns were serene and very friendly. On entering the church part of it, I would stop by the font and cross myself with holy water, then I would walk along the side, admiring the huge beautiful pictures till I reached the altar. I would pause, say a little prayer and continue along the other side. Sometimes the nuns would be there saying the rosary. I repeated it until I knew it by heart. It made me feel happy and good inside. I would be running along some cobbled street.
My Sisters Christa (left) and Ingeborg Christa's Confirmation circa 1949
Along the promenade was a narrow canal full of fish (carp) and ducks. A hump-back wooden bridge crossed it. Along the banks, hung fairy lights in the summer, and lots of canoes were available to ride in, but in the winter it would be frozen solid and we would skate on it. Before it froze over, it would be drained and all the fat fish caught and taken to market. A bit further on was the Konigsplatz (Kingsplace) with three-tier fountains with water cascading down, guarded by four large stone lions, flanked on all sides with shrubs and benches. One could rest and watch trams and the world go by. On the other side of the promenade, about 30 minutes' walk, was a Palace with a huge parade ground. In older time, kings and queens were living their. Now it was a museum and beautifully kept. I spent many hours investigating: pretending to be one or the other queen, inspecting all the beautiful gowns; pretending to play the spinet and making funny noises until the curator appeared, but he was kind and only too pleased to explain the history of everything. I was genuinely interested, as history was a strong point with me. It was about the only subject I was good at in school, and the only good marks on my report. But no politics. Only the times of nobility and their lifestyles and connections in Europe. My home lay half way between these two places and I knew every short-cut so I made sure not to be late home. Once I arrived an hour late. I still remember the whipping plus one week's house arrest! I never forget. I hadn't done anything wrong other than I had strayed too far from home and I was unable to get back on time. I couldn't take the tram because I never carried any money. Those were the happiest years of my life. Not a care in the world. We were to experience a very different lifestyle soon, but thank God we did not know what the future had in store for us, and I am glad and thankful for the happy memory I've got of my childhood.
Georg aged 17