Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Growing up in Bischoffingen, Germany. 4th and final chapter.

My Grandfather and I went to Freiburg after the bombing and the sight before our eyes was absolutely horrible. The most important task after the bombing was to help the injured to get medical attention, to remove the dead, and to look for survivors.   Anyone who could be spared went there to help. It was an enormous task.

We found survivors in rooms of multi-storey buildings trapped there because half the building had gone with the staircase destroyed, but most were buried under rubble in cellars, which they had used as air raid shelters. 
Some were still being dug out a week after the raid, but the worst aspect of the situation was many could not be dug out because of lack of manpower and machinery.  The knocks or the distant cries for help from the buried people are unforgettable, yet we were so helpless and unable to get them out, and as time went on, the knocks and the cries began to get fainter and fainter, until they eventually stopped altogether.  It was that aspect of this awful situation that was the hardest to come to terms with, and it kept me from sleeping at night for a long time.

To describe what I saw as shocking and horrible would be an understatement
.  Nothing could accurately describe in words the destruction and the horror of human suffering.  Going through such an experience and seeing the ravage that war brings, makes the reason for waging it so clouded, yet the futility of it all becomes crystal clear.  I would never want to go through such an experience again - ever. 

Towards the end of the war money was absolutely worthless,
and on top of it all there was not much there to buy, and barter trade, food for clothing etc became the accepted norm. Food was very scarce, but we on the farm were lucky in this regard.  But for townspeople it was a major problem, which also caused a problem for us, as you will see. 

During the fruit season, people from Freiburg and surrounds, converged in droves on Bischoffingen and other farming communities and invaded our fruit orchards.
  They were hungry and looking for something with which to line their stomachs.  Ration coupons were often used up before the new ones were issued, and fruit was a readily available commodity.  Everyone in the village had to take turns in playing the role of “fruit police,” and it was an arduous task to keep the human fruit bats at bay.

Germany had a peculiar law on its statue books; it was called  "Mundraub," which literally means “robbery by mouth”. It permitted people to go to fruit trees and eat, as much fruit as they could, and only when they started to fill their pockets, boxes or other utensils, did it become an offence.  To think of calling the police was futile: there were none around, and to consider getting the ‘thieves’ in front of a court was equally futile. No court would have taken on such petty crime even if they had been sitting.  Charges of trespass would have been dismissed on the overriding grounds of the people being hungry.  Knickerbockers, which were in fashion, then, gained some notoriety.  The fruit pinchers discovered that the legs could be filled with fruit, eliminating conspicuous boxes or bags, and the Knickers became known as the “fruit stealer pants”.  Yes, those were indeed difficult times in Germany.

Towards grape-harvesting time, we also had the task of walking around the vineyards with shotguns to chase or dislodge large swarms of birds, which could devour large sections of the grape crop within a few minutes of landing on it.

Germany was under pressure from all directions: from the east, the west and from above.
  The western front was coming closer to Bischoffingen and it was becoming increasingly dangerous to stay in the house overnight.  We dug deep tunnels, rather like lairs, in the hills, (ours was about 40 meters long), usually starting on one side of the hill and coming out the other side, with lockable doors at both ends. This was the nightly home for my mother, sister, brother and I from the time Freiburg was bombed to the end of the war.  Our grandparents remained in the house, saying that if they had to die they wanted to die in the house.  Everybody in the village adopted this tunnel habitation practice: every family had their own tunnel. The tunnels contained beds, furniture, hurricane lamps, and a wood stove from which smoke was ducted through the air hole in the “ceiling”.  Water was carried from a nearby spring to the tunnels and stored in big containers. Nobody dared to light a stove until it was dark, in order not to be seen by planes.  Such “smoke signals” would most certainly be interpreted as armament production sites, with the prospect of becoming a bombing target.

Incidentally, that spring was the place where all the babies from the village, including myself, were left by the stork, and from where they were picked up by their respective mothers, or if the mother was not able, the local midwife would pick them up and deliver them - so I was told.

The war started to get progressively worse for Germany, and even the most ardent believers of a German victory started to have second thoughts. 
But the truth about the real situation was kept from us: the news bulletins were a litany of well-fabricated and one-sided lies. (I think our Australian politicians have read their work manual.)  In order to find out what was going on and what was really happening, we had to tune in to the Swiss national radio station, Beromünster, but this was a very dangerous practice and strictly forbidden.  The government employed people who drove around at night with monitoring equipment and whoever was caught in the act was in dire trouble.

In early 1945, the German forces withdrew from Alsace and crossed the River Rhine near us, and helped to some extent by Alsatian farmers with their draft horses. We had a couple of them staying with us overnight, and helped them to get back home across the Rhine the following morning.   Within a few days the allied forces had occupied everything on the western side of the Rhine, and once again we had a hostile flank - not a very comforting situation in which to be.  Quite a few artillery batteries and machine-gun posts in strategic positions encircled our village, and this added another element to our existing surfeit of distress. 

If they defended Bischoffingen and gave resistance to the imminent advance of the allied forces, our village would be totally destroyed,
and with it perhaps most of the population, and this weighed heavily on our minds. There was no sense in giving resistance and being decimated in the process, since we could clearly see that the war was lost.  With this ominous situation playing on his mind, my grandfather decided to see the commanding officer and he invited me to come along with him. 

Just as we arrived at the artillery battery, we heard the tail end of a propaganda broadcast by Dr. Göbbels.  We exchanged greetings and waited till the broadcast had finished.  Göbbels was appealing to the armed forces and the German people "to fight for every centimetre of German soil".  He went on to tell us, "Not to despair, the war has not yet been lost; the Führer still has some trump cards up his sleeve, in the form of new secret weapons".  He tried to reassure us, but we were well past the point of being able to accept reassurance.  Göbbels finished his broadcast with the words,  “It is only five minutes before twelve”, to which the commanding officer dejectedly retorted,  “In my opinion it is already five past twelve, and we’ll have to wait for one o’clock”.  His facial expression and mannerisms clearly betrayed what he was thinking; indicating to us that he knew it was too late for Germany. 

My grandfather expressed his concern to the officer, who responded by saying that he understood our apprehension and was sympathetic, but that he had to follow orders.  But somehow we left with the impression that if it came to the crunch, this officer would not see any merit in more destruction and bloodshed.  

When, after a couple of weeks, the troops around the village received the order to pack up and retreat further eastward, everybody felt a big weight had been taken off their shoulders.  For a few weeks, we were living in a sort of ‘No-man’s-land’ - the allied forces were poised just across the Rhine only about three kilometres away, and the German forces had gone. It was a time which could perhaps be best described as a time of suspense, apprehension, and uncertainty, and of never being sure what was going to happen next.  Yet a kind of uneasy calm prevailed. Everyone in Bischoffingen was resigned to the inevitable.   The thought of enemy troops coming to our village never entered our minds: such a situation was unimaginable just a few months back – if ever.

Now the time had come to think realistically, and we had to reassess the situation:  what had been the unthinkable had become the inevitable.  We anticipated and imagined all kinds of worst-case scenarios.  Bischoffingen, in its long history, had never been confronted with such a situation. 

On a sunny morning in early April 1945 I heard rumbling sounds, and I hopped on my bike and pedalled down the road a few hundred meters to discover ten tanks manoeuvring themselves into strategic positions with their heavy guns pointing towards the village.  I raced home to tell my mother, what I had seen, who was in the kitchen getting lunch ready. There was no panic; just an uneasy calm prevailing. We had expected this for quite a while. 

Not realizing that I was wearing a German army cap, I went outside the house and waited to see what would transpire - my inquisitiveness would not let me do otherwise. The rest of the family stayed inside the house, but after a while more people gathered in the street, when suddenly four armoured personnel carriers drove very slowly up the road with soldiers sitting on top, their guns at the ready. The crowd had now moved to the side of the road, and when the vehicles came abreast, the soldiers motioned us to go inside the houses.

At that moment the fate of the population of Bischoffingen had not dawned upon us - that realization came later.  It was only when I went inside that I realised to my horror, that not only was I wearing my army cap, but also had in my possession a high powered 08 Mauser army pistol.  No one in my family knew about this and I was worried that if the house was searched and the pistol found the whole family could be in trouble. The time had now arrived to hide it in a fairly safe place - and in a hurry.
When I first found the weapon some months back it nearly caused a tragic accident. My brother and I had gone into the room where a soldier used to sleep, and found the pistol lying on the table.  I lifted it up, pointed it towards the other side of the room where my brother was, squeezed the trigger and - bang - the bullet went into the wall, missing my brother by about 50 mm. The loudness of the bang was intensified a hundred fold because of the small size of the room, with its windows and doors closed.   As we left the room, both in a state of shock, I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn't killed my brother. After I had recovered from the trauma, I went back to the room and took possession of the pistol: for what purpose, I was never sure, but it made me feel that I had some sort of protection or even a sense of superiority with this weapon. 

For us, the war had come to an end. Uncertainty however, was not yet over by a long shot.  Close on the heels of the advancing forward troops came the actual occupation force, which set up camp one kilometre from our house.  Most of the soldiers were from the French colonies of Morocco and Algeria, but the officers were French.  A curfew from 6 p.m. was imposed and strictly patrolled by armed soldiers on trucks.  This curfew was later extended to 9 p.m. and, after six months totally lifted. To read about my own experience with a French soldier, see “The French Connection”

One day a French/Moroccan soldier with his rifle slung around him marched into our house and right up to the second floor where we lived. He went straight to the bedroom where my mum was, and sat on the bed. My mum was frozen with fright and stood there like a stone statue, but didn’t understand what he was saying. My 5 year old sister, Helga, was in the adjacent room, and mum was motioning her to come into the bedroom, probably thinking that there would be safety in numbers. However, Helga declined, also being frightened, and suspecting this soldier might have evil intentions. Grandfather summoned Uncle Phillip, who was in Bischoffingen at that time picking cherries for his grocery shop, and he spoke French. He asked the French soldier what he wanted, and he said that he wanted to marry my mother. My uncle told him that she was already married, and if he didn't leave the house he would call the police and the French commandant who was stationed nearby.

The soldier then left, but it took some time for my mother to recover from the shock. Women and young men didn’t dare to go out alone at night, as there were many rapes committed by French soldiers. (Addendum. Looking at recent events in Germany, and in Cologne in particular, German women are once again afraid to go out alone at night.)

Recriminations against Nazi party members were not long in coming.  The local chairman of the N.S.D.A.P. was arrested and taken outside Bischoffingen, where a rope was tied around his ankles; he was then dragged along the road behind a jeep until he was dead.  His son was told a day later to pick up his body.  This man had never harmed anybody in his life: his only “crime” in the eyes of those now wielding power and in a position to mete out judgement as well as punishment, was that he was a member of the N.S.D.A.P. (Nazi party) In the early thirties many young people joined that party, including my father.  N.S.D.A.P. was the abbreviation of National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei, which translated into English means, National Socialist German Workers Party.

Two months after the war ended we still were waiting to hear anything about my father. We didn’t know where he was, or whether he was dead or alive. It proved to be a trying time for all of us, especially my mother.  The long period of anxiety finally ended with a message from the Red Cross, informing us that he was alive, reasonably well and a prisoner of war in a camp in northern Germany, which was under American control.  After nearly four months in captivity he was set free and sent home.  Nothing could have prepared us for the shock we experienced when we saw father for the first time in many months.  I am guessing now, but it had been at least nine to ten months since he was last home. His normal 70 kg-plus frame had shrunk to a mere fifty-five kg. He was a feeble walking skeleton - a sad sight to behold.  Father was put under our local doctor’s care at home.  He was bed bound for quite a while and took a long time to recover fully.  He had an insatiable urge to eat and eat, but his craving had to be severely curbed on doctor’s orders.  Food and drink had to be administered very carefully, since the way he wanted to eat would have killed him, so food had to be taken in small quantities and often, but not too often.   I remember well, food had to be hidden and locked up when we had to go out. The urge to gulp down any quantity of food he could get his hands on would have been impossible to curb.

As the story unfolded, the daily ration per prisoner was one tin of water, a quarter-slice of bread and one plate of watery soup per day, plus one cigarette.
  Since father was a non-smoker, he traded his cigarette for a slice of bread from a smoker.  The prisoners supplemented their diet with the grass and weeds that grew near the fence. They scavenged tins from the rubbish heap to boil their “ veggies”, while cardboard boxes from the same pile were used as fuel for the fire. Having survived the war thus far, they were driven to try anything in order to stay alive.  And now, I have been pondering - should I tell Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers about this successful and proven weight-reduction diet?

Life was slowly returning to normality. The younger generation was more inclined towards easing tensions and breaking the ice between themselves and the occupying forces.
For the older generation, it took much longer to adjust to the situation, and they still harboured some muted resentment, eventually changing to a reluctant and somewhat aloof tolerance.  Weekend dances were the only form of entertainment, but the local girls went there only with boy friends, real or otherwise, because the Algerians and Moroccans were proving to be a problem. The girls could not refuse a dance, but if they had no male companion, the soldiers would ask them to their quarters or somewhere else. Young men were not safe either, and several rapes had taken place.

The minimum age for being allowed to go to dances at night was eighteen years, and I had not yet, by a long way, reached that age.
  One evening, as I was on my way home from a “look-in” at the dance hall, a girl rushed past me and disappeared into a cornfield.  In hot pursuit was an intoxicated soldier, who asked me in broken German in which direction she had gone.  Naturally, I directed him in the opposite direction.  He rushed into the cornfield, and I could hear the swishing and rustling of the corn leaves.  My eagerness to see what would happen, overruled my better judgement, which told me to go home and disappear.  After a while, and without any hope of finding the girl, the soldier came out of the cornfield, quite angry and not at all in a sociable mood.  He accused me of sending him in the wrong direction (which I had), and he rewarded me with a couple of hard whacks behind my ears.  My father, who had happened to look out of the window and observed the whole incident, admonished me when I came home for being so stupid and not leaving the scene.

There were also hard-core elements in the French occupying forces who had difficulty coming to terms with us, their former arch-enemy, and they wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to humiliate us, or remind us that they were still the boss in our area. Of course I could fully apprehend that reconciliation would not come overnight.  It would take time and effort on both sides for old wounds to heal. I recall clearly two salient incidents as if they had occurred just a short time ago, both of which centred around the flag-raising and lowering ceremony at the French battalion’s head¬quarters, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. 

In the first instance, my schoolmate was walking past such a ceremony one day, but unfortunately for him nobody had told him what the protocol was on such an occasion: to stop walking, stand still and take off any headgear.  The young fellow (about 16 years old) was taken into the compound, given a verbal chastisement, was told that the French flag had to be respected and in particular by the former enemy.  He was then given a “total” haircut, and ordered to clean out their filthy toilets. After a day of “community service” for the French army, he was sent home to his family and to show them his new Yul Brynner haircut.

On the second occasion, my father and I went with horse and wagon to get a load of green fodder for our cows, which were kept in stables. As we were abreast of the flagpole of the French compound, the flag lowering ceremony commenced, the bugle player started his recital, and the sudden noise startled and frightened our temperamental mare.   Father held on to the reins of the horse, stopped the wagon, and told me to take my hat off, but kept his hat on.  When the ceremony was finished, the French commander on the balcony became very loquacious, yelling and screaming in French, (which we couldn’t understand) while gesticulating wildly with his arms and hands.  An officer and interpreter approached us, and I felt a tingling of apprehension creeping up in me.  The officer asked father why he didn’t take his hat off in respect to the French flag.   His reply was that he had to hold on to the horse as it got a fright.  I knew that this was just an excuse, and not the real reason, and I think the French knew it too.

Words went back and forth to the balcony, but it seemed that the commander was not convinced that the frightened horse was the reason for him to keep his hat on.  Father was ordered to go inside, while I was allowed to go with horse and wagon to our nearby paddock to fetch clover for our animals.  I was genuinely worried, not that he might be required to do  “community service” and get a free haircut, but that they might check him out and find that he was a member of the N.S.D.A.P.   About half an hour later, I had just finished loading the wagon when father came to the paddock.   Luckily he was not required for toilet cleaning, nor given a haircut or questioned, but the lecture he received instead would have hurt his pride, and would have been more painful and humiliating to this ex-soldier. 

Postscript.  A few years later I had an opportunity to pay the French back in my own way, and under my own terms - not in a vindictive way, more in a prankish vein.  Nevertheless, I felt good about what I did.  Had I been caught however, I would have been in conflict with the French military authorities. Here is what happened.

When I was dating Karola, one Sunday we drove on my motorbike to the town of Breisach 10 KM away. Breisach was sitting right on the River Rhine, which was the French/German border, and there was also a  garrison of French troops stationed there.
 We went into a well known café to have some quiet time together. Karola was new to Bischoffingen and surrounds; her parents had just leased the pub in Bischoffingen and that is where I got to know Karola. The café was on a hill, and nearby was a round observation tower with a long spiral staircase that led to the top and the observation platform. To obtain the key to go up the tower I was required to pay 5 Marks, and when the key was returned I got it back. We had spent quite some time up there to admire the surrounds, when three French soldiers came up the tower. I said to Karola as we saw them coming up, "When they are at the top we'll greet them, then we'll go down and I'll lock the door, and you run to the café with the key while I start up the motorbike to drive away.  So that is what we did, and I have been wondering to this day who released them from the tower.

The scythe and the flail are tools from a bygone era, and it is highly likely that today's generation has neither seen nor heard of them, and much less ever used one of them.  However, I had the opportunity to learn the skill to use them. The only way to cut grass on the slopes on the Kaiserstuhl, where horse drawn Grass cutters couldn’t go, was the scythe.  To cut evenly and cleanly with a scythe was an ability that took a fair bit of practice, and in time I acquired the necessary skill.  That skill however, also entailed learning to sharpen the scythe, which was made from special steel.

The cutting edge had to be hammered thin with a special hammer on a special purpose-built anvil, and stayed sharp for a long time.  From time to time, a couple of strokes with a wet honing stone enhanced the sharpness of the cutting edge.  The stone was carried in a holster containing water and was carried on a belt.  Interestingly, the holsters were made from hollowed-out cow or bullhorns.  Our slang word for it was 'Kumpf', but the word is unlikely to be found in any dictionary.  'Kumpf' was also used in a derogatory way, in reference to a person's enormous nose.

Rye is the tallest of the grain family, and a certain amount of it was not let through the threshing machine to save it from being crumpled up.  In the wintertime, when there wasn’t much to do, the rye kernels were separated from the florets with a flail.  (A flail is an implement consisting of a free-swinging round lump of wood called the swipple attached to a stick to thresh out grain by hand). In our barn we had a large clay floor area built solely for this operation.  My grandfather constructed the floor by mixing clay with animal blood.  The blood gave the clay cohesion, kept it smooth and hard, but not too hard, and prevented it from crumpling.  A cement floor would have been too hard and the rye kernels would get smashed.  I remember well having to swing my flail on many a cold winter’s day.  My grandfather, father and I would go back and forth over the spread-out rye, flailing it in unison: one - two - three, one - two - three, etc., to the muffled sound of the swipple hitting the rye on the clay floor.

Flailing the rye achieved two objectives: apart from getting the rye out of the florets, it also smashed the hard outer layer of the straw and took the stiffness out of it. The reason for the latter one was because the flailed straw was used to tie up the boughs of the grapevines, which were bent into circles after they had been pruned in spring, and the straw was then used to tie them to their support.  Had the boughs not been bent into a circle, the sap, when the vine started to grow, would have caused the uppermost eye of the bough to grow strongest and become top-heavy, while at the same time inhibiting grape yield.  Before the straw was put to use, it was soaked in water overnight to make it more pliable.  Four to five strands were used, and in the main, the women performed this task, and it required some skill to tie the special bowknot.

Few wage-earning opportunities for the young people in the village were available, except for the occasional grafting of grape vines, and during the harvest, doing shift-work in the winery.  I became very proficient at vine grafting which was paid on a piecework basis. Grafting the grapevine was done for a particular reason. “Die Reblaus”, (or phylloxera, its scientific name) is a vine pest. Grafting on a strong rootstock eliminated the problem.  Every graft had to be perfect, otherwise it was returned to you for correction.  If it was rejected, it was not counted for payment, and there was no union to complain to.
But there was another way for me to make some good pocket money.  During the war, and for a long time into the post-war period, every household kept dozens of rabbits for the purpose of fresh meat supply, and as a change for the taste buds. With most households deficient of men, because they were away fighting a war, I was taught by my grandfather how to kill rabbits, gut them, take their pelt off, and cut them into pieces ready for my mother to cook.  My remuneration for this job was the retention of the pelt, which I put on a stretching frame, and hung up to dry. The news was soon making its rounds via word-of-mouth courier, recommending me as a “rabbit butcher,” and in no time I was doing the job for all the relations as well as the whole neighbourhood.

The killing method was a bit crude: I held them on the hind legs, then hit them on the head with a hammer, and cut their throats.  I didn’t really like doing it, but making money from the pelts was an overriding factor for doing it. When I had accumulated a large number of pelts, I took them to a pelt dealer in Freiburg.  This sideline provided me with a much-appreciated cash flow.   However eventually I started to develop a dislike for killing animals and cutting them up in little pieces.   I could never have chosen the butcher trade as my profession. 

Rabbits are prolific breeders and the kids in the village had a lot of fun with them.
By mating males with different females - you could say it was a kind of a ‘rabbit sex trade’ - we finished up with all sorts of different coloured pelt patterns.  Many kids had their favourite rabbits, and sometimes it could cause a bit of trauma when a favourite finished up on the dinner table in a “ready to eat” state.

My paternal grandfather was my mentor and teacher and I learned a lot from him. He was a man of many skills and talents and was always sought out for advice by the villagers.  He was a man of resolve and perseverance, but he was also immensely practical, mentally as well as physically.  There was no doubt, that he was a real “do it yourselfer” - able to improvise, skilful with his hands, always looking beyond the next horizon, always ahead of his time in his thinking.  (If we had computers then, grandfather would have been the first to have one.) Grandfather exerted great influence on me in my formative years, since at that particular time my father was away as a soldier in the war.  I am ever grateful for what he taught me and I always look back to him with great admiration.  Grandfather had three hobbies: 1. Growing the latest roses; 2. Growing vegetables, especially asparagus and 3. Beekeeping.  The beehives, of which he had more than fifty, were housed in a separate building in the garden, which we dubbed the "Bee house". 

I was involved in all of those hobbies and it was like nourishment for my insatiable curiosity and appetite for learning practical things. The pride of our garden was a rose bush, which had fourteen different kinds of roses grafted onto it, and was a sight to behold when they were all in bloom.  I remember the special long knife used for cutting the asparagus plants deep down in their mound. They were easy to find as they betrayed their presence by lifting the soil on the smoothed-out mound.  The mound had to be smoothed-out again after every cutting. In their peak of growing, they just kept on shooting up and had to be cut twice a day.  Sometimes I was the victim of grandfather's great sense of humour.  One day he told me, with a serious face, that it was too dangerous to go near the asparagus mounds in the garden.  When asked why, he replied, “Because the asparagus are shooting.”  My gift of the gab was well known to everybody, and to shut me up could prove difficult.  I remember well Grandfather remarking frequently, “When you die, they’ll have to kill your mouth separately, otherwise you’ll keep on talking.

Through my hobby of beekeeping, I became very friendly with a former Commander of the French occupation forces in our area, who married a German girl and settled in the neighboring village of Oberrotweil after retiring from the armed forces. However, he was not the same loquacious firebrand who gave my father a lecture for failing to remove his hat at a flag-lowering ceremony.  He was the friendly one who came to interview me in the schnapps affair.  (See ‘The French connection”
Our mutual interest brought us together again and we formed an excellent liaison and friendship.  Over many cups of coffee and glasses of wine we talked ‘bees’ and reminisced about the petrol and Schnapps affair. It just goes to show how situations, circumstances and attitudes can change within a short time-span and how two “former” enemies can become friends, true to the maxim – if there is a will there is a way. 

I can’t remember much of my maternal grandfather, who died when I was four years old, but I was told that he, like my other grandfather, also had a great sense of humour. It looks like I have inherited a double dose of a sense of humour.  However, there’s one thing that I can remember well about my maternal Grandfather.  After his funeral, I went with other kids to the cemetery and helped the gravedigger to fill in my grandfather's grave.  Word got to my family. “You do not do this with your own grandfather,” I was severely admonished.

This is the conclusion of my condensed account of growing up in Bischoffingen, my experiences, trials and tribulations, my thoughts and dreams. This story doesn’t always follow in a chronological order. It could be said that I had a colourful childhood, and I experienced things that I hope our children or grandchildren will never experience.  But life through all this helped to form my personality, and I hope the story will give the reader a better understanding of my “make up” and complexity.

         I hope that you enjoyed reading it. - Werner Schmidlin August 2001.
My quote for today: - Werner“Life is the best teacher, just as it is. It is the toughest teacher. It won’t tolerate slothfulness for long. It’s always throwing some difficult problem your way and then seeing what you will do with it.” Stephanee Killen
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Gaby and Ben said...

Werner, we just read your final chapter, and have to congratulate you for writing and sharing this interesting and wonderful narrative from your life. You certainly had a varied life and experienced a lot, and many of us could not imaging the horrors of the war you had to go through. It would without doubt have been character-building for you. For us, this was a tremendously interesting read. Thank you, Werner, for sharing it with us.

Betty Sander said...

Our sentiments are the same as expressed by Gaby and Ben. It was a well-written narrative, thank you Werner for sharing this. In war we hear stories from the victors, but not much if any from the vanquished, so this is why your story is so interesting.

June and family said...

I just have to tell you that I and my family enjoyed tremendously, reading your four chapters of Growing up in Bischoffingen - it was absolutely a gripping story. We agree with all the comments your story engendered. Thank you, Werner for sharing this.