We lived in Stuttgart, but when the bombing internsified, we were evacuated. I lived with relatives in amall village and was separated from my mother. She came and got me just before Chritmas 1944. I was 10 years old when the War ended. My mother and I fortunately found ourselves in the American occupation zone. When the war ended I had just turned 10 years old (my birthday is in March). When the American soldiers approached Ellwangen my mother had to stay in the hospital, she took me there to keep me safe. First, wounded German soldiers came, than wounded American soldiers arrived. The hospital was a peaceful place, but overcrowded. The Americans immediately organised medical help, there was no shortness of material and food anymore.In July my mother was allowed to return to home in Stuttgart. The grand-parents still lived there, our house was not much damaged, broken windows and problems with the roof, well, this was war. In September 1945 I started school again in one of the Gymnasiums in Stuttgart. War was over. In school we got "Schulspeisung" (food for the pupils) in the long break at about 10:30 am, I think organised by an American organisation. From relatives in US (Brooklyn) we got CARE-parcels with additional food and clothings. In Stuttgart, an "Amerika-Haus" opened with a cultural program, library, cinema and language courses - which I didn't attend because I now learned English in school. With the (American) occupation in Ellwangen, Göppingen and Stuttgart we had no bad experiences. Here are my observations and thoughts as a boy of that time.
We lived in Stuttgart. When the Allied bombing intensified, the government organized evacution programs for children. I read a lot about the British evacuation program duringthe war, the German program is much less well covered. It was the Kinderlandverschickung (KLV). The idea was to move the children out of the cities that the Allies were bombing and into the countryside. The children were commonly moved to the surrounding villages, although in some cases further away. Most of the children were moved to camps set up in hotels and other facilities and run very strictly on by the Hitler Youth. In most cases serious schooling was abandoned. I was lucky, I had relatives in the countryside. Children with relatives could be cared for there instead of the spartan KLV camps. Thus I was sent to live in with the family of relatives in a village (Wasseralfingen) about 60 miles east of Stuttgart (fall 1943). People with relatives in rural areas generally preferred to send their children to their relatives. A photograph of me in Winter 1943/44 when I was about 8 3/4 years shows me with a younger cousin. He was about 4 1/2 years old. I am wearing my Baskenmütze. My little cousin has a cap with bill. My coat is a warm Lodenmantel with a hood fastened by buttons to the coat. [HBC note: A French reader tells us that Lodenmantel means a coat made with a sort of waterproof woollen fabric. It is no longer made and worn except in Bavaria and Austria (even by adults). In French the term was " manteau de loden ".]
My mother worked in a hospital in a town (Ellwangen), about 15 miles to the north of Wasseralfingen. While we were close, we rarely saw each other. As the War situation worsened, transport became a serious problem.
Just before Christmas 1944 my mother came to Wasseralfingen to pick me up with all my belongings to bring me to Ellwangen. She had to walk all the way. We got a small cart and took the overland road from Wasseralfingen to Ellwangen, walking. Fortunately it was not a real cold day. There were attacks from Allied planes against cars and people on the road. [HBC note: By this time of the war, the Allies were focusing on the German transport system. Thus anything that moved on the roads, rails, and canals were potential targets.] Fortunately we always were able to hide ourselves behind trees. Going by railway was no longer possible. In Ellwangen I lived in the room which my mother had rented in a private family home. I didn't go to school anymore. Most of the schools had closed down. For lunch it was arranged to go to an orphanage, in the morning and afternoon I stayed with this family in their home. A very sad event was one day when a German officer appeared and told the lady and the children (one a little older than me, the other a little younger) that her husband and the children's father who was German soldier had been killed.
When the war ended I had just turned 10 years old (my birthday is in March). When the American soldiers approached Ellwangen my mother had to stay in the hospital, she took me there to keep me safe. First, wounded German soldiers came, than wounded American soldiers arrived. The hospital was a peaceful place, but overcrowded. The Americans immediately organised medical help, there was no shortness of material and food anymore.
Some weeks later my mother was ordered to move to a prisoner-of-war camp in Göppingen, a city about 30 miles in direction to Stuttgart). The American Red Cross provided the transport. I was a boy 10 years old and very interested in a strange Red Cross vehicle. I called it a "swimming truck". (This was the DUKW, a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck.) This was for me a real exciting experience! I had never seen anything like it. We got a room in the officers' building of the former German army barracks where the camp was run as a hospital for wounded German soldiers. Food was good, very often chicken. Anf for me as a boy even chocolate--a real treat at the time. I was allowed to move freely around in the large area of the former barracks. There were small number of other children, the family of the hospital personal, who I played with. My mother was not over worked and she started to give me lessons in German, math and - of course - English. We got text books from the army administration.
In July my mother was allowed to return to home in Stuttgart. The grand-parents still lived there, our house was not much damaged, broken windows and problems with the roof, well, this was war. In September 1945 I started school again in one of the Gymnasiums in Stuttgart. War was over. In school we got "Schulspeisung" (food for the pupils) in the long break at about 10:30 am, I think organised by an American organisation. From relatives in US (Brooklyn) we got CARE-parcels with additional food and clothings. In Stuttgart, an "Amerika-Haus" opened with a cultural program, library, cinema and language courses - which I didn't attend because I now learned English in school. With the (American) occupation in Ellwangen, Göppingen and Stuttgart we had no bad experiences.
The time thereafter, winter 1945/46, winter 1946/47 and winter 1947/48 were hard, the heating at home and in school, getting food in Stuttgart with strong rationating. I remember for my confirmation, still in May 1949, my aunt from Wasseralfingen brought meat as a gift.
During my boyhood I had no immediate contact with GIs (the weeks in Göppingen
excepted, but in the hospital area they were not by any means over-presented and suppressing). I am thankful that my live after the war was not disturbed by after-effects of the wartime. Living in a family who had not participated in the Nazi regime in the years before I felt to be liberated and happy, in my young years looking forwards. Already as a boy I soon became aware of the rather fortunate situation for my family. No one of the close family was killed in the war, we were not banished, the house in Stuttgart was not destroyed, that my grandfather was again engaged as a consultant to the re-build German administration in Frankfurt - earlier I wrote you that he was removed from his responsible work in German state government in 1933 from the Nazis -, all very favourite circumstances which certainly are not typically what a German boy of 10 to 14 years had to see around him in the years immediately after the war.
The (American) occupation, in comparison to the one of the Soviets, the French and the British, was conducted to support the German people and economy, by the Marshall-Plan, opening and helping Germany to live peacefully in a democratic way amongst our neighbours (especially France), and - last but not least - in re-uniting Germany in 1990.
I think your view expressed in the Allied Occupation of Germany page is really fair. Germans should thank the Americans what and how they did for the Germans after this terrible war. Personal observations by German kids in 1945 of my age may differ. Seriously, now old adults - 70 plus -, they should in total agree with a positive view of the American occupation following the end
of the war. In a famous Swiss newspaper recently they had an article of "What would have
happened if the Americans would not have treated Germany in the way they did?"
A French reader writes, "Hans, thanks a lot for your interresting account and congratulation for your exellent English (better as mine!). By chance I didn't know the war. I am a few years younger than you. My older brother as a child died during the German invasion. I well remember that during the 50s that we French children were very aware of the 'hated' of our parents toward the Germans. And my Alsatian grandparents even more. It is true that our country was badly damaged and many people suffered during the War and German occupation. But as we got older we did not have the same attitude as our parents. In that the way, the life experience of the one is not necessaraly followed by others, even one's parents. So we French adolescents of the 1960s strongly supported the development of the Franco-German friendship. I have to add in this time, plenty French school children chose to study the German language instead of English. Today all the Frenchs are pro-German and we find it hard to understand how all those terrible wars could have ever occurred."
Hans replies: "Thank you very much for these words. Yes, in Germany, too, younger people of my age and down are glad that we have now peace for about 70 years in Europe, with France, with Poland.
And a short additional remark with regard of my wife. Her family has relatives in Switzerland from the middle of the 19th century on. After the war an uncle and his family lived in France (Lyon); he was director of a subsidiary of an U.S. company there. There was a cousin in the early-50s about the same age. He was sent to the family of my wife to improve his German; and my wife was sent to Lyon to improve her French. The first time, about 1953, as a young girl she was picked up by her uncle by car. They travelled through Switzerland. When they approached the French border, the uncle said: 'From now on we speak only French; and if you are asked where you come from you say from Alsace and you still are influenced be the (German-like) Alsacian dialect in speaking French.' We are still in good contact with this family, they live now again in the French part of Switzerland, the daughter there and our son, both again about the same age, were 'exchanged' to improve their foreign language in about 1985."
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