Introduction and part 1
A television program “Back in time for dinner”, produced and transmitted by the ABC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the non-commercial TV channel in Australia, triggered the idea to write this narrative with the help of my mother, which is luckily still alive in her low 90’s.
My family has their background in the Eastern Part of Germany, now Poland and in Hamburg.
My father did not talk much about his childhood and early family years, so I do not know very much and the pandemic and with it travel bans out of Australia, stopped me doing more ‘on location’ research.
But my mum wrote down much of her experience, in particular the time of WW2 and the postwar times. We read much about these times, but hearing it first hand, is another story.
In this series, I will infrequently and as time permits, feature some of her stories, translated from German. It may make interesting reading. By default, there are not many pictures from the pre-war period and from during the war.
My late father’s life started in Stolpmuende and Stettin, that is as much as I know. In fact, some years ago, when I researched my family name, I found that there are many people with this name in the United States.
One day, while in New York, I phoned one of the contacts I had found and ended up with a charming lady on the phone. Yes, her father had the same family name and he was also researching the name and any possible historical connections. As he was residing in Florida, the lady arranged him to ring me.
If you are not familiar with the USA phone system, and this was before the widespread use of mobile phones, it was common for people to phone you at a public phone.
I selected a bank of phones at the Hilton Hotel in Manhatten and at the pre-determined time, her father rang the phone box.
We had an interesting chat, I gave him some background information and weeks later he send me a ‘possible’ family tree to Australia. He needed more information, but unfortunately my dad could not provide them, so the research ended up in a stall. I am not sure, if the man is still alive now, as we lost contact so many years ago.
The WW2 has destroyed many records, but maybe one day, I can travel again and did into some of these old records. Often church archives, which were often spared destruction, may hide more information.
But back to the core story.
We will start in about 1943 and work our way through it, right until the time, my memory sets in and I can continue the narrative from my own position.
So lets start. As my mother told me:
1943, the war was in full swing and air raids on Hamburg, continued day and night.
Every day, when we went to work, we had a small suitcase with us in which we carried some of the few clothing, which you could get on your ration coupon, the free market had long ago collapsed and apart from the black market, every thing else one had to get with the ration coupons. If you were lucky, someone may even gifted you some.
The suitcase? When we left for work, we could never be sure that we had accomodation in the evening or if the apartment building would not have been bombed and destroyed during the day.
The supply of produce was getting worse and worse. Through the fighting, we lost more and more of the farming areas in the east of the ‘Reich” and much food was needed to support the soldiers.
Since products were scarce, we would not store much im the shop, where I worked. After every delivery, a colleague and I had to move much to an un-used garage for storage. All the time hoping that it would not be victim to the bombing. Due to lack of vehicles and difficulties with destroyed streets, we moved the packets with wheelbarrows. All the time being afraid, that a bombing alarm would go off. What to do with the goods? We had to get into the bunker, but what to do with the wheel barrow? Leaving it on the street could mean that everything would be stolen. Even that there was a death penalty on looting.
One day, it was a beautiful day, we were allowed to travel with our boss to Pattensen (near Hannover, about 160 km south of Hamburg), to store goods at a farm.
The farmers wife offered us a beautiful breakfast. I large slice of bread, thick with butter and ‘real’ honey. Honey was scarce and usually we had artificial honey (Kunsthonig) and a cup of chocolate. A real feast!
For the way home we were given a slice a bread with butter and sausage (cold meat). How delicious. These type of delicacies were already forgotten.
If I think, how careless people nowadays are with food. How much we throw away, just because the apple does not comply with the norm or there is a mark on the vegetable.
How much is just thrown into the rubbish, because the eye was hungrier than the belly, I have to think about these war times in which we were deprived of everything……..