University of Nevada, Reno




The Road from Berlin to N.Y.

By Edith


Edith and her American husband, DougMy paternal grandfather opened a factory which employed about 70 people making furniture, radios and stereos, etc. My grandfather’s new wife was the bookkeeper in the office. My father was sanding, staining, etc. and my mother was cutting and gluing materials. I loved going there and go through all 4 floors watching everybody work.

I was then about 12 to 13 years old and Adolf Hitler was always news on the radio and the newspaper. He was now our Reichs Fuehrer and we had to greet each other by raising our arm and saying "Heil Hitler" instead of "Good Morning."

That following spring I watched some of Hitler’s men throw furniture out of a window across the street and then take the people away because they were Jewish. My parents had a hard time keeping track of our Jewish friends. They seemed to disappear. My paternal grandfather also had a hard time keeping track of many of his Jewish business associates. We heard rumors but nobody knew for sure or would talk about it.

I was going to a private school learning French, English and German. I had a very good friend who lived on the same street as I did, here name is Waltraud Bock, which made me very happy. I would go and pick her up every morning on our way to school, she became my best friend. Her father was in the SS (Hitler’s elite group) and he later became very helpful when I had to work for the SS.

My paternal grandfather was told to make ammunition boxes instead of furniture. Everyone was preparing for war and people were afraid of saying anything against Adolf Hitler. I was now 14 years old and went to the Mittelschule but still living in the same apartment. My parents became friends with Mr. and Mrs. Megow, who had a small apartment like ours, and we made a lot of trips with them. We went to Bavaria on a 2 week vacation and had a wonderful time. Mr. Megow was an excellent photographer but also a very enthused SS man and was constantly talking about Hitler and the New German Reich he was going to have.

Since my mother was Polish and my father’s family was originally British, I was told I must either go to a work camp for girls or work for the SS (Hitler’s elite group). My girlfriend’s father, Mr. Bock arranged for me to work in the office of the SS in Wannensee but it took a couple of hours by train to get there. Since we were at the beginning of the war, we were now getting some air raids and alarms. We were going to the shelters Hitler had built but mothers with children had preference and sometimes we had to go to a nearby cellar. My daily routine was school (I was enrolled in the Handels schule), which taught us business skills and languages, then I had to go to the SS office to work, which was often interrupted by the air raids.

At the SS office I was in charge of permission slips for bicycles, which was a hot item for German people, and I gave out many. Even for some that didn’t have an order but they looked like they needed it, so I signed them. I was getting pretty tired between school, work and running to the bunker. My home and the SS office was about 50 miles by train which ran sometimes and sometimes did not. I spent many hours (day and night) in bunkers and cellars. My boss in the SS, a General, spoke to me about this staff sergeant Hans and suggested we go out together. We went out for several months and he seemed to like me and talked a lot about marriage and having children. After dating for several months and meeting my parents, he proposed marriage and I said yes against my better judgment, thinking at least I would get out of working for the SS.

We had a small ceremony and moved to Rudow, where my maternal grandparents had their little farm. We took an apartment from the neighbors across the street from my grandparents. I graduated from the Handels school and things seemed a lot easier for me. My husband was sent to Italy and I didn’t hear from him for a long time. I also found myself to be pregnant and having more time now, Ienrolled myself at Wesea College to continue my languages and business practices. I used the streetcar to commute to and from the college but the constant air raids and bombings were getting terrible and we were always fully dressed and tried to carry our most important papers and items with us. Due to my pregnancy and the constant running to the bunkers or cellars, I did a lot of my studying at home. We also had to cover our windows for a complete blackout.

My pregnancy was going along all right and after eating and resting a lot I gained a lot of weight and finally entered the local hospital (Neukoellner Krankenhous) on Christmas eve and our baby boy was born on Christmas Day. My baby weighed in at 13 pounds and since I was small and only 5-foot-2, it was a difficult birth and I had a lot of repair work done. I left the hospital after 10 days. The doctor wanted me to breastfeed my baby but I didn’t have enough milk and had to feed him with a bottle. I went home to my apartment in Rudow across from my grandparents.

The war seemed to come to an end and the German troops were retreating. We could hear a lot of gunfire and pretty soon we saw our soldiers and we begged them not to shoot from here because we didn’t want the Russians to shoot back and get caught in the crossfire. They finally moved towards the city of Berlin and shortly thereafter the Russian troops appeared.

We stayed inside our houses and waited anxiously of what to expect next. When the first soldiers with a lieutenant came into my grandparents’ house and tried to explain that they were hungry, my grandmother, who could speak some Polish, told the lieutenant that she would fix some food. He told her that they would all stay at her house for a few days. Some of the Russian troops went on but about 8 stayed at the house.

Later that day, our neighbor across the street called for help. I was the first to enter the basement, where everybody lived, because of the constant air raids. Mrs. Paschke was being dragged to a bed in the corner of the cellar by a Russian soldier and Mr. Paschke was frantic and was trying to get help. The soldier dropped Mrs. Paschke and ran over to grab me. He threw me on the bed, used his gun to scare me and raped me. The lieutenant was called by Mr. Paschke and the soldier was taken away. The lieutenant told my grandmother that the soldier was being punished and I didn’t see him after that.

My parents were also staying with my grandparents in Rudow and were with me and my little boy, who was now about 4 months old. I was suffering with depression and after the war was finally over, I entered the Newkoellner Krankenhsus for treatment. By now we all moved back to our apartment in Neukoelln but it took us weeks to clean it all up. I was lucky to get my own apartment right next door. It took quite a bit of work but I finally had a 1 bedroom apartment with my own bath.

We had to stay in line for hours for our food rations, which was a piece of bread and some oil. It was a Godsend when the city was divided and our part became the American sector. We received ration cards and things were beginning to be more normal. My grandfather’s factory was hit by bombs and totally destroyed. My father got a job at the Tempel HOF Airbase but went to the Russian sector for his rations. But the rest of us got ours from the American sector. I received my first job at Neukoellner Krankenhouse where my little son was born. I was hired to translate English to German for the German workers. For the first couple of weeks I thought they were speaking a different language until I got used to the different dialects of the soldiers. After about 3 months I was transferred to Temple HOF Airbase to the payroll office to do officer’s pay vouchers and their flight pay. In the evening I worked in the officer’s club. My mother took care of my little boy, who was about 9 months old.

While working in the officer’s club in the Temple HOF, I met a military police officer. His name is Douglas, and I was really impressed with the way he took care of my little boy. I introduced Doug to my parents and they liked each other very much. We started playing cards on our days off, and enjoyed each others’ company. Quite a few times, we took my boy with us when we went out, and my son would call Doug "Daddy."

I was corresponding with Doug’s parents in New York, and we tried to get to know each other. In 1946, my husband, Hans, came home from Italy. He told me he had met somebody in Italy and was quite agreeable to get a divorce. He also agreed to let Doug adopt my son, as long as he didn’t have to pay child support. The divorce was granted, and we started immediately to file for the adoption. After several interviews with the attorney, and paying him $3,000, the adoption was finally granted.

We then started making plans to get married. Doug was Catholic, and I was Lutheran, and it took several visits with the Catholic bishop in Berlin to get his blessing. We were finally married by the German magistrate in September, and in an Army chapel a few days later.


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