“I grew up in Germany in World War ll. I was born in 1931 and the war started in 1938, so I was seven years old. The German people were made to believe Poland was going to invade and harm us so the Germans were excited to invade Poland and that is how it started. I came from a part of Germany that was German for over 700 years, but the agreement made in Yalta at the end of the war gave it to Poland. My husband was from East Prussia and that was given to Russia. It was hard to live under a dictatorship. Even as children, we had to worry about what we said or it would be reported to the Nazis. My father was not for the Nazis so I had to be very careful. Hitler decided that the children in high school should be saved so we were made ‘Hitler’s Children’ and sent to a camp to be safe. The camp was an old ski lodge. We went to school and always had to hear how wonderful Hitler was. There were air raids and we had to go for shelter into the trenches outside. They were damp and I had a bad throat infection that I couldn’t get rid of and my father came to take me to the doctor. They said he couldn’t have me because I was Hitler’s child. Fortunately it was at the end of the war and my father took me anyway.
The Russians were very vindictive and when they took control it was bad for the German people. There were watchtowers and they raped women and girls. We didn’t have anything to eat or to wear. My father had been a prisoner of war in World War l in Siberia for seven years. He spoke a little Russian and could communicate with them. Everything was destroyed in the war, including my house so we had to leave. We lived in the west and I went to school. I was 14 when the war was over. I had no childhood.
My husband was a shipbuilding engineer and we came to the U.S. under President Eisenhower so my husband could build destroyers at Ingall’s shipyard. We left German with a 9-month-old and $400. We bought a car for my husband to go to work and that left us with nothing. It is amazing how you can survive. I became a scrub nurse for a surgeon. I knew very little English and that was hard but the people were very good to us here. I was an only child and after my father died, I brought my mother here and she helped with the children. I loved working and couldn’t go back to being a housewife.
Don’t ever be afraid to speak up. You do not want war under any circumstances. It is gruesome, there is nothing heroic about it. The Nazis would hang people who deserted to make them as an example. The world needs the United States and our democracy, our example and our goodwill. We aren’t behaving very well right now, but I hope we got back to being a civilized country. It is important to lead a good life and be good to other people. I am 86 and have worked hard and had a good life. Getting old is hard. I miss driving and getting around like I used to. I paint now and that helps me pass the time and think about something else.”