Voices from the Other Side

Voices from the Other Side - Jean Goodwin Messinger "There comes a time when a war is over.  Combatants from both sides go home and become civilians again, even friends, dads and moms, sons and daughters, spouses, teachers, bricklayers, neighbors, and trading partners across the seas."  Are they really so much different from us, whoever we are?

From SAME WAR DIFFERENT BATTLEFIELDS by Jean Messinger, White Pelican Press 2008, ISBN 978-60725-043-2  348 pages | hardcover | $27.95

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Table of Contents - click here

Acknowledgements        vi
Introduction            xiii
Frieda Rosin Wuest         1
George Niedermayr        11
Christel Pfeiffer        35
Anita Griffith            61    
Gernot Heinrichsdorff        77
Alex Baumgartner        99
Irene Scholl Baumgartner    129
Herman White            141    
Renate G. Justin, M.D.        157
Helga Kelly-Bach            165
Win Schendel            175
M.J. Brett                183
Johann Pfeffer            193
Ursula Stack            199
Hermine Boyer            213
Stefan Q. Lani            221
Maxine Merten            227
Karl Finzel                233
Doris Tavernier Finzel        245
Dr. Hans Holzapfel        259
Ilse Charleston            265
Sabine Spierling            275
Rosemarie                281
Ellen Feist Smith            289
Eric Muetlein            293
Epilogue                347

Excerpts from Voices from the Other Side

From the "Introduction"
       Historians, psychologists, politicians, sociologists, and political analysts have devoted endless pages since the end of WWII trying to explain, even justify, the phenomenon of Nazi Germany.  We are aware and probably in agreement that postwar WWI conditions in Germany provided a ripe climate for a charismatic leader who would promise to bring back prosperity, honor, and self-respect to a fallen and disgraced nation.  The puzzle remains how its leaders were able to turn a society of law-abiding, hard-working, God-fearing, family oriented people into instruments of destruction for the most horrific war in the history of mankind.

       Perhaps the quest for understanding of those years will never be completely satisfied nor unified in conclusions.  Ultimately, by understanding, the civilized world hopes to avoid a recurrence of such madness, which brought unimaginable destruction to Europe and shame to Germany in the name of the vilest ideology.  And is it a warning that if it could happen in Germany it might happen somewhere else?

       These same citizens had seen their forebears by the thousands come to America, and they made the U.S a better place wherever they settled.  Germans of 150 years ago and Germans of today are still highly respected for their many admirable qualities: their work ethic , devotion to family and education, practicality, thrift, discipline, industriousness, and organizational ability.  Many Americans proudly claim heritage from those immigrants, and many parts of America retain a distinctive German character, including telephone books filled with German names. .  .  .
By Frieda Wuest, the eldest of ten surviving children
    .  .  .  . "On January 20, 1945 the Russians were closing in on East Germany.  I was nineteen by this time.  We were directed by the authorities via the mayor, who came to our house, to evacuate immediately.   Our parents were in town shopping, and so we started to pack what we could into a wagon, which couldn't hold much, but we took blankets because it was so cold.  (The winter of '44-'45 was the coldest in Europe in a hundred years.)  There was laundry hanging outside, but it was frozen stiff, and we had to leave it behind.  The only food we had to take along was twelve loaves of my mother's freshly-baked bread.  There was no McDonald's or Safeway or even fields with leftover potatoes to glean.  We only had an hour or two to get ready to leave, and it was dark when we left.  It was so cold!  The nearest town was twelve kilometers away, and we didn't know where we were going or where we would find refuge.

       With nine children (brother Arnold had been taken into the Army at age sixteen). . . we travelled on foot beside a horse-drawn wagon, nonstop for three days. We only had our bread to eat and snow for drinking.  Although we had very young children with us, we mostly had to walk.  My grandfather was very ill, and he rode on a neighbor's wagon.  The German Army led the way.

       On the third day, it was snowing, and Grandfather died on that neighbor's wagon.  We kept his body for three days; then an order came that said if we had dead bodies, wrap them up in whatever you can get hold of and leave them on the roadside.  We just had barely enough to cover up ourselves.  So we wrapped him up in---I can't even tell you what---and put him by the roadside.  I imagine soldiers came and dug holes and put them in there.  Many refugees lost family members during the flight; some were babies.  They were forced to leave them by the side of the road.  What else was there to do?"

From Chistel Pfeiffer, describing  "the forgotten children of Dresden" from a small community nearby
       " .  .  .  .They began arriving the day after the third devastating attack within twelve hours had turned the inner city into a broiling inferno of heat, fire, and smoke, with phosphor dripping down blackened walls, imprisoning survivors and barring their escape.  But the children did make it, all twenty-five of them, some on their own, others being handed over by mortally wounded mothers to others with better chances  to reach safety.  Their ages were from a couple months to about eight years, with the exception of an eleven-year-old girl, Anna, with severe phosphor burns covering all extremities and part of her face. . . . .I never knew why this badly injured eleven-year-old wound up with these young kids; probably because there simply was no other place for her to go. She was thin, pale, blondish, and must have been in perpetual pain.  She complained little but screamed when an occasional visiting nurse changed bandages. I don't remember giving any pain medication to her.  This was before antibiotics became available, and I imagine that very little was on the market to treat phosphor burns.  She grew visibly thinner, and it is doubtful she survived.

    . . . .The city somehow managed to set up emergency quarters in the auditorium of the school. Cots and beds appeared out of nowhere, as did clothing and food.  The only help available were high school and gymnasium students (including seventeen-year-od Christel) on leave of absence from their various educational institutions, which had been closed down in order to serve mostly as hospitals for wounded soldiers or provide housing for refugees. . . .Whatever happened to Anna and all those other children?.  . . ."

From Gernot Heinrichsdorff, whose mother operated a children's summer camp in a village on the North Sea
        . . . .Around 1938, Peter and Jochen Wuerfl came to Dangast for the summer in the Kinderheim, and for some reason could not return to their home in the fall, so they became part of our family.  At the time, I did not know why.  When some summer sessions ended, sometimes certain children could not be sent home; their parents had disappeared.  I learned in 1940 that Peter and Jochen's mother was Jewish.  The boys' parents had sometimes visited my mother as her guests for several months, when they were hiding from the government.  They were without ration cards since Jews didn't get those.  Then they vanished and afterward died in a concentration camp.

         . . . . .My mother received little compensation for their care, sometimes none at al.  She kept them as her own and raised them to adulthood.  However, she did remove them from the Hitler Youth---for "medical" reasons.  The entire village protected them, including Edo Pille, their teacher in Dangast's one room schoolhouse, who was in the Gestapo and SS. . . .My mother often had to entertain and placate high-ranking Nazi Party members and Gestapo.  For years she risked her life for these children.  After the war, during war crimes trials, my mother testified on Herr Pille's behalf, and he was released. . . . ."