Place: Stadtoldendorf, Germany
Interview and translation by Lena Dorfschmidt
Original Language: German
We had agriculture and a small pub in Linnenkamp. I was born in ’26. We were still children [during the war]. It started on the first of September, 1939. That’s when it all began. A friend’s father was drafted immediately. He was gone immediately. They had a farm, too. That’s how it was… We were still in school then. The winter ‘39/’40 was a very cold one. […] On the first of September our… Well, Hitler shot first.
[Many Austrians were fighting with them.] […] And in winter ‘39/’40 they were here in the area. [They] came […] back from Poland. The war was over there already, only a few squatters stayed. [The rest] came back and spent the winter here. [We had] soldiers at our place, [too].
How full the pub always was then! At 12 In the evening, I think, they played Radio-I-Don’t-Know… However… At that time you could here the needle falling to the floor in the pub. So many soldiers! 50, 60 in the pub. But then [when they played the radio show] it was absolutely quiet. Probably they were all thinking of home. So quiet…
It all started in ‘33. […] My father even was a Local Group Leader of the NSDAP, that made it hard for me [after the war]. When we were building our house and I got a job I couldn’t… Back there where the school is, they were doing construction work. I could start as a cleaner. One of the women that worked there though – her husband was a social democrat and they had been surpressed then. So she spread in the school that my father… She made me look bad. I couldn’t stay there. […] That was real bullying. I couldn’t stay there, I left. As if it was my fault what my father did…
But that is how it was back then. We were all in favor of Hitler. Those were the times. No one knew that he was crazy.
How was it like for you in the BDM [Bund Deutscher Maedel, League of German Girls]?
We were all in there. Hitler Youth, for the confirmed ones, and BDM, Bund Deutscher Mädels. And for the younger ones… God, how were we called again…. I don’t remember.
We had a community home in Linnnekamp. It was a village community home. It was a building that belonged to the community, […] they took two rooms and renovated them, one for boys, one for girls. That was our home. Once a week we went there.
That is how we were brought up. We all were risen up like that. When we were in school and the teacher came, the arms went up. But up here on eye level, because if not we would get hit. Those were crazy times…
If you look back at it…
It was a crazy time. But what was our fault…
How was the war perceived her in the area?
We saw it when the alarm went off in the big cities. When Kassel was bombed. When Kassel was bombed – they made it erdgleich [level]. They used phosphorous bombs or bullets. It was light as daytime, even from here, the whole area was light. They had bombed Kassel. Nearly made it erdgleich.
But that is the only thing we noticed here.
Only that sometimes duds came down. And a few airplanes crashed into the woods. One crashed just here in the forest. Towards Denkiehausen another one came down. They were shot. They were shot by the Anti Aircraft Batallion. But where were they stationed? I don’t know. But when they came they were shot from below.
[The BDM] was nice. It was nice. Always in uniform… Often we didn’t do a lot. Once we came here to Stadtoldendorf. Black skirts, white blouses… Then we had this triangular cloth that was fixed with such a leather band. It was nice. That wasn’t bad.
When we were together, we would sing. Often we didn’t do a lot, but once we came here to Stadtoldendorf… Everyone had to show up here, we all marched through Stadtoldendorf. A column from the whole district Holzminden. That wasn’t bad. Not for us. But later on, that he started this, that was the bad thing.
Did you notice any of the “bad things”?
We, not so much. We even still cried when he was shot. We cried about that. We didn’t know what was going on, that he had started all this. Later we found out about it. That’s when they wrote about it. Before you weren’t allowed to write about it. They shoot you if you were to write about it. You couldn’t permit yourself that.
How fast could you believe it then?
You had to believe it. You couldn’t believe it, in the beginning you couldn’t. But you saw what happened, that he always wanted more. There was this song: “Today Germany belongs to us, tomorrow, the world. We will keep marching, even when everything brakes down, because today Germany belongs to us. Tomorrow, the world.” That’s the kind of songs we would sing in school. You could see how crazy they were.
They were crazy times. […] When it was all over, and all those refugees came and you saw they had been chased away… […] My husband was from Silesia, too – they had a big farm there, a big farm. They all were evacuated to Lenne-Wangelnstaedt. Reibniz is how the village was called. My husband was an English prisoner of war. He came back home in ‘48, to where his mother was in Lenne. I was working for a farmer at that time. And he started working there, too. That’s how we got to know each other. Hmm… So we got married.
It was hard. All those refugees. Everyone had to host refugees. They were all chased away from their farms. They used to have big farms and came into tiny rooms here. They had a bed and a stove.
When they talked about all that… Also about the flight. They came here in a cattle trailer. They would sit in there and look out on top. Where are we here? So one of them said, “Oh, here it is exactly like in the Riesengebirge, I want to stay here.” And they stopped here; they had to get off in Stadtoldendorf. [laughs]
The Riesengebirge was mountainous and with a lot of greenery, too. They must have passed by here when they opened the top [of the cart] and looked out. They stayed in Linnenmkamp [a nearby village] later. She used to say, “And they stopped and we could get off.
Many of them stayed. Some went on, too, down there towards Cologne where there was work. But everything was broken there, too. They had to build up everything. Cologne… Everything was broken.
[…] Before we had gotten many people from Cologne, because of the airplanes, because of the bombs. That is why we received many people from Cologne. We had people at home, too. We hosted a woman with two children. “Evacuated,” they were called, they all were here. The Austrians had been here before. There were here only for half a year. I think from here they went to France and had to continue fighting there. He started another war there, Hitler.
Was it interesting to hear about the war on the radio?
We didn’t really do that… Who had a radio? We had small receptor, and of course we listened to that. God, as a child we didn’t really think about that. Of course, I had an uncle at home, my fathers brother who was a little ill. He stayed at home. He used to say, “Oh what will this lead to, what will this lead to?” But we would only think, “Oh God, it isn’t that bad, what is wrong with him?”
We always had people quartered. Always soldiers that came back and rested before they were sent somewhere else. But they weren’t Austrians, they were from here, from this country, Germany. Germans.
The Austrians had been in Poland already, participated in the attack. Of course some of them had fallen already. Some were in the field hospitals. […]
When the Austrians came, there were cavalry on horses. We had four horses in our stable, too. That was strange. Every pub also had a stable. Whether they had horses themselves or not, we only had cows, but we had a stable for horses, in case someone came from afar and had a horse, so that they could unhitch. They would have their horses at our place then.
The same with the gypsies. Before the war there were many gypsies here. Romanians. They are the “Roma” now. They even had their children here, a small baby was born in our stable.
That was the little Gisela Kuemmel, that was born in our stable. She was a gypsy girl. She was killed in Ausschwitz [that’s as far as we know today].
Did you hear anything about the concentration camps?
We didn’t know about that, I swear. If someone had known about that, it would have leaked. No one knew about that. No one wanted to believe us in the end, but we didn’t know.
There were no cars. Who had a car? There was one car in Linnenkamp, one car. It belonged to the miller. He had a mill in Linnenkamp. They had a car. There were no other cars. Where could we go? Nowhere – to Stadtoldendorf, on the bicycle.
During the war, we cried a lot. I cried a lot with my friend, because her father wasn’t at home. When he wrote from Russia… When someone was drafted into the military, or they came on vacation and had to leave again… The whole village would cry. Of course…
What Hitler said, we believed. Even our teacher. In school… We had only heard that. What should we have done?
We had Jews here, too. We had a sign on the door, “Entrance not permitted for Jews.” Most people had that. Some didn’t, but most did. We had the pub. I don’t know if we had to put it. Anyways we had it. So they would come through the barn. Many came. No one had cars, so they came on bicycle, a suitcase in the back where they sold pants, socks, clothes. My mother always bought from them. […] Even today I can’t understand what they had against the Jews. We weren’t such Jew haters. Even my father, though he was in the SA, he didn’t participate in that, even though we had this signboard.
How did you experience the occupation?
They didn’t treat us badly. You couldn’t say that. If you drive towards Luethorst, all those farms were occupied by the French – or were they Americans? I think they were Americans. They occupied the houses there, even half a year after the war. Most people there had a small house. Leibzuchthaus they called it, that’s where the old people are invited if the son took over the farm. The old people went on [unclear] in such a small house. With every farm there was a small house for the old people. So the people from there moved to the small house and [the squatters] took the farm. They stayed quite a while.
Then the chapels started playing again. They had a hall in Wangelnstedt where everyone went for dancing. Suddenly someone said, “Oh the blacks are coming.” Everything was full of black people. A whole truck load of black soldiers. They had seen that we were dancing. Immediately the whole hall was empty. Everyone went home. They were all scared. We were all scared so we went home. [laughs] These things happened, too.
How did you experience the time when the war was over?
That the war was over, that was difficult to understand back then. They all were happy. Those that were still alive.
[…] My father was in the SA, so he had to visit the families in the district, in Wangelnstedt, Emmerborn, Denkiehausen and Linnenkamp when someone fell. And he knew all these people. We were all like siblings in this village. When one woman’s third son died he didn’t want to go anymore to tell her. Those were hard times. If you lose three children in the war…
Even if your parents were social democrats, if you didn’t participate, you would have it difficult in school. We were all the same, we children. We were all raised like this, maybe some not at home…
How did you experience the handling of the war?
It is good that all this comes up, that we find out what really happened. How they thought we were dumb… […] They didn’t tell us. How could he start war with the Polish? What did we have against the Polish that he would just go there, Hitler? What was so bad about them? He wanted to conquer the whole world. […] He must have been crazy. But I mean, he wasn’t alone. I don’t know what was on their minds.
“For the fatherland,” all those stupid phrases. But it worked, everyone went along with him. And he wasn’t even German.