Wold War Memoir
A Personal Journey Through Germany's World Wars and Postwar Years
by Dorothea von Schwanenflügel Lawson

"It is written form the heart. It is a fresh look at history, combined with a sensitive narration of life as it truly was."
           ~ I. Costa, Charlestown, New Hampshire


author's brother
e couldn't keep the Soviet soldiers out of our house,
and there was a constant problem with their ignorance of our Western ways. One of them roamed through my kitchen and picked up my meat grinder which aroused his curiosity. Full of expectation, he turned the handle again and again, finally throwing it on the floor and exclaiming, "Nix music? No good. Kaputt!"

(The author's brother Günter as a naval officer.)


Another time in our basement a Soviet soldier proudly showed off the treasures he had collected in a suitcase, which he laid open on our large table. Electric wires were dangling out on all sides because he had packed it so tightly. Looking closer, I recognized an assortment of light switches torn out of walls of other houses and also several loose bulbs. Now he began to demonstrate: "This here," pointing with a switch to the wall, "and this here," holding a bulb to the ceiling, and with a big grin he exclaimed, "Ahhh, light!" We pretended to admire his great idea for his native village, which had no electricity.


They also collected telephones. They tore them out of the wall and carried them around under their arms. Again and again they would try to talk to somebody and wondered why it would only work for Germans. They figured this must be another case of witchcraft. Fascinated, they kept carrying them around, hoping someday to get an answer to their frequent "Hellos."


The closer we got to Fahrland, the more shallow graves we saw along the side of the road, one hilly sand pile after another marked with plain wooden crosses. We stopped and began to read names and ages. They were all twelve and thirteen-year old boys from the area who had been hastily buried where they had been killed. We were shocked at the sight of so many graves of children. They had been drafted into the Volkssturm during the last days of Hitler's senseless resistance and were cruelly sacrificed by an inhuman government when confronted by Soviet tanks. They would remain there as a grim memorial until they could be afforded a proper burial by their families, if they had survived.

author's photoWe eventually reached Fahrland which had been badly damaged from the fighting that took place there. Our farmer was located on the other side of the village and the farmer's wife remembered me from my previous visits. Her husband had not yet returned from the war and her life had become frightful. We shared our own experiences of the war's end. On our first visit we did not have anything to barter, but she accepted money and sold us vegetables anyway, including a lot of potatoes because we planned to plant some in our own garden, and she taught us how to do it properly. We were very generous in our payment, having in mind to return again and being remembered favorably.
(The author - above.)

There was no time to rest very long because of the curfew. We heaved our heavy knapsacks bursting with potatoes onto our backs, and with each hand grabbed a bag filled with carrots and cabbage. Looking like a parade of backpackers we started the jog-trek back. We needed every last breath for the long route home. I never knew that you can feel every single potato on your back. When we reached the main highway we dared to rest for a short while on a green embankment, realizing by now that we had also acquired sore feet.

After hiking for endless hours, we finally reached the destroyed Wannsee bridge again. That sorry sight gave me shivers. Yet, with mutual support of fellow sufferers, and trembling with fear, we made it safely across without losing our balance or any of our precious cargo. By now the heavy knapsacks had drained every ounce of strength from our feeble bodies. Totally exhausted, I just collapsed right on the curb of the Potsdamer Chaussee, all three of us close to tears. Our legs ached and I swore that I couldn't go any further and would die right here. I dropped everything and groaning, rested my head in my hands. Finally Mutti said, "we can't wait here to die. It takes too long. We have to be home before the 6 p.m. curfew." How true! We laughed, even though it was not funny at all.

Adding to the torture, our old boots were killing us. With desperate determination we began trudging along the seemingly endless road, finally making it home just in time. Our family was in despair since we had returned so late. So much could have happened to us. Finally we could afford to really collapse and remove the tormenting boots from our swollen and blistered feet. We swore that we would never make that trip again. But, of course, we did ~ we had to. Our life was a struggle for survival.

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