How I came to Germany (by Hans-Johann Schmidt, translated by Diana Lambing)

I was one of the youngest (born 1925) who, after recruitment in June 1943, was taken to Vienna in a large transport. Note: We went out into the world, were curious, young, strong, and happy to learn something quite new. We also thought that now that we were coming, we would win the war. When we arrived in Vienna, the mood wasn't so happy after a few days. The locals immediately noticed that we had ham, bacon, sausages and cigarettes, and a bartering trade took place over the garden fences.

A few days later, when the division of troops was announced and we were all separated from each other, all our confidence vanished. I personally was hit very hard, being the only person from Uihel to go to Prague, the Golden City, where, after the second transport arrived, I bumped into Peter Faller.

There followed some hard training and I finally ended up in France, where the invasion took place one year later.

After a few months there, I was wounded. A shot passed right through my left upper arm, which caused a stiffening of the elbow and hand. One doctor after another wanted to amputate my arm. I'm glad I always refused. Even if I have no use of my fingers, at least they are still attached to my arm and are a part of me.

Meanwhile, the war came to an end and then one operation after another was done on my arm.

Then I was a prisoner of war in various American camps, and received very little information of what was happening back home.

In May 1947 I was released. I was all alone - no parents, and no prospects. Around this time, my sister was released from the Russian labour camp. She came to Germany. Her children were with their grandparents in Romania, and her husband was still in a French prisoner of war camp. The children's freedom was then 'bought' (from the Romanian government) and they came to Germany, and then the whole family emigrated to America in 1950.

I myself had already got to know my wife, a Red Cross nurse, and we married in 1950. Our first son was born in the same year, and I got a job in a large factory. I, having been a farmer's son, trained as a heating technician and retired in 1985 at the age of 60.

In 1954 our second son was born. In 1960 we built a house - I did a lot of the work myself.

One thing I forgot to mention: I never had any leave during my army days and only saw my home village for the first time again in 1969. I could write a whole book about the time when my parents had the chance to buy their freedom in 1954 to come to West Germany.

I went back to our old village again in 1970 with my wife, parents, sister and brother-in-law. In the meantime, my sister, as well as my parents, have all died and are buried in America.

 

(Herborn, October 2005)

 

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