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◌  Plus my bicycle too

18 June 2010

My grandmother, transcribed by my mother. Grandma was an art and later nursing student from Berlin. I’ve made some unmarked common-sense (I hope) corrections, plus notes in brackets.

Our house was determined to be unlivable, because it would collapse with the next bomb attack, and so we had to find another place, and so the parents … at that time … I was going to be in Freiburg, spring, ’44.

In fall ’44 I started in Würzburg, and Spring ’44 [presumably an error for the firebombing of 16 March 1945] Würzburg was burned down. But Freiburg was burned down June [November] ’44, 96% burned down, plus my bicycle too.

I had a day before, left for an assignment, not Berlin, it was IG Farben [a chemical company very closely integrated with the Nazi regime]. I went to Mannheim and lived in Heidelberg in an old castle with three bunks, three tiers, and there were about 12 students living in one of those big rooms, and every morning we had to go to IG Farben, that was about 5 miles away. Sometimes the rails of the streetcar were up in the air, bombed out, so we walked, and since we were kids, we had shifts of 24 hours, and 24 hours nothing. So the 24 hours nothing we spent going out, it was summertime, into this beautiful surroundings, the woods, and didn’t sleep. So in the morning, at 5:00 when we had to get up, we would go three in a row, side by side, and the middle one would hang her arms over the shoulders of the other people and she would sleep while she was walking, and then we changed. So we got a little sleep.


Together with us, one was a man who had a purple cross [no such thing as far as I can find; probably thinking of the US purple heart] who had only one leg, and he was the main mechanic, and then the rest were Russian prisoners of war. When I and several students walked down these alley-type walks between these 3–5 story high industrial buildings, suddenly a huge chain with links like you have on a big boat fell down from one of these five story buildings, just about half a foot from us, and then we looked up and there were those Russians laughing. Several of the people were killed in these little incidents, so after a while, they said the students’ lives are too much in danger, and you have to seek something else.


When I worked in the factory, I had this book of poetry by French people, I tried to translate it into German, also with a little poetic touch. That kept me sane, while I did this monotonous work, I did some soldering stuff on tiny little components of some radar thing for 10 hours a day.

It goes on, and this is leaving out the really disturbing stuff.