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February 2011 - Nr. 2

Part I

KönigsbergMy family lived and worked in a cultivated oasis right in the midst of the “Land of the Dark Forests and Crystalline Lakes”, the most northeasterly state by the Baltic Sea in prewar Germany – home to proudly independent people deeply rooted to their land, East Prussia.

The serenity of peaceful country life ended abruptly in that historical night, when people overcome by fear and anxiety had gathered in our yard shouting: “Königsberg burns; it is going under!”   Indeed, the capital of East Prussia, cradle of Prussian rule over Germany, had just been flattened with massive carpet-bombing by allied warplanes.  As the blazing inferno consumed thousands of innocent civilian lives, heaven was draped in a huge fiery red glow of such intensity, that only the rising sun was able to overcome. People staring at the atrocity, as reflected above them, were grasped by the monumental testimony to the human idiocy and absurdity of war. Panic and shock gave way to somberness, sorrow, then silence, when they had realized, that World War II had come closer to home. I remember those silhouettes against the bright sky, we were holding or embracing each other. Heads were touching heads, some hanging down, others seeking comfort on nearby shoulders. Only some soft crying and sobbing was audible. Everyone feared that a new era had begun with the sun setting on that great little enclave of a state.

In the following days, wagons loaded with personal belongings, some livestock and extra horses tied to the back began to leave. The less fortunate on foot carried packsacks and suitcases, pulled or pushed carts, bicycles and wheelbarrows laden with essentials. In fear of the advancing brutal Red Army, refugees longing for protection headed for Germany, the Fatherland some 600 kilometers to the west. But many of them fall victim to the perils of winter and starvation. And those lucky enough to beat the elements met the full brunt of foreigners, obsessed with hatred and out to settle historical disputes in bestialic fashion. Like cattle the hopefuls were driven through their hostile territories, raped, robbed and indiscriminately murdered.

Reaching the “Promised Land” the survivors found bombed out cities. They were unwelcome by their own people. Hunger and brutality reigned. Survivors competed against survivors in order to survive. Everyone was out for himself. Fatherland had dissipated. Such were the reports relayed back to those who had stayed behind in an attempt to defy the Red Army.

Gloom and doom prevailed until that very special day, when our father came home for a brief visit – a festivity of rejoicing and happiness. When my turn came to engage with him, he grabbed by an arm and a leg. Turning and twirling around his own axis, the airman gave me a large dose of centrifugal and gravitation forces on his outstretched arms. I was laughing and squealing and gasping for air, flying high and flying low, while he imitated noises of an airplane. At the end he tossed me high into the air repeatedly. It was exhilarating excitement!
I was in heaven, if not, a very happy little boy for sure. When father had left, I noticed a small model airplane above my bed. It had two wings, a biplane, and a red star on each side. After a “Good Night” kiss, my mother would make it move a bit. With fondest memories I fell to sleep.

One day, after some visitors had left, our mother was crying very, very much. She could not or would not speak to us children; instead she held and squeezed us tightly. Her tears rolled down our faces too, until we all cried together. Much later I would learn, that father had to go back into the war from which he never returned. In my life I had a father who had been with me for only a few days plus some most memorable heavenly sweet minutes!

To be continued...

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Werner Bogdahn, WW II, second world war, orphan, orphans, orphanage, Germany, Poland, Siberia, Russians, Russia, Canada

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