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On The Other Side

Something that continues to fascinate and fire up the imagination of the young, are the tragic experiences of war. We have a fantastic and moving account here written by Milla. Please feel free to comment on any of these unique and exceptionally well written stories!

After reading ‘Evacuated Twice’ it brought me to think further about life during the war.
WW2 – the battle of bombs and bullets. We all know of the life-destroying disasters, horrifying happenings and the abominable Blitz during the war in Britain; along with some heart-wrenching accounts of families separated, as evacuees fled to countryside havens.
Yet we still have no clear accounts of life on the other side.

These thoughts urged me to ask my grandfather – ‘Opa’, whether he could reveal to me his personal experiences and his story of childhood in the war. After about an hour of conversation I had enough information to write this story, roughly translated from German to English, of a young boy in Germany during the wartime.

On the 14th May1938 in a town called Plauen in the east of Germany, Bernd Kahl was born.
The situation between Britain and Germany was already unsettled and in about 1940 the bombs started falling; peaking at their worst in 1944.
By this time Bernd was 6, his older sister Gerlind (Didi) 9 and a younger brother, Heinz-Jörg, who was only two.

Bernd’s Story

When the ringing of the sirens started, we all had to hurry to a bunker to hide from the bombs. I used to be so scared when I heard the sirens, I’d dive under the table and hide, thinking I would be safe there. When my mother hurried us out of the house, I grabbed my small rucksack, which always lay packed and ready and Brummel, my teddy (who still lives in our house, being passed down two generations).

Running out into the streets, we could hear the planes approaching overhead; a noise, which filled me with fear. We ran like rabbits through the streets, always in the shadow of the walls, petrified by the thoughts of being bombed or shot at from above. We didn’t have a basement in our house so we’d all have to run to the nearest bunker- there were a few nearby, always in safe basements. We lived in an apartment on the market square where the German soldiers had set up a military camp.
One day we saw debris, dead people and dead horses everywhere – that day a bomb had hit the square.

Another time he had been hiding in a bunker below a vicarage and had left Heinz-Jörg’s empty pram upstairs. That day incendiary bombs fell and when we emerged from the basement, the rest of the vicarage was on fire, including our pram. When we got back home, there was nothing left– our building had been completely destroyed. There were bits of pipework sticking out of the remnants of wall. Our home and everything we owned was gone. Al that was let was my little rucksack and Brummel.
After that we sought shelter with friends and other kind people who would put us up.

More and more bombs kept falling as Germany attacked everyone and was in return attacked on all fronts. Germans who lived in the east fled in fear of the looming Russian Invasion.

In that time my little brother fell ill with meningitis and was in terrible pain. There were no doctors or medicines and after long days in pain and with no home to call our own, he died.
We had barely time to bury him, without a proper funeral, before we had to flee along with the rest of the population. We made our way west on foot, with only memories of my little brother and our old life left.

The “trek’ was long and everyone was carrying boxes and children. One box per family, or what was left of one, contained all of their possessions.

There was no food and I was constantly starving.
Eventually we came across on of the last freight trains going west and we managed to climb aboard. On board there were sacks of grains, which formed our diet for the rest of the journey, which seemed endless and sad.

Eventually we arrived in Frankfurt am Main, where my grandparents lived and where we stayed until the end of the war.

Miraculously, our father had managed to find us after the war at my grandparents. He found a new job as director of a textile factory in Fulda, where we managed to settle down.

I had never given up wishing for a little brother, and in 1946 Lutz was born; my new little brother.

The war had been a terrible time. We were always scared, even long after.
We were constantly hungry and there were dangers even where we didn’t expect them. Some explosive devices were disguised as toys or lipsticks and we saw them explode in children’s hands and burn and hurt them terribly.

Luckily, we lived safely after that. And despite losing my sweet little brother in such sad circumstances, we were lucky to survive and build a life again.

Milla

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