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An unexploded Bomb - a different trip report

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Sep 19th, 2011, 05:14 AM
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An unexploded Bomb - a different trip report

I visit my German relatives annually. A trip report would be deadly boring (Day 1: we ate cake and coffee sitting around the kitchen table. Day 2: see Day 1)

This year was different.

I flew from the US to northern Germany, and took the local bus to my cousin’s house. I noticed how thick the traffic seemed, although my cousin didn’t know the cause.

The next morning my cousin mentioned that the heavy traffic was probably due to the discovery of an unexploded WWII bomb nearby and they had to evacuate 4000 people and re route traffic. She had seen it in the paper. This was all rather ho hum to her and she hopped on her bike and headed off to work.

I read the bomb story in the local paper; apparently they brought in a bomb expert from the next town over to deactivate the thing. He has deactivated over 400 bombs in the 20 years he has been doing this. 400! He said, well, it wasn’t too hard or too easy to deactivate. It was just your typical deactivation.

My sweet Dad was in that war, but generally he would never talk about it. But with this bomb story as fuel, I asked him about his experiences, and he opened up.

He was 18 when he was drafted. He was 18, off at school in Freiberg, and the yellow draft letter arrived at his parent’s home. He had one week to report, and he said he was excited as the action of war seemed to him to be better than the drudgery of school. That opinion changed quickly.

He originally was in flight school to become a pilot, but the Germans were low on fuel so he was sent off to a trench in what is now Poland, to protect the border. That was a dance of advance, and retreat, digging trenches in the frozen earth and picking the lice off each other.

Finally it was more retreat than advance, and my father was then hurt. He said it was the perfect injury: he was struck with shrapnel in the calf where it was serious enough he could not remain with his group, however not so bad that it would kill him. He could still stand; apparently this was huge.
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Sep 19th, 2011, 05:18 AM
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He made his way to the coast and took a ferry to Copenhagen where the ‘hospital’ was. The hospital however had no doctors or medical personnel. It was just a large holding area for dying soldiers. His wound got infected, naturally, then he contracted hepatitis. Their remedy was to feed him butter. Well, it’s all they had. But consuming butter with a compromised liver makes me wonder how he survived.

During this ‘hospital’ stay, a loudspeaker announced that the war was over, and Germany had surrendered. He said that no one around him cared or even reacted. These were simply half dead boys who wanted their previous lives back.

Time passed, he recovered enough to be sent back home. There was a ferry back to the mainland then they got on a truck and were dropped in the outskirts of his small town. He did not know if his parents or siblings were alive. In turn they had not heard from him in over 9 months and assumed he was dead.
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Sep 19th, 2011, 05:27 AM
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Yes, unexploded bombs are very common in European cities and the more central the location, the more thousands of people they prefer to evacuate -- usually for only half a day but sometimes the complete day. They try to schedule the defusing on weekends if possible so that people can just make plans to go away for the weekend.
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Sep 19th, 2011, 06:14 AM
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So, Queenie, what happened next? Your father's story is interesting!
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Sep 19th, 2011, 06:20 AM
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The family had survived. His boyhood home was bombed and burned out, as was much of the town. His aunt’s home was partially livable so his family (parents and 3 grown children) moved in. My dad remembers he had a bed, but there were no blankets or sheets so he slept under a wool throw rug, and was glad to have it. He owned 2 shirts and 1 pair of pants; army issue.

They all worked at day jobs, then in the evenings they cleared up debris from the bombings. The debris was manually carried by bucket to a train that would take this out to a distant landfill.
His aunt’s home had running water and sometimes electricity. But the heat was poor. There was a rail track behind the home and they would collect coal that had fallen from the coal car to try and fuel the furnace.

His mother either made or somehow bought candles and she would go on her bike to outlying farms and trade the candles for milk and eggs.
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Sep 19th, 2011, 07:35 AM
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Last part -

There were ration cards, but the big currency was cigarettes. You could buy 3 cigarettes at a time. One would never smoke a whole cigarette at once; maybe 3 or 4 puffs then put it away to enjoy later.

None of my relatives smoked, so they could barter their rationed cigarettes for food. I asked my Dad if he remembers being hungry, he said he always had a secret stash of bread that he could eat if need be. He still does this to this day with graham crackers.

Eventually the town was rebuilt. His boyhood home still stands, as does his aunt’s home. I know these houses very well, but never knew the stories behind them.
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Sep 19th, 2011, 10:03 AM
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Fascinating story, but a small correction: If his home town was bombed then it was Freiburg, not Freiberg.
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Sep 20th, 2011, 01:50 AM
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Have just finished a short tour of Poland and, of course, WW2 is a very important part of the history. Hard to imagine the suffering that went on during that time.
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Sep 20th, 2011, 05:48 AM
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Thanks for sharing your father's story. It reminds me that we all need to listen to the stories of previous generations while we can. Before we know it, we will be the oldest generation. I am lucky that I can still ask my father stories of growing up in the depression and fighting in World War II. He is getting better about sharing the stories, but still needs a kickstart to share.
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Sep 20th, 2011, 07:28 AM
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Fascinating account! Thanks so much for sharing!
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Sep 20th, 2011, 07:29 AM
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Ingo - Yes, you are correct - it is Freiburg (beautiful city). His family lived near Hannover.

Irishface - Its interesting how he would never talk about the war or his experiences until recently. He lived in the US after te war and worked for the US government and I think felt strange talking about it.
But now he attends WWI and WWII reenactments and is a star attraction as he was actually there. Very few veterans left, and even more unusual are te German veterans in the US.
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Sep 20th, 2011, 09:23 AM
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Which Freiburg?
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Sep 20th, 2011, 11:14 AM
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Freiburg in SW Germany - near the border of France and Switzerland.... with those gutters that run along the sidewalk, and that magnificient medieval cathedral.
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