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German Boy

A Refugeeâ??s Story

Publication Year: 2000

What was the experience of war for a child in bombed and ravaged Germany? In this memoir the voice of innocence is heard. "This is great stuff," exclaims Stephen E. Ambrose. "I love this book." In this gripping account a boy and his mother are wrenched from their tranquil lives to forge a path through the storm of war and the rubble of its aftermath. In the past there has been a spectrum of books and films that share other German World War II experiences. However, told from the perspective of a ten-year-old, this book is rare. The boy and his mother must prevail over hunger and despair, or die. In the Third Reich young Wolfgang Samuel and his family are content but alone. The father, a Luftwaffe officer, is away fighting the Allies in the West. In 1945 as Berlin and nearby communities crumble, young Wolfgang, his mother Hedy, and little sister Ingrid flee the advancing Russian army. They have no inkling of the chaos ahead. In Strasburg, a small town north of Berlin where they find refuge, Wolfgang begins to comprehend the evils the Nazi regime brought to Germany. As the Reich collapses, mother, son, and daughter flee again just ahead of the Russian charge. In the chaos of defeat they struggle to find food and shelter. Death stalks the primitive camps that are their temporary havens, and the child becomes the family provider. Under the crushing responsibility Wolfgang becomes his mother's and sister's mainstay. When they return to Strasburg, the Communists in control are as brutal as the Nazis. In the violent atmosphere of arbitrary arrest, rape, hunger, and fear, the boy and his mother persist. Pursued by Communist police through a fierce blizzard, they escape to the West, but even in the English zone, the constant search for food, warmth, and shelter dominates their lives, and the mother's sacrifices become the boy's nightmares. Although this is a time of deepest despair, Wolfgang hangs on to the thinnest thread of hope. In June 1948 with the arrival of the Americans flying the Berlin Airlift, Wolfgang begins a new journey. Wolfgang W. E. Samuel was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC at the University of Colorado and is a graduate of the National War College. He served in the U.S. Air Force for thirty years until his retirement in 1985 as a colonel. His writing has been published in several military journals, including Parameters, the U.S. Army War College quarterly.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

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pp. ix-xii

In early June 1998, the National Archives in Washington hosted a oneday conference on the fiftieth anniversary of the Berlin airlift, with speakers ranging from elderly men who had been in the Truman administration to young scholars just beginning their careers...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

I wanted to write this story for many years, but either the demands of my adult life interfered or, more likely, I simply wasn't ready to recall events I had covered up so well for such a long time. With the deaths of my mother and father, however, I came to a time in my life when I felt I should face up to what I had tried to forget...

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Chapter 1. January 1945

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pp. 3-14

I ran across the plowed field instead of following the smooth dirt path along the Bober River. I was afraid that someone might be lurking in the dense, dark bushes lining the steep riverbank. Besides, running across the field would get me home more quickly...

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Chapter 2. Flight from Sagan

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pp. 15-30

I rose from my chair and slowly walked toward Mutti. She stopped laughing as I approached. Her expression changed to something between annoyed curiosity and a frown. It was the expression she put on her face when she was about to scold me...

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Chapter 3. The Train

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pp. 31-40

The stationmaster's hut was set in the middle of the weathered concrete platform. I looked at my reflection in its tiny window. I was just a little taller than most of my classmates. Once blond like Ingrid's, my hair was now brown, and was covered with a thin layer of snow. I brushed the snow away...

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Chapter 4. 161 Schonhauser Allee, Berlin

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pp. 41-50

Lieutenant Schmitt's directions into the heart of the city. Inthe dark I didn't see any evidence of destruction from the English andAmerican bombing raids. We came to a wide, tree-lined boulevard and theentrance to an underground passage. Carrying our three suitcases, we care-fully descended the steep steps. Once below ground we found the passage lit...

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Chapter 5. A Town Called Strasburg

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pp. 51-71

On Monday, March 5, 1945, Mutti decided it was time for us to leave Berlin. We'd been at the Schmitts' since January 25, nearly six weeks. Leaving Berlin was fine with me. I was getting bored-I had no school, no friends to play with, no books to read...

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Chapter 6. A Brave German Soldier

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pp. 72-90

Frau Zoske, Oma's next-door neighbor, was a mousy-looking woman, no more than five feet tall, with rotting blackened teeth, who rarely left her apartment. Her husband was in theWehrmacht and had been declared missing the year before somewhere in Russia...

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Chapter 7. The Face of Death

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pp. 91-110

As we drove through the darkness, a cold mist masking the wagons ahead and behind, I drifted in and out of sleep. I heard Mutti ask our driver if he couldn't get Oma on our wagon. He handed her the reins and crawled into the back where Ingrid and I lay...

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Chapter 8. Surrender

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pp. 111-120

Our wagons rumbled into the abandoned village, parking on and around the grassy commons in the village center. The horses immediately started to feed on the succulent grass. The commons was a long rectangle edged by huge horse-chestnut trees...

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Chapter 9. The Americans

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pp. 121-141

Mutti handled the reins of our horses expertly. "Hue-hot," she cried loudly, urging the horses to move out. The horses responded, and the wagon moved forward effortlessly. I sat on the driver's seat between Mutti and Oma. Ingrid sat in the wagon's interior in a place she had fashioned for herself...

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Chapter 10. The Russians

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pp. 142-159

At first light, even before I washed up, I ran down to the village. The fire station was empty. The Americans and their tank were gone. The only evidence of their stay was a broken tank tread in the ditch alongside the road...

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Chapter 11. Messenger of Death

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pp. 160-172

The day our barracks was to be torn down had arrived, and I knew we had to move. I planned to go to the farmer up the road and plead for help. Maybe he would let us stay in one of his barns. As I was getting ready to go see him...

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Chapter 12. The List

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pp. 173-185

Mutti was determined and wasted no time in getting us ready to leave for Strasburg. It was the last week in July. After our long and difficult journey from Sagan, we had come within thirty kilometers of Lubeck-we were thirty kilometers from freedom. Circumstances trapped us in the Russian zone of occupation...

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Chapter 13. A Winter Nightmare

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pp. 186-202

We moved out of our comfortable room the week following my grandfather's arrest by the Communists. There was no use arguing with Paul. Some ofMutti's women friends knew of a room with kitchen privileges near the train station...

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Chapter 14. Summer 1946

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pp. 203-219

There still were not many men around. Most had been killed or were prisoners of war. The men in Strasburg were, for the most part, either old, very young, crippled by war wounds, or active Communists. In the burned-out sections of Strasburg...

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Chapter 15. Escape to the West

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pp. 220-235

Ireturned home from school on an early December day to find my father sitting in the easy chair with the big "ears." I was totally surprised to see him. Speechless might be a better way to describe my astonishment. Although I had tried to believe that he would come...

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Chapter 16. The Trauen Barracks

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pp. 236-253

Early the next morning, we reached Munster-Lager. For most of the night, the train had sat in the station at Ulzen. It was warm in our compartment, we were alone, and sleep made us forget that we were hungry. By morning, though, I was feeling weak from lack of food...

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Chapter 17. Refugee Life

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pp. 254-270

Barracks life imposed its own crushing burdens on our family. While we no longer feared for our physical safety, day-to-day life had become just as dispiriting and oppressive in the English zone of occupation as it had been in the Russian zone...

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Chapter 18. Winter of Despair

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pp. 271-287

Our principal, Herr Soffner, who was also our homeroom teacher, now, informed us that the State of Niedersachsen had decided that my class would receive an extra year of schooling, a ninth year, because in 1945 so many children had missed a considerable amount of instruction...

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Chapter 19. Return of the Americans

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pp. 288-300

In addition to sunshine and warmth, spring brought rumors of the Russians closing off roads and waterways to Berlin and delaying trains with coal and food at the border checkpoints, not letting them pass until many days later. In April the Russians even stopped an American...

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Chapter 20. Sergeant Leo Ferguson

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pp. 301-317

My mother liked working for the Americans. Occasionally she came home accompanied by American officers. Pilots. They wore silver wings on their jackets and silver bars on their shoulders. The Americans brought chocolate and cigarettes...

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Chapter 21. Baker's Apprentice

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pp. 318-339

Iwas alone in our two-room apartment. Mutti had gone with Leo. Ingrid had gone with my father. I felt abandoned, vulnerable, and afraid. I knew I couldn't let such feelings persist. I thought of my grandparents Samuel, of Fassberg, and of my school...

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Chapter 22. Looking West

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pp. 340-354

Soon after my return from Furstenfeldbruck, I received a letter from Mutti informing me that their papers were in order and that she and Leo could marry at any time. They had set the date for October 14, 1950. If I could come for the wedding...

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pp. 355-357

Oma and Opa Samuel did build a house again-not only one, but two, in a village called Elmpt, up against the Dutch-German border. The second, larger house my grandfather built for my father, Willi, and his second wife...


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Location of Allied Armies, May 1945

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pp. 137-157

Location of Allied armies in Germany on May 8, 1945. The American Military Occu-pation of Germany 1945–1953, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe, 1953, 3.utti handled the reins of our horses expertly. â€ËÅ“â€ËÅ“Hue-hot,’’ shedriver’s seat between Mutti and Oma. Ingrid sat in the wagon’s interior in aplace she had fashioned for herself. As Mutti moved our wagon away from...

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Zones of Occupation

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pp. 158-316

Zones of occupation. The American Military Occupation of Germany 1945–1953,t first light, even before I washed up, I ran down to the village.gone. The only evidence of their stay was a broken tank tread inthe ditch alongside the road. There was no army now to keep order, and nopolice. I knew it was again a time to be especially careful. The Russians...

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Air Corridors and Air.elds Used in the Berlin Airlift

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pp. 317-374

American and British air bases used in the Berlin airlift. The American Military Occu-pation of Germany 1945–1953, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe, 1953,silver wings on their jackets and silver bars on their shoulders.The Americans brought chocolate and cigarettes. They never stayed long. Icould see in their eyes that they hadn’t expected to find the poverty, squalor,...

E-ISBN-13: 9781604731347
E-ISBN-10: 1604731346
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578062744
Print-ISBN-10: 1578062748

Publication Year: 2000