How are you? It has been a while since I have written to you.
The Holiday Season is here and I'd like to wish you the best of health
for this coming year.Hope the problems you had with health, that they
did not know what it was, are gone.I'd like to wish you also thru this New
Year the best of relations with your son. Hope he does go in line with his
behavior. I don't know this bipolarity, but everyone who has some
problem in here is labeled bipolar, depressive or some other mental
illness label. I think a lot of it pertains to the structure of sociaty, which is
not very conducive to smart kids,who revolt in themselves and do not
conform. The revenge is, they are labeled, put away, or taken measures
that make things even harder to help the kid. It also makes it very hard
for the parent to be able to influence the behavior of the kid. So, the
parent suffers alone and doesn't know what else to do. Hope all this
changes to the best and most constructive and healthy behavior. I wish
the same to my family, my kid and myself, since our relationship also
suffers.I have been involved in all this crazy volunteer work, which
doesn't seem to be going far. Sometimes it fells like boxing the car in a
mud and not being to get out of it. At one point they write the law and
give you an outlet of freedom, at the other the political and power figures
politicize the law, so that unless you have a lot of $, it doesn't lead
anywhere. Seems I am lot doing anything for my personal interest in life.
On the other hand I have learned a lot on UN charters and human rights
law, when I say a lot, it means more then what I knew before.Well,
again, hope all is well with you. Hope you are healthy and hope that
health stays with you forever. I also wish you happiness and joy thru the
coming New Year! Cheers! years ago Jaipuri friend -
Great! OK, leaving from MEM (Memphis,TN) to Bangkok or Rangoon
Anytime after 19 January, 2 weeks in Burma, on to CCU ( Calcutta) or
to Lucknow , India--2 weeks later return to Memphis. Sometimes it's
cheaper to buy 2 separate tickets, with one from Mem to the gateway
city, and sometimes it's not. There're supposed to be cheap travel
agents in calcutta, but I don't know how to find them. It gets more
confusing every year! thanks!
oh, he'll need my name—
Anne Wendlandt Hasselle
24 October 24, 2008
This is my life 27. December 1939 - Now
I was born on the 27th of December 1939. The Second World War was a little over
three month old and it is no wonder I had to be pulled into the world with a pair of
forceps. Who wants to start life in a world which was at war even so the Germans
were winning at that time. I was born in the children’s hospital in Charlottenburg
where my mother used to work as a baby nurse. According to my mother the first
time my father came to have a look at his son, my mother stuck my ears up with
some sticky tap since they were hanging down because of the forceps birth. It also
had shaped my head into the form of an egg. Egghead and floppy ears which are
every boys dream growing up.
My first recollections of what was going on in Berlin during the first years of the war
are the fire in a house in Euler Staβe the house of the fish monger in 1941. One
night it caught fire, someone was saying it was caused by a bomb; we all stayed on
the balcony and watched the flames licking into the night sky. The next episode
happened in Biesenthal a small town near Bernau where my Grandmother used to
live. A plane had been shot down or just fell from the sky as sometimes happens. It
was a big event and all the people from Biesenthal went there to see it. I don’t know
whether it was a German or an enemy plane. I can’t remember much of my
One year before my brother was born my mother, father and I went to Garmisch
Patenkirchen where my Godfather was living. We must have stayed with uncle Dati
and aunt Tuti. I have no recollection of the trip but there is a lot of pictorial evidence
of the trip. Like my father and mother swimming in a lake and me and the rest of the
relatives near the ski jump from the 1936 Olympics. Those must have been the good
times for my mother and father.
After the initial successes of the German Army life became a little more difficult.
Bombing raids by English and American planes became more frequent. They
happened usually at night. The people of Berlin were usually warned by a horribly
sounding Luftschutzsirene. If you turned the radio on a voice told you that enemy
airplanes were approaching Berlin and would be arriving in half an hour and that it
was time to move into the Luftschutzkeller. Everything was ready to go. My mother
and Tante Lotte from next door took the beds and what else we needed for the night.
The sirens started up and continued to howl continuously during the air raid. You
could hear the bombs going off with laud bangs and everybody was hoping they did
not hit our house. Sometimes my mother’s mother was staying with us. She would
come down with us into the cellar but always sat in the front door of the cellar. Her
reason for this was she did not want to get buried under the rubble of the house in
case a bomb hit it. If there was enough time my mother put my brother into a
Kinderwagen and Tante Lotte came with us to the bunker near Gesundbrunnen. It
was much saver in the bunker than staying in the Luftschutzraum as the specially
reinforced room in the cellar was called. I think Tante Lotte never stayed in the
bunker with us she always went home to be with her husband Onkel Lothar who was
the Luftschutzwart and had to stay under the roof in case a small phosphor bomb hit
the house and set the roof alight. The bombings became more frequent all the time
and we had to go to the cellar more often or the bunker more often.
The war went on and in 1943, my brother Heiner must have been about one year old,
when my mother decided it was time for us to leave Berlin. This was because of the
increasing bombing raids by the allied forces on Berlin. So we relocate to the
Böhmerwald which was part of Czechoslovakia before it became part of Germany be
after the treaty the München between Hitler and England in 1938. We moved to Ober
Reichenstein a small village and I think there were some of my father’s relatives
living there. My father’s sister aunt Mizzi and her two daughters Helga and Gerda
and her parents were already living there. They left Berlin a little earlier then us and
lived in Unter Reichenstein with their relatives. We stayed in a little house of an
elderly man in Ober Reichenstein. I think my mother did the cooking and cleaning.
We went there by train. I still remember the dramatic boarding of the train at Bahnhof
Gesundbrunnen. Because of the pandemonium at the very crowded railway station
we had problems to get on the train. I remember my brother and I were lifted up by
some German soldiers and pushed through the window into a compartment. The
luggage was next and when the train started to roll slowly out of the station my
mother followed through the window. My grandmother waved god by. She would
follow us some time later and the four of us stayed in Ober Reichenstein until the war
Ober Reichenstein 1942-1945
The time in Ober Reichenstein as far as I can remember was wonderful. We could
do all the things little boys do. Go swimming in the creek in summer and ride a
sledge in winter. Karl Klosterman who must have been my age or a little bit older
attacked me with a hammer and hit me with it on the back of my head. I suppose I
was screaming my head off with blood running down my head. He still remembered
the incident years later when I met him in Augsburg. The only one missing was my
father who was in Romania and only came to visit us when he had a holyday. He
came and visited us a few times. I remember him when he was shaving in the
morning he put shaving cream on my face but I did not like it and wiped it off. He
said he could not shave me without it.
In autumn we went looking for mushrooms in the forest. I was very good at finding a
lot of Steinpilze especially little ones which my grandmother wanted to exchange for
large ones. But somehow I knew it was a bad deal and I would not do it. My mother’s
told me later it was the right thing to do because the small Steinpilze tasted better
and were easy to preserve.
I cannot remember the year but I think it was in 1944 when a large group of people
were camped across the little river which run through Unter Reichenstein. They
came in the afternoon and stayed until next morning when they moved on. All I
remember is the noise they made all night. It sounded like a lot of people were
continuously moaning or crying. Next day my mother and her mother prepared a
basket with food and we went to a part of the road where the people would pass
through. When they came guarded by soldiers my mother gave the basket to a
woman who had a number of little children following her. The woman kneeled in front
of my mother kissed her hands and thanked her for the basket with the food. They
moved fairly quickly and had soon disappeared in the distance. Years later I found
the group of people were Jews from Czechoslovakia on their way to a concentration
camp where they were most likely exterminated. I still remember the marchers and
the face of the woman and her children.
Ober Reichenstein became a significant place in my so far uneventful life. It was
there where I saw my father for the last time. I think he came there from Bucharest in
Romania for Christmas because there was lots of snow. I don’t think there are any
pictures because when we left Ober Reichenstein and went to Wiesel in Germany
the Czechoslovakians confiscated all the pictures showing my father wearing a
uniform. When my father’s holiday was over and he had to go back to Romania we
took him to the bus on a wintery day in 1944. It was snowing and cold. After he had
entered the bus he scratched the frosty window clear and we could see him inside
the bus. We waved good bye and when the bus left my mother, brother and I were
left standing in the snow not knowing that it was the last time we saw him.
After the war 1944-1946
The war ended for us in the spring of 1944. I don’t think we had seen any fighting at
all in our remote village. I don’t remember anything unusual happening because, I
did not know what a war really was. One day we could see from our house, which
was located on the side of a hill, a motorcycle with sidecar speeding across a field. It
suddenly stopped and the two riders jumped of the bike striped of their uniforms and
put on civilian clothes before they continued to ride away. Nosey as I was, I went to
the place where they had stopped and arrived together with an old man from the
village. Beside the uniforms there was a German carbine from which the other man
took off the shoulder belt and when he had left I took the rifle. What a great
possession. I went home and hid it in between a shed and our house. My secret
A few days later we were visited by the enemies of Germany. The Americans had
arrived to liberate Germany from the Nazis. Of course they found my secret treasure
of which not even my mother knew. I still remember the American soldier coming out
of my secret hiding place with the rifle in his hand and shouting for my mother to
come out. She did and did she have some explaining to do. Luckily she had learned
English in school and so she was able to talk to the young soldier and convince him
that I was not a Nazi Wehrwolf. He must have believed her since I was only 4 or 5
years old. He took the rifle with him and I lived another day to tell the story. I
remember the American Soldier came back a few times to talk to my mother and he
might have brought some food at the same time.
A few days later the Americans set up camp near the river. Life went on as normal
except for the large amount of cigarette butts which the soldiers discarded. My
mother started a little business. My brother and I collected the butts and my mother
removed the tobacco and rolled new cigarettes with the saved tobacco. She later
exchanged them for other produce mainly food with other people.
One other perk was the leftover food which the American’s through in a big pit after
they came from the mess tent. My Brother and I waited for them to come past us.
We held our pots in front of them and some of them dumped their leftover food into
our pots which we took home where the food was reheated and we had dinner.
Sometimes we also asked for cigarettes. Some of the soldiers were quite friendly but
some of them where not. I suppose they did not like Germans.
One day Mizzi her two children and her parents left Unter Reichenstein and went
from Czechoslovakia to Zwiesel in Germany. My aunt had landed a job with an
American general as an interpreter or secretary and off they went. My mother, her
mother and we were left behind but with the promise to be picked up later. I can’t
remember how long we had to wait but one day we left Ober Reichenstein. A horse
drawn carriage came one early morning and the four of us with our few belongings
took off. At the border our belongings were searched and the Czechs’ took
everything which they thought was worth anything. What hurt my mother a lot was
that the Czechs’ took all the pictures of my father in uniform. After we went through
the border we were greeted by some American soldiers which put all our belongings
on a military truck and off we went to Zwiesel. I was sitting in the back of the truck
and there I met my first Blackman. I can’t remember whether I was scared or not.
The truck took us to our new house in Zwiesel right next to Mizzis mansion. We only
had a small room in a small house. My mother cleaned Mizzis and our house and
also cooked for the man in our house.
For me life was back to normal. We played on the fields and went swimming in the
River Regent. One day my mother and my grandfather and I went along the Regen
for a walk. As it happened I found a few rocks which had to be trough into the river
and so I went back a bit to do this under a bridge we had just passed. You guessed
right I fell in slipping on the wet stones under the bridge. Luckily enough I managed
to hang on to the stones and scrambled up the small embankment. When I reached
my mother and grandfather they both nearly had a heart attack because a little
further along the river went through a chasm and I surely would have drowned. It
must have been one of the many lucky days in my life and there were many more to
We stayed in Zwiesel one summer and one winter. In autumn we looked for
mushrooms which were dried. To be used in winter. In summer we went swimming in
the River Regent and played with my cousins. Mizzi was working for her general and
one day Helga, Gerda and I had to go up to the general office and present a birthday
poem in English. As far as I remember I hated it because we had to get dressed up,
but I had to do it anyway. Once I collected a timber log out of the river and we used it
for firewood. My mother did not like it at first because the timber did not belong to us
she said. But we used it any way. After the sugar beet harvest my mother made
molasses which meant the house would smell for days because it took days to boil
the sugar crushed sugar beets and then strain the molasses. It tasted nice especially
on the rye bread. The process was messy and the whole house smelled of the
boiling molasses. But the end product was nice especially on black rye bread. In
autumn we all went out looking for mushrooms which were cleaned cut up in thin
slices and dried on long strings which criss crossed the kitchen. They were stored
when they were dry and used in winter.
The house in which we stayed had a room in the back overlooking a meadow. You
could see a train track in the distance and once or twice a day a train would pass. It
always was a big event and my brother and I rushed to the window to watch the
steam train going by. To annoy my little brother I used to cover his eyes with my
hands so he could not see the train. Naughty me. As a result he would scream his
head off and my mother would come running to see what was happening.
The year passed and winter came. Lots of snow and the River Regen froze over.
One day we went sledging on the edge of the river where there was a little slope.
Guess what happened I went too far landed on the frozen river the ice broke and in I
went. Some men pulled me out of the freezing cold water and I was rushed home
and put to bed with warm water bottles. The result was I contracted Polio so I was
told later. Whether it was because I fell into the water or I would have caught it
anyway I will never know. I was lucky because it only affected the left side of my face
and maybe the left side of my body. I had to go to the doctor in the next town and
was treated with electricity. My face was brushed with metal brushes which were
electrical charged to stimulate the nerves and muscles. The result of my brush with
Polio was the left side of my face was different than the right and also moved
differently. But it could have been a lot worse because I could have been paralyzed
or wound up in an Iron Lung.
Back to Berlin Spring 1946
The winter came and went. Spring came and it was time for us to go back to Berlin.
My grandmother who had stayed with us since we had moved to Ober Reichenstein
hat left earlier. I cannot remember if Mizzi and her tribe was already gone and settled
in Augsburg or left after we had gone. How exactly we got to Nürnberg and from
there on to Berlin I don’t know. All I remember is that we did not go with a passenger
train but with a goods train. There were no seats and we had to sit on the floor. The
older kids were all sitting on the edge of the large sliding door with their legs hanging
out of the door. Of course I wanted to do the same but my mother made up this little
story so we sat in the back. According to my mother if you sit in the back and look
out of the door you have the feeling you look at a postcard and so the view is much
nicer. I don’t think she managed to convince me because I would have rather sat in
the door with my legs dangling over the edge.
It must have been a long train ride and there were no toilets. If you had to pee you
went to the door with my mother hanging on to me. Shitting was a different matter.
You either shit into a bucket or waited until the train stopped which happened quite
frequently. At the stop everybody jumped out of the train and raced to the edge of
the track. Pants down and shit as fast as you could, pants up and back onto the train.
What happened to me was I was not fast enough. The train blew the whistle and I
still had my pants down. My mother was screaming standing in the door me running
with my pants hanging around my ankles. It must have been a great sight. I made it
and was pulled up into the carriage of the slow moving train by people standing in
the door, much to the relief of my mother. I wonder what would have happened to
me if I had missed the train.
I cannot remember if it was days or hours but finally we made it back to Berlin. I had
my first ride on the underground. Someone on the underground had a basket filled
with strawberries and it must have been because of my hungry looks that I got a
handful. It’s funny how you remember little episodes like this. I think we got off at
Bahnhof Gesundbrunnen the same station where we had left four years earlier.
It was all new territory for me and I did not remember anything. All I know we walked
with all our belongings which was not much to Glücksburger Strasse where Tante
Lotte und Onkel Lothar greeted us. The people who had stayed in our apartment
during our absence had left a few days earlier. I can’t remember how my mother
reacted when she moved into her home after four years. There were a few holes in
the ceilings and floors. In the kitchen there was a big hole in the roof of the house
and in the living room you could talk to the people below us through a large hole in
the floor. There was also a hole in the ceiling. Because of the damage we moved
into the little room which had a balcony. I cannot remember how long but during the
first weeks we all schlepped in one bed which was fun.
It did not take long and things became normal again. For me life changed because I
had to go to school for the first time. I think I got lost coming home from school on
the first or second day. School was funny because of the different ages in the first
grade. Some of the kids were four or five years older and did not go to school
because of the war. Later I had a friend who lived close by and took me home until I
knew my way and could manage myself to go home without getting lost. His name
was Erhard Günther and we became good friends. His grandmother lived in
Biesenthal like my grandmother and we played together on weekends when we
visited our grandmothers. On one of those occasions we forgot the time. Playing
together time passed to quickly. It was only when uncle Karlheinz came to pick me
up I realized how much time had passed. We lost contact when I attended a private
school and I saw him only once in later years.
My father had not come back from the war and my mother was hoping he would
come back soon. The first to come back from the war was my uncle Karlheinz, my
mother’s younger brother. Next was Uncle Werner. He came from Russia where he
was a prisoner of war. He had a long warm Russian coat one of those Russian hats
which kept you ears warm regardless how cold it was. Every time one of my
mother’s brothers came back we had a special celebration with good food and in
glass preserved fruit which my grandmother had saved for just such occasion.
One day a person came to my mother and said she had some news of my father and
that she would see him again in a few days. He was apparently in a camp and was in
need of food and money so he could come back to us. She told my mother she
would come back next day to collect the money and other items. Well she did come
back next day and took everything but after a few days my mother discovered it was
all a hoax. The person got arrested a few days later. It must have been terrible for
my mother to have her hopes destroyed by such a cruel means. But times were hard
after the war and people took advantage of the misfortunes of other people.
Because of the bad housing situation uncle Werner stayed with us and Uncle
Karheinz moved to Biesenthal and stayed with his mother. We still had a hole in the
ceiling of the kitchen and living room but the bedroom was OK so the three of us
slept in there and Uncle Werner slept in the Kleine Zimmer as we called it. Later
uncle Karlheinz moved in with Uncle Werner. My mother went to work and I went to
school. Heiner was still too young to go to school and had to go to a Kindergarten
during the day. I had to go to after school. I hated it and wagged it a lot. My mother
found out and I got an attendance book which had to be signed by the teacher in
school and the Kindergarten teacher. My brother went to school in 1948. As far as I
can remember I was not a very good student and my report cards at the end of the
year show it.
Life went on food became better and more plentiful. One day our apartment was
fixed up and there were no more holes. My father had not come back jet but my
mother was still hoping he would come one day. Because I was very skinny and my
mother had the right connection I was send to Zinnowitz a small village on the island
of Usedom on the Baltic Sea. I was send there for 6 weeks and we stayed in a large
dormitory in a large old mansion. The food was good and we had to rest a lot. It was
like a sanatorium for kids. We went out for walks and the attendants read stories to
us during the rest periods. Because we stayed in a dormitory we had to pie into a
bucket at night which was always standing in the same place. This worked out fine
until one of the older boys shifted the bucket one night into a different position and
everybody pied on the floor. The people who looked after us were not very happy. It
was six weeks o fun and games. I had the good fortune to go to another camp this
tome on the North Sea island Sylt in Northern Germany. The Mansion we stayed in
had the name Hindenburg Haus. It was situated right behind the big sand dunes.
Again it was good food and gut fun. Stories were read in the afternoon. One I
remember was Pipi Long stocking. I went there many years later and the house was
still there and had a similar function,
Back to Berlin and back to school. My mother’s two brothers were still staying with us
and we still had not heard from my father. Christmas’s come and went. It was always
the same ritual. On Christmas day we went to church in the afternoon and had
something to eat when we came back. It became a tradition to have potato salad and
sausages before we were allowed to go into the living room where the Christmas
tree was standing. Mother always rang a little bell as a sign we could come in. The
candles on the Christmas tree were burning and the presents were ready to be
unpacked. But first we had to sing a few Christmas carols, say a little prayer and
then perform our little Christmas poems which we had memorized long before
Christmas. Then the big moment unwrapping the presents. More cakes and drinks
for the adults. Afterwards we went over to Tante Lotte and Onkel Lothar where we
received more Christmas presents because they did not have children them self.
I cannot remember which year it was but one Christmas my Uncle Karlheinz was
working in the living room when we went to church and it took longer than usual
before the bell rang. Finally we were allowed in but we could not see what was going
on. After the usual procedure carols, poems and prayer we were allowed to look and
to our great joy there was an electric train set which Karlheinz hat build himself, train
wagons and rails. He was still working on it but it was fun anyway. I think Ulla has
still some of the pieces from the set.
Other Christmas presents were a scooter with metal wheels, roller skates, a stamp
collection from my grandfather and of course clothing items. We always had a
Bunten Teller, which was full of all sorts of sweets. My brother always ate his first
and then tried to raid mine and we had lots of arguments about who was right and.
who was wrong.
Christmas was always a fun time and was shortly followed by our birthdays. In a way
it is not very good to be born so close to Christmas since the presents would have
been better if there was more time between those days. But what can you do you
had to be satisfied with what you got.
My grandfather used to come to Berlin from Augsburg and I think he stayed a while
in Berlin. However, I cannot remember whether his wife came with him or whether
she stayed in Augsburg. They had a little garden in Blankenburg three stops on the
train from where we used to live. There were nice fruit trees and we used to stay
there over the weekends in summer. We slept in the little house and one night whilst
we were sleeping a burglar tried to break in. My mother made a lot of noise with the
help of a frying pan and a hammer and whoever it was run away. Because of the
garden we always had lots of apples, pears, cherries and plums and what else we
were able to grow. My brother and I could play in the garden and its surroundings
and we had a very good time. Unfortunately the garden was not ours. It belonged to
my grandfather and when he finally moved to Augsburg it was sold.
Other events which I remember but are not necessarily in the right order or time
frame were mostly very funny and I think that is why I still remember them. One
weekend my mother made a wonderful strawberry cake with galantine on top. Tante
Hetha and aunt of my mother who cleaned our apartment once a week came over
for coffee and cake and all sat around the table to have the cake with whipped cream
licking our lips in anticipation. The cake was cut and everybody got a nice big piece. I
cannot remember who took the first byte and spit out the piece in disgust. The cake
was uneatable because my mother had taken Maggi flour instead of wheat flower.
The cake tasted like instant noodles. In the end Tante Hetha took it home and I think
she ate it. She was a very funny lady.
We always went to Tante Toria and Onkel Richard who was a tailor. He had one of
those big tables which tailors used to sit on cross-legged and sew the clothe they
were making. I used to hide under the table when I had to try on new cloth which
Onkel Richard had made for me I hated new cloth and they had to convince me to
come from under the table and try them on. The dislike of all things new is still
embedded into my mindset today, because I hate to buy new cloth when the old
ones are still usable. Tante Toria was always very nice which mend we had to eat a
lot whenever we went there. Shrippen with lots of butter and salami and Bradheringe
which she had made herself. It was yummy but sometimes she wanted us to eat too
much. Nun ess mal noch ein biβchen mehr es schmeckt doch so gut.
One day my mother came home with some fruit we had never seen I cannot
remember where she got it from. But there they were the first banana I had ever
seen. Guess what my brother and I did not eat them, because we did not like the
looks of them or the taste. However, we liked delicacies like Brotsuppe, Coffee
Ground cake, Lung and Heart hasche, dried potato pieces which you had to suck for
a while or you lost your teeth, Ersatz Eiskrem, Bratstulle mit Zucker and other
revolting foodstuffs which I cannot remember any more. When we were playing on
the streets and became hungry we never went up to apartment which was on the
fourth floor. What we did instead was to shout as loud as we could until mother
looked out of the window and asked her to through down a Stulle. It worked most of
the time. Later in life the same system was used if we came home late and had
forgotten to take the house key. When my mother was working nightshift Tante Lotte
usually throw down the key rapped in newspaper. Those were the days.
To make up our very small pocket money if we ever got any I used to go through
ruined houses and collect scrap metal. Best was copper wire which I found in
bombed out houses. Sometimes it was very dangerous to get it. But I was convinced
nothing will happen to me. We played around with old ammunition build hideouts in
the ruins and had fights between different street gangs. Once a rock hit me on the
head and it was bleeding. But as you can see I survived all those dangers.
Another past time was to collect coals and potatoes from trains. The older kids would
climb onto the wagons and through whatever was in them out near the railway track
and the younger kids like me collected the items as quickly as possible and run of
with them. One of the older boys he was from my school class jumped off the wagon
and fell onto the track and had his leg cut off.
During some of the school holiday the Berlin Government organised trips into the
country site. We went by train (S-Bahn) from Gesundprunnen to a place outside of
Berlin where we could run around and do all sorts of fun things. It lasted all day and
we had to bring our own food. We went back late in the afternoon and had great fun
keeping other people from entering our wagon by tying the doors shut with a piece of
rope or a belt.
One year my mother took us to Garmisch Patenkirchen in Bavaria. We stayed with
my Godfather Uncle Dati and his wife Tuti. We went by bus and it took a long time.
When we left Berlin we were controlled by Russian soldiers and I think all the people
in the bus were scared. My mother had bought us a comic magazine each to keep
us happy. It was my first comic and I think it was Donald Duck. In Garmisch we
walked a lot went swimming and had lots of fun running through the forests. One day
my brother and I ran down a steep hill and we could hardly stop just before we hit the
trees we let our self drop to the ground which was lucky because otherwise we
surely would have run into a tree. I also got my first knife, a Hirschfänger with a grip
made from deer antler, in Garmisch. It was a present from my Godfather and I had it
for a long time. Like all good things the holiday was soon finished and it was back to
Berlin and back to school.
We got lots of time off from school. If it was too hot like more than 25 degrees
Celsius at 10AM we were allowed to go home it was called Hitzefrei. Imagine 25C
this would be a cool day now. Another reason to have some days off was
Grippeferien which was endemic at this time. At one of those holidays Armin, Ansgar,
Volker and myself went to somewhere outside of Berlin. We first took the S-Bahn to
Falkensee and then a steam train to Falkenhof. We were to stay in some sort of
Youth Hostel for a few days but I don’t think we even stayed one night at this place.
What happened was we had a great time playing in the woods and had a play fight. I
had the great idea to start a little fire in the back of Ansgar and Volker. Unfortunately
the little fire became a big forest fire and we decided it was time to leave the place in
East Berlin and quickly go back to Wester Berlin. Nothing ever came of it.
We did all kind of nasty things like tying to doors together with a rope and then ring
both apartments and wait to see how the people pulled as hard as they could to
open the doors. There was an apartment in Euler Strasse which was partly below
street level. So what did we do, we took a large rubbish bin and lent it against the
door and then rang the bell. The result was all the rubbish fell into the room when
someone opened the door. Great fun if it is not you apartment. One day we found
some dead rats which we put on peoples window seals and then knocked on the
window. It was fun to see them scream especially if they were women. We played
lots of street games. Had fights between two different streets. One episode of which
I’m not so proud of was when we collected a pile of dog poo wrapped it up in
newspaper and gave it to a blind women for her dog. We told her it was a present
from the butcher. She even gave each of us a rose out of her garden as a reward. It
surely was nothing to be proud of and I always regretted it.
A different game was to go into a butcher shop and asked whether they have
Eisbeine, when say said yes we told them to put on warm socks and run off. Funny
that. Tante Lotte always went to the soap shop to have her bed sheets rolled. It was
a huge machine consisting of a box filled with heavy rocks under which you put your
cloth to get rolled smooth. One day when we left I put a fig under the box and the
next person who used it had fig all over her cloth. I always denied it was me who did
it. Another game was to dip water on people when they walked under our balcony. M
brother got caught one day when he looked out to see whether he had hit someone.
He did problem was the women had just come from the hairdresser and I think my
mother had to pay for the damage. We were always afraid of the police man which at
this time were walking their beat on foot and always turned up when we did
something wrong. The best was to run away as fast as you could and hope he did
not recognise you later. I could go on and on but it would become boring after a
while. No more of it.
I joined the Catholic youth organisation which was fun to start with but it did not last
long so I joined the Boy Scouts because they were more fun. We went camping and
did all the things Boy Scouts do. All my friends were in it and our troupe was called
Sippe Hirsch. I stayed in it until I went to Egypt.
School I never liked and I were not very good which shows in my half yearly report
cards. I did not have many friends because I was not very popular so I kept mainly to
myself. One year Armin came to the Primary School I went to. I remember because it
was the first time that I wagged school. From Primary School I went to High School
across the street from the first. I did not do much better there and so I had to go to a
private school, St Marien Schule, which was run by nuns. I think I did a bit better
Every year we went on a school excursion to West Germany. The first trip in year
nine was uneventful. On the next and last one in year ten we went to Obersdorf in
the Alps. We stayed in an old farmhouse on top of a hill. There were cows and other
animals. One kid got hurt trying to ride a cow in the stables. I and another boy got
kicked out because we covered the kitchen chimney up and all the smoke from the
kitchen fire blacked out the farmhouse. The teachers thought it was on fire. Wolfgang
MülIer who had helped me were summoned by our class nun Consolata who told us
we had to leave them and make our own way back to Berlin. I stayed at the nearby
youth hostel and Müller went to England. I went back at the last day and sister
Consolata was very happy to see me and they even gave me some food. I think she
kicked me and Müller out because she knew we did not go home with the rest of the
class. I went to Augsburg where I stayed with Tanta Mize. It was the first time I went
hitch hiking which at that time was very popular in Germany and a well used mode of
transport. It was the beginning of my travelling carrier. Later in the year during the
long Holiday I and a friend from school went hitch hiking to Sweden and Norway. We
got as far as Denmark where my travel companion became very home thick and
went back to Berlin. I kept on travelling through Sweden and one day, I think it was in
Sundsvall I met to friends from Berlin who went the other way around Scandinavia.
We decided to meet in Sylt a small island on the northern coast of Germany. We met
and Joachim Dillinger and I decided to go to Italy. We hitch hiked all the way to Italy.
In Verona I wound up in hospital for two days because I collapsed when I came out
of the car which had given the two of us a lift. A fire brigade took me to hospital and I
got a couple of glucose infusions because of my run down condition. I mostly lived
on bread and jam which was not to nourishing. Two days later we were on the road
again and went on to Venice. There we stayed in a convent for nothing. We went
back to Germany and on the way we were picked up by a real Baron who had a real
old castle and the small village was named after him. Baron Carlo de Class was his
name. He invited us to come and see him whenever we came to Italy. Dillinger went
there later with a Boy Scout troupe and he has still contact with the family after all
those years. Back in Berlin my life began to change rapidly because it also was the
end of my school days. I had to start looking for job but I hated the idea of working.
But this is another story
1956 to 1959
Life took on a whole new meaning when I had to go out and find a job. I hated the
idea of working and only the writing of my first CV send shivers down my spine. I
was howling my head off and refused to do it. My mother finally called Tanta Lotte
over which always had a calming effect on me and after a cup of hot milk with honey
the two of them convinced me to write my first CV.
At this time in Germany it was not so easy to find an apprenticeship. The big
companies like Siemens or AEG had well organised section in their company
structure which were only there to teach young kids like me a trade and it was very
hard to get into their apprenticeship scream. You had to pass a written and practical
test and what was even more important you had to have someone from your family
already working for them. Once Werner knew some was not really family and I did
not tell them. The result was they did not take me. I did not mind at all.
I think I finally went to something like Centerlink and they found me a place which
sounded Ok. It was with a company which worked with plastic at that time a brand
new material which was used in all kinds of industries but mainly in the chemical
industry. I went for an interview and to my horror they excepted me. From that day
on I had to get up at 530 am in the morning and came home after 530 pm in the
evening. I also had to go to work on Saturdays from 530 am until 1400 in the
afternoon. I hated it but what could I do. I earned all but 20 German Marks a month
of which I had to give half to my mother. One day I nearly got fired because the
other two apprentices and I were playing around instead of working. I had to go and
see the boss who gave me another chance. After this little episode I pulled my head
in and lasted for the duration. My apprenticeship lasted until 1959. I passed the trade
examination and became only the third Plastic Fabricator as the trade was called in
Germany. It was not so bad after all and in the end I started to like my trade.
1959 My first big trip
I cannot remember what time of the year it was when I finished my apprenticeship,
all what I remember is I did not last very long. I had saved as much money as I could
and went off to see the world. I was in the Boy Scouts and my friends went to a big
world Jamboree in England. I was not very popular with the leaders and so I was left
behind. Of course I was upset and so I decided to show them all I can go by myself
where ever I wanted to go. So I quit my job or maybe I took leave without pay and
with a letter of introduction in Latin from my parish priest in my pocket dressed in my
Boy Scout uniform I left Berlin and went hitch hiking to Egypt.
My first stop was Augsburg where I stayed a few days before I set of to Italy. Tante
Mizzi gave me some money and I also got some money from my grandfather. I
stopped over in Cless the home of Carlo Baronet de Cless and stayed there a few
days. He also gave me some money and wished me good luck for the journey. My
next stop was Rome where I stayed at a Youth Hostel. I went and saw the sites of
Rome and went on to Naples. From Naples I went to the Island of Capri where I
stayed a week in a nunnery after showing mother superior my letter of our parish
priest. They fed me and looked after me because I was so skinny. I had a good time
After my stay in Capri with the nuns I went to Sicily I only remember Palermo from
where I went to Trapani from where I took the ferry to Tunis in Tunisia. The trip with
the ferry was overnight and I still remember the morning when I arrived in Tunis.
Looking down from the ferry I did for the first time in my life saw a different continent.
I was amazed seeing the different clothed people who were wearing long dresses
called Djellaba (hooded long sleaved robe) and funny looking caps. I was a little bit
scared because everything was new and I had never seen anything like it. I realised
at this moment what I saw below me was Africa. You must have felt the same when
you first went to India or China with me.
It was much more difficult to travel those days because there was little written about
travelling through those places and the Lonely Planet books were 20 years off. You
had to find by yourself the cheap hotels and how to travel from one town to the next.
After leaving the ferry I found myself a small hotel where I stayed for about one week
doing what I’m still doing walking all over the town seeing the sites and finding
places to eat. I met some other travellers so I was never lonely. Leaving Tunis
behind I travelled south along the Tunisian coast to Gabes passing through the
towns of Hammam Life, Hammamet, Sousse, Monastir, Jem (the biggest Roman
Colosseum outside Italy) and Sfax. When I arrived in Gabbes I went to a small
Catholic Church showed the priest my letter and he put me up for a few days
because the road to Libya was flooded. I went with the priest and we visited local
people who needed help. He told me about his problems with the Moslem Religion
and that he had no hope to convert anyone to Catholicism all what he could do was
help. I got a bit homesick everything was so different and I could not go on because
of the flooding of the road and was ready to go back home.
I woke up one morning and looked out of the window of my room which must have
faced east because I saw the sun rise between the big date palms and my
homesickness vanished. I went for a walk and someone told me a bus was ready to
leave for Tripoli in half an hour. So back to the church I went said good bye to the
priest and of I went for a new adventure on my way to Egypt.
I made Tripoli with the bus stayed there in a nice hotel for a few days which was
payed by someone I met on the street. The guy also arranged for me to go and see
some of the wonderful Roman ruins in Libya and he also organised my trip on a
large truck to Benghazi. From there I went to Tobruk famous for the battle during
WWII between Feldmarschall Rommel and General Montgomery. From Tobruk on to
Masa Matruk past El Alalamain and on to Alexandria in Egypt. In Cairo I saw and
climbed the Great Cheops Pyramid and did all the other touristy things.
One day after I had eaten some doggy food I got very ill with diarrhoea. It was really
bad and I could not walk one hundred metres without disappearing in the bushes
and have a shit. Somehow I made it to the German Embassy in Alexandria and there
I got a ticket which took me home by ship and train as far as München. The ship
stopped over in Athens for half a day and I took the opportunity to go to a hospital
where I got some medication which cleared up the diarrhoea in a very short time.
The ship took me all the way to Genoa in Italy where I caught a train to Augsburg
where I had left a few months earlier. All in all it was a great experience. I wish I
could be as young again.
After my stay in Augsburg I had to go back to Berlin and find another job which was
quite easy. The name of the company was SINACIT and I stayed there a few years.
During this time Ansgar started up a skiffle band and I played the bass. We had a
great time. Armin, Connie, Klaus, Ansgar and myself had a very good time. We even
had a manager who organised all our gigs. We even made some money. The
downside was we all drank a lot and I mean al lot. I could drink a whole bottle of
Weinbrand Verschnitt our favourite brand was Greif which we bought in a small
delicatessen shop in Stetiener Strasse. A big bottle was 2.80 Marks. To make it
more palatable we mixed it with Coke. At one time there were 40 empty bottles on
top of my wardrobe which we took one day back to the shop to get a new bottle for
the deposit. We also met a lot of girls and life was wonderful except for the
Sometimes we got into trouble. On one occasion Klaus knew someone who was
supposed to have a party organised in his parents’ house. Wolfgang who passed
away when he was 40 years old picked up a girl at Gesundbrunnen Station and she
came with us to the party. When we got to the location we found out there was no
party but we decided to have one anyway. We went to the backdoor found some
alcohol in the cellar and did a lot of damage throughout the house. When we finally
left we were as usually drunk and in a good mood. We chased a homosexual man
through the street set a construction side fence on fire and where finally caught by
the police. Whilst at the police station the fellow in whose house we had partied
came to make a complaint that someone had broken into his house and left a big
mess behind. Little did he know at that time it was us and no burglar. In the end he
found out and we had to pay some money to pay for some of the damage. Nothing
came off the burning fence we were very lucky this time.
Another party took place in Pits fathers, who was a doctor, surgery. Pits parents
were away and we moved into the surgery. Pit was able to lock the door so his
grandmother who lived above the surgery could not get in. As usual we drank a lot. I
slept with Yvonne and the rest amused themself in the surgery. Connie had the great
idea to inject some opium which was used to treat diarrhoea into his arm and went
all funny. I think this party went on for two days. At this time we still had our band
and played in night clubs which was lots of fun. But slowly we stopped playing. It was
fun whilst it lasted. Once we played at the local radio station and I think there is even
a recording off it somewhere.
Life was fun I met Yvonne my first girlfriend and I slept with her for the first time. She
was good looking and we lasted for about a year. Her mother was married and living
with a rich American on the Island of Mallorca in Spain. During this time Yvonne was
living with her grandmother. I cannot remember the reason but she had to stay with
her other grandparents which she didn’t like at all somewhere in the outer suburbs of
Berlin. So one day we hatched out a plan for her to run away and move into the
apartment of her mother in West Berlin. It worked out OK and we had a good time
there. When Yvonne went there for a holiday and stayed with her mother I followed
her to Spain and we had three wonderful months there. All good things come to the
end one day and for me it was the result of running out of money, which meant I had
to go back to Germany and find work. When I came back to Mallorca Yvonne had
pissed off with some rich Spaniard. I went back to Germany and saw her a couple of
times after she had come back to Berlin from Spain, however, nothing came of it.
It was at this time that I met my next girlfriend Christine. We lasted from about 1960
to 1967. We had some good and bad times together and at some stage I nearly got
engaged to her. I had even bought engagement rings. We went together on holidays
to Yugoslavia and Sardinia in Italy but in the end she went back to her old boyfriend
Klaus and they even got married later. It was one of the reasons that I decided to
immigrate to Australia. My brother had beaten me to it and went to Australia in May
1967. After the breakup with Christine I followed him in September the same year.
He did not know that I was coming and one day in the middle of the night I knocked
on his door in Melbourne after a 56 hour flight from Hamburg in Germany. I stayed
with him for about one month and even got a job for a few weeks. But in the end I
moved on and hitched to Western Australia passing through Adelaide, Ceduna,
Norseman, and Kalgoorlie and wound up in Perth.
Perth in 1967 was a small provincial town. Pubs closed at 6PM and did not open at
all on Sundays. I stayed at the YMCA in the middle of Perth. I had heard there was
lots of money to me made cray fishing. So one day I went to Fremantle which was
then a sleepy port city where nothing moved on Saturdays and Sundays. I remember
a few pubs and an ice-cream parlour in Market Street. I tried to find a job with a cray
boat but since I was not Italian and had no experience I failed and soon after I
decided to go back to Melbourne.
When I stopped over in Kalgoorlie on the way to Perth I had talked to some people in
a pub in Boulder. They were all gold miners from the Goldfields and what they had to
say sounded OK and adventures to me. According to them there was good money to
be made in the goldmines and it all sounded very exciting. So back I went to
Melbourne but this time on the train. I nearly had an affair with a young girl on the
train. Her father owned a big sheep stations and she I was cute because I had a
funny accent. She wanted me to come to a hotel with her when we arrived in
Melbourne. I only remember her because she had false teeth and was quite young.
However, my brother had come to the railway station to pick me up and that was the
end of the affair.
I told my brother about Western Australia and he convinced his friend Johnschwager
to come with us. So we bought a car a 1958 model Holden station wagon for 800 $.
We also bought a Brno 22 calibre rifle. Since none of us had a legal drivers licence
Johnschwager borrowed one from a friend and off we went. Western Australia here
The trip took us through Adelaide, Port Augusta and from there we went to the opal
town of Cooper Pedy. There I experienced for the first time 110 Fahrenheit and
nearly had a heat stroke. We stayed a few days but did not find any opals. On the
way back to Port Augusta we stopped off at the rocket centre Woomera. There was
at this time an army base where they tested rockets. We had to show our Passports
and were let in. Lucky for us you could get free food in the canteen and boy did we
eat. Back in Augusta we discovered our Holden had something wrong with the
engine which needed to be fixed before we could cross the dirt road across the
Nullarbor. The mechanic worked all night. We had bought a short block because one
of the piston holes was worn out. We helped by cleaning the parts and provide the
mechanic with peer and chicken. By 5 o’clock the car was ready and we continued
our trip to the West. We used the rifle for the first time and shot a kangaroo. We all
felt sorry for the poor thing.
The road was the worst I have ever come across. From Ceduna to Balladonia the
road was unsealed and corrugated. The worst bit was from Ivey Tanks to Ceduna.
We always had the feeling the car would fall apart because it rattled so much. We
lost the exhaust pipe a couple of times but Heiner put it always back on. We slept in
a small two men tent that is my brother and I Johnschwager slept in the back of the
car. Somewhere near Yalata Mission some Aboriginals stopped us and asked us
whether we could drive back to Ceduna and buy them some Port Wine. They even
gave us some money. So we did not knowing it was highly illegal to do so because
of the prohibition in this area. We finally got to Eucla and went for a swim in the
Southern Ocean near the old telegraph station which was nearly covered by drifting
Finally we made it to Western Australia the road was bituminised from Balladonia to
Norseman. The first thing we did when we arrived in Norseman was do go to the
swimming pool. It was great to wash of the dust from the Nulabor crossing. After we
had relaxed enough at the pool we went to one of the local pubs to have a beer. I
think we went to the Railway Hotel. It didn’t take long and some of the locals wanted
to know where we came from and what we wanted to do. They told us there was lots
of work available and also cheap accommodation. A priest from Norseman whom we
met one night on the Nullarbor had advised us not to go to Kalgoorlie to work but to
try and find work in Norseman instead. He said the mine was not as old as the mines
in Kalgoorlie and the conditions and the pay was also better. So we decided to wait
in Norseman until Monday and see if we could find work. Monday morning we went
to the mine office asked if they had work for us and guess what they did and they
also had cheap accommodation with a kitchen for one Dollar a week. We decided to
stay. We liked Norseman and stayed there for two years
1967 to 1969 Norseman
Norseman was a town off 1800 people two mines two pubs, a workers club and a
variety of shops on the main street. There was also a drive-in, a hospital and a police
station. I had lived all my life in Berlin and Norseman was the complete opposite.
Johnschwager and I started our mining career underground whilst my brother had to
work on the surface. He was working on the slime dump a huge hill made from the
tailings of the gold production.