Part 11: A Life For The Factory

Our father had taken a courageous step and broken the eternal cycle of ‘once a miner, always a miner.’ He was now working in a distant plant as a chemical worker.

The long way there cost a lot of time, but father earned good money and for his family he put up with it. Mother now had a few more clothes in her closet and was a customer at the local store Konsum. The embarrassing chalking up had come to an end. When father was home on Sundays, we had roulades with red cabbage and green dumplings.

But this happiness did not last long. Grandpa, although he had a Prussian national bringing-up – or perhaps because of it – was politically very vigilant. None of his sons and sons-in-law really wanted to believe his prediction that there would soon be war. But Hitler brought Austria ‘home to the Reich’ and annexed the ‘Sudeten MCA’ in a coup d’état. The world remained silent, and the Nazis became bolder. With the deviously staged attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, the reason was found to invade Poland.

World War II was ignited. Father became a soldier and helped the victorious German Wehrmacht in the subjugation of Poland and France against his will – he was not asked – like thousands of other men. Where the Silesian harvester used to be housed at harvest time, French prisoners of war were now waiting for the end of the war and their release. They had to wait for many more years. The invasion of the Soviet Union was imminent according to the secret plan ‘Barbarossa.’

At that time, Dad was stationed in occupied France and had the luck of his life: He was made a so-called ‘UK.’ ‘UK’ in this case meant: He was declared indispensable as a skilled worker by his factory, which belonged to a company called I.G. Farben. His discharge from the Wehrmacht meant no more and no less than that he had to serve the company with life and limb. In the second year of the war, compulsory workers and prisoners of war almost exclusively staffed large-scale industry.

The corporations therefore needed at least a few German skilled workers to secure production with the foreign workers and to prevent sabotage. To do this, the skilled workers had to live as close as possible to the production site to perform this wartime task. This meant that father was assigned a factory apartment in the city. The furniture truck arrived, and we moved to the city near the plant.

The apartment was ultra-modern for the time: the kitchen with pantry, the toilet with tub, bath stove and water closet. The parents had a bedroom, and my sister and I slept in our own room, plus a separate living room for the whole family. My mother was happy as never before. A new era had begun for us, we had arrived in the future. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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