Part 15: Bread And Butter

Despite all the shortages, father always took one or two extra slices with him when he went to the factory for his shift. When my mother asked him why he needed so much bread, he did not answer at first.

Later, in strict silence, he told my mother that he distributed the slices among his foreign workers. This was life-threatening, because personal contacts with foreigners were strictly forbidden to ‘German national comrades’ and were severely punished as treason, often with death. Such actions were so risky because Nazi surveillance of all social life was virtually seamless. For example, suddenly and overnight one foreign workers’ column was replaced by another.

My father had to retrain and brief the people and was never sure whether there might not be an informant among the still unknown foreign workers. When father thought he was sure of his cause, he continued the additional rations and made life easier for his people by his humane behavior. Father probably couldn’t help himself. I remember an event that could have ended with serious consequences for our family.

From our kitchen window, across the main street, the opposite multi-track railroad track was very clearly visible. One day a troop of Russian prisoners of war was repairing the tracks under the strict guard of an armed soldier. They were incredibly young prisoners. Almost still children, with shaved bald heads and undernourished, in dirty brown Russian uniforms. While lifting a heavy railroad track, one of the boys stumbled and stumbled down the embankment.

Enraged, the guard jumped after the prisoner and drove him to work up the slope with massive blows from his rifle butt. Father and I stood at the window and watched impotently. Suddenly father tore open the window and shouted to the guard to stop beating him. The guard got even angrier and shouted back that my father should shut his stupid mouth. After this incident, the whole family would cringe when the doorbell rang. Everyone was convinced that the sentry had noticed our apartment window and reported it. But fortunately, nothing of the sort happened.

It was precisely at this time that my mother worked – also on duty – in the municipal transport company. As a result, she inevitably had contact with Frenchmen on duty, who received their duty rosters in the office, because they were deployed as bus and streetcar drivers. At the end of their duty, the Frenchmen had to return to their guarded communal camps, where they were strictly controlled. In these barracks’ camps, the hygienic conditions were extremely poor. My mother therefore occasionally brought home laundry, which she secretly washed and ironed for the men. This humane but extremely dangerous gesture was fortunately never discovered and was later to prove immensely helpful to our family. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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