Part 25: The Americans Are Coming

Our father knew exactly what had to be done. The occupation of the factory was imminent. The Nazi elite and the guards in the alien camps slipped away in secret.

They feared war captivity and the revenge of the forced laborers. Suddenly the storm broke. Thousands of forced laborers, conscripts, and prisoners of war from almost all European nations poured out of the camps like lava flows from a volcano.

All of them wanted to go home, because they had not seen their families for years and did not know whether their relatives were still alive. Many retaliated against their German tormentors. Those they could catch were beaten, beaten to death, or hanged. An unprecedented wave of looting began. Even the ambulance was not spared. Bicycles, cars, gasoline, provisions, and fresh clothing were coveted booty. The plant sank into anarchy. A German family amid this turmoil was bound to end in chaos. But Father’s Italian work crew was informed. The workers knew where to find us. They had not forgotten ‘Don Alfredo’s’ humane treatment and secret help. Now they thanked him for it. Some men stayed near us all the time, protecting us from foreign attacks.

The others were on the prowl. They dragged in all kinds of things. I remember two pillowcases, one full of barley and the other full of flour. From a nearby magazine, they brought shirts, stockings, pants, jackets, shoes, caps, and locksmith suits. The clothes would have sufficed for our family for a few years. But at that point, no one suspected that the German saying ‘Easy come, easy go’ would become truth a little later. The chaos lasted only a few hours. The Americans occupied the plant without firing a shot. Immediately, military police drove through the factory streets in open jeeps, submachine guns on their knees, stopping looting and vigilante activity. They cracked down hard and consistently. If their orders were not obeyed immediately, they made use of the gun. They did not distinguish between friend and foe and so, very quickly, general order was halfway restored.

With the occupation of the factory, Father’s job was also done. Our parents urged us to leave. They were worried about the apartment in the city. Hastily the bicycles were loaded. Accompanied by some Italian friends who helped us carry the few belongings and the stolen goods, we set off. We passed through the factory gate without incident. On the main road between the two large chemical plants and the city, we expected American military. But the road was swept as if empty, only on the track of the interurban railroad stood a shot-up railcar. Life seemed to have hidden itself, as if a storm is coming up. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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