Part 29: On Hunting And Gathering

In this situation, my father worked at the plant to restart production with many others.

There, too, there was a shortage of everything: transport capacity for limestone from the Harz, coal from the Geisel valley, and thousands of workers, because there were no longer any prisoners of war or foreign workers. Food also became scarce at home. We were not starving, but the stolen barley and flour had long since been used up. Everyone was fed up with the eternal paste soup. Father said, ‘I must organize some gluttony.’ He remembered that as a young unemployed man in the twenties he had worked as a farmhand in a small village. There he wanted to organize ‘some gluttony’ and I was to accompany him.

With our rickety bicycles we set off. 70 kilometers away to a godforsaken village near the store Kyffhäuser. We reached the tiny village without any incidents worth mentioning. Father found the farm and knocked on the gate for an awfully long time without being opened. By this time, the famished townspeople were flooding even the most remote village, and the farmers were barely responding. The farm dog yelped loudly and incessantly. After a while, the farm door opened after all. The farmer’s spouse eyed the strangers intently and, after a long pause, said in amazement, ‘You’re Alfred, and the one next to you must be your boy.’

The ice was broken. We were invited inside. In exchange for something to eat, Father offered us to be harvest hands. The farmer immediately grabbed us with both hands. We were just in time for him. The harvest had to go in, the son was still in captivity or dead. Simply bringing strangers onto the farm in these uncertain times was risky. ‘Alfred, make up your mind. Grandmother has died, the old folks’ home is empty, you can move in with your family right away.’ The emphasis was on ‘immediately,’ because displaced persons from East Prussia, Silesia and the Sudetenland were streaming into the village every day. The mayor had to accommodate the refugees, it was a matter of time, and he would occupy the Altenteil.

Father decided, ‘We’re staying!’ Shortly thereafter, the Lanz Bulldog was refueled with crude oil, and, with two pneumatic-tired trailers, they headed toward town at a 20 km/h pace. Mother was literally caught off guard. She was crying her eyes out. Give up her beautiful, albeit damaged, apartment and head back to the village? Fetch the water from the hallway or possibly from the pump? The little place with the sawed-out heart in the door in the yard, next to a stinking manure pile? Maybe even pigs and chickens? No, never! Father remained firm. To starve or to live, that was the question. The few belongings that had been spared by the bombs were loaded onto the trailer, and five hours later we were in the new home.

Father comforted: It’s only for two or three years. It turned out to be six. Another life began. Father worked as an ox-cutter, mother as a seasonal day laborer. Hannchen and I were sent to the village school, which had only two classrooms. When I started school, the school had already been more modern and progressive. Classes for grades one through four were held on the first floor and grades five through eight on the second floor. The past had us back. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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