- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Peter HW Kamin
- Location of story:
- South-East of Berlin
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 November 2003
Peter today, second from the right surrounded by his family including one of his grandsons.
The following autobiographical report of what it was like to be a young German boy during WW2 was sent to me by a 71 year old German Friend, Herr Peter HW Kamin email email@example.com
The original text can be read on my German Page at :-
TRANSLATION FROM GERMAN INTO ENGLISH
By D. A. Lucking
It was 1943 and I was just 10 ½ years of age. My brothers and sister were 15,7,5 and 2 months old. My father was Burgermaster of our town and also the administrative Burgermaster of Senftenberg/Niederlausitz in the brown coal district. He only came home at weekends and sometimes couldn’t come for official reasons. We lived in a house that had rooms in the cellar, one of these rooms was reinforced with thick planks across the ceiling, supported by thick wooden props. We lived in the suburb of Neue Muehle, about 3km from the town of Koenigs Wusterhausen, where my brother Klaus and I went to school in the Friedrich Wilhelm Grammar School. Many of the schoolgirls and schoolboys came to school from outlying districts and came either on bicycles or by train. Because the school’s air raid shelters couldn’t accommodate all the pupils, any pupils who lived in the town or nearby suburbs had to run or cycle home as soon as the warning sirens started. This meant that the American planes were often flying over us before we reached home. I actually felt exhilarated and excited by this, as overhead the aerial combat raged between the bombers and the German fighter planes or flak. We lived in a suburb south east of Berlin which was on the bombers` return flight path after dropping their bombs on Berlin. Sometimes after an attack, long silver strips that looked like tinsel lay scattered all around. They were probably used to disrupt radio communications. Propaganda leaflets were also often dropped. My parents and teachers had often said that it was strictly forbidden to pick them up or read them. Draconian punishments awaited anyone who did.
If the bombers came late in the morning we didn’t need to return to school because of the long distance involved. The other pupils who had stayed in the school air raid shelters, or who lived nearby carried on at school. This always made us very happy, to have finished school early. Today naturally I think differently.
I remember a Focke Wulf 190 fighter bomber climbing steeply to attack a US bomber squadron and it shot up an engine on one of the bombers forcing it to jettison it`s bombs. I saw the the bombs glinting silver in the sun and I heard bangs. The bomber had dropped it`s bombs on the neighbouring district of Zernsdorf. I and my friends rode over on our bikes and we saw bomb craters and damaged houses. A pipe was sticking up out of a bomb crater and spurted flame, it was probably a gas pipe. I can`t remember if any people were killed or injured. At the time I was very proud of the German pilot, who was a hero in my eyes. I wanted to be like him some day.
The English bombers attacked at night and the American bombers came during the day. Very high at the start and one could only see vapour trails. At the end of the war they flew much lower and I could recognise their national emblems the white stars.
There was a prisoner of war camp for English officers in Zernsdorf, some of them probably came from Australia or Canada. At the time I had no idea just how large the English (sic) Empire was. As boys we often roamed through this area and we were very interested in this camp. I remember that the German guards didn’t mind us going close up to the fence. The prisoners called out “Hello Boys” and asked after our names. I thought our enemies were very likeable. In any case they always appeared well groomed, and ran around with towels and kept themselves clean and well shaven. I also remember that some of them wore scarves and looked very elegant. Some of them carried sticks, I never knew why or for what purpose. I also saw an English officer offer one of the guards a cigarette. It made me wonder why these nice men had dropped bombs on us in order to kill us.
At the end of 1943 I was sent to a school in Dingelstedt in Thuringia. It was run on military lines. We were often woken up during the night and made to march in all kinds of weather. There was a railway embankment not far from the little town. We always marched there and were forced to run up and down it many times. At the start we enjoyed it, but I remember that some of my fellow classmates couldn’t manage it. Suddenly they disappeared and we were told that they were only weak mummy’s boys and were of no use to the school. They should have been sent home. I remained there exempt from air raid sirens until shortly before Christmas 1944 and never returned because the Americans were advancing. Older pupils were often discharged to the front or for building fortifications.
When I returned home my father had been called up into the armed forces as a wireless operator in Sudetenland. My brother Klaus was also not at home. He was serving as a gunner with an anti-aircraft detachment in the west, helping to defend the “Fatherland”. My mother was now on her own at home with us four children and the conscripted home help girl Hedwig. My grandfather Karl Kamin visited us often , looked after the large garden , planted vegetables and kept the house in good order. Grandpa had taken over the role of my father, who I didn’t see again until 1952.
I carried on again at the grammar in Koenigs Wusterhausen. Most of the original teachers were now in the armed forces. We now had teachers who had been recalled from retirement. Some of them were very old and also sometimes very strict and thorough. Today I realise that I learned a lot from them, even if it was sometimes not so easy.
The air raids had become more violent and took place many times, both during the day and at night. Sometimes we fell asleep at school due to exhaustion or had to be shaken awake in the morning. In the air raid shelters we were not allowed to lie down only to sit. According to my mother this was because if one was lying down, one would be trapped at once. Whereas if one was sitting less of a target area was presented. I often thought during that time how marvellous it would be if only I could lie down and sleep, sleep, sleep. We were no longer alone in our shelter. Two families with children, from our neighbourhood but without shelters of their own had joined us. Sometimes the little children and babies cried. My mother often held us tightly, but never cried, I never felt afraid, because a German boy didn’t feel fear, also I wanted to eventually become a brave soldier and win the “Knights Cross”.
Actually today as a grandfather I often think, particularly when my children and grandchildren are gathered around me, about what they, thank God have been spared. That makes me very happy.
Peter HW Kamin.
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