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German Interview (English translation of interview in German)

.... time before the occupation of Warstein. I was born in 1936, ie in the middle of the Nazi time. During the first years of life, of course, you weren't really aware of the social and political situation. That changed when I started school. I started school in 1942 in the Volksschule in Warstein. What was striking was the fact that they were hardly any male teachers, only some quite old gentlemen, otherwise we were looked after by female teachers.
Then however from 1942/43 we, as children, were visibly aware of a lot about the war in the families. I myself experienced, how two of my father's brothers and also two of my mother's brothers fell. The "Deaths" column in the newspapers increased noticeably from 1943, and grew even more in 1944. As a schoolboy, I had of course nothing to compare it to. What was very pleasant for us was the fact that, during the war, lessons were often cancelled, and increasingly so in 1943, 1944 and 1945, so we had relatively little schooling.
I must mention the fact that, incongruous though it may sound today, the school didn't have a telephone. There was no phone in the school, we schoolchildren always knew that we could go home, when one of the ladies employed in the neighbouring Co-op turned up a school in a white overall, she was always greeted with a big "Hello", then we knew we would be sent home.
Lessons were therefore relatively irregular during the war, and were sometimes given by teachers who were not fully trained. There was nothing to celebrate from 1942 in the schools, the time of the great victories was over. I can only remember that we were called out on to the school yard relatively regularly, and that firebombs were then lit, and we were shown how to put them out. I have already mentioned that we only had elderly male teachers, they didn't exactly make a good job of it, there was often a big "hallo", the effect was quite feeble.
What was striking in the school day, when you compare it with the time after 1945, was this: during the war, there were regular gym lessons, every morning we had an hour of sport. After 1945 this changed dramatically, sport was scorned, and to begin with there was hardly any sport.
As a child, I wasn't really aware of the treatment of the Jews, what I do know about it we heard afterwards. As a child I wasn't really aware of it, the Jews from the Sauerland area were at that time either already in concentration camps, or they had fled abroad. I particularly remember the last months of the war; I've already pointed out the fact that lessons were relatively irregular, this was even more the case in 1945.
The town of Warstein, or the town centre of Warstein was taken by American troops on the day before White Sunday, White Monday is the day after Easter, so it was on the Saturday before White Sunday. The night before, the town was fiercely fired upon. There was destruction of houses, but it was restricted, so there wasn't much damage in the centre of the town; if I remember rightly, a citizen of the town of Warstein was killed, in the weeks before, there had been of course a lot of action. In the town there were people who were known to be anti-Nazi, I can remember, in the weeks before the occupation of Warstein there were lists of citizens who were in particular danger, ie they were in danger of being killed, and they then kept themselves hidden.
I can still remember well how they tried to get people together. It was obvious that , now that the war was nearing the end, there were many people who shied away from being sent into the last battle, that means it was clear to the population, even as a child I realised this - that the war wasn't going to last much longer.
There were also many unreasonable things that happened in this area, for example, bridges were blown up in the Munner Dam, a totally senseless action. Tank barriers were set up on the B55, then nothing could be reached. As I said, the Americans had taken over the town centre of Warstein on the Saturday before White Sunday. That brought a lot of excitement, of course. The American troops had to be accommodated, and that was so organised that houses were taken over, mostly houses which were particularly good condition, the inhabitants then had to make do with one or two rooms. There weren't any infringements by the Americans who had moved in, the groups behaved correctly, though there were occasions where the odd wristwatches or pocket watches were taken, but otherwise there weren't any infringements. The American troops were therefore based here, and the fighting troops went on their way very quickly.
I can't really remember much about this time, the time up to the final surrender on the 08/09 May, I only know that then there was no school lessons and that there were no school lessons until September, so from April to September no school, so for us children there was a really long school holiday, no school for six months. With hindsight we can say that it is amazing that something became of us because school lessons in the so-called "Volksschule", comparable with the primary school today, were very irregular. I didn't experience regular, normal schooling from fully trained teachers until I went to the "Gymnasium" (grammar school) from 1946/47.

On the subject of food: during the war, the food situation wasn't marked by need, this had something to do with the fact that large parts of Europe were occupied by German troops, and that food from many European countries came into the area. So there was not here, during the war, an acute food situation as there had been during the first World War. That changed in 1945/46, when there were considerable food bottlenecks; without the support from the US, which got involved very quickly, many people in the area would probably have died of hunger at that time.
In the time up to the Currency Reform, I can remember the so-called school meals, ie during the long break we had to go in with cups and plates, and then there was usually a stew or also sometimes milk or flour or semolina soup. Usually it didn't taste very good, but we weren't at all fussy at that time. The time between 1945-48 was a very tense situation in other areas of life, not just in food, that concerned above all clothing - old military coats were dyed a different colour, the mothers worked as tailors, that really was a state of emergency.
The biggest area of need however was in housing. The situation had got worse during the war when very many people moved from the big towns to the country. They really didn't have any alternative, because very many big towns were 50% to 70 % destroyed. They had to be accommodated, so even during the war things were quite tight. In addition to this, private building work during the war hardly took place, and the situation got considerably worse then in the years 1945 and 1946 because of the refugees. There was at the time the so-called "compulsory housing market, that means, the local authorities decided who and how many people you had to take in. That led to very unpleasant situations of course, you can easily imagine it, it was a very tense situation in the housing area, which didn't improve gradually until the 1950s.
I can particularly remember the year 1948, at that time I was already at the Gymnasium, because the Currency Reform really did make a big impact on the post-war situation. It was very obvious to children and young people, that, from one day to the next, everything was suddenly available, only money was short, but from the year 1948 there was a big turning point in the post-war time, and for the people there was certainly a much more considerable break than, for example, the founding of the German Federal Republic and the founding of the German Democratic Republic.
I'd like to mention a gruesome chapter in the history of Warstein, the murder, if I have the numbers correct in my head, of 121 men, women and children of Russian foreign workers in the Langbachtal. A few weeks before the end of the war, in the spring, the bodies were discovered and dug up during earthworks. I can remember it, the whole population then had to walk past the bodies. There was a rumour, that the town was to be handed over for plundering, houses weren't allowed to be locked, the occupying troops supervised that. I can remember this long line, this endless procession of people into the Langbachtal, and also the bodies of the badly injured Russian foreign workers.
That made the biggest impression on me, but I can also remember the shooting of two German soldiers shortly before the surrender, young men of seventeen or eighteen, who had committed desertion, and who were then shot under the Piousberg in Warstein
There wasn't destruction on a major scale in this area. There was a bomb attack on Warstein train station, otherwise there was no considerable destruction. It is amazing that the industrial companies there, for example the Siegmannwerke, were not attacked, were not the target of allied bomb attacks. I can also vaguely remember that the Munner Dam was bombed. But as I say, I can only vaguely recall it.
On the whole, the area around here was spared major war destruction.

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