The War is over ! Joy and relief throughout the Allied Nations but also in Germany.
50 years later this day was celebrated by many solemn commemorations and impressive speeches broadcast on the radio and on TV.
When I told my father,atched some of these celebrations, he said: « Oh, well, I’ve got some different memories there. We swam across the Elbe that night, Fritz and I. Didn’t want to be caught by the Russians, you see…We had rigged up a kind of raft with the sides of our truck (Dad had been a radio operator on the Eastern Front) and the inner tubes of the tyres. We put our kit and the boots on it – the guns, of course, had already gone into the river – and then swam alongside the raft. Everything was fine until Fritz got a cramp in the le on the phone, that I had wg. He tried to get onto the raft, but from the narrow side, the bloody idiot, and overturned the whole contraption. Our things went down, of course, and we arrived on the other side, in our birthday suits, where the Americans were already waiting.
And then they marched us back, behind the Front, to a prisoner’s camp. We marched all day long, completely naked under the burning sun. I got sunburn all over my body and was so ill that they had to take me to the military hospital. »( Dad was very fair, with blue eyes and a very white skin which didn’t tan at all).
“Well, there the Americans had a very good time painting me all over with disinfectants, blue on my shoulders, red on my backside. I had an arse like a baboon, and they were howling with laughter!” Dad and I, on the phone, laughed just as much, of course, but that was 50 years later…
“They hadn’t behaved very decently all day, anyway. While we were marching they struck us with sticks, just like that, with no reason at all. The British were quite different there, I must say, more correct and fairer.”
(After a few days Dad had been transferred to a bigger prisoner’s camp under the command of a British officer.
“He wore a kilt, and for him we were not just Nazi swine but defeated enemies, soldier like the others. He was swell! He went right up to the German Army Stocks in Hamburg in order to get us uniforms and with that, all the decorations the men had had before. More honourable for both sides that way, he said.
We were fine there. At last we felt human again. We were prisoners on parole, had nice food, and nobody treated us with contempt.”
I would like to point out that my father was not an officer but a corporal: even men of the rank could give their word of honour, rather rare under the circumstances.
“When the unit organized a ball, they even invited us, and when they went out at night, they took us along. Sometimes, when “our” unit, the engineers, had a slight ”misunderstanding” with the neighbouring unit, who were only infantrymen, we had to support our kind hosts. And so it came about that British and German soldiers together, gave a good beating to other just as British soldiers…”
After a few months Dad was demobbed and got a railway ticket for Mannheim. How he found things there, and how the soldier Welcker changed back into the civilian Helmut, that is… quite another story!
for us laughing their heads off.