November 22, 2009 - Luzia Herbert shares childhood memories of World War II
Union County resident Diana Carroll recently traveled to Indiana for a visit with her mother and other family members. During the visit, Diana's mom shared a moving story of life in Germany during the reign of Adolph Hitler. Mrs. Luzia Herbert has graciously agreed to share it with North Georgia News readers.
Luzia says, "I was born in April of 1933 in Mainz , Germany . This is the same year that Hitler came into power. The 2 nd World War started in 1939 when I was six and ended in 1945 when I was twelve."
"Times were very hard during the war. I can remember sometime around 1942, I was about nine or ten, and they were gathering up the Jews and putting them on trains. The Jews were nice people. We didn't know where they were taking them. We didn't know what happened until it all came out after the war was over. I get terribly sad whenever I think about it."
Luzia continues, "In 1941 my father was called into the army. My mother provided for us the best that she could. She worked in a hotel and in a shop. She sold her wedding ring. It was war time and life was hard. The bombing got heavier and heavier as time went on. We lost everything we owned during those years. We lived out of a suitcase. All you could hear were the bombs falling and explosions when they hit. You could hear pots and pans falling upstairs in the kitchens. Sometimes airplanes would swoop down and fire machine guns. One time while crossing a bridge, the girl next to me got shot in the leg (but she lived)."
"I've never forgotten the sounds of the bombs. I remember coming out of a basement where we had been trapped. Everything was black from smoke. There were flames where the buildings were on fire. Everything was burning. We lived on the streets because there was no place else to go. We drank water straight from the river and it made us very sick. Many people became ill from drinking that water. Mother and I walked and scrambled over dead bodies to get out of the ruins. We had to find food. There were no streets, just ruins, but we lived through it."
"Later, after the last bombing, German trucks came and took us to various small towns. They found everyone rooms or attics to live in. People took each other in. We were given food stamps but there wasn't much to buy. German money was no good once the war was over. The Germans couldn't supply us with much because there were no resources left. When we finally saw American soldiers, they looked very tired. I was twelve when the Americans marched in."
"There were no radios or movies but near the end of the war we heard that Hitler was hunkered down in a bunker - he was trying to stay out of the hands of the Americans. My father returned to us at the end of 1945. We didn't learn about Hitler's death until years later - I think I was sixteen when I finally heard about what happened to Hitler."
"The American soldiers were good to us. They made stew in pots that were made out of large Maxwell House Coffee cans. They punched a hole on each side and put handles on the cans. It was the first time I ever saw a Maxwell House coffee can. The Americans made the best stews out of rations and potatoes. They also gave us candy bars, chewing gum, soap, and anything else that was available. At Thanksgiving time they took us in and feed us in the mess halls."
Luzia says, "One day an American soldier yelled at me, Fräulein! Fräulein! He had a brand new, bright blue bicycle. I wanted to run over to him but my mother kept saying, 'No! No!' The soldier yelled back, 'Yes! Yes!' It turned out that the soldier wanted to give me the bicycle as a gift. I will never forget it."
Luzia continues, "Nine years after the war ended in 1954 I met my first husband, Sgt. Howard Whittaker. He served on a U.S.A. American Artillery Tanker. We came to the United States in September of 1957, but later divorced."
Luzia married again in 1964 and became a U.S. Citizen in November of 1975. She adds, "Life has been good to me here in the U.S.A. but my memories are forever and they are never forgotten. Mainz is now a beautiful city. Life goes on."
Thanks to Diana Carroll for the idea to do this story. Thanks to Jo Ann Gillian for recording Ms. Herbert's story on tape and taking notes. Most of all, thanks to Luzia Herbert for giving a real-life account of her childhood experiences.