THE GERMANS tells of my early childhood as the youngest of five children living on a quiet farm in East Prussia under the watchful eyes of the Nazis. I witness the sudden absence of my playmates’ fathers, the military build up all around us, endless transports of wounded soldiers, bombing victims arriving by the thousands, camps with Russian prisoners of war, my Father’s incarceration in a concentration camp (although he was a naturalized American Citizen). By January of 1945 thousands of refugees, along with the retreating German military, line the highway. Father puts my sister, age sixteen, on the last refugee train out of the area, and we pack up and run from the advancing Red Army by horse and sled. But it is too late. We are turned back by German fighting forces. We end up on an isolated farm with several other refugee families.
THE RUSSIANS appear and unleash uncontrolled violence on us, their first German victims. They rape the women and torture the men. They take away my Father and my oldest brother, seventeen, despite their American citizenship. Two weeks later they abduct my middle brother, not yet fourteen, leaving Mother to cope with my youngest brother, age eleven and me, age nine. We witness suicides of desperation, cold blooded murder, starvation and brutality with an occasional act of kindness. Mother is raped as she lies dying of typhoid fever, leaving my brother and me at the mercy of strangers.
THE POLES follow the Russians as the new occupants of our properties. After continuous ousting from our various temporary living quarters, the Germans leave my brother and me with the Polish family who has settled on our farm. A drunken wife-beating husband, an ever-pregnant bitter wife, and vindictive unschooled children our age make up our new family. We are beaten, starved, held captive and tortured emotionally. My brother runs away, leaving me to fight alone for survival. Eventually I get away from this abusive family only to enter the hell of sexual molestation.
THE NEW GERMANS brings liberation. After three years of suffering all the remaining Germans are rounded up and transported out of the area in cattle cars. My brother appears minutes before the train leaves. We are put into an orphanage in East Germany until our family is found. Ten years pass before we are reunited in America, except for my father who perished in Siberia. I stay with aunts in recovering Germany until I, too, must go to America in order to retain my American citizenship. By the time I see my oldest two brothers and sister again, they are married.
EPILOGUE the Berlin wall comes down. I visit the family farm and stop at Mother’s gravesite. Sitting at the edge of a potato field where her body lies buried I tell her about my life in America.