Saturday, 14 February 2009

March 3rd 1945

On this day the war was over for us, the 9th US Army reached the Kreis Kempen.

Not that I understood it at the time, all I knew was that mother and I were alone in the house and mother was racing around in a panic. We rented two rooms and a kitchen in a house which belonged to Nazi sympathizers, members of the party since the beginning. Our landlord was somewhere at the front, but his wife and son, who was in the "Hitler Youth" lived in the same house.

When news of the Americans' imminent arrival reached the village this woman and her son fled; they were not the only ones. Mother was left with a houseful of incriminating material, from pamphlets and posters to uniforms and a Nazi flag, all the accumulated detritus of 12 years' party membership. How to get rid of this was a huge problem for her; she had no help, couldn't ask anyone for help - even at this late stage there were still pockets of German resistance and you could still get shot for any sign of mutiny -. But the stuff had to be got rid of. The papers, pamphlets, magazines and posters she burned, some in the range in the kitchen and some in the copper fire in the washhouse in the back. The uniforms, neckerchiefs and flag were much harder to dispose of. We had an earth closet in the back, in a part of the shed, the usual wooden box with a hole in the top and a cover for the hole; that's where she stuffed everything she couldn't burn. It was dark in the privy, the closet was deep and noisome; even a keen house search might forego a close inspection.

Mother could only hope that she had found and disposed of everything there was; we kept our heads down and awaited developments.

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