Editor's Note: Christa Smith,
Professor of Modern Languages at Wayland, was a young girl when her native
country of Germany was invaded and occupied by the Russians
during War World II. This is the first in a series of stories she has
told recounting her experiences during that time. Her original writings
have been edited and rewritten by Joshua Daughrity to modernize the language.
No content has been changed.
The speaker's voice went on and on.
It was January 31, 1945. There was conviction and persuasion in the voice,
but the people did not believe it anymore. They knew better already. "Women
and children shall not be disappointed," he said-and then the program
was ended abruptly.
If the people had not been afraid they would have laughed, laughed at
the speaker, who was their leader-or better, had been their leader but
had deserted and betrayed them even before his voice was cut off. And
laughed at themselves for having followed that leader, followed him even
to the edge of all human reasoning.
The people were afraid, because war had come too close and had cut them
off from a once gallant but now defeated nation.
Everyone had known the nation had been defeated for some time and was
just going through the final stages of the slow death of an extremely
painful and wicked disease. Nobody admitted this in front of others. Behind
closed doors, however, the people had listened to the forbidden foreign
radio broadcasts, and had understood the situation far better then the
leader had wanted them to understand. The people remained honest to themselves,
There were other signs that the end was near. For many weeks a steady
stream of needy refugees had touched my little city. Now, during the last
days, the stream had emptied itself almost completely. The last refugees
had said less and hurried more. They had not been as hungry as the ones
who had come from long distances, and they had been less exhausted. "The
border is no more, it gave way some days ago without struggle," or
"…there is almost no resistance, and there is fighting in Lansberg,
only twenty-five miles away!" These and other sayings were whispered
from one to another, because the "party" was still listening.
Fear had begun to fill the hearts of the women and children. Fear was
also in the brave, pretending hearts of the few old men and young boys
who were making valiant efforts to defend my little city.
After the long years of heartache and need, it was to be worse. What would
war be like in our own front yard? Who knew? How quick would the hordes
be gone? Did anyone remember the pictures in the old newspapers of the
people with their tongues nailed to tabletops? Why were people so cruel
in war? Was there still a way to escape? No, for not only had most of
the civilians left by now, but also the military was thinned to the utmost.
Someone had seen the last train of soldiers and weapons go by. There were
no more caravans of military vehicles, or horse drawn wagons going through
the little town. The ones that had earlier decided to stay with their
homes would have left now, had there been a way.
The danger came from the east, but already behind the forests to the north
and west and across the meadows and fields to the south, one could hear
the roar of heavy guns and the continuous sound of rolling artillery.
Sometimes the whole town seemed to shake with that rolling and thundering.
The people stood on the streets, talked, listened, and were afraid. They
were women and children, old men and young boys. The children looked apprehensive
and searched the faces of their elders. The disappointment they saw in
these faces registered in their own. They had been disappointed.
Next week, we will tell how Mrs. Smith's family
was forced from their ancestral home, and forced to walk with no provisions
back to the west, back to a defeated Germany, and back to the fruits of
a war that the people of Germany had not asked for.