Professor Christa Smith remembers childhood after WWII

Joshua Daughrity

Staff Writer

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, at least.
Needy Refugees
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.
Military Thinned
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.