Continued from A baby and a story:
Yry’s trauma paled in comparison to the misery of millions around the world. Newspaper headlines screamed from overseas. There had been long silence from the German relatives. The British were dodging bombs, searching for scraps of food, and trying to stay warm and dry. Only a few hastily scribbled notes dribbled out to confirm their existence. The Russians inexorably pushed back the eastern front, crowing about the miserable conditions of the retreating German soldiers. Was Yry’s cousin Hermann one of those sick, scarecrows in tattered clothes fleeing the Russians? And what about food? Did the family have enough food? Were they safe? Had they survived the horrible winter?
The world rejoiced in May of 1945, when Hitler abruptly disappeared. Allied forces entered Berlin. Yry’s father, Herman, immediately barraged the US State Department with pleas for information about his brother and family in Germany. Letters began to trickle out.
Herman’s parents had survived five years of bombing. Berlin was a smoldering death trap with few intact buildings—those that stood, did so precariously. Willy and Nelly were grateful for their windowless home with tattered roof and no utilities. It was a base from which to scrounge for a living. Their stick figures shivered damply. Heating and cooking fuel were rare as an honest politician. Categorized as “old and unskilled” by the Russian regime that controlled their sector of Berlin, they received less than 1,248 calories worth of rations per day. Their daughter, Yry’s beloved Cousin Lore, left her parents alone in Berlin to commence a harrowing journey through the war-torn landscape to locate her brother, Hermann, who languished in a military hospital in the south. Word had arrived that a leg had been amputated and he was in critical condition. Lore set out to find and help her brother, even though that meant leaving her parents to fend for themselves.
Norah’s British relatives fared little better than Herman’s in Germany. Food there was also scarce, nerves as well as buildings, shaky. Norah’s cousin Ralph expressed a sentiment common of the citizenry of both countries.
I am sure the peoples of this earth do not, as individuals, wish to fight each other. It seems to be the respective governments which conduct us to our graves; to wit, the recent Moscow Conference. To realize our position here today would fill pages. In a word, it is not England any more, and is fast becoming a “Zazi” state; that is almost unbelievable after fighting against such a doctrine for six years.
After a harrowing journey through four national occupation zones, Lore located her brother in southern Germany and nursed him back to hope and determination. When he was well enough to leave the hospital, she helped him relocate to Langen, Germany where the southern Pauls still lived in their modest home. To this crowded venue, came Willy and Nellie from Berlin. Lore could then care for her entire family from one central location. The rural setting around Langen made it slightly easier to dig up abandoned potatoes, and to offer an extra pair of farming hands to women whose husbands had not returned from the front. The rewards were the milk, eggs, and occasional scraps of meat and vegetables that represented life or death for starving civilians.