Give your friends and family a really cool Christmas gift – a copy of my book! Below is an excerpt describing our Christmas in 1945. Christmas for your friends and family will be much better than ours was, especially if you give them my book!
My brother remembers that Christmas:
“The Christmas gift that year was part of an apple. Grandfather Josef Maurer peeled the apple with a knife. The peel was an unbroken spiral. My brother and I got to eat the peel. We also ate a little bit of the apple and ate the core. We ate the entire core, including seeds, but we did not eat the stem.”
You can make someone happy and purchase a gift copy here.
For those who have not read the book and wonder about the unusual title, the story behind the title is explained here.
We arrived in Columbus, Ohio, from West Germany, via the Port of New York, on Easter Sunday, 1952. Prior to that the only time within my memory that I had had enough to eat was on the ship sailing to America. There were many new and amazing things to experience in our new country. The abundance of food was a pleasant culture shock.
Excerpt from the book:
Our first visit to an American grocery store
I remember our first trip to an American grocery store, the A&P on Main Street, near the Capital University campus. It was a family affair with my Mom, Dad, my brother, and me. A nice American lady helped us with the shopping, a big help since everything was strange to us. We had just moved into our home on Mound Street, and we had no food in the house; the cupboards were bare.
The amount of food in the A&P was astounding. I had never seen such a so much food or such a wide selection. We filled a cart (smaller than today’s carts) full of groceries, which cost about $10. (That is about $88 in 2014 dollars.) I did not know someone could actually have enough food to fill such a huge basket. While amazed and pleased at the amount of food, it almost seemed wrong to buy that much. We had a refrigerator in the house for perishable food. Now that was amazing!
Bunks aboard the USNS General CC Ballou. With permission from Russ Padden: http://www.rpadden.com/157/AP157.htm
We were packed in in the ship like sardines. Maybe we even smelled as good as sardines? There were no shower facilities. Frankly, as a kid I did not mind the accommodations. We had all lived in worse conditions. We did have flush toilets in the front of the ship, and they were spotless. As I recall there were perhaps two rows of 30 toilets facing each other, rather close side by side, and totally open; no privacy walls. Privacy was not a feature of this “cruise”.
Needless to say, with such wonderful accommodations, we spent as much time on deck in the fresh air as possible. Mom felt strongly that it was healthy to be in the sun and fresh air. Both my brother and I were eager to be on the top deck as much as possible. We did not have cameras to take pictures, but there are pictures of the living quarters. Shown in the picture are the bunks of the USS General Ballou filled with GIs returning from Europe in late 1945.
We slept in the same bunks during our voyage as the GIs. Those young Americans also had a happy trip across the ocean.
When we came to the States in April, 1952, nearly all traffic across the Atlantic was by ship. Our ship, loaded with cargo and immigrants, was the USNS General C. C. Ballou. This picture was taken in Bremerhaven, Germany, sometime in 1952.
We departed Bremerhaven for the United States, together with over 1000 other refugees. Most were heading to America; for some the final destination was Canada. Seeing our names on the inbound (to NY) passenger manifest is quite exciting.
Because I can speak German, lived in Germany, and taught German in my second career, most people who know me think I was German. The manifest shows we weren’t German citizens, instead we were “Roumanian” displaced persons. Our names are listed on lines 7, 8, 9, and 10.
We sailed for America on March 31, 1952.
After leaving the Herzogenburg, Austria, refugee camp in February, 1945, we traveled to Weimar, Germany, where one of Mom’s sisters lived with her family. We arrived the day of a bombing raid.
By permission of Constantin Beyer http://www.constantinbeyer.de/
The book has a short chapter about those in our extended family who did not escape communist Romania. A 22-year-old cousin, Hanna, was arrested and taken from her home in the middle of the night and sent off to Russia in January, 1945. She became a slave laborer.
In her memoir she describes an event not long after arrival at her prison camp:
“It is winter, 1945. It is terribly cold. The cloth we wrapped around our mouths and noses to ward off the cold is frozen stiff from our breath; frozen on our cheeks. Our lips are tight and split and in our noses we have ice buildup. We are outside all day in the extreme cold, carrying loads of heavy stones with our handbarrows.
As we work we encounter a man. What does he look like? He is covered with hoar frost. Our clothing too, our head covering and hair underneath are white. But we do not look so ghostlike. Or does it only seem so? After all it is extremely cold.
The man is close to us. He is also slave-laborer, but one who seems to be already broken. He walks like a marionette with stiff frozen joints and his face is covered with hoar frost. But his beard – his long beard – is an icicle. We are shaken. His eyes seem to notice nothing. We are very close now; he does not see us. We have now passed him. The man is walking alone through the huge compound in the opposite direction.
What group is he with? We do not know. He seems older than we are. Maybe he has a family at home; wife and children, people who hope. For him hope seems to have died here.”
Dad was sick and starving, had a full beard, was very weak, and looked like a walking skeleton. He weighed 95 lbs. He was 27 at the time, but appeared much older. Because of his weakened condition he was released from Focsani, Romania, on August 28, 1945. It was an emotional moment for me when I found the original Certificate of Release document in the records my parents had saved.
On the Certificate of Release, written in blue ink toward the top in Cyrillic script is “Maroscher Gustav”. His birth year “1917” is two lines below. One can also read that he was prisoner number 17223. Above his prisoner number is his release date.
Mom, my brother, and me (the short one) in Russian occupied East Germany, not long after the bombing raids stopped.
This is most likely the house where, not long before the picture was taken, a bomb came crashing through the roof and two floors and stuck in the dirt of the cellar, but did not explode.
At the time Dad was a POW of the Russians and Mom did not know if he had survived the war or not.
Before World War II Dad was drafted into the Romanian army. Dad is shown on his horse while serving. Dad was in a Romanian mountain troop battalion. In spring, summer, and fall he rode his horse. In the winter cross country skis were used.
The Romanian military was the first of three armies Dad served in during WWII. In August, 1940, the northern part of our Transylvanian homeland was annexed to Hungary.
Dad was drafted into the Hungarian army not long thereafter, and fought on the Russian Front. The contrast between how Americans fought in WWII and how our dad fought is amazing. His unit in the Hungarian army had horse drawn wagons, and dad told me his allotment of mortar shells was two per mortar per week. Americans and Russians, supplied by American industry, had considerably more ammunition and mobility. Dad had to carefully husband his ammunition.
Dad is shown with some of the soldiers in his platoon. Dad is sitting on the left, eating something. The soldier in the rear left is resting a mortar round on Dad’s leg.
Just before the total breakdown of Axis resistance Dad was drafted into the German army.
Before World War II our life in Transylvania (part of Romania) was an idyllic rural life. My brother Gus (called Günter at the time) had seen his mother and the milkmaid milk the cows. He decided to milk the pig named Wunzu.