“How did the Germans survive...devastation, and live amid endless blocks of shattered homes...?”This was the question that Earl Beck voiced after he saw the ruins that were Post World War II Germany. How could one come out, with a sense of starting over after what Germany went through?
One could get through times of uncertainty and chaos with a sort of “safe place.” Usually these places were an actual city or house, the family, or retreating into their minds. Now not all the “safe places” were the same: they seem to differentiate between adults and children, and, also, Germans and Jews. This was understandable, since the circumstances were different for each type of German citizen and Jew in either Germany or German occupied areas.
When it came to survival, people will do anything, and for the people in Germany that was finding a place that they would be safe. Finding a “safe place” at the time was a broad term, but finding the “place” came down to how to survive and how to keep ones humanity in a time where humanity was not commonly known.
Primary sources are important when one tries to figure out what is going on in German citizens minds. In most books describing events in war, they just describe the facts and statistics of places and battles, but they leave the details in the life of the people that experience it. Each journal or autobiography says many details that secondary sources leave out. One of those is, what people consider a “safe place” in times of war. In more general terms, what the German people, whether an adult, child, or even Jewish, think was a “safe place” during the end of World War II when the state of Germany was in utter and total chaos.
There are several primary accounts on German and Jewish children, as well as adults. For example, Wolfgang Samuel’s autobiography called German Boy: A Refugee’s Story, helps better understand what children consider their “safe place.” He explained his life as a 9 year old German boy at the end of World War II. He explained times of terror and times of boredom and what he did during those times. He is very visual in telling of his fantasies at that time and how at bad times he would imagine himself somewhere else. One example was him explaining his tapestry in his bedroom that hung over his bed. He said that “over my bed hung an oriental tapestry depicting a forest scene and a herd of elk. When the morning sun shone on the tapestry, it came to life, and I would imagine at times escaping into its lush and thick forest.”
This quote along with many others in Samuel’s autobiography helped me put together my topic on “safe places” for German people.
Another primary source that depicts the life of German children during World War II was Karla Poewe’s Childhood in Germany During World War II: The Story of a Little Girl. Poewe’s book is an account of an unknown four-year-old girl and her life in Germany at the end of World War II. This young girl’s experience is another witness of how children create a fantasy to avoid their horrific circumstances by disconnecting themselves from reality. This, as well as similar sources, has helped historians to have a grasp on the well misunderstood life of Jewish children during World War II.
It is Jack Kruper’s Child of the Holocaust, that example primarily about Jewish children during World War II. He depicted that for Jewish children, they might not fantasize about places, so much, as fantasize about past experiences with their family. For example, Jack tells about the time he saw his grandfathers grave for the last time, “for a moment I now imagined he was running behind our wagon, dressed in his brown leather coat and hat with earflaps...he stretched toward me and called out, ‘Jankele, wait! I need a ride into town.’”
German adult accounts were not easily accessible. The two accounts were an anthology of...
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