Past Darkness

What does WWII, lunch meat, and Elvis Presley have in common? They are all part of Doris H's (my grandmother's) history. She currently lives in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Her daughter, Claudia, lives with her along with three extremely overfed cats. Looking at where she is now, you would never have guessed where she came from.

Q. How old were you when WWII was going on?
A. Let's see, I was born in '39 in Friedberg, (pause) and the war was over in '45. I was 6 years old.

Q. Where any of your family forced to join Hitler's army?
A. They weren't forced, they were drafted. One of my uncles came back, one didn't.

Q. Did you know a family that had to hide because they were Jewish?
A. Yes, of course. There was a family we knew that said something bad against Hitler. The next day they got a knock at their door and were shot on their doorstep, right in my town. My mother knew many others, and some that had to go to the concentration camps. Nobody could say nothing bad about Hitler, otherwise you wouldn't be seen again.

Q. What was the most direct affect the war had on you and your family?
A. No food. You couldn't buy nothing. That was the worst part, you know, no food. You had to buy food-stamps for food. We would stand in line for hours just to get meat and fish.

Q. Did you and your brothers and sisters have to work when you were kids?
A. When we were 9-10 years old we went to work in the fields for the farmers. We worked hard, and made 50 cents for a half day. We worked from 1-6.

Q. What did your parents do?
A. My dad died when I was 4 years old. He was sick. My mother was left with five kids. She had to go to work every day. She worked in the fields, made hay, cut wheat. Everything farmers do, my mom did. The times was hard.


Q. What is your worst memory from the war?
A. We had a train station across the street from my house. A train was coming to the train station and bombers were following it from the air. The train stopped at the station and all the passengers got off, then the train kept going. When it got out of town, the planes bombed the train. I was watching the whole time, scared to death that the planes would shoot at us.

Q. Did that type of thing happen a lot?
A. It happened frequently in the big cities; the bombings and the killings. In the small towns, like where I lived, it didn't happen as often.

Q. How did you meet Elvis Presley?
A. He was stationed in my town during the war, so we saw him walking around a lot. I was working at a theatre and he wanted to buy a Coke. I wouldn't give him one, so he gave me a pack of cigarettes and I gave him a Coke.

Q. (I laugh) How old were you?
A. 18. Wait, no, 19. (She pauses) I was 21.

Q. Why did you leave Germany?
A. I was crazy. I married a GI, that's why.

Q. Where did you meet Opa (my grandfather)?
A. I don't think I should tell you this.... I met him at a bar on Virginia Beach. We knew each other for three months and then we got married.

Q. How long have you live in the United States?
A. I lived in Germany for 22 years and I've lived here for 47 years. In 1968 I got my citizenship.

Q. What do you miss most about Germany?
A. Food. Lunch Meat. My lunch meat I miss the most. Can't find much here, you know.

Q. Have you ever considered going back to Germany?
A. To visit. To live, no. I've lived here longer.





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