Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My German Grandparents Wilhelm and Helene: Separated By The Wall (Another Remembrance)

After World War II in 1959, the Russians built a wall separating East from West Berlin.

Both my grandparents were born and lived in an East German town called Zeitz and they had 11 children, only 2 still alive, my uncles Bernd and Jürgen (pronounced "Yer-gen").

My grandfather fought for the German army - the "Wehrmacht"*. He wasn't a Nazi, just a common soldier who never took the Hitler oath of loyalty - and when the war was over he was on the west side, and she on the Communist-occupied eastern side.

He decided that being a normal German living in a democracy was better than being a Communist and got ready to have her and the kids brought over.

But fate intervened.

First of all, she and the kids were now under the rule of the Russian Communists and travel anywhere to the west became pretty much impossible unless one tunneled under the wall, but my grandfather kept trying to get special permission for his family to join him. It was never given.

Did I mention they were both stubborn as mules? She would not desert her kids and he would not go back under Communist rule (which he could have done).

So, for many years, they lived apart, until the one time Helene (pronounced "Heh-lain-uh") did got special permission to travel to the west and see him. By that time he was in a nursing home. That many years had passed and it's the last time each saw the other alive.

In the 70's however, my Mom and Dad were able to get my grandmother ("Oma") to the US, because by then she was too old to be of any use to the Communist government. She stayed with us for a month (the limit) and afterward my mother made many trips back to Germany (at least one per year) to see her. Helene died in 1975. She was in her 80's.

Willi too, made it to the US, thanks again to my Mom and Dad, but due to his declining mental health (it wasn't called Alzheimer's officially at that time) it was difficult to keep him with us in the house, and he sneaked off many times, and the Villa Rica cops had to bring him back. My "Opa" was used to walking everywhere, and he didn't mind the 3 mile hike into town, where no one understood a damn word he said.:) He died not long thereafter, also in his 80's.

So even though both made it to see us, it wasn't at the same time, and of course they never saw "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down (that) wall!"

I don't doubt they loved each other. They wrote and telephoned and never divorced, but neither would relent and that's how that story ends. Sad, huh?
* I could teach you how to pronounce "Wehrmacht", but you, probably not used to making the guttural "ch" sound, would probably hawk up a loogie in the process, so just say "Wair-Mahkt" and you'll avoid embarrassing yourself. :)

In a future entry, I'll tell you about my short time as a Communist while staying with my Oma for a few months, and how the United States Air Force found out about it, when I joined in 1970 and got a secret clearance.
A couple of tunes I listen to while jogging on the track:

Looking at Mozart's profile makes me hungry for some cannoli. You?

I usually end my blog asking you to click and feed unwanted pets, which people I'm sure take to mean cats and dogs, but this time I want to link you also to a FB site called "A Hoof And A Prayer", which my friend Anna from The Straight Dope told me about. Unfortunately google won't let me hyperlink to facebook, so you'll have to do a facebook search. We sometimes forget there are other of our four-footed friends who need our help, and this is just one of them.

The Animal Rescue Site
Please remember to click and feed!




Micha said...

Hello Bill!

I wanted to leave a comment for you. Today I read about you at WoW Insider and wanted to read more about you in your blog. I was starting to smile as I read your last entry because I actually live in Germany.

Some of my ancestors has been separated as well and so I know how sad this can be. But since I'm only 31 I only lived 9 years in East Germany.

I also wanted to say that I think your way of living is very inspiring for others (at least I hope so). Keep on doing so :)

Best regards from Germany.

PS: I'm not sure if you want to be corrected or if its just a mistake but "Die Mauer" was build in 1961.

Bill Craig said...

Hallo Michael

Ich bedanke mich sehr daß Du meinen Blog gelesen hast, und auch für's korregieren! :) (I hope it's okay to write you in Deutsch; it does help with the memory.)

Der Fehler gehört mir. Habe falsch geraten. :)

Danke auch für's Kompliment!. Es freut mich sehr daß mein Blog (und mein Leben) Dir geffällt.

Schöne Grüße aus Carrollton, Georgia USA!

Die Rechnung (Bill - "Rechnung ist mein Spiznamen zuhause in Germany!:))

Micha said...

Wow. Hallo Bill :)

Of course its fine to answer in German. Ich finde es erstaunlich, dass dies noch so gut funktioniert. Ich meine du bist als kleiner Junge ja aus Deutschland fortgezogen und trotzdem klingt es perfekt. Sprichst du dies noch regelmäßig?

Dass du sogar die Umlaute (mit einer deutschen Tastatur?) komplett schreibst finde ich erstaunlich.

May I ask you a question? As far as I know Bill is short for William, isn't it? I always wondered why this is the case? Maybe you can help me answer this question?

Aber nun gehe ich ins Bett... es wird Zeit ;)

Viele Grüße nach Georgia. Ich war übrigens schon im wunderschönen Savannah. DAs ist echt eine tolle Gegend.


Bill Craig said...

Ach nee! So lange musstest Du auf eine Antwort warten! Es tut mir echt leid, Michael.

Ich habe mit meiner Mama (nachdem wir zu den Staaten gezogen sind) immer Deutsch gesprochen und deswegen habe ich es behalten. Es fehlt mir nur manchesmal die Grammatik. Ich mache auch ein-bis-zweimal des Jahres Urlaub in meiner Heimat Stadt Rothenburg o.d.Tauber, und so kann ich dann mit meine Kumpels schwätzen! LOL.

Also, warum Bill aus "William"? In frühere Zeit war der Name "Will" ausgesprochen und aus "Will" kam "Bill". Mein richtiger (?) Namen aber ist "Wilhelm". My parents "Americanized" it!

I möchte mich nochmal bei Dir entschuldigen daß es so lange gedauert hat mit der Antwort, und ich hoffe Du bist mir nich böse.

Mein e-mail lauted:

Alles gute aus Georgia!