60 Years Ago Today

 

Friday, 25 July 1952:

I woke at 2:30 a.m. having fallen asleep and left the lights on. I stirred again at 7 a.m. since the bus was coming to pick us up at 8 a.m. As our day started, we dropped Marilyn in town, who was going to Berlin. Then we crossed the Blue Danube into the Bavaria section of Ulm. I spotted a tractor and combine and wondered if they were part of the Marshall Plan to help Europe recover from the war.

Soon we stopped in Augsburg, one of Germany’s oldest cities, which was founded in the 1st Century a.d. We found the Fugger house which was historically a prominent group of European bankers and parked in the midst of a cathedral. There was a monument to Bavarian soldiers and the foundation of an earlier church.

Next we went in a Catholic Cathedral where mass was being held with inside scaffolding to repair the cathedral all around us. It was huge and massive inside with only a few stained glass windows left. The Gothic south portal was unusual.

On the wooden streets, I talked to an officer about buying some cameras. I missed seeing the place where Martin Luther, a Protestant Reformist, made the Augsburg Confession. It took place at a little St. Anne’s Church in order to resolve religious controversies between the Protestants and Catholics. The Catholic Church tried to get him to recant here, but he wouldn’t.

Today St. Anne’s Church was used for either Catholic or Protestant members and the benches were able to be turned around. Half of the group was late seeing St. Anne’s Church. Henry came running back to let us know about it and everyone got excited about this fine deal. However, some of the kids had to pay this morning.

Then we went on to the Dachau Concentration Camp that was the first camp opened for political prisoners. It opened in 1933 where 70,000 people were killed. The town had spotlights with a little girl playing with a doll in the streets. Families of the refugees from East Germany lived there now.

During the tour I saw a German MP and the crematorium where the Jews were forced to dispose of their own corpses. Big ovens were used to burn their bodies and I glimpsed wreaths on the furnaces. What an eerie feeling to be where there had been so much suffering during the war.

There was a crematorium tombstone by the gate with flowers around it. The entrance gate stated “Arbeit macht frei” which was a German phrase that means work sets you free. Denket Daran Wie Wie Heir Starben. In front of the crematorium there was a monument of a skeleton like a man that represented all unknown prisoners and stated never again. Din Toten Zurchr Den Lebenden Zur Mahmung.

Farther on we went into a building that had a map of all the prison camps. The whole of Germany was dotted with prison camps. There were almost more camps than cities it seemed.

On April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated 31,432 persons were interned here. Along the walls were pictures of the appalling conditions during that time. There were gas chambers where prisoners were told to take a shower and then they were showered with gas instead of water. It was a death chamber. I also noticed a large tree that was used for hanging in the cemetery for prisoners who were then put in mass graves.

On the tour we passed a new crematorium which was used as another death chamber. Jewish prisoners were used for crematorium workers to perform the dirty work. Then they had their turn at death after five to six weeks. Afterwards, new workers were brought in and kept separate from the rest of the camp to supposedly keep the secret of what really was going on.

On the walls was a picture of Ilse Koch, who was a wife of the commandant and a guard. She was known as “The Witch of Buchenwald” by the inmates because of her alleged cruelty and lasciviousness toward prisoners at the Buchenwald Prison Camp. She embodied a woman that did not esteem the dignity of mankind. A sign stated: “Dignity of Mankind Entrusted to you. Guard it! It is you who degrades it. It is you who elates it!”

Afterwards, we proceeded to Munchen or Munich. Once getting there we traveled into town by the Bahnhofplatz train station plaza. In Königsplatz, a city square, we looked for an American Express for mail. It seems Munich has had better days. There were many beautiful buildings that were in ruins. However, some of the buildings had been restored.

We passed the obelisk that was erected in commemoration of 30,000 Bavarian Soldiers that had fallen in Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812. Finally, we found the American Express at the Odeonsplatz, a large square in central Munich, which was named after the former concert hall Odeon. Our mail was in a whole big wad of letters. With anticipation I joyously received two letters from Mom and Twila. I tried to buy some script. Ha ha! No luck again.

While we got our luggage from the bus we found out there were two main hotels for our group. Half the mob would stay at Three Lions Hotel and the rest of the mob at Esplanade Hotel just around the corner. Well, what do you know? We found ourselves right back by the Bahnhof, a former railway terminus in Berlin.

At the hotel I had room 27 which was nice and clean. The bed had sheets that were stuffed with a blanket for a cover and one big pillow. There was a window door opening onto the balcony that overlooked the station Platz. I discovered hot water and a door leading to a bath that was locked. I checked with the desk and found out that the bathroom was open for 6 marks 24 hours a day. I’ll have to see what I can arrange.

After checking about what was going on, I ran across the street to the ticket office to get a clue about concert tickets. There were only a few expensive tickets left for the concert. So I decided to rush down to Karlsplatz, a large square, to another ticket booth. Only two tickets were left for 7.80 marks. I dashed back to give Herr Rogers the dope and then went to pick up Carol.

I searched for the military PX and I couldn’t find it. Meanwhile a small nice serviceman helped us find American Express, but it was closed. Then we went back trying to find the military PX. And it wasn’t across the street where we had been told it was and where we thought it was. Everyone we asked said it was just five minutes farther.

As we continued looking we passed the Art Museum and Officer’s Club with English gardens behind. Then we spotted a sign down the street. Yea! We found it. We couldn’t go in but we checked to see if there were any cameras that we wanted. The PX had them, but we didn’t have any script. So we decided to give up for today and try again tomorrow.

As we walked back along the route we came on, we had a conducted tour of the American Way. It was situated in a bombed out building. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel for dinner. Dinner was good but quite meager.

I chatted with a desk clerk from Cologne, Germany. He told us to see the Hoffbrau House or Famous Beer Gardens. Carol asked him if he would take us there and he said he would be glad to at 10 p.m. when he got off work.

So we wandered out to take a look at the city by night. The ruined buildings didn’t have quite the harsh look as they did by daylight. We wandered through the Beer Gardens near the hotel to see what it was like. The beer was served in great big mugs. There was a band playing inside and out wearing native costumes. I observed German Frauleins with colored US Soldiers and other US Soldiers looking for other Frauleins. A serviceman told us that the Frauleins who associated with the colored soldiers would be branded for life after the troops left.

We hurried back to the hotel to wait for Mike. He seemed to be very well educated and was interesting to talk to. He came out with a briefcase and light blue sweater over a shirt with the sleeves of his shirt rolled up over his sweater. On the way to the Hoffbrau House, we discussed nationalities and how he felt about Americans. We heard a little of his life history where he apparently hadn’t suffered too much during World War II. His parents had sent him to a private school near where we saw Rommel’s house. He was 24 years old and seemed to have quite a superior air as we had been told to expect from the better educated in the German cast system. He claimed he liked Americans and was going to visit some relative in Boston next year. As we walked he told us the Marshall Plan built the hotel where we were staying. He pointed out all the landmarks, like the clocks, to us on the way down.

When we arrived at the Hoffbrau House, it was filled with people. We wandered past the band and had to sit at a table with some other people. Unfortunately, the band played only one tune after we got there. This was the low brow part.

It was an interesting crowd. All the people came to the Beer Gardens and everybody seemed happy and gay. We talked to a German who had been to Argentina and discussed how Hitler had been here and talked. Bombs had exploded here as well. On the way back we saw the place where Hitler was captured in 1923 in the early days of the Nazi party when they unsuccessfully tried to seize power. Hitler had hit the ground after being wounded when his group was fired at and then fled.

 

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