Childhood Memories....surviving WWII - by Karin Bartsch
As many of you already know, I wrote a book in August 2007 about my childhood years.
"Childhood Memories....surviving WWII" by Karin Bartsch
ISBN 978-1-4303-2866-7 With this number you can order it in any bookstore.
at the publisher Lulu.com http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=Childhood+Memories...surviving+WWII+by+Karin+Bartsch&type= - there also available as e-Book for US $ 3.99
at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Childhood-Memories-Surviving-World-War/dp/1430328665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425588914&sr=1-1&keywords=9781430328667
at Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Childhood-Memories-surviving-WWII-by-Karin-Bartsch?store=book&keyword=Childhood+Memories...surviving+WWII+by+Karin+Bartsch
Description of content
This book tells a personal story of a child driven away from her homeland under life-threatening circumstances. Having to endure unbearable cold, thirst and hunger, pains, sore feet from endless walking. Being tired, sooo tired.....
For anybody who doesn't know where East Prussia is located ( which is today a Russian Exclave, called Kaliningrad Oblast - Kaliningrad is the Russian name for our former Koenigsberg )
Latest review by my facebook friend Teresa Cypher, an author herself... :
Remembering, and forgiveness...
By Teresa Cypher on January 9, 2014
Wonderful memoir. Karin Bartsch is a non-native English speaker, and that's important to this review. She admits this in the first pages of the book and asks the reader to forgive her when her words aren't just right. I did.
This short memoir (104 pages) was a quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author's childhood was not typical by any means. In spite of that, this book is a beautiful, happy, sad, informative recollection of the author's childhood--much of it spent fleeing East Prussia--and certain death if her family had remained. It was a constant struggle, staying ahead of the Red Army.
Reading one memory, I actually laughed out loud. In the worst of times, humor (and the strength found in love of family) saw them through. I wiped tears near the end of the book. And I learned some history that I didn't know before.
In the end, I think what got to me was that this book-- written over 70 years later, is truly a collection of a child's memories filtered through a woman who has lived long, and examined those same memories to try and understand the why behind them. Why they were forced to become refugees, why people wanted to kill her--actually shot at her, why some people who had enough generously and kindly shared with her family to keep them from starving, and why others didn't. And why they were chased from their homeland...never to return.
And the truly beautiful thing about this story is that at some point, the why ceased to matter, and that she found understanding and forgiveness for those who wronged her so many years ago.
I actually think that the author's dialect transferred to written language enhances this story.
Five stars. Short read, Memoir.
First review of my book 11 Apr 2008 by Tanja Wood:
It was my pleasure to meet the author of this book and her husband, fellow full-time RVers, while traveling in southwestern Arizona this Spring. I was particularly interested in reading Karin's book because my parents also underwent hardships during WWII in the Netherlands, but they were on the "other side". Childhood Memories transcends "sides". It is a heartfelt and often heartrending account of a family struggling to survive as WWII drew to a close, and during the post-war years. Karin's happy early childhood in Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad) sets the stage. That all changed when Karin (then age 9), her mother, and her little sister Doris were caught up in the mass evacuation of East Prussia 1944-45. Reading Karin's book is just like sitting down with her and her husband in the always welcoming area beside their RV, where neighbors and passersby are often invited to sit down for a chat and a glass of red wine. No one can tell this story better than the people who lived it. Reading Childhood Memories, you will be caught up in a world that, depending on your background and your own history, may shock and horrify you, bring tears to your eyes, or both. No matter what "side" you, your parents, or grandparents were on, seeing WWII through the eyes of a 9-13 year old child who had to grow up very fast, will bring home once again to you the senselessness of wars. Thank you, Karin, for sharing that difficult time in your life with your readers. ------------------------------
Response by the author Karin Bartsch: Thanks, Tanja, for this heartfelt review! After having written that book I felt like someone had lifted a weight off my shoulders. It simply had to be done to bring that part of my life to a closure. I could only do it by my simple English which seems to be appropiate for this book because the emphasis is on the happenings rather than a sophisticated memoir. You don't only have to cry when reading, you can also laugh a little. There is always some fun next to pains and hardships. That is life... I was lucky not to have lost my nearest relatives in that hellish war, neither did Dieter, my husband. He had to flee also from Silesia (Schlesien)and went through similar hardships. We don't have any hard feelings against any country participating in that war. Our only wish is that next generations solve conflicts with diplomacy rather than war. The only real victims of a war are always the civilians and the soldiers giving their lives in combat - never the politicians initiating it. No political reason is enough to wage a war!! I wish our youth is hearing me, reading my book, to appreciate the good times now, the abundance of food and fun and not wasting any of it. I am waiting for that "Universal brotherly love" - when not in this lifetime, maybe in my next?? Karin.
Review at amazon.com by Kraven:
First off, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In the introduction, the author unnecessarily apologizes for any grammatical imperfections. This book is a narrative of a Prussian child's experiences, during the final days, and ensuing years after World War II, as recalled by the person who lived them. Any flaws in grammar, only add to its honest authenticity; I didn't read this story, so much as I "heard" it spoken from Karin's own lips, thankfully unspoiled by an editor's intrusive blue pencil.
Karin's story filled my mind with the terrible imagery of a family's suffering, caused by war; but it speaks more clearly and loudly of great love and devotion. Her family's journey is relatively short, geographically speaking (from eastern Prussia, to western Germany) but due to the circumstances of war, it is a very long one in endurance, that with out the creative perseverance of a loving family, and the incredible generosity, mutually shared with strangers, could not have been survived.
Karin, thank you for bringing me inside. As a post war American, it afforded me a personal view inside the war zone, from a civilian's perspective, that until I'd read your story, had only been generally imagined.
November 28. 2012
Message on facebook:
I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading your book on surviving WWII. It was as if I was sitting in front of you and you were telling the story. I pray that you have been able to come to some sense of peace for enduring such agony. I hope our paths cross again on a campground. God bless you and your husband. Rose Murphy (met at Styx River).
By Anne Micena
May 29, 2012
We met Karin and Dieter the first week of May, 2012, on the banks of the Colorado in Ehrenberg, AZ. We had cocktails by their RV and were impressed by their wit and fascinating stories. I purchased her book and as we continued our California journey, my husband and I both read it. This little book will be a treasured addition to my small library at home. Oh Karin, what a gem you have given all of us who have had the good fortune of coming across this small book! I will gladly order several copies to bring my relatives into the fold of enthusiastic readers. This is a true encapsulation of real life events right up there with Anne Frank or soldiers at war who have left diaries to reveal the horror and unfairness of man's quest to conquer. I considered History boring as a child. If only I had your book to inspire me to understand the COLOR of past events. We hope you keep up your insatiable search for the answers to life's questions and your true spirit of comraderie you show to all strangers who park near you. May your safe travels continue!
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Historic Background of Karin's book
Exerpts from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Evacuation of East Prussia
The evacuation of East Prussia refers to the evacuation of the German civilian population and military personnel in East Prussia and the Klaipėda region between 20 January, and March 1945, as part of the evacuation of German civilians towards the end of World War II. It is not to be confused with the expulsion after the war had ended, under Soviet occupation.
The evacuation, which had been delayed for months, was initiated due to fear of the Red Army advances during the East Prussian Offensive. Some parts of the evacuation were planned as a military necessity, Operation Hannibal being the most important military operation involved in the evacuation. However, many refugees took to the roads on their own because of reported Soviet atrocities against Germans in the areas under Soviet control. Allegations of Soviet atrocities were disseminated not only through the official news and propaganda outlets of the Third Reich, but also by rumors that swept through the military and civilian population.
Despite having detailed evacuation plans for some areas, authorities of the Third Reich, including the Gauleiter of East Prussia, Erich Koch, delayed action until January 20, when it was too late for an orderly evacuation, and the civil services were eventually overwhelmed by the huge number of those wishing to evacuate. Coupled with the panic caused by the speed of the Soviet advance, civilians caught in the middle of combat, and the bitter winter weather, many thousands of refugees died during the evacuation period.
The Soviets took complete control of East Prussia in May 1945. A large part of the German civil population managed to evacuate, though about 300,000 were killed during the Soviet offensive. In May 1945 Soviet authorities registered 193,000 Germans in East Prussia but an estimated number of 800,000 managed to return after the end of military actions, who were later expelled by the Soviet and Polish authorities. The census of 1950 indicated an ethnic German population in East Prussia of 164,000.
The Soviet army initiated an offensive into East Prussia in October 1944, but it was temporarily driven back two weeks later. After that, the German Ministry of Propaganda reported that war crimes had taken place in East Prussian villages, in particular in Nemmersdorf, where (according to the Ministry) inhabitants had been raped and killed by the advancing Soviets. Since the Nazi war effort had largely stripped the civil population of able-bodied men for service in the military, the victims of the atrocity were primarily old men, women, and children. Upon the Soviet withdrawal from the area, German authorities sent in film crews to document what had happened, and invited observers as further witnesses. A documentary film from the footage obtained during this effort was put together and shown in cinemas in East Prussia, with the intention of hardening civilian and military resolve in resisting the Soviets. Nazi propaganda about the atrocities at Nemmersdorf, as well as on other crimes committed in East Prussia, convinced the remaining civilians that they should not get caught by the advancing enemy.
Since many Soviet soldiers had lost family and friends during the German invasion and partial occupation of the USSR (about 17 million Soviet civilians plus 10 million Soviet soldiers died in World War II, more, in absolute terms, than in any other country), many felt a desire for vengeance. Murders of Axis prisoners of war and German civilians are known from cases at Soviet military tribunals. Also, when Soviet troops moved into East Prussia, large numbers of enslaved Ostarbeiter ("Eastern workers") were freed, and knowledge of the suffering and deaths of many of these workers hardened the attitude of many Soviet soldiers towards East Prussians.
Lev Kopelev, who took part in the invasion of East Prussia, sharply criticized atrocities against the German civilian population. For this he was arrested in 1945 and sentenced to a ten-year term in the Gulag for "bourgeois humanism" and for "pity for the enemy". Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also served in East Prussia in 1945 and was arrested for criticizing Joseph Stalin and Soviet crimes in private correspondence with a friend. Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to an eight-year term in a labor camp.
East Prussian refugees
The evacuation plans for parts of East Prussia were ready in the second half of 1944. They consisted of both general plans and specific instructions for many towns. The plans encompassed not only civilians, but also industry and livestock.
Initially, Erich Koch, the Gauleiter of East Prussia, did not agree to the evacuation of the civilians (until 20 January 1945), and ordered that civilians trying to flee the region without permission would be instantly shot. Any kind of preparations made by civilians were treated as defeatism and "Wehrkraftzersetzung" (undermining of military morale). This did not, however, prevent Koch and many other Nazi functionaries from being among the first to flee during the Soviet advance. However, between 12 January and mid-February 1945, almost 8.5 million Germans fled the Eastern provinces of the Reich. Most of the refugees were women and children heading to western parts of Germany, carrying goods on improvised means of transport, such as wooden wagons and carts, as all the motorized vehicles and fuel had been confiscated by the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the war. After the Red Army reached the coast of the Vistula Lagoon near Elbing on January 23, 1945, cutting off the overland route between East Prussia and the western territories, the only way to leave was to cross the frozen Vistula Lagoon to reach the harbours of Danzig/Gdańsk or Gdingen/Gdynia to be evacuated by ships taking part in Operation Hannibal. Mingled with retreating Wehrmacht units,and without any camouflage or shelter, the refugees were attacked by Soviet bombers and fighter aircraft. Many wagons broke through the bomb-riddled ice covering the brackish water. Also horses and caretakers from the Trakehner stud farms were evacuated with the wagon trains. The evacuation was severely hampered by Wehrmacht units, which clogged roads and bridges.
The remaining men aged 16 - 60 were immediately incorporated into the Volkssturm. However, some Volkssturm members, without basic military knowledge and training, escaped into the woods, hoping to simply survive. Refugee trains leaving East Prussia were also extremely crowded, and due to the very low temperatures, children often froze to death during the journey. The last refugee train left Königsberg on January 22, 1945.
Military writer Antony Beevor wrote, in Berlin the Downfall, that:
Martin Bormann, the Reichsleiter of the National Socialist Party, whose Gauleiters had in most cases stopped the evacuation of women and children until it was too late, never mentions in his diary those fleeing in panic from the eastern regions. The incompetence with which they handled the refugee crisis is chilling, yet in the case of the Nazi hierarchy it is often hard to tell where irresponsibility ended and inhumanity began
was a military operation that started on January 21, 1945, on the orders of Admiral Karl Dönitz, withdrawing German troops and civilians from East Prussia. The flood of refugees turned the operation into one of the largest emergency evacuations by sea in history — over a period of 15 weeks, somewhere between 494 and 1,080 merchant vessels of all types and numerous naval craft, including Germany's largest remaining naval units, would transport about 800,000 - 900,000 refugees and 350,000 soldiers across the Baltic Sea to Germany and occupied Denmark. This evacuation was one of the German Navy's most significant achievements during the war.
The greatest recorded maritime disaster in history occurred during this operation, when the passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff was hit by three torpedoes from the Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea on the night of 30 January 1945. She sank in under 45 minutes; figures for the number of deaths vary, from possibly more than 5,300, to 7,000 or 7,400.The 949 survivors were rescued by Kriegsmarine vessels led by cruiser Admiral Hipper, although it is claimed that "the big warship could not risk heaving to, with a submarine close by." Also, on 14 February, the SS General von Steuben left Pillau with 2,680 refugees onboard; it was hit by torpedoes just after departure, killing almost all aboard.
Battle of Königsberg
Soviet assault on Königsberg from 6 to 9 April 1945On January 24, 1945, the 3rd Belorussian Front led by General Chernyakhovsky, surrounded the capital city of East Prussia, Königsberg. The 3rd Panzer Army and around 200,000 civilians were trapped inside the city. In response to this, General Georg-Hans Reinhardt, commander of the Army Group Center, warned Hitler of the imminent Soviet threat, but the Führer refused to act. Due to the rapid approach of the 2nd Belorussian Front led by General Rokossovsky, Nazi authorities in Königsberg decided to send trains full of refugees to Allenstein, without knowing that the town had already been captured by the Soviet 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps.
During the Soviet assault, the Frische Nehrung spit became the last means of escape to the west. However, civilians which tried to escape along the spit were often intercepted and killed by Soviet tanks and patrols.Two thousand civilians left Königsberg every day and tried to reach the already crowded town of Pillau. The final Soviet assault on Königsberg started on 2 April with a heavy bombardment of the city. The land route to Pillau was once again severed and those civilians who were still in the city died in their thousands. Eventually, the Nazi garrison surrendered on April 9, and as Beevor wrote, "the rape of women and girls went unchecked in the ruined city"
The widely-publicized killings and rapes in places like Nemmersdorf by the Soviets led to a severe degree of fear in the entire German population of East Prussia. Even enslaved Soviet women liberated by Soviet troops were often raped by Soviet soldiers. Beevor argues that these acts of violence were motivated by a desire for revenge and retribution for crimes committed by the Nazis during their invasion of Soviet Union.
War reporter Vasily Grossman said that the rear-guard units of the advancing Soviet armies were usually responsible for a large number of the crimes committed by Red Army personnel. Wealthy civilians of East Prussia were often shot by Soviet soldiers, their goods stolen, and their houses set on fire, as a result of Soviet propaganda advocating the eradication of the aristocracy. Soviet Officers like Lev Kopelev, who tried to prevent crimes, were accused of mercy with the enemy and became Gulag prisoners.
The Red Army eliminated all pockets of resistance and took control of East Prussia in May 1945. The exact number of civilian dead has never been determined, but is estimated to be at least 300,000, with most of them dying under miserable conditions. However, most of the German inhabitants, which at that point consisted mainly of children, women, and old men, did escape the Red Army as part of the largest exodus of people in human history. As Antony Beevor also said:
“ A population which had stood at 2.2 million in 1940 was reduced to 193,000 at the end of May 1945. ”
According to other sources in summer 1945 about 800,000 Germans were still living in East Prussia. The Red Army's brutality towards civilians during the East Prussian campaign, coupled with years of Nazi propaganda regarding the Soviet Union, led many German soldiers on the Eastern Front to believe that "there could be no purpose in surviving Soviet victory". This belief motivated many German soldiers to continue fighting even though they believed that the war was lost, and this contributed to higher Soviet casualties.
Most Germans who were not evacuated during the war were expelled from East Prussia and the other former German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line in the years immediately after the end of World War II, as agreed to by the Allies at the Potsdam conference, because in the words of Winston Churchill:
“ Expulsion is the method which, in so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble. A clean sweep will be made. ”
After World War II, as also agreed at the Potsdam Conference (which met from 17 July until 2 August, 1945), all of the area east of the Oder-Neisse line, whether recognized by the international community as part of Germany before 1933 or occupied by Germany during World War II, was placed under the jurisdiction of other countries. The relevant paragraph regarding East Prussia in the Potsdam Agreement is:
City of Koenigsberg and the adjacent area.
The Conference examined a proposal by the Soviet Government to the effect that pending the final determination of territorial questions at the peace settlement, the section of the western frontier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which is adjacent to the Baltic Sea should pass from a point on the eastern shore of the Bay of Danzig to the east, north of Braunsberg-Goldap, to the meeting point of the frontiers of Lithuania, the Polish Republic and East Prussia.
The Conference has agreed in principle to the proposal of the Soviet Government concerning the ultimate transfer to the Soviet Union of the City of Koenigsberg and the area adjacent to it as described above subject to expert examination of the actual frontier.
The President of the United States and the British Prime Minister have declared that they will support the proposal of the Conference at the forthcoming peace settlement.
http://canitz.org/site/index.html This link is one of the most important of this page to understand how sad the entire situation had been when it happened.........Title: Koenigsberg/East Prussia - Remembered