This is the story of how Hilde met John and other adventures.
(As it was dictated to Maria by mom, April 2000/January 2008)
It was the year 1936, and in Stettin, a busy coastal town on the East Baltic Sea where I grew up, life was still going along at its normal pace and I was busy enjoying my teenage years. My life in those days revolved around the Catholic Church and the large youth group that Pfarrer Jochman encouraged. When I first noticed Hans Schmidt he didn't appeal to me at all because I was only 18 and he was already 28. I had not thought of getting married and settling down yet and at first he did seem to be a bit odd. We had two youth groups from our church, one for girls and one for boys. Hans was the leader of the boys group. I wasn't thinking of dating anyone at the time but John's niece, Tante Agatha's daughter was in my group. One day she told me that her uncle wanted to take a few of us girls on a ride and he specifically asked her to invite me. So one Sunday morning after mass we took off for Insel Rugen. We girls had a lot of fun. We were giggling about lots of things but Hans wanted me to sit in front with him in his Adler Trumpf Jr.; which was a fairly new model and also had front wheel drive, which had just been developed. We had to cross the Baltic Sea with a ferry and arrived at the island, with magnificent white chalk cliffs. We walked around on the island and enjoyed a few happy hours and returned home again. I still remember the dress I had on with blue and white stripes and how wonderful the day was.
Not too long after that, Hans who knew where I worked, stopped his car on the side of the road as I was walking home, opened the door and asked me if he could talk to me. In the car he asked me if we could be friends but he also stated that he was hoping that it would end in marriage. This way he wanted to make sure I knew that he had honorable intentions. Hans asked me to just think about it. So that was actually the way he proposed and I was pretty shocked. I came home and told my mother and told her how uncertain I was and she said " You surely will not stomp on your luck with your own two feet". My father already knew Hans, since he lived across the street from us and his family had a crate factory so everyone in the neighborhood knew the Schmidt's.
In 1937 we got officially engaged and Hans gave me my wedding band which I wore on my right hand until I got married and then it was the custom in Germany to switch it to the left hand. The engagement was on the 17th of May the day of Han's mother's birthday. We celebrated in the church with a blessing of the rings and we had cake and coffee with the immediate family at my house. In the afternoon we took a trip to Kloster Kolbatz, an old ruin which was on a large lake and was one of the places where people went on excursions in that area of the country.
After the engagement I got a good paying job at the Grosskraft werk (Power Plant), offices as an office worker. I took shorthand from the engineers and transcribed the work for them. From the money I made there I was able buy all the things a decent German girl had to have before her wedding. Of course it was minimal. During our engagement we took a walk one day in Eckeberger Wald and saw a For Sale sign on a little place covered with schrubs. It was like a summerhouse and we fell in love with the place. Han's mother had lain back $4000 DM for her funeral so she gave Hans that money to buy the house. Of course some of the rest of the family wasn't happy with her decision, but we were happy and Hans spent the rest of the year remodeling our little house in his spare time in the evenings.
Our wedding was on June 21st 1938. Pfarrer Jochman, who had already been transferred to Brandenburg came out to the house and just loved it. I remember that it invoked a line from a poem that he quoted and I still know it:
"Spann nocheinmal den Bogen, um uns Du Gruenes Zelt, da draussen stehts betrogen legt die verlogene Welt."
Translated it goes about like this: " Place a large green tent around us once more to cover us from the large deceived world which lies just outside". It seemed a fitting quote for that time in history.
At our wedding the church was packed because the beloved pastor came back for the occasion. They wanted to see him again. We celebrated in the Reichsgarten. It was a ballroom with a big garden in the back. We had a special room and a nice dinner. The only thing I remember eating was Stachelbeer Torte. We also had two white horses and a carriage to transport us from the church. My wedding dress was an organdy dress, which my sister's friend had sewn for me.
So began our life together........
Oma's First Communion
I was approximately 7 years old when I asked my parents if I could start communion instructions early. When the day of the first communion came I walked in front of the class because they had an uneven number and I was the smallest in the class. I wore a dress that my aunt had made for me and we marched into our places, I was in the first bench and was sitting at the first place. The church had pews rented out to people, our family's pew was way in the back and now I found myself in a pew in the front with the Schmidt's name on it. The priest's sermon was on Jesus in the flower garden. When the time came to receive Holy Communion we all walked to the communion rail. I was on the left side and when the priest came and brought us communion he started with me and I received communion and the priest went all the way to the end. I felt like Jesus had come into my heart and just knelt there for a while and all of a sudden the priest said "get up, get up", Suddenly I saw him in front of me. Everyone was waiting for me to lead him or her back to the pew. So I jumped up and went back.
We had a brunch afterwards at my house. One of the neighbor boys came to eat and was making a pig of himself and even though I had wanted to stay in my little world, I got upset and started crying. My brother came over and told me that I should not cry on my special day.
Here is my special communion prayer that I had learned for that day: Nun hab ich Dich, nun bist Du mein, Du liebes suesses Jesulein Nun schliess des Herzen's Tuer ich zu das nichts stoert meine liebes Ruh. Num sprich zu mir, ich lausche still, auf Dich allein ich hoeren will.
Hildegards mother....How Ida met Valentine
Ida's mother died when she was about 8 years old, but she still remembered her and how she used to take care of the church. When her mother died, her father married again and she made Ida and her brother's work very hard. The brothers decided to take off and go to Hamburg and Ida begged them to take her along too.
So Ida ended up working in a "lokal" in Hamburg and still remembered how the ships horns used to toot when they came and left the harbor. Two gentlemen frequented the lokal very often and both fell for her. One was a very kind man named Wohlgemut and one was Valentine Witek. Wolgemut was kind but not very handsome and Valentine was more street smart and a real sharp dresser. Ida fell for Valentine and when he kept pressuring her into a more serious relationship by telling her that she didn't love him, she finally gave in and found herself pregnant. So Valentine took her back to his parents in Stettin. His mother was a stern, unloving kind of woman and of course they had to get married as soon as possible. Valentine somehow got pneumonia, but even so the ceremony was conducted with him in bed and Ida standing at his side. It should have been and omen for Ida who would soon find her husband looking out the window at other women and coming home drunk many times. She would find her solace in her faith and even in the end she was on her way to church and had just bought a train ticket and sat down in the seat and died of a heart attack. The pastor at her funeral said that she had bought a ticket to heaven.
Mom left Stettin: 1945
The year was 1945 the Russions were 20 miles from Stettin that March. We heard the guns in the distance. The Germans referred to that as "Stalin's organ". Most of my neighbors had already left and Hans was a soldier in Russia and kept writing me to stay in the house or we would lose it. So I was left alone to make the decision whether to stay or to go. Michael was almost 5 at the time and he and I would pray in front of the crucifix that I had in my hallway and we would ask God to let us know what to do. The answer came in the form of a Lithuanian woman that came to my door and said to me "Frau Schmidt" You're still here? She then proceeded to tell me of the horrors that had happened in her country when the Russians came and how they had treated women and children. She told me that I would probably never see my children again. That filled me with horror and I felt that was my answer from God.
So I stuffed three backpacks full, and the children all had double layers of clothes on. Barbara was one year old and she was in a baby carriage. On top of the carriage I filled a sack with the feather beds for the children. We had to go to a school, which was assigned to us, and from there we took a military truck to Berlin. It stopped at the Potsdammer Platz. The soldiers told us to wait there for another truck that would take us to the Potsdammer Bahnhof and from there we had to take a train. Before we got on the truck, Michael had to go potty so I took him by the hand and went with him and all of a sudden I heard the truck engine start and drive away. I almost had heart failure because Omi, Monika and Barbara were still in the truck. So I started screaming and yelling for the truck to stop. The people in the back of the truck saw me and told the driver to stop. When we came to the train station, we saw that all the trains were full of refugees and no one wanted to help a woman with a baby carriage. For 24 hrs I sat in the Bahnhof and had to go underground every time the alarms went off. So I was sitting there with Oma and the children when I started talking with a young soldier and told him I had already sat here for one day and no one would help me get into the train. Around midnight another train came in and he just pushed the wagon in for me not caring whether the people complained or not. There were lots of tired people that had already come in from East Prussia and naturally complained about having to move. People were laying all over the floors and any available area.
That night we came to Brandenburg around 2AM. The city was dead quiet and my mother and I walked through the city and I noticed how Michael was standing there quietly with tears in his eyes. It broke my heart that my child had to suffer so much already at that age. We came to Fr. Jochman's rectory, which was our destination and were reunited with John's sister Agnes there. That is where Hans found us after he was shipped to Bavaria for recuperation from his "injury" in Russia.
Continuation January 2008 in Quibiri Nursing Home
We went to Brandenburg because Tange Agnes was there. We lived in the rectory with Father Jochman. We slept at Tante Agnes in her apartment the first night and slept so well on the floor because we were completely exhausted. We moved into the rectory and stayed there and bombs were flying the day before Easter and one hit the rectory but didn’t explode, we were in the basement praying the rosary. Dad came there from the hospital in Baveria and he said we had to get out of there because the Russians would come there too. We packed up everything and caught the last train going to the British zone and we got shoved into a train and dad stayed with Michael on another train. People we fighting to get onto the train and dad just shoved us in. We arrived at Schuersdorf bei Luebeck in North West Germany and we walked another kl. We didn’t mind the walk because it was so quiet and peaceful in that town. It was like another world. That’s where Tante Grete, mom's sister lived. She gave us something to eat and then we slept on a straw bales in a schoolhouse where all the refugees slept. We got one school room and the people that had lived there were Nazi’s and dad and Uncle Paul started griping about that and mom said that they should just stop about politics since they had given us a room. The next place we lived was in Schabeutz.Thomas was born in Timdorferstrand where they had setup an old villa for pregnant women who were about to give birth. Mom stayed there for a few days until Tom was born. Uncle Paul, mom's brother got us labeled as politically persecuted by the nazi's because Opa had been jailed in the East so we got special treatment from the British occupational authorities and got to rent a garage where dad started building wooden shoes. We lived in a nice house with one room and a kitchen and a nice veranda overlooking the Baltic Sea. People couldn’t buy anything since the economy was non existant so wooden shoes were in demand. Mom’s friend Liesel Guenterberg came with her husband whose uncle was employed with the city and they got us permission to move to the Reinland.
From there we moved to Grevenbroich near Cologne. Uncle Alfons, dad's brother had moved with his son Linus to Schabeutz and came there with us. Dad continued the wooden shoe business there.
Mom and Dad had belonged to the Quickborn Youth Group and they had a meeting around Pentecost at Bruehl. They went with Michael and Monika and the men and women slept in barns and had meetings in the great halls. Everyone sat on a huge lawn and people played guitars and sang wonderful Christian songs. They talked about the spirit of God hovering over the place Bruehl…..name of Burg. It was a wonderful spiritual renewal. That’s where we got to know Pater Johannes who was helping orphan boys in Rhederfeld. At that time Alfons and his wife and family came and there was strain in the family because they wanted to take over the business. So dad decided to give everything to his brother and then moved to Rhederfeld. On the way we had some car trouble and we were standing with the kids on the side of the road and two women from a nearby farm come to help us and gave us breakfast and helped with the kids. Mom was pregnant with Maria at the time. Pater Johannes was surprised to see us but they let us stay in the hut where the boys stayed. Soon dad was able to put together one of the metal huts which were left over from the war while mom was going into labor. Mom was sitting on the bed crying because the hut had not been sealed off yet and dad put together four army cots where the children slept and in the bottom cot mom had Maria while the other children slept. At 4AM Maria was born the day after mom’s birthday. Dad finished the hut and made it real cozy for us. We didn’t have any money so a farmer gave us milk. Dad helped build a church from an all purpose building. We were living in the army barracks and dad had already built a porch from peat but the state wanted to develop all that land so we had to move. Dad saw an ad in a church paper that all Germans that had lived east of the Oder/Niesse had permission to immigrate to the US. The Raphael’s Verein, national Catholic Welfare was sponsoring them. Pfarrer Schmatznie got it done and they wrote us to come to the military caserne in Ventorf. We got interviewed and stayed there for almost 4 weeks. We all got shots and Barbara screamed “Onkel tue nicht so doll”. These doctors were like vets. Mom was pregnant with Johnny so mom couldn’t go on the plane. They told us to go back home. Onkel Franz, dad’s fathers brother came to Rhede before all this with his wife Maria and dad built a stone house in the woods with a chicken coop. Felicitas was born in that stone house They gave dad money for the house and dad built them a small room at the back with a kitchen. Tante Agnes came to visit us and Maria introduced herself “Ich heisse Maria Elizabeth und das ist Thomas Mores.” Tante was so impressed with you introduction. While they were there Onkel Franz died. Omi came and visited us and mom had to help put Onkel Franz in the casket. Mom said that Onkel Franz died after they ate cabbage rolls and he had so much gas that he busted. We’ll that’s her version. We all followed the casket to the cemetery in Rhede. Johnny was born in the hospital in Rhede. We had to let the people in Venthof know about that and they sent a car and from there we took a train to Venthof the camp. They checked every child to see if anyone had fever before we could fly off in Bremen, the flying Tiger Line. We flew to Montreal and they let us out to get some breakfast (eggs, bacon and potatoes). We were not used to food like that for breakfast and Barbara threw up at the cash register on the way out. From there we flew to New York. We flew into a black wall of hail, thunder and finally landed in New York Laguarda airport. We had to go to Ellis Island and got our passports stamped. From there were got sent to Grand Central where the people from the Raphael’s Verein came and picked us up. The woman from there gave mom a package. It was a compact with Mary’s picture on it. Mom never wore makeup, so she thought that was crazy. We were also shocked at the way people dressed with hats and flowers on them. Mom had to tell us kids not to laugh or make fun of the way people dressed. Some Germans that came with us were so shocked that they turned right back. Then a couple came and put us on a bus. We lived on 33st in a cockroach hotel and mom said that all she did all day was clean.
We stayed at that hotel for two months and dad went to Reading Penn. He got a job there and was looking for a house for a family with 7 children but couldn’t find anything. Mom in the meantime was busy cleaning the room and the bathroom, which was thick with dirt. She also asked for a vacuum cleaner but the people wouldn’t give her one so she got us to help her roll up the carpet and drag it out to the balcony and shake it or beat it clean like they did in Germany. The people in the other buildings just stared at us because they had never seen anything like it. This was in May of 1952. A priest in Reading told dad about Fr. Fitkow who lived in the Bronx. He was traveling all over collecting money to build a church in East Germany. He knew a lot of people and had lived in east Prussia and had been sent to Sibera where he had to beg for food and got real sick so they sent him back home to Germany. In Poland on the way back home in a railway station he saw a Polish priest and ran out and knelt in front of him and asked for his blessing. The priest looked at him and said, you German swine, won’t get a blessing from me. Dad met him in the Bronx and asked some friends in Columbus if they would give us some room. They agreed and so the next day he told us to pack up and he took us to Columbus. We lived on 3rd St. in German Village and mom sent Monika and the smaller children to play in Shiller Park until the neighbors warned us about the danger of that. Monika was around 10 years old. Dad built a stairway and the people gave us food and a small room but no money. They asked us to wash our hair with laundry detergent. It was too hard to live there so dad looked for other work and he started working as a roofer and then he met Mr. Strang who owned a farm on Tuller Rd. Mr. Wilcox who lived on Snouffer Rd. came to Columbus and packed up all our stuff onto a truck and brought us to the farm. Wilcox’s had horses and a nice farm. Mr. Strang was managing all his brothers’ properties and they had a beautiful house on the Scioto River, which is still standing today. We spent a lot of time on that river. Mr. Strang was a bachelor and dad fixed up his side of the house. In the meantime mom was pregnant with Christopher. Mom was standing at the stove cooking some meat and Mr. Strang was always standing over mom criticizing her cooking when her water broke and dad brought her to St. Ann’s. She arrived there and they said she just couldn’t march in there and drop a baby. They said she should have come before and gotten checked. She told them if they don’t take her she’d go to the fire department and have them deliver her baby. So they said ok, we’ll help you. Bernie was also born on Tuller Rd. Michael had to bring mom to the hospital and we walked along the sidewalk to the hospital and my skirt fell down. I was so huge.
Mr. Strang died suddenly so dad went to work with a contractor in Columbus. Dr. Fitkow and Mr. Strangs sister let us borrow some money so that we could buy the property on Summitview Rd. for $3500.-
There was a man named Mr. Weiss that we got to know through church and he introduced him to a Mr. Haus who was Scandinavian. Mr. McDeil was a friend of Mr. Haus and he had invented a form for building adobe walls and dad tried the form and it worked but it was to small and to slow for dad, so he ended up building his own forms for the walls from plywood. Mr. Weiss helped dad with the permits. So dad built the famous adobe house on Summitview Rd, which nobody thought, would survive the Ohio rains but it’s still standing today as beautiful as ever.
Bernie was born when they were delivering the tectum for the ceiling. Michael drove me to the hospital. There was no one there to unload the truck so I asked the neighbors down the road behind Conine’s and they helped unload. Dad also built a cistern for water. It drained from the gutters and we were always aware of how valuable water was. There were a lot of people in our family using water so we were very careful about water usage.
Mom told me that Michael, Monika and Barbara always had to work during their summer vacation and that Father Fulcher at St. Michael’s told her that the children needed to have some vacation, but dad needed his helpers so that was that. We got used to always working and never taking vacations.
We drilled a well on Summitview Rd. but the water was full of iron.