Germans listen to fading voices of war's last survivors

Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:15pm EDT
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) - Huddled with her younger brother and scores of other children in a Berlin bunker, Gisela Teichmann was gripped by fear rather than relief when the German army capitulated 70 years ago on May 8, 1945, bringing the war in Europe to an end.

"There was no rejoicing. We were scared. The Russians were here, we were awfully frightened of them," recalls the 80-year-old west Berliner whose father was killed on the Russian Front.

"The Russians used to come into the shelters saying "Frau komm". That meant they were going to rape the women. I can still hear the women shrieking. I remember the Russians saying "Uri, Uri", when they wanted people's watches. It was a dreadful time."

Just 10-years old at the time, she recalls eating dry bread, stealing food and scrounging cigarettes from British soldiers in the western sector of the city they occupied. The streets near her home were reduced to piles of rubble and the charred remains of buildings poked into the sky.

For decades she blocked out the worst memories.

"It was bewildering, uncertain. Now, it is moving to talk about it," said spritely Teichmann who, seven decades on, is still wary of Russia, still ashamed of her nationality when abroad.

Nazism, the Holocaust and the devastation wrought by the war continue to exert a strong influence on German identity and politics.

But as they near the end of their lives, many Germans who lived through it are talking more openly and younger generations are grasping at their last chance to hear personal accounts.   Continued...

A Russian armoured vehicle is pictured at the junction between Ritter Street and Alexandrinen Street in this undated photo taken May 1945 in Berlin.  REUTERS/MHM/Georgiy Samsonov/Handout via Reuters