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Patz family part II

By Carol Sones Shetler as told by Erika Patz Hort - | Feb 24, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Posing in 1953 in front of their school in Germany are Patz siblings (left-right): Egon, Erika, Gisela and Ozzie.

After selling the horses in Stetten Bay, belongings were packed on a train for Donnenberg and from there to Weste. Erika said, “The family was relocated to Weste Sunderberg in March of 1945 where four months later I was born in Bevensen, Germany, the only one of ten children born in a hospital. (Two children died in infancy). Weste is located about 50 kilometers southeast of Hamburg, a town built around a farmhouse still there when I visited in 1999. A street circled the farm with houses built all around.”

In addition to residences, the town consisted of a clock tower, bakery and school, all built of brick including the barns. At the time in Germany, brick was cheaper than wood. West Bahnhof was the name of the train station about a half mile from Weste. In the opposite direction was Weste Sunderberg where Erika and her family lived in a double house the first five years of her life.

“As mom and dad had lost their home and could not go back to Poland after the war, the German government assigned housing to us. The family who owned and lived in the other half of the house were unhappy that we’d moved in and were very nasty. When laundry was hung in the attic, they poured acid on our clothes burning huge holes. We were called names and when they saw mother, yelled and called her a devil witch. We stayed as there was no where else to go,” Erika said.

On either side of the Patz family lived two farmers named Grafke and Bogelman. Frau Grafke was Erika’s Godmother, a very kind person who gave them milk and food when there was none. In Germany after the war, there was little food and few jobs. “After farmers harvested, we went behind digging potatoes and picked up wheat. When sugar beets were taken to the train station, we kids would follow and pick up any falling from the wagon,” Erika recalled.

In the first three years at this place, the father helped on both neighbors farms with daily pay being 40 pounds of potatoes. The mother cooked sugar beets into syrup which was the everyday breakfast eaten atop rye bread. Bread, butter, coffee, flour and other items were purchased with food rations. Though illegal, the father and eldest son Adewin hunted deer and rabbits.

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Erika Patz Hort chronicled the story of her Patz family living in Poland then Germany before coming to America. In Germany Erika nearly drowned in a well and was taught to beware of dangerous explosives remaining from wartime. As work and food was scarce, the children earned extra money picking and selling berries. Erika donated her story to the Montgomery Area Historical Society and gave permission for print in The Luminary. We are pleased to share it as a series with our readership.

Brother Egon told of sneaking over to Bogelman’s attic where sausages hung, steal one and bring it home. The mother would cook it never asking from where it came. She made soup out of everything; pumpkins, plums, but mostly potatoes and rivals. More food was available by 1948.

Erika recalled, “Memories from neighbor Frau Grafke’s house was that it was beautiful always smelling of bread and strudels baked in an oven in her back yard. She’d always give us some, it was heavenly. I remember her living room where I sat listening to her grandfather clock. My love for clocks and chimes is probably due to my memory of those times.”

One Christmas, brothers Adlewin and Ben dressed up as Santa Clauses. When they came into the house brother Egon was so scared he hid under the bed and would not come out. Egon was afraid of so many things, very scary in Germany at that time. Gifts were almost non-existent, maybe an orange, some walnuts and a few cookies.

“When I was five, we moved into a three room bungalow between Weste and the farms on the hill. There was a well but no indoor plumbing or central heating. All we kids slept in one bedroom with Mom and Dad in the living room. The corner Kachel oven burned turf where in winter bricks were placed to heat then wrap in towels and put in beds to warm them. Having an outhouse (privy) was the worst part, especially at night,” Erika said.

Laundry was done is a backyard shed with water brought up from the well into a tub where underneath a fire warmed the water. The tub also served for baths with all taking turns, usually on Saturdays.

Lots of army paraphernalia was left behind following the war. Brother Egon recalled that boys would climb in and out of tanks, jeeps and broken down wagons. Once as he was following a train to pick up fallen sugar beets finding a heavy live bomb, dragging it to the soccer field and telling a teacher. The proper authorities were called who came and disposed of the live bomb. Children were warned not to touch anything looking suspect.

Erika gave another example, “Two school friends of ours were herding sheep at night. As the weather was cold, they built a fire on top of a live grenade which exploded killing both of them.

(Next week – Erika receives first doll, packages from America, applying for immigration to America).