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The Day Her World Changed
by Nadine Riggs
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I have always been a good listener I believe this is because while growing up it seemed no one except God took time to listen to what I had to say. So I found myself so enthralled by others stories that I could see myself in their situations as they told their tales. This happened each time I listened to the stories of one of my patients who I cared for in home care for about 3 years. So if you will forgive me I will slip into the trance I so often do, and tell you a little bit about her life just before, and during World War II.
She was a German citizen in the eastern portion of Germany when she finished school, and as all German youths were required to enlist in the military for two years after graduation she did as her country dictated. She remembered riding her bicycle back and forth to the base each day, but she did not mind as the German county-side was rather beautiful, and besides she could always use the exercise to burn off the frustration of the day. She remembered when she had first enlisted it had not seemed to be as much of a chore as it had in the last six months, and she knew it had something to do with the rise of the Nazi party, and of course Adolf Hitler.
Her fellow workers felt it as well the situation around them was becoming more, and more tense as the days past. She remembered thinking it was like waiting for a pot to boil, one never knew when it would, but it was a sure thing once you turned on the heat. She was really glad her time in the military was almost up, then she would return to the family farm, where her biggest worry was going to be who she would marry. Unfortunately though the situation turned much worse as she neared the end of her enlistment as the Nazi party began to round up the Jewish citizens, and march them to the train yards where they would board a train no more to be seen. No one seemed to know where they were taking them, and the German soldiers, and citizens knew it was better not to ask.
She was riding to work one day just a few days before she was to go home when she saw the most horrific site, and she knew immediately her life was never going to be the same again. She passed a line of Jewish prisoners as she was riding her bicycle they were headed in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. At the beginning of the line there were a couple of Nazi soldiers with rifles, and then every few feet after that she noticed two more soldiers on either side of the line. The soldiers were talking, and laughing, and a couple even whistled at her as she rode by, but she ignored them as she knew it would be better to avoid giving them any encouragement. The Jewish prisoners however, were not talking at all and she noticed as she was nearing the end of the line that they were looking rather haggard, and tired.
As she neared the end of the line she saw an older man fall to the ground and the Nazi soldier immediately behind him ran up, and started kicking the man un-mercilessly in his side as he was cursing at him to get up. The old man groaned, and began to curl up in a ball as the guard continued to kick him but he seemed unable to get up, and then to her horror he aimed his rifle right at the manís head, and he blew a hole in the side of it. After failing at kicking the manís body over into the ditch, he ordered a couple of the other prisoners to pick the man up and toss him in the ditch along the side of the road. It was too late though as a concerned bystander ran up and began yelling at the soldier that he was a murderer, she knew the young man, and she was glad he at least had chosen to say something because if he had not she intended to when she got close enough. Then to her horror another shot rang out and she saw the young man laying dead on the ground with a hole in the side of his head as well, and the Nazi soldier yelled at the prisoners to throw the two bodies in the ditch, and he told his partner they could send a wagon back to clean up the mess when they had arrived at where ever it was they were going. She did not even dare to look at the soldiers as she rode by them, nor the mess they had kicked over into the ditch, she was so angry though and she felt hot angry tears rolling uncontrollably down her cheeks as she raced towards the base as quickly as her legs would carry her.
She arrived at the base and quietly slipped into the bathroom before going to work to wash her face, so no one would notice her tears. She spent the rest of the day at work silently brooding over what she had seen, as she dare not tell anyone not knowing who was loyal to the Nazi party. As soon as she finished work she hopped on her bicycle, and rode back to her quarters as fast as her legs could carry her purposely avoiding the temptation to look into the ditch where she had seen the two bodies thrown earlier in the day. She locked her bike up quickly upon arrival, and without a word to her bunkmates she slipped into bed without even bothering to eat dinner, how could she after what she had seen on the road that morning.
She spent the last few days of her military carrier the same way going to work performing her duties with very little human interaction after all she did not want to end up dead in some ditch along the side of the road. When her enlistment was up she went home to the family farm, but was disappointed again as her family was packing up to leave, her father explained to her that they were told to leave by the Nazi party. So she helped them pack as much as they could in the wagon, and they left the farm never to return.
Her father paid all the money he and his family possessed to a West German farmer who allowed them to stay in his barn, there was plenty of room in the house, but the farmerís wife did not like the East German refugees. She treated them very poorly, and gave them very little food to eat. She remembered praying to God every night that the war would end soon, but it seemed to last forever, and as the fighting intensified her family was forced to stay in a bunker they dug out in the back pasture behind the barn. She said she could remember lying there some nights below the metal sheeting her father had placed over top of the bunker to shield them from the weather, and looking up to see bullets whirling past above them. As soon as the Americans liberated the western portion of Germany her father paid some American soldiers to slip her, and her sister onto a ship headed towards America, and she did not see her native country again for a long time.
The strange thing about the whole story for me was my family was part of the Polish Jewish people who were placed in concentration camps by the Naziís, those who did not escape that is, so I guess I saw all Germans the same way as angry Naziís. Strange how God teaches you different by placing a nice little old German lady in my path who had horror stories to tell about the war as well, but from the opposite side of the fence. Her family was waiting and praying for the Americans to get there just as much as mine. I was with her when she died four years after the doctors said she would, which goes to show you that even a weak heart cannot topple a strong spirit. I personally can say I felt truly blessed to have known her, and if she had died when they said she would I would not have had the pleasure of getting to know her, and here her story.

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