“Safe Places” and What They Meant to the German People During World War Ii. Assignment

“Safe Places” and What They Meant to the German People During World War Ii. Assignment Words: 3108

“How did the Germans survive… devastation, and live amid endless blocks of shattered homes…? “This was the question that Earl Beck voiced after he saw the ruins that were Post World War II Germany. How could one come out, with a sense of starting over after what Germany went through? One could get through times of uncertainty and chaos with a sort of “safe place. ” Usually these places were an actual city or house, the family, or retreating into their minds. Now not all the “safe places” were the same: they seem to differentiate between adults and children, and, also, Germans and Jews.

This was understandable, since the circumstances were different for each type of German citizen and Jew in either Germany or German occupied areas. When it came to survival, people will do anything, and for the people in Germany that was finding a place that they would be safe. Finding a “safe place” at the time was a broad term, but finding the “place” came down to how to survive and how to keep ones humanity in a time where humanity was not commonly known. Primary sources are important when one tries to figure out what is going on in German citizens minds.

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In most books describing events in war, they just describe the facts and statistics of places and battles, but they leave the details in the life of the people that experience it. Each journal or autobiography says many details that secondary sources leave out. One of those is, what people consider a “safe place” in times of war. In more general terms, what the German people, whether an adult, child, or even Jewish, think was a “safe place” during the end of World War II when the state of Germany was in utter and total chaos. There are several primary accounts on German and Jewish children, as well as adults.

For example, Wolfgang Samuel’s autobiography called German Boy: A Refugee’s Story, helps better understand what children consider their “safe place. ” He explained his life as a 9 year old German boy at the end of World War II. He explained times of terror and times of boredom and what he did during those times. He is very visual in telling of his fantasies at that time and how at bad times he would imagine himself somewhere else. One example was him explaining his tapestry in his bedroom that hung over his bed. He said that “over my bed hung an oriental tapestry depicting a forest scene and a herd of elk.

When the morning sun shone on the tapestry, it came to life, and I would imagine at times escaping into its lush and thick forest. ” This quote along with many others in Samuel’s autobiography helped me put together my topic on “safe places” for German people. Another primary source that depicts the life of German children during World War II was Karla Poewe’s Childhood in Germany During World War II: The Story of a Little Girl. Poewe’s book is an account of an unknown four-year-old girl and her life in Germany at the end of World War II.

This young girl’s experience is another witness of how children create a fantasy to avoid their horrific circumstances by disconnecting themselves from reality. This, as well as similar sources, has helped historians to have a grasp on the well misunderstood life of Jewish children during World War II. It is Jack Kruper’s Child of the Holocaust, that example primarily about Jewish children during World War II. He depicted that for Jewish children, they might not fantasize about places, so much, as fantasize about past experiences with their family.

For example, Jack tells about the time he saw his grandfathers grave for the last time, “for a moment I now imagined he was running behind our wagon, dressed in his brown leather coat and hat with earflaps… he stretched toward me and called out, ‘Jankele, wait! I need a ride into town. ‘” German adult accounts were not easily accessible. The two accounts were an anthology of different stories all edited by one or two people. They are Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich compiled and German Saints at War compiled by Robert C. Freeman and John R. Felt.

Alison found a happy comparison in the German women’s minds and that was simply protecting oneself. “One had to. Otherwise, one could not have gone on living. Somewhere inside, one had to shut oneself off from it. ” This was big in all the German adults minds, along with Jewish adults. German Saints at War, along with being primary sources of German people’s time during World War II, it also had inserts of different events that happened in Germany at that time, making it also a very useful secondary source. In between the personal stories the Blitzkrieg and the firebombing of Dresden (which will be later examined) would be included.

Now the other secondary sources only included a couple of details about certain events in Germany to help authenticate the primary sources. Yet, George Eisen’s Children and Play in the Holocaust, played a big role. He explained activities in the ghettos (mostly) and concentration camps of Jewish children. Eisen’s big point was that to stay human, children played in even the grossest of conditions. He quoted Friedrich Schiller’s words that ” A man only plays when he is human in the fullest sense of the word and he is only human in the fullest sense of the word when he plays. The accounts of the German and Jewish people, did not elaborate on what their “safe place” was. Yet, all the accounts would indirectly center around just that, a “safe place” to survive the war. As fewer places are safe for people, the more people need them. Children, for instance, cannot fathom the reality of war. As times become hard for them, they start to fantasize more and more of their past. German and Jewish children alike, deal with the reality of war with getting “away” from it in their minds, by fantasy and playing pretend.

For the German children, ‘safe places’ were more fantasies of places while for Jewish children, they were fantasies in the form of pretend. Cities might have been bombed and families might have lost everything they owned, but Jewish children lost their families, sometimes their lives, along with everything they owned. Therefore, actual places were not accessible to them. They went to where nothing bad could touch them: their minds. The fantasies of these children and the games of pretend they played only got them out of their reality for just a little bit.

While the children made ‘safe places’ in their minds, they still had to face the reality that they are in. German children know about running back and forth from their house to the bomb shelter. The only problem was the children did not think that the bomb shelters were really a safe place. They, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “it was exciting to run from our home to the bomb shelter, seeing the bombers come in with all the lights and the noise, and the bombs beginning to fall. ” Yet, when the bombings actually started and got close the children were truly scared.

These children did anything to separate themselves from what they were going through. Karla Poewe shows when terrors like these bombs come about, children seem to separate themselves from everything, even themselves. She shows this instance in one little girl’s life as “She, the watcher, clutches a doll. She, who lives, stands alone… ” Along with the children desensitizing themselves at time of terror, they would also do it at times of boredom. When the Russians came into Germany at the end of the war, German families tried to flee with anything they could carry.

To most of the people in Germany, if you were in a Russian occupied zone, this could mean an early end to their life after the war. This was a big reason for all German families to leave their homes and try to find other places that they thought were “safe. ” They did not want to survive a terrible war to just be attacked, raped or killed by the Russian Red army. As more and more people fled by trains, the more crowded and unpredictable the train station was. While families waited for hours, sometimes in the freezing cold with little sleep for a train, children went to their “happy places” to try and make time go faster.

Also, for children evacuation, anywhere away from home, “was a journey into the unknown. Strange places, strange people and often strange customs. For those children whose future destination was in the hands of the authorities (or parents who are trying to get away from something), there was no way of them knowing what to expect. Many were very young… They were simply to young to retain it all. ” So since they could not retain all of the reality of what was going on, they would go “into their minds” and dream.

Wolfgang Samuel was one of those many children that spent hours in the Sagan train station, waiting to evacuate from the Russians. He would remember back to his times in Schlawe with his Opa and Oma. He described his time in the train station has having “pleasant memories of Schlawe float through my mind as I sat freezing on my suitcase. ” This shows that German children brought happy memories of places in their past in times of terror and even times of boredom. Fantasies get people out of reality whether they are in danger or just waiting for a train they are not even sure will come.

Jewish children also would have fantasies at times of terror and boredom but, unlike the Germans, would mainly play games of pretend, mixing reality with fantasy. The only problem, was games were not the same as games of the past. Eisen has said that “play in a given society must reflect society itself. ” They would play pretend and use “things” all around them, but those “things” would be the cart that just a day earlier carried the dead. Or even the children would be tickling a corpse that was on the side of the street.

Playing pretend is what children have done for years before World War II and after. Yet, this type of pretend, changes during war, to accommodate for the gruesome environment which they were in. Games of pretend were not what the Jewish children needed to get out of their current state. George Eisen explained this when it came to playing pretend, “play activities could provide only a temporary refuge. The spirit cannot rise when the body has sunk too low. ” Yes, they got outside of the ghetto and they thought they were playing, but these children really didn’t play, they only made-believe it was play.

For little children, the world was a fairy tale, but the fairy tale does not last as long as they want it to during war. Children have fantasies as their ‘safe places’ because there is really not a real safe place for them to go. Many children before the war, grew up listening to their parents telling them fairy tales, so when they cannot stand being in reality any longer, fairy tales are something they fantasize. They either put themselves as the main character in whatever tale they were fantasizing or they would envy how easy the characters life is.

While for both German and Jewish children ‘safe places’ were creating fantasies in their heads, German adults actually had tangible things or places that they thought were safe, while questioning what the end of the war left them, Hans Schmidt elaborated on these questions in the adults minds, “these questions mean life or death… these (people) forget it not for one moment. They think and speak of nothing else while Jewish adults had “families” as their “safe place. ” The beginning of the war, everyone in Germany seemed to be surrounded not by the Nazi Party, but by their home and family.

Places, especially home, gave people a sense of peace and safety. As long as they have a roof over their head and their family they are safe and happy, when the world outside is in utter chaos. For German families, as the years during World War II were starting to come to a close and Germany was slowly losing battles and territory, the flock to the ‘safe cities’ increased and became evermore frequently. The one place that most Germans thought would be “safe” and the place they flocked to during the end of the war, was Dresden. “The aim was to get to Dresden somehow.

We saw it as a nation’s Luftschutzkeller [air-raid shelter]. ” The only problem with everyone evacuating to Dresden was the fact that the city was not as safe as they thought. Dresden might have been spared from the Allies “area” bombings in 1944, but while the Russian forces were coming into Germany in 1944, the allies made plans to “disrupt communication and transportation lines between the two fronts. ” The cities that were on the Allies list were Berlin, Leipzig, and Dresden, and since Berlin and Leipzig were bombed in 1944, Dresden would soon.

Allies were also bombing as many cities as possible with the intention to cause the maximum damage possible, so that the Russians had an easier time destroying Germany. Dresden met its long-awaited demise by Allied bombs on the night of February 13th, 1945 and lasted til the 15th. Both British and American pilots subjected the poor citizens and refugees in Dresden to their death a total of four times. This city did not have the most bombs hit it then other German cities, but firestorms engulfed Dresden and that ended up picking the winds up. The winds were dangerous.

The winds would suffocate the air away and suck people back into the fire they were trying to escape from the burning buildings. Along with going to a place to stay safe, Germans made sure their families were all together. Herr Haferkamp said about keeping his wife and children together while evacuating to a small farm near Schwabish Hall in southwestern Germany, he “did not want one child there and one there and one there, I would not like to scrape my children off the walls later. ” This shows that family was big to all Germans during World War II. They made sure their whole family was together before they left to a safer city.

This means that the German people were not really safe, unless they had their loved ones with them. The Jewish people thought the same thing. While the Jews basic objective in the ghettos and eventually in the concentration camps was “to keep going” they needed to keep their humanity and for adults that was obtained by family and friends. For the Jews in Germany and German-occupied countries, everything was taken away from them, sometimes in less then five minutes. The SS would take them to ghettos or straight to the labor camps and the only thing they could bring with them was what they could carry and their families.

Sometimes, they would not have their immediate families, so they would make “families” with those they were with (in the camps mostly). The people in the camps went through the worst together, one woman even said that having others with her in the camp, going through the same things she was, made it easier. This unknown woman gave an example and she said that “when they had to shave their heads they started laughing, they thought it was so funny. ” This shows that something as bad as shaving your head (for girls at least) was made “better” in their minds when they were with other people.

Being alone was not good for them at the time when their own life and survival was all they could fight for. Of course, there are some Jews that had everything taken away from them and saw it as a good time to at least fight back for what they could get back. They joined the Jewish resistance. Dawidowicz explained that the Jewish resistance was deprived of family, so they fought to gain back their freedom and autonomy. “They no longer had to care and anxiety for baby brothers, younger sisters, aging parents, no more need to support or protect. This shows that since they did not have anything “holding them back” from risking their own life, they went after what they took was obtainable by resisting their German captors. Resistance usually ended up dead for most Jews, but they never gave up. Mike Wright told about the Warsaw Ghetto and how the Jews would revolt regularly, leading to 5,000 to 6,000 Jews being killed and the German guards trying to make the ghetto be “no longer in existence. ” Yet, no matter what Jews kept coming back to revolt over and over again. This showed that Jews were not ones to easily “put down” when they had absolutely everything taken away from them.

After looking into what the German and Jewish people thought were “safe places” during the end of World War II. Each situation was different, but there was a common link between all the situations. Before one would go to their “safe place”, they would think of their family first. Also they would do anything to “keep going” and survive. Survival is one of the basic instincts in humans, along with keeping one’s humanity (which would include being in a family unit). In the most terrible of times, these basic instincts directly confront people and seem to come out without warning or thinking about it.

In conclusion, whether German or Jewish, child or adult, a “safe place” is the source of survival and keeping one’s humanity in a time of chaos. The “safe place” does not have to be an actual place where one could possibly hide. “Safe places” could be just being with your family, or creating fantasies and playing games of pretend. Whether they had to leave their homes or had everything taken away, everyone desperately wanted to find their own personal “safe place. ” This would help them keep their sanity through the gruesome reality of war.

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"Safe Places" and What They Meant to the German People During World War Ii. Assignment. (2018, Dec 30). Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://anyassignment.com/history/safe-places-and-what-they-meant-to-the-german-people-during-world-war-ii-assignment-49765/