Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 1953 - A milestone in my life

It is Christmas Eve.

Memories of former Christmas celebrations come to mind while the chicken in the oven sends waves of a wonderful aroma into our living quarters. We would have liked to roast the traditional goose, but money is short and we are experienced in living life the simple way.

Bringing you back to Germany, to the summer of 1953. I was 17 years young and very much in love with Dieter, who I knew already since 2 years via a youth club. In the beginning of our meeting each other I mentioned to him that I somehow have to get a hold of a certain book written in Latin because I had Latin in school and this school had only limited editions of it - like every school in Germany at that time. World War II was very effective in destroying almost everything. His eyes lit up and he said: I still have mine, you can have it, I do not need it anymore. Dieter was 2,5 years older than I and he was an apprentice in the construction business, he learned to be a mason. At the next day, after his work was done, he came with his motorcycle to the doorsteps of the house, where we had rented a small apartment in the city of Haltern am See. My mother called down to him to come up and visit with us. It was not really love on first sight, but over time I recognized that he had a very honest character, was helpful and a little shy.

Karin  is 15 years and just had her braids cut off
At that time the only entertainments available were the movie theater and the dance floor at the weekends, next to strolling the sidewalks in the city and meeting fellow youth club members. Looking back I wonder how the entire family could be so happy, how we both could be so happy while we had nothing than our will to learn, to live and hardly any clothing to wear. We both had to flee our homeland, flee the Russian war front in winter 1944/45 - Dieter had to leave Silesia and I had to leave East Prussia at the Baltic Sea. All we salvaged was our clothing on our bodies and some packs and sacks on our backs and in our hands. But this topic will be another post at another time.....
We were very poor and I was glad that I had a boyfriend who was able to pay for my movie ticket and a roll of candies, even though he only earned a small allowance as an apprentice and he had to divide his earned money into three parts, one for himself and the other two as an allowance for his younger brothers.

But we had fun. My parents had both a wonderful singing voice, Papa was a Bariton and Mutti sang Soprano. My voice was not bad either and so was Dieter's. He joined the three of us to be a member in the church choire. The dirigent had been my teacher in Elementary school in Haltern am See. He was a wonderful human being, loved by all his students. He not only loved me but also liked Dieter very much. His family name was Benfer. I come back to him later on in this post.....

My parents came with us to dance on weekends, so did many other parents of the youth club, because the parents were in their own club, where all members were celebrating memories of their homeland by singing folk songs and dancing folk dances and listening to stories of survivors. Dancing and having a glass of alcohol or two, was wiping all sorrows of living away, at least for a while. On Sunday after church my parents and we both had nice walks through the nearby forest. I was very well chaperoned, but nevertheless, both Dieter and I were content with that. We had our first kiss together after knowing each other for one year. We made   tours with his small motorcycle on Sundays, hiked, walked and talked.

Ride into the mountains to hike - 1952
NSU ZDB 124 ccm
Dieter in summer 1952

 Dieter started to be unhappy during that fateful summer of 1953. His parents were in the process of immigrating to the United States and he did not want to go with them. He wanted to stay in Germany. His parents did not want to hear any of this and forced him to go with them. The dreaded time was September. He had in mind to study in Germany to be a construction engineer and architect.
When i told my friends that Dieter promised to return, they just laughed and said:  Yeah, yeah,  once in America he will stay there! I would not follow him and he knew that. His father was very angry with me just for being there and being loved by his son.

Long story shortened:  He had left. He wrote from New Jersey almost every day a letter on very thin airmail paper about his life and about loving me. He was the only one in his family speaking basic English and having a job at a big construction firm. He worked there for 3 months and one day he went to a travel office, bought a ship ticket ( there were no passenger flights at that time until 10 years later...) and told his family he was leaving. It came sooner than he himself would have thought it would have happened because he was drafted. He filled out paperwork and gave the envelope to his mother to mail it. He was supposed to deliver it himself by reporting to the drafting office. After 2 days over the time he was expected there, 2 FBI officers were on the doorsteps of his parents apartment. His mother told them that he is on his way back to Germany.

Dieter on the steamer "Atlantic" on his way back to Karin.

Meanwhile on the steamer, the purser came and confiscated his passport without explanation. After a couple of days he got it back without words. The traveling by ship over the Atlantic took 9 full days. Later on Dieter learned that the draft was unlawful, he was not 6 months in the USA when it would have been lawful and he would have been sent to Korea.

My mother received a letter from Dieter's mother telling her that Dieter was on his way to us and that she put Dieter's welfare into my mother's hands. He was expected back in a German Harbor on Dec.23rd. The ship was held up for another day because of thick sea fog. We did not know that and we waited that day - and waited. I was a nervous wreck. The other day, on Christmas Eve, we were supposed to be in church by 10 minutes before 5 PM sharp. It was already 4 PM and nothing happened. I was sitting and brooding.... when suddenly my mother cried out: A taxi, a taxi - Dieter is coming!  I was standing in the door frame of that room with a blank stare and mumbled: What should I do now? My mother replied: Put your dress on! ( I was  only in my underdress in order not to wrinkle my precious but very simple dress ). Then the entrance door opened and Dieter put his suitcase on the floor and stormed up the flight of stairs to embrace me.....

What a joy! My mother served him hot coffee, we talked a little and we left for church in time.
In churches in Germany it is usually really quiet before the service. Everybody whispers... This time was different, at least up where the organ was and where the choir members where recognizing Dieter. He was hugged and greeted and also warmly welcomed by Mr. Benfer. It got louder and louder up there. Most in the congregation turned around and looked up with asking faces....

Our pastor had not the ability to fascinate with his speeches, he was boring, to say it in short.
He started to greet everyone: I greet the old ones, I greet the young ones, the sick ones  - and so forth. After he was done with greeting, my old teacher Benfer said very loudly:  He forgot to greet Dieter. I am convinced that everyone in the church had heard it.

Dieter and Karin together again!

My friends could not believe their eyes seeing Dieter. Later on my best girlfriend tried hard to win Dieter over for herself - without success, of course. Two years later we got engaged at Christmas Eve.
Dieter proposed by asking my father for my hand and my Papa was very pleased. Dieter was very much loved by my parents. Dieter had a room in the house of a family friend, where he lived when he came home on weekends. He studied 4 years, one year in Essen and 3 years in Koblenz and he graduated as a construction engineer.

We will be married 56 years on March 25. 2013.

March 25.  1957


  1. Karin, what a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing such poignant memories of your life - and the very precious pictures! It is a miracle you have preserved them all these years - with all you both have been through and your myriad travels. I can't wait to read more!!!! . . .

    1. I am so thankful for your feedback, Mary. You are very welcome.

      Did you look into my new website?
      Enjoy Christmas Day tomorrow. My best wishes and a big hug, my friend!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Karin, I love this new blog of yours. This entry was just beautiful; I read every word. The photos are priceless. I hope you and Dieter had a great Christmas. So looking forward to seeing you both again soon. Hey, I also am starting a new blog here - it's meant to help me stay motivated to learn the German language and culture. I'm calling it "Texasmochi's "All Things German" Blog" :-)

  4. Thanks very much, TexasMochi. Will look into your Blog.

  5. I am at a loss why my Blogger picture does not show in my comments. Will try now another Blog ID......

  6. I went into the Blogger Forum and learned that other bloggers had the same problem. At one point it will be corrected. Until then I just use my Blogger URL from to redirect my readers to my "other" blog.....

  7. This is like a fairy tale.. Reminding me sound of music.. But your story is 10000 times more lovely.

    I have no words to express my feelings..

    Keep smiling.. :) :)

    1. Thanks, Arun - Yes, I keep on smiling....:)

    2. As I can see, the picture ID issue is not solved yet.....

    3. Solved the ID picture issue by letting Google+ be the boss over my "Blogger" blog.

  8. Thanks, Mark! Will see you around.....

  9. Beautiful story, Karin. ^_^

    And Dieter was quite the looker, especially so on that ship.

    1. Yes, thanks you, Henrik, I am touched by my own story every time I read it again....smiling.......

    2. Dear Henrik - are you o.k.? I want to contact you but every info disappeared, including your mail and email address. Can you send me an email to my Google email?

  10. Such a lovely, fairytale romance! ♥ Looking forward to celebrate your 60th anniversary, Karin and Dieter.