Over the last three or four weeks I received many varied questions from my readers and tried to answer each and one of them individually.
However, Ms. Bunny, asked several questions which might be of interest to many, if not all of my readers. The answers might shock a few people who never read international accounts of that time. Let’s see if I am able to do this in a neutral and balanced way.. First of all the personal questions which are easy to answer.
1) Do I know what happened to my grandfather? No, All I knew that after his wife, my grandmother died, he was unable to keep his mouth shut and I think that this was the reason for his arrest by the SS. These prisoners, as well as homosexuals, were used as cannon fodder, Meaning they were sent to the front line. The line of the first defenders to catch the brunt of the advancing enemy.
2) Was it difficult to stay in touch with Harold due to the iron curtain? No, not at all, because Harold always found a way. Due to his incredible language skills he served on several occasions as a translator with Khrushchev’s team, including his historic visit to the United Nations in New York where the Russian premier took of his shoe and banged on the speaker podium. Remember this? He was outraged about our U 2 observation flights over Russia. Most of my future books will follow Harold as he proceeded with his own agenda. The future books will therefore also follow Kommissar Godunov and his political ambitions.
3) Do I still have family in German? No. But I still have a few friends who are, like me, in the middle 80s and consider me nuts, trying to write about times nobody in Germany wishes to remember.
4) How many civilians were killed during the time frame I am writing about?
Well, here is where it gets a bit difficult. But, besides Ms. Bunny’s question I received a few other likewise ones. My first response is: Nobody knows. Eight to ten days after Germany surrendered the Russians were still counting their own military deaths. In my own experience there was no effective way or method to tally the German civilian casualties. The Russian authorities reported about close to two million civilian casualties in the general area between Warsaw, Poland and Berlin. My question is: Did this include the casualties in the refugee trains? I mean the many trains filled with civilians fleeing from the Soviet onslaught. The common practice was that the Soviets raped all the women and girls and then burned the trains, filled with refugees, to ashes. Flamethrowers are a terrible weapon in combat. Used on helpless civilians…..your call.
Now, how many trains were there? Who did the counting? There was a report in a British paper where the reporter estimated that this alone amounted to over 20,000 casualties. The Russian papers estimated that the civilian casualties during the last week in Berlin exceeded 160,000. The German estimates were considerably higher. Again, who did the counting?
George Kennan, the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union (at that time) summed it up, and I quote:
“The Russians swept the native population clean in a manner that had no parallel since the days of the Asiatic hordes.”
Let me, please, add an undisputed fact which I remember from my assignments to the KLV camps in 1943. An average air raid (in 1943) killed between 1,000 and 2,000 civilians. In addition, each of these attacks always rendered at least 20,000 homeless. It was because of these figures that the KLV camps became mandatory with the terrible result that when we returned the children from the ‘”safe” camps, nobody had any idea where the relatives where or if they were still alive. I know for a fact that in the end thousands of children went unaccounted for. It is anybody’s guess how many found their home or their relatives, or got adopted, or simply died. No school kept a record. It was no big deal at that time, the children had ‘no voice’, nobody cared, unless it was a parent looking for his child.
I tried in my books to write from my own young perspective, and avoided, on purpose, statistics. I mean I could, it would be a simple task. Which brings me to a question of my own: Should I write a small statistical follow up book? I mean no personal involvement. But, there were countless books written about figures and samples of atrocities. So, why add to the gruesome stories? My original agenda was to give a voice to our generation. Thankfully, some of the responses I get are telling me that I am succeeding.
Dear Sir, Thanks for answering my questions. I find your stories fascinating. I have known so many veterans from our side due to my previous work as a visiting nurse. I have never met someone who lived through the horror of the war in the sector that was “liberated” by the Russians. I have never thought that word was ironic until now.
Good bless and keep writing. 🙂
I am pleased to read that my answers sufficed and I had to smile that you thought that ‘liberating’ was an ironic word.
You are definitely right on that.
And, in the future, Bunny, please don’t call me ‘Dear Sir’. I mean I appreciate your respect, but since we are both on the same page just call me Horst.
Thanks, for your blessings and take good care.
I guess I left my Comments in the wrong place before. Mr. Christian, I recently bought your three books for my new Kindle Fire and read them one after the other! I was only five when WWII ended so I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but I’ve always been fascinated with the histories of it. However, I had no knowledge about the children, and their parents in Germany, or of the KLV camps of that period, so your books were really interesting to read.
The friendship and exploits of ‘Karl’ and Harold were amazing. I long suspected that you were ‘Karl.’ What became of your parents, brother, and sister? Did they come to the U.S., too? Did you and Harold have families of your own in the U.S. and Russia? What became of the faithful Alex? He certainly was a good bodyguard to have during those times. Did you ever find out what became of Peter and the children on that train? Did General Gudunov continue to be Harold’s benefactor? I had never heard of Russians being either friendly or kind! I also, enjoyed the subtle humor that went on in spite of those awful times. I know I have a lot of questions here. Kommisar Gudunov would not have liked my questions!
I’m looking forward for the continuation of your stories.
I am happy to read that you enjoyed my books. And, thank you very much for your interesting comments and your kind compliments.
You left your comments in the correct place, I just did not had the time to respond until now.
I am happy to answer your questions which are also answered in greater detail in my fourth book ‘Partners to a degree’ which I published a few days ago.
My parents stayed in Germany and died a few years ago. My brother lives in Las Vegas, NV and my sister lives in Spain. Harold became an international trader and died as a Russian officer.
You are right about Alex. He was a very simple soul, but without him, neither Harold nor I might not have survived. My future books are centered about Harold. Alex continued to play a part in Harold’s live and I will continue to write about him. Harold had no relatives in the US, but we stayed friends until he died. Godunov continued to be Harold’s benefactor in many ways. According to Harold he would have made it all the way to the top of political party in Russia. However, he was assassinated.
Please excuse the wrong words and typos, I think that my editors have their hands full, as English is my second language. I never had a single day of English lessons. This is really no excuse, off course, but please read it in a way of an explanation. I most certainly endeavor to be more careful, as you put it. Thanks again, Maura, and take good care.
Please don’t excuse your English. Even in the books I enjoy the little errors as they fit so naturally the circumstances and ages of the boys. One would not expect perfect English from any one of the characters in the books.
Thank you, Ellen,
You are very kind of commenting on my language skills.
I never expected that anyone would find something positive in it.
Your thoughtful words are more appreciated, Ellen, than you will ever know.
Wishing you a wonderful day,
I enjoyed reading Children to a Degree.
I lived in Austria from 1980 to 1992. During that time, I had a close friend who had grown up in Berlin during the war years. In the 80s she moved to Austria and settled in a farm area to enjoy her retirement years in the same place she had been sent to live during the war. Through your book I was able put her childhood in Austria into the context of the KLV.
I appreciated the insights you shared.
Thank you for reading my books and for your kind remarks.
In many instances the KLV camps served their intended purpose and for many of the children it was like a forced vacation.
Some of the camps, like the one you mentioned in Austria, were in peaceful settings. Food was not great , but somehow sufficient and the schooling was down to a bare minimum.
Not a bad place to be for a child being evacuated from the nightmares of air attacks.
In my books I tried to write about the miseries which developed when the school administration broke down in some of the major cities like Berlin and Dresden.
It was pure chaos when the children transports arrived without any supervision back in the cities and the adults (teachers, or role models if you will) ran away to save their own hide.
The children had been without any contact with their parents and had no idea if their relatives were even still alive. Due to their age they did not know the way home home from the rail road stations and if the parents were still alive they had no clue that their children had arrived.
It was a situation without a solution and hard to describe.
Thanks again, Tom, for your interest and if you have any questions in this regard, just let me know.
Take good care,
Thanks for your kind response.
My friend Waltraud never talked about her return to Berlin. I don’t know if she was caught up in the misery you talk about in Loyal to a Degree (which I am know reading).
I do know that she later slipped out of East Berlin and lived most of her adult life in West Germany, but never really felt at home there.
As a sixty something, she moved to the rural area of Upper Austria. There she connected with the children (now adults) who she had known during her childhood. I believe she then felt at home.
Thanks again for your response to my comment.
Children To a Degree answered questions I’ve long had about why the educated, cultured, strong-smart Germans allowed Hitler and the Nazis and their atrocities. The best of us, it turns out, are easily led by a cult of personality. How pretty are the pictures he paints!
Karl is fascinating. He has learned (had to learn) to be a leader, decision maker, he is focused and organized. I saved the second book, “Loyal To a Degree,” for a long airplane trip. Today I ordered the third. Thank you so much Mr. Christian, for giving this perspective.
Thank you very much for your interest in my stories and I hope that I did not cause you to fall asleep during your airplane trip.
You are definitely right by observing that we are easily led by personalities. I guess it is human nature. We experienced it before and because we are unwilling to learn (it seems that we prefer to do our own mistakes) we will experience it again. Take good care, Lee, and thanks again.
Did you ever find out what happened to Peter and the boys who were to take the train from Poland back to Berlin?
Thank you for your question. No, sorry I never found out what happened to the train.
At that time there were confirmed reports that the Polish underground and resistance group sabotaged trains.
There were many, many homeless children wandering the streets of the eastern cities and many got adopted by some caring adults.
However, Peter was 14 years old and if he would have been well, he would have gotten in contact with Berlin through the local HJ offices.
Whatever I tried at that time, which was not much because the communication systems broke down after the Soviets closed their stronghold around Berlin……., but even many years after the war…..I never heard from him or about him. I have to conclude that he was one of the many unknown children casualties of the “Total War.”
Thanks for your interest, Ann.
Thank you so much for your ‘..To a Degree series” I have just read all of them this week- back to back. What a wonderful story, and view into the lives of the German children during WWII. I am an avid WWII researcher- driven primarily because I wonder how I would have responded to such chaos in the world.
Aside from the gruesome books on the Holocaust, the battles themselves, and the general history of the war and its ‘players’, I was pleased to read the children’s world.
People forget that the “bad guys” were not the PEOPLE, but the politics who drove the catastrophe.
I am pleased to read that you liked my books. Your comments show me that I was able to convey the thoughts and feelings of the 14 years old. We had no voice during the war and we had no voice afterwards. But now, through the self publishing technology, it is possible to write about their experiences.
Thank you for reading my stories, Mary, and take good care,
The work of Horst Christian in bringing to life the legacy and impact of a world at war on the lives of women, children, families, civilians and soldiers alike is simply mesmerizing. Across the generations and past the decades that now distance us from the devastating upheaval of an unprecedented global conflict, he draws on personal experience to convey a story for which he can uniquely account, shedding further light on the human cost of total war. His books are a gift to the world and a reminder how important are the words: never again.
Please forgive me to take so long to answer your comments.
It is just a fact that I cannot find the words to correctly express my appreciation. As you surely know, writing is a very solitary activity and I always wonder if my readers will understand what I am trying to convey. Your very kind and flattering words made me realize that I am somehow succeeding. You are correct that I am writing about unparalleled difficult times.
And, it is an equal difficult task to write a truly “balanced” account about times when your core values changed on a nearly daily basis.
This constant adjustment was not voluntary, but forced by events. It is probably the reason that we grew up much faster and with a very different frame of mind than the youth of today.
You are right: Never again!!!
Thanks again, Lillie,
Thank you so much Horst for a wonderful book. It has helped me a great deal in my understanding of life for many; especially families in Germany during the War Years. It i a valuable addition to my research on the Third Reich which goes back to my High School years.nearly 60 years ago! Seeing through your eyes the mind set and survival skills you learned opened my eyes to the reality that many suffered under Fascism. Do you see any parallels in today’s Amerika??? Is it possible for U.S. to avoid that same fate??? Only a few seem to understand this drift our leaders are following as well. Do you have any words of wisdom for people here about seeing the Truth in following blind obedience???
Thank you for your very kind comments. I am happy to read that my books assist you in your ongoing research about the Third Reich.
Should you have any questions about our daily living during these times, please don’t hesitate and fire away.
Now, do I see any parallels in today’s Amerika?
This is a bit difficult to answer, because I don’t wish to offend any particular mindset or believe system, but I think that you have to be pretty blind or unwilling to observe, if you don’t notice certain similarities.
Yes, it is possible for the US to avoid a similar fate, but (just like my mother did) burying our head in the sand is not the answer.
As for words of wisdom, well, due to my many years of travel which took me all over the world I know for a fact that we are still living in the very best country in the world. We are miles ahead of whatever comes second. But, I like to suggest that we also need to look over our shoulder to see what is gaining on us. It’s just common sense.
I guess that many people feel that they might not like the answers …. so …. they prefer not to ask any questions. It’s human nature and I fear that it will always remain the same.
Don, endeavor to enjoy each day. It is that important.
I wrote you before (last month) asking what you meant by ‘to a certain degree’. By now, I have read enough to realize your meaning. I enjoy your books so much—I did not know before much about the lives of ordinary Germans and the trials they went through during and after the war. I am starting “Partners to a Certain Degree” now and look forward to the future books about Harold and Karl. Thank you for your books! Joan Linville
Thank you very much for your appreciated comment.
I hope that you will find this answer and also the answer to your prev. post and questions.
At the present time I am busy with fire prevention work and other small farm work which slows down my writing.
However, I hope to have the next two books published before the end of this year.
The book about Harold’s life is quite a challenge because I try to do him justice. As we went through life we always stayed friends and respected each other, but our values drifted apart all the way to the point that we often avoided to talk about them in order not to hurt each other.
This taught both of us valuable lessons of coexistence. We learned that is is doable, without feeling the need to kill each other.
Take good care, Joan, and thanks again,
I loved your books. I had to read them back-to-back. It answered many questions I’ve had about German people and what was happening in society in Germany at that time. I have German friends and was able to ask them some questions but more questions arose in my mind than I could ask them. I didn’t want to overstep the boundary of respect. Your books answered many of my questions.
Thank you for the books and insight they gave.
Thank you for your telling me that my books provided some insights about WW II. You are right by commenting that our questions often trigger a flood of related questions and it becomes difficult to restrain ourselves. Should you have any particular interest on a pertinent issue, please contact me and I’ll be happy to respond. I might not have the answer, but be assured that you will receive my take on it.
Thanks for commenting, Craig, because it shows me that I am able to connect with my readers.
All the best to you,