Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mom's WW2 Stories: Hilda, Song and Gestapo Man

When mom was little, her sisters and parents lived on the first floor of the house which belonged to the D* family. They lived on the ground floor of the house they owned. The Ds were Poles but when WW2 began, they signed the Reichsdeutsche list. Thanks to that, the Zs were regarded as German people by the Nazis. Hilda* was one of the members of the Zs family. She tended to be a rather unpleasant and unfriendly lady and she seemed not to be keen on children as well.

One day, mom (she was about 5 then) was told by her mother to fetch potatoes from the storage place. Every family who lived in that house had their own storage place. Those little wooden shacks were not far from the house next to the barn (which was opposite the house).

When mom went out to get the potatoes, she saw Hilda. The lady was cleaning some lederhosen with a wooden brush. The piece of clothing belonged to a teenage boy Jurgen* who had come from Germany to visit the Zs.

Mom approached Hilda and asked her in Polish:

"Miss Hilda, why are you cleaning Jurgen's trousers, can't he do it by himself?"

In reply, Hilda threw the wooden brush at mom and started calling her names.

Mom, said nothing, but she did sing a song at the lady to tease her. Subsequently, the lady got really crossed and started chasing mom around the barn. Hilda was willing to get the little girl and teach her a lesson.

A daughter of mom's neighbors (who lived on the second floor of the same house) was passing by. She saw what was going on and rushed to tell my grandmother about it.

The girl ran to the house and shouted: “Hilda wants to beat up Dona*!”

Anyway, mom managed to get home too and Hilda did not succeed in catching her. However, the lady followed the little girl to the family apartment on the first floor. Grandma opened the door and there was Hilda, furious, ready to punish mom for her singing.

She shouted at grandma angrily: "You should forbid your daughter!"

Grandma stepped forward and said with a strong voice:

"When you will have your own children, you will be allowed to beat them".

Hilda, caught by surprise, stepped back and tripped over the metal frame which was attached to the stairs. At the same time, the lady lost her balance and fell down the stairs.

Not long after that, the SS-men knocked on mom's family apartment door. Grandma was accused of aggravated assault and beating a German woman. Both mom and her mother were taken to the nearest Gestapo station.

When they got there, the two of them were led to a room where a Gestapo officer was sitting behind a big desk.

The officer asked grandma: “Why did you hit a German woman?”

“I did not touch her”, said grandma, and she also explained what had happened. Both grandma and her little daughter could speak German fluently (more about it in the next Mom's WW2 Stories post).

The Gestapo officer ordered mom to sing the song she had sung at Hilda.

The girl started crying, she was scared. She said she could sing that song in Polish only.

So an interpreter came and mom was told to sing again.

That was the song:
Stara panna lat 40 wciąż w pretensjach żyje,
a tę swoją brzydką buzię w różnych ziołach myje.
Usta sobie pomaluje, włosy pozapika,
a jak wszystko pozdejmuje - stara elektryka.

The interpreter translated the words into German

An old maid, aged 40, is resentful all the time,
and she washes her ugly face with various herbs.
She colors her lips and fixes her hair,
but when she takes it all off - just an old bag.

The Nazi officer's face seemed very serious.

He asked: “How old is the woman?”

“40”, said mom still sobbing.

“Is she married?”

“No”, replied mom with a trembling voice.

To everybody's surprise, something unexpected happened. The Gestapo officer laughed out loud. He was laughing and appeared to be amused. Mom got confused but she started laughing as well.

Then, as suddenly as he started, the man stopped laughing. When he got quiet, his face looked scary again. He opened a drawer of his desk and reached into it.

Mom was horrified, she was sure her and her mother's end was about to come, and the Gestapo officer was going to shoot them at the very spot. The moment seemed to last for ages. However, instead of shooting, an extraordinary thing happened. Mom saw not a gun but something else in the man's hand. She was stunned.

The officer was holding a bar of chocolate. Next, with a smile on his face, he handed the chocolate to the little girl. Mom and her mother were let go. Unhurt. With a bar of chocolate to enjoy.

They were lucky - the officer found the story funny. I reckon mom must have been really scared then since she still remembers it all so well, despite all the years which have passed by.

*All the names in the story have been changed

Mom and her mom

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