WWII Family Stories

New topic for @milanfahrnholz

Which reminds me that I had intended to collect some WWII stories from forum members relatives since we have people from germany, england, italy, the US etc. here and it really might be interesting how much everyone knows of their family history (I still am researching, but I already know quite a lot).

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Interesting idea since we have so many different nationalities here.

My grandfather was in the army during WWII, stationed in the South Pacific. I know that he was mortared and given 2 purple heart medals. As horrible as it is to think about “the bomb”, he said it probably saved his life because he was sent home after that.

This is not the one I dreamt about with the red eyes :japanese_goblin:, that grandfather worked in a factory most of his life (and bought his first car for a nickel!).

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Yeah, I think it´s remarkable that we hang out here all friendly while our grandparents bombed each others cities. We got people from germany, italy, the US, england, poland etc.
So I think there may be many interesting stories out there. Here are those I know of.

On my fathers side:

My grandfather was 23 when the war began. He learned to drive motorcycles and became a radio operator for the Wehrmacht. He communicated from the ground in a truck. First he was in Poland, then in france, then he was on the march to Moscow. In late winter early spring 1945 the division spread out and everyone basically retreated on their own. He must have taken a ferry to denmark and they got themselves intentionally capture by the british army, since they knew that was the more desirable option than being captured by the soviets. He kept his iron cross, but never displayed it nor was he in any way proud of it.

My grandmother stayed at home in Regensburg (which was an airstrike target due to the Messerschmidt Air Weapon works and a chemical factory) where the apartment building they lived in was hit by a bomb that was intended for the railway station. Fortunatly she and the rest of the family survived. Reportedly they had to drag the old grandmother down to the cellar because she was fascinated by the “fireworks” outside.

On my mothers side:

Unfortunatly the stories of my mothers father were real hazy and contradictory. He came from a small town in eastern prussia that after the war became part of Poland was renamed. He never went back there. He was 14 when the war began. I´m not sure when he joined the Wehrmacht and became part of the Waffen SS, but I think he might have been 17 so it might have been 1942. He also was a radio operator but on a plane. He never said anything about having been involved in any serious combat. He must have spent the last days of the war in france and finally was being taken to southern germany where he met my grandmother and stayed there until his death.

My grandmother lived in Würzburg when it was under attack in one of the greatest major airstrikes of the war on civil territory, second only to Dresden I believe. She has often told us the story about running through the burning city and seeking shelter together with as many people she could find. She showed us several articles from newspapers where she was interviewed about those events, it must have been really really close.

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My grandfather was born in 1920, he fully lived the fascist period with Mussolini.
He was only 20 when the WWII started and, even worse, he was only 23 then the “betraying” began, with the troops commanded by Hitler which started to capture all the Italians they could, deporting them in the concentration camps.
My grandfather Mario was deported, too.

He survived enough to tell me what he did in there (I was a child, I was disturbed every time, but I knew that those words were only the truth), how he managed to escape, how he lucky was to met my grandmother… and how she saved him from death.

I will write down his adventure, if you want.
I prefer not to write all the particulars he told me about what he was forced to undergo in the concentration camp, though.

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The Germans bombed Rotterdam that way at the beginning of the war to force surrender. But we were also afraid of allied bombers. Sometimes they got confused.

It’s my personal theory that my dad’s intense dislike of airplanes comes from experiencing this event when he was five. To me they’re just these mildly annoying fly-like noises from the distance.

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December 23, 1944.
A little town in northern Italy, where my grandmother lived.
This town has a train station, which links the towns of Cremona and Brescia, strategically important.
That day, the day before the last WWII Christmas Eve, at 3 P.M., four allied bombers dropped 14 bombs on that little town.
4 hit the railway, near the station, breaking the tracks for 8 metres.
Unfortunately, other 4 bombs hit a meat shop, where some persons were on lane to purchase their daily ration of meat (it was granted to whose who had a special card only).

That bombing caused 16 victims, 8 were children.

Nowadays that meat shop contains a bank, but on an outer wall there’s an inscription with the names of all the 16 people who died, with their age.

Every year there’s a commemorative ceremony to not forget that tragic day.

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My grandmother never didn´t flinch for the rest of her life when she heard an airplane. She was just conditioned that way.

Don´t if you don´t want to. But I´d very much like to hear this.

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I’ll ask my mother, since my grandparents all died when I was pretty young - except from my grandma on my mother’s side, but her stories were a bit confused.

The only thing I remember is that she retired to inland Sardinia (which was a good choice, since Cagliari got bombed) and learned to solder. She always told me how she “soldered in exchange of bread”.

I also know that one of my grandparents was facing difficulties because he refused to subscribe to the Fascist Party. But I don’t think he went to war. I have to ask.

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I didn’t believe it was even possible, without being shooted.

Thing is. All my grandparents were too young to vote or leave the country. They were still kids. I unfortunatly have not many infos on my grandparents. But it was bavaria and they were very catholic on my father´s side. So I guess they voted either for the party of bavaria or the christian Zentrum.

So no hardcore Nazi stories from my side. But there have been times when I have been in croweded enviormenments where I couldn´t help but thing “statisically there has to be some dark history here somewhere”.

If we´re talking WWI I only know that my great grandfather (born in the 1890s and died in the 1960s, so I never met him) served food in the field kitchen.

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Thanks for sharing your stories.

Somehow the “like” button doesn’t seem appropriate for these intense histories.

:pray: :peace_symbol:

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On father’s side: my grandfather (1898) was too young to go to the army when WWI started and was living in the occupied part, so he never had to fight. He also had older brothers who would have to go to the army first, but I don’t think they did either.
When WWII came around, he had small children and was too old. Plus we capitulated almost immediately.
My grandparents never told anything about either WW to me later. I’ll need to check with my dad.

On mother’s side: my grandfather was forced to go and work in Poland where he met my grandmother, they got married and had a child. When the Russians invaded Poland they fled on foot/cart/… back to Belgium.
I never knew that grandfather, as he died quite young. But my grandmother lived to be almost 100 and she always told the most gruesome stories about her brothers and family getting killed in the war. Also she told upsetting stories about the local population and deportation trains. Allegedly they shouted to the slowly passing trains: “throw out all your expensive belongings! If not, the Germans will take them away and you will die anyway”.
She always said “the Germans were the enemy of course, but at least they were respectful towards the civil population. The Russians on the other hand were savages and beasts.”

Both my parents were born after the war, still it was very common for their families to check if the other family had been on the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’ side during the war, even 20 or 30 years afterwards. So even in the 1960s/1970s you could get a veto from your parents for dating a boy or a girl whose family had been “black” during the war. As a result, most people kept a pretty tight lip on what happened during the war.

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Those words sound strange, compared to what my grandfather used to tell me.
He was in the concentration camp, Germans at that time were cruel. Probably the truth is in the middle: both army (Russian and German) were savage and merciless towards civil people.

In the camp, my grandfather had to suffer humiliations, hunger, cold.
He had to do forced labour during winter, fully naked, in the snow. He could eat only once a day. He had to move heavy iron bars or something, and if he fell, the guards hit him.
Sometimes, he had to peel potatoes for many hours a day. When he told me this part the first time, I was a kid, I laughed. “It’s not too much work, grandpa!”. Then he suddenly slapped me, and added: “they KICKED me if I did not peel enough potatoes! I had to be quick. But I was tired! But I had to peel, again, and again! There’s nothing to laugh.”

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Oh wow! That’s one conflicting mess of emotions right there.

Yeah. Well, the only certainty is that war sucks. The town I was born in was the scene of one of the biggest “collateral damage” bombing incidents by the allied forces.

I think she really meant that the German soldiers didn’t rape and steal?
Historical note: the part she fled from became Ukraine, so it always had been a territory of historical dispute between boyh nations.

I’ve also heard that the Germans were initially welcomed as liberators from Stalin but that it quickly turned sour because Slav people were considered inferior to us Aryans in Nazi theology.

My great-grandfather was French. In the 1920s he married a very beautiful woman he madly loved. They had daughters together (including my grandmother). But my great-grandmother died in 1936 from disease. My great-grandfather was utterly devastated. He started spending most of his free time in a cabaret where he had a side job as a singer of what was then seen as salacious songs, and drank way too much. My grandaunt, the eldest of his daughters, said she greatly resented him at the time, and his daughters lost respect and trust in him.

Came the Nazi occupation. My great-grandfather sent his daughters out of the city and into the countryside, where the risk of bombings by the Allies or random abuse by the occupying Germans was less prevalent. They found shelters with distant relatives or other families who were willing to accomodate them. He remained alone in the city, more desperate than ever.

This is when he was approached by a Resistance cell who was interested in his position as a cabaret singer. A lot of people from Vichy or the German occupation forces would spent time in this cabaret. My great-grandfather was involved with passing intel from this place to someone else who would exploit the info for the Allies. That’s pretty much all we know about it, but he was decorated for it after the war.

His daughters did not knew about it immediately. Once the was was over, they had grown to be independent after such an experience of survival and they cared little for their alcoholic shipwreck of a father whom they perceived as having neglected them. They had little contact with him. And moreover, my great-grandfather was not keen to talk about his war actions.

One of his daughters, my eldest grandaunt, married a man who himself had been a partisan fighter: my grandaunt met him during the war as he was a handsome and fit fireman. Unbeknownst to her, the firemen in this city had organised a partisan cell and had been tasked with some sabotage action once the Allies would be approaching to liberate the city. They were betrayed by one of them and narrowly escaped arrest by running away from the city and into the countryside, where they joined another partisan cell and were subsequently incorporated in the renewed French army. He went as far as Stuttgart with them. My grandaunt in the while had been questionned by the gestapo but had nothing to say to them about her boyfriend’s whereabouts. They were reunited after the war was over and married. My now granduncle became a police officer and had incredible stories in this career as well.

But anyway, it is this man, my now granduncle, who once discovered records about my great-grandfather’s acts of resistance. He confronted him about it, but my great-grandfather dismissed it as little and unimportant facts. He did not like to discuss it. But on one occasion he said he was not proud of it because he did it mostly out of despair and cared little if he was killed. He died in 1960 a few days after my mother was born, and at the time had mended his relationship with all his daughters. After his death, his medal was found by another grandaunt in the few personal effects he left.

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What a story! I feel like this could be the plot of an amazing Tarantino film.

So I’m guessing this means you are in your mid-30’s? Old enough to remember when Monkey Island came out.

Both of my parents were born in the late 1940’s. My grandfather was only 19 when he went to war. I don’t think he was drafted, but must have felt it was his duty to join the army, like many men of his era. Luckily he made it home alive or I wouldn’t be here today.

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He could easily be anything between 16 and 42 :man_shrugging:

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