Sunday, April 17, 2011
protection in Germany
The thin blond girl is curled up in her bed when it starts.As the bombs fall, the weeping girl stares up at the cross that hangs over her bed.Her father placed it there before he left to fight the Russians in 1939.He brushed the hair from her eyes when he first handed it to her and said,"This will protect you."She wishes he were here as the flashes from the bursts around her light up the room.She closes her eyes and waits for morning.It is February,1945 in Oettingen,Germany.
Morning comes and through that terrifying night, her stone house has crumbled around her.All that is left is the wall that the cross hangs on and the boards that hold her bed.Not a cinder,or piece of anything has landed on her bedspread.Her Mother calls her and the girl stumbles around the rubble to find her safe outside in the garden.
After the bombing ends ,people come out of hiding and stare in amazement at the wall with the cross hanging amid the destruction.They cross themselves and move on.
In my hand this April night, I hold a black and white picture.There are four girls standing against a low wall holding hands with huge trees in the background.There is only one blond child,the other girls have dark hair.The blond child on the end is Hildegarde, my friend who lives in Florida.The dark haired girl second from the right is Hellla who lived next door to my friend in Oettingen.On the night of that Allied bombing,little Hella was killed.I look at her small figure,hair done so beautifully, a light pinafore covering her knees;her round serious face unaccountably touches me.The two other girls are her sisters ,the Koch girls from Germany.
Hildegarde and her husband,an American GI, moved to Florida over twenty years ago and she is the wonderful neighbor who used to make Easter baskets for my children.She loved children and sadly had none of her own.My friendship with her actually bloomed after they moved, with flowers and loving,inspiring letters and stories exchanged.She is 76 years old now and the gift that came along with the picture is something I cannot speak about without getting choked up.Her cross, that cross from the War has now been given into my keeping.In her letter she wrote..."that cross means so much to me .I can think of no one that would give it a better home than you.Please take good care of it.It will protect you as it has me".I am touched beyond words.