The image is of Erwin shortly after his training period and before he became an Obergrenadier (private first class), Erwin did not attain a higher rank, he was never a greatly ambitious person, particularly where military service was concerned
Prior to his conscription as a teenager, he learned to repair shoes under the direction of a cobbler. Unfortunately, this did not provide sufficient remuneration to support his family so he took a better paying job as a lorry driver’s mate conveying local farm produce to the large city markets. The best-paid jobs were more available to members of the NAZI party but Erwin had no wish to become involved with their politics.
Lightly built and about 1.65 metres tall, Erwin was always the joker, a trait that was apt to get him into trouble on occasions.
He was fortunate during his military service that the army policy (dictated by the Führer) was that soldiers with families be given priority for Christmas leave and important family occasions.
Erwin had no illusions about the way the war was going and urged his wife to take the family westwards at the earliest opportunity during his last visit on leave of absence in March 1944.
Born in Brieg, Lower Silesia on August 21, 1929. Lena is thirteen years old at the opening of my story in 1943. She is looking forward to her fourteenth birthday and her confirmation. She is hopeful for work in a large department store in the town centre.
She knows that the war is not going well for Germany from overhearing conversations between her parents, but has no idea of the true seriousness of the situation as newspapers still pronounce only victories, such that she wonders if perhaps her father was mistaken.
Her first shock is when she is told that she must attend country school following her confirmation and that the location is far to the northeast and she will be there until Christmas. This is followed by a series of further disastrous occurrences. Her father is reported missing in action in September 1944, and she is told that she must return to the country school after a Christmas break along with twenty-nine other girls to clean and close the place down. In late January, they end up fleeing the school for their lives, under attack by air and ground.
Lena must experience more dangers and fears for herself and her temporarily estranged mother and siblings, before seeing an end to her trials with the reunification of the family in the west.
Elisabeth was 32 years old and already had three daughters by her husband Erwin when he was conscripted in the autumn of 1938.
From this time onwards she would learn to manage her household without her husband's guidance or help. The only time she would see him would be Christmas, and that was a concession for soldiers with wives and children at home. The only leave of absence he was allowed other than Christmas was for Lenas confirmation in 1944, by which time they had two boys and Elisabeth was to find herself pregnant again following his return to duty.
Bringing up her family during difficult times had the effect of strengthening Elisabeth's character into the matriarch she became. Elisabeth had no love for the Nazis. Although she benefited from Hitlers family allowances whilst her husband was serving in the army, she would have much preferred him to be at home and struggling on his pay as a lorry drivers mate.
Her true mettle was to be severely tested in 1945 when her homeland was occupied by the Russian army. Her daughter Lena had been sent to Country School in Pomerania 300 kilometres away. She had to flee her home in Brieg and face months of danger before things would settle down. Her husband had been reported missing in action in France and she had no idea what had happened to Lena, who was also directly in the path of the Russian advance. She must put these worries aside and concentrate on keeping herself and the other children safe.