Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Friday, May 8, 2015

peace like a broken bridge

Seventy years ago today, on May 8, 1945, peace came to Europe with Germany signing its unconditional surrender in Berlin.

People around the world poured into the streets to celebrate the end of bombing raids, air sirens, fog canons, bunker runs, and death.

Bingerbr├╝ck above the Rhine
It's hard to imagine that here, in my current neck of the woods, the bombing was fierce. In the months previous, waves of British and American bombers had come in swarms dropping up to 200 bombs in a single day around Bingen am Rhein. The target here was the former, very large train station - Germany's most effective transport route to France.

View from below looking up
Now, along with large craters that softly carve out pockets into the surrounding forests, and radio broadcasts every couple of months informing us of an unexploded bombs unearthed nearby, the most mammoth reminder of WWII is something that I have come to love.


It's a broken bridge.


This was the Hindenburgbr├╝cke, a steel and concrete railway bridge, whose ruins sit stoically amidst pleasure boats and freighters. 


I ride past these gigantic chunks of the destroyed bridge many times a week on my commute home and for some reason they fill me with peace. These obvious remnants of a horrific, desperate time that I cannot imagine, but which lie not too distant in the past.

So, on this day, VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), I want to share with you something else that I love. My favourite story about the ending of WWII, courtesy of my father. This story graced one of the very first blog posts I wrote, over four years ago...crazy (that I've been here so long!). So, faithful readers, some of you might have heard it already.

Enjoy. Remember. And be grateful for peaceful relationships, communities and countries. Work to keep it that way. The price of anything else is just too high.

We have a family whistle, and by that I mean that my dad and my brother have a whistle which I, and everyone who knows them, respond to.  Yes, often I have felt like the family pet being called into the house, but mostly it's just plain handy.  In a crowd, even though we're a family of giants and very easy to spot,  our family whistle has always been a comforting, uniquely-our-own, call of home.

This afternoon, sitting across from my dad at his kitchen table, in his idyllic home in the country, with the horses grazing outside in the heat of the summer sun, he told me this story:

In 1945, the war having come to an end four months previously, my grandfather, a young, German soldier, had been making his way home from Denmark or northern Germany to Oberau-Berchtesgaden, a mountain town deep in south-eastern Germany.  His family hadn't heard from him for a very long time. 

To avoid being caught by the British or the Russians, he had walked only at night, sleeping during the days in hidden areas. On one occasion a farmer helped him, supplying him with food and civilian clothing, and presumably, directions - he was walking across the entire country at a time when roads, transport, cities were destroyed.  While he walked he tried as best he could to navigate his path down the middle between British and Russian occupational zone borders, not venturing too far into either territory.  He had slept in ditches during the days and hitched rides on midnight trains, each day getting closer and closer to home.  As he entered the American Occupation Zone he began to relax a little bit. The Americans had a fairly friendly reputation and he knew that home was near.  He began walking during the daylight. 

And on one warm,  August day in that little mountain town, my dad, a month shy of turning 6, sat in a cherry tree outside of their simple, white house.  Suddenly, he heard the whistle , our whistle, coming from down the road.  He couldn't believe it. His dad was home. 
The war was over.
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1 comment

  1. I just read your blog to your Dad. Thank you for this gift of peace and memories and the joy of tears for sharing these memories.

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