The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II


Growing up in Germany during WWII, Erika became a displaced persons, fell in love with an American soldier, and eventually came to America..... this is her true story:


I was born in my home in Beuthen, Germany on August 16, 1922. My parents named me Erika Charlotte Walter. I lived with my parents and younger sister Edith whom we called Dita. My older sister Marga was married and had a child when World War II started and lived in Western Germany.

WAR! That word meant nothing to me when I was a child. Later, through the years of my schooling, it meant History Lessons. In my teens, I had the most interesting history teacher. She so fascinated us with her lively renditions of historical events that no one heard the bell ring, (or we did not want to hear it). We urged her to continue lecturing, until her common sense finally told her to stop. The most exciting passages in our history books were, of course: WARS!

But all of the excitement and glory in the historical renditions of war did not prepare us for the actual human terror, pain, degradation and exhaustion that comes of being in the midst of the struggle for power and territory. Running for your life, finding a safe haven for a few hours of rest, trying to maintain a shred of dignity while eliminating bodily waste in the bushes or in a ditch, scrounging for something...anything to eat, staying warm in the severe unsheltered winters, and maintaining a degree of cleanliness are all the little points in a war that the historians did not think important enough to record. These things should be recorded for the education of all the generations to come who might think that war is a "glamorous" and "honorable" way to settle a conflict.

When my parents talked of war, it was of World War I. My Father and his brothers never went into military service because of their poor eyesight. My paternal Grandfather died in 1910. My Motherís brothers were too young to join the war in 1914. Her Father was exempt because he was a mining engineer and was needed where he was to provide coal for the war effort. He passed away in 1916. So, no one in our immediate family had any "first hand" experience about what war really was like.

At the end of the war in 1918, the industrial region, where my ancestors had lived, become "divided" because Germany had lost that war. Three cities, Beuthen, Gleiwitz, and Hindenburg were left German. Five cities, Kattowitz, Koenigshutte, Antonienhutte, Tarnowitz and Schoppenitz were "given" to Poland. So, a new borderline was created. It cut Beuthen, (my hometown), and its suburbs off on three sides. Only one direction was left open to the west, should anyone want to leave the city.

My Motherís family left their home in Antonienhutte, rather than become Polish citizens, and moved to Gleiwitz. My parents talked about French occupation troops stationed in Beuthen. Beuthen had a garrison, and they recalled that most of the time the troops had been quite courteous!

I remember a neighborhood in Beuthen, Germany of three storied houses, (three big complexes), containing small, but neat apartments called "Refugee housing." As small children we kind of looked down on "those type of people". We didnít realize that these people were the real patriots. Little did we know that some day we, too, would be refugees . . . "Displaced Persons".

History books only have two versions of any event as big as a war: The winnerís version and the loserís version. However, for the people who lived through that war, there are as many versions, as many different stories, as there are people willing to tell about it. Please, for the education of our young people who will become our future leaders and for the betterment of generations to come, please Tell Your Stories! Here's Mine

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