Deutsche version hier.

Ingeborg's story

The Hunger Years

Ingeburg's story of the hunger years in Germany - 1945/1950 When the war ended on 8 May 1945 I was 19 years old. From April 1943 to May 1944 like most girls at this time I had to do "Arbeitsdienst" (work service) and also war emergency service. Afterwards from July 1944 to May 1945 I was a teacher in a home for difficult children. There was of further education for me.

In April 1945 Leipzig was occupied by the Americans and in July 1945 by the Russian Army, and the bad hunger time began. In the summer my sister (she was 25 years old) and I worked in a market-garden. We didn't want to help the Russians dismantle industrial companies to send to Russia.

Also many refugees came to our place at this time. They were accommodated in halls or restaurants. The mothers tried to get additional food for their often large flock of children, because the food rations weren't enough for them. I remember that one day a mother with her 3 children came into the market-garden and asked for vegetables. She wanted to pay and the blind gardener asked her what she wants to do, because she hasn't enough cash. Her response was: "Then I must steal, I cannot leave my children to die of hunger." Until this day I have not forgotten that.

My mother's house had a large garden. The entire surface - 2,200 m² (square yards) - was cultivated with potatoes and vegetables. This harvest was stored in the cellar or preserved. In the autumn 1945 once I worked with my sister also on a pea field. After work everyone could take a bag of peas home. Naturally my sister and I went to the fields potatoes and sugar beets "stoppeln" (to glean). The term "stoppeln" everyone knew at that time. It means that in a field after the harvest there would be some few potatoes or beets to be picked up. That was tedious work, since also the farmers made sure that as little as possible remained. The small sliced sugar beets were cooked in the cauldron of the wash house to make syrup and this had to be stirred for many hours. The finished syrup was filled into stone pots to be a replacement for the limited supplies of sugar.

At the end of 1945 I was able to satisfy my career aspirations a little. I applied for a job as a "new teacher". These new teachers were hired in the Soviet zone to replace teachers who had been active National Socialists. Half of our work time we given instructions, the other half were studies. With the pupils I drove also into the villages at the outskirts of Leipzig, in order to glean potatoes, beets and carrots or to pick up apples under the trees of country roads. From this and from other food in the training kitchen "delicious dishes" were prepared. For example, false liver sausage - without meat, but with much marjoram herbs - or roasted slices of pumpkin made into cutlets.

I remember also that in the years 1945 to 1947 often was power failure and we had to spend the evenings by candlelight. Sometimes we sat also in the complete darkness and my mother told us of her early life in Russia. She was Russian-German. In Omsk, where her family lived in 1904 she met our father. He worked as a German engineer in Riga and St.Petersburg and during the First World War he was interned in Omsk. In 1918 he and my mother with other interned persons and prisoners of war were allowed back to Germany. He purchased a house and plot in Wiederitzsch, where I still live today.

How did my life continue? My teacher training took altogether 10 years. Afterwards followed a five-year distance learning at the teacher training college Potsdam. It ended with the state examination as a teacher for German/Literature. Up to my retirement I always worked as a teacher. My joy in learning has remained strong until today and now I am pleased to be a senior student at the University of Leipzig.

Ingeborg Faust, née Wittich
6th October, 2000

You can ask Ingeborg some questions if you click here to write to her.


Stories Map Food ELDERS