Some more Memories of our Time in the Refugee Camp in East Frisia, Germany in 1953

Before t am going to tell you about our move to  the Old House of Rocky Docky in the Rhineland region of Germany, I want to talk a bit more  about our experiences in the refugee camp in Aurich, East Frisia.

emblemMost children live in the present.  To this day I always liked to live in the present moment rather than in the past or future.  However, writing my blog now forces me to relive the past.  This is a request of our five sons who want to hear my side of the  “Peter-Gertrud Story ”  my husband is writing,   I have to admit that I actually start enjoying this trip on memory lane.  Now back to the past…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery day is a new experience for children and I enjoyed every day of my new life.  No time to think of the past.   School was exciting because of our inspiring and kind teacher.  With so many families living  in close proximity in the camp my brother and I had lots of friends.   Most of the time we spent outside playing in those endless meadows surrounding the camp.  There was never a dull moment  because someone would always come up with an exciting activity or game.  We skipped rope, played ball games, did yoga type gymnastics  often inventing new poses, had talent shows singing and performing songs we had heard on the radio.  We played all the old fashioned games like marbles, hopscotch, hide and seek, catch or make belief games.  Sometimes we would just collect daisies, dandelions or other flowers  to braid wreaths, or  we would  lie back in the lush meadows and daydream.

dandelionLooking back now from an adult perspective life for my parents was not that idyllic. They were eager to have a place again where they could put down roots and call it home.  But time dragged on.  Sometimes my mom would take us to the picturesque  town of Aurich, where my dad had found a temporary position as dental technician at the local dentist’s office.  On those outings my mom would slip quietly into the beautiful old church to kneel down and pray a few Our Fathers. Often it looked like she was crying.

1024px-CatholicChurchAurichMy brother and I loved these town outings because my mother would buy us cones with whipping cream, a specialty of the region, which is known for its sweet and rich cream from happy cows grazing on those lush pastures.  My mom would drink East Frisian black tea  with little “clouds” of heavy cream, also a specialty of the region.

220px-Tee_mit_sahneNovember 11, is a special holiday  for children in East Frisia, called St. Martin’s day.  A  few days before  the special night we were taught at school how to make paper lanterns.  We also learned to sing special St. Martin’s songs.

On the night of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we dressed up in costumes and then walked in a group from house to house singing the songs we had learned.  Like at Halloween we would receive candies or other goodies in return.  For my brother and me it was the first time we experienced such a magical night.

5In contrast to Halloween it does not have any scary origins. The historical St. Martin was known as a friend of children and the poor and there are many legends about his kindness and charity.  He once shared his coat with a beggar in a severe snowstorm to save his life.  Often this legend is reenacted in a parade with St. Martin riding on a horse with the beggar wearing half his coat.

Martin Pferd





A Year in the Refugee Camp in Aurich Germany (1953-54)



Happy to be finally reunited with our beloved parents we had to say good bye to our new friends in Dortmund.

Our parents told us that we would not go back home to Gotha for a long, long time until the two separated Germanys would be reunited again.

First we would have to live in a refugee camp for some time until we would hopefully find a new home in the Rhineland region where my mother was born.  After the destruction caused by the war and the rapid immigration of refugees from the East housing was in short supply.   There was a construction frenzy all over West Germany to keep up with the urgent demand for housing.  People had to live in temporary shelters often for a long period of time.

We were assigned to live in a refugee camp in Lower Saxony.  Abandoned military barracks were converted into a refuge camp in Sandhorst, a small community close to Aurich, a quaint small town. This camp could house thousands of refugees.


The buildings looked bright  and clean.  They were surrounded by lots of green spaces.  There were meadows and lush pastures stretching to the endless horizon on this flat landscape.


aurich meadow



We were assigned to a room with six bunk beds.  Three other families shared the room with us. From our dormitory a door led to another room about the same size.  Occupants of that adjacent room shared our door to the hallway.  Thus there was a lot of traffic through our room and there was little privacy.

We were told that we should  avoid close contact with the people in the neighboring room because they had a very contagious disease. I noticed that my mother looked quite shocked when she heard that. My brother and I, however, were very excited  with the prospect of sleeping  on the upper bunk beds

After we stored our small suitcases under our beds, the camp attendant led us to a big hall lined with multiple long racks of clothing in all sizes.  They were donated by American charities and other organizations and people from all over the world. We were invited to pick some clothing we needed and liked.  That was exciting for me, because I had never had the opportunity to chose a dress on my own.  I had always worn hand-me-downs sent from my mom’s distant relatives.

I picked a dress, which the attending lady told us was donated by a family from South Africa. I loved the dress and imagined a girl like me having worn it in a far away place.

The kind lady invited us to pose in our newly chosen clothes for a photo out on the lawn in the mild spring air. We all looked happy on this rare family picture, the first one  in the “Golden West”.