Ingrid R. Gade is a so called GI Baby. Her story is a true story. It is an unbelievable story.
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Chapter 1 - “The Bastard has to go!“
Chapter 2 – Mom in Marienwerder
Chapter 3 – Mom’s Escape to Geislingen/Steige
Chapter 4 – Mom and Dad
Chapter 5 - “Martha, don’t sin
Chapter 6 - “We are Sophians!“
Chapter 7 - We “Brown Babies“
Chapter 8 - Rock ’n’ Roll in the “Krüppelheim“ & “Memories of Heidelberg“
Chapter 9 – Professional Training and “Trips“
Chapter 10 - “Mom“
Chapter 11 – Carried on hands
Chapter 12 - Daddy
Only a few hours after I was born on 12 November 1946, on a Tuesday, the phone rang at the maternity ward in Kirchheim unter Teck. The proud industrial family Schabel, owner of the iron foundry and engineering works Schabel from the neighboring city of Geislingen (Steige), announced their visit. They wanted to see the newborn.
The Schabel family arrived on time. Foremost was the father, Wilhelm Schabel, followed by his wife Anna Katharina Babette Schabel, maiden name Kröner, the son Werner, and his younger brother with his wife. All of them apparently were proud Nazis, enthusiastic about Hitler, the Third Reich and the white master race. Holding flowers and candy in their hands they opened the door with the newborn Ingrid behind it. Of course there were serious discussions during the weeks before the birth and all of the Schabels were very agitated. After all Werner and my mother Brunhilde were only engaged to be married. And now there was a child! This was considered dishonorable.
All that was nothing compared to the commotion about to start now.
The Schabel family entered the room, closed the door behind them, and walked to the childbed in which mother was lying in between white covers and pillows. Next to her in a small crib me, brown skin, black curly hair.
A “negro -child“.
Me. Ingrid. A catastrophe.
“The bastard needs to go.“ That’s what they yelled. That’s what they yelled at my mother on this 12th day in November 1946. “The negro-child needs to go!“
And they agreed with one another on this.
The very next day mom handed me over to the youth welfare office. I was on this earth only for a day when my painful odyssey through orphanages and foster care began.
How much I would long for my mother and a life as a blonde girl in Germany after the war.
But my skin is brown, my hair “curly-curly”. That’s why I will long for my father in the US, a life amongst like-minded in the land of the free, of which its segregation I knew nothing about. What a helpless longing for daddy it would turn out to be. My father was a nameless African-American in New York, back then the largest city in the world with a population of 12.5 million. How was I ever supposed to find him?
I, “Jngrid R. Gade“, with a “J” instead of an “I” by mistake, on my birth certificate with the number 476/1946, am the daughter of Brunhilde Margot Gade, no profession, protestant, living in Geislingen an der Steige in Baden Württemberg, not far from Stuttgart. There is not even a column on the E2 form to name my father. From day one it was always “no father”.
There was no other living creature that was wanted any less than a black child in this still full of Nazis, destroyed postwar Germany. A small, but obvious sign of surrender, a child of the lost war, a child of the occupants.
How could this have happened if mom was able to celebrate the engagement with the financially very well off, elegant industrial son Werner Schabel?
Since mom’s death I have a photo in my possession that shows me on her lap. It must be from 1947. I am approximately 5 months old in that picture and from the look on her face, the distant look in her squinted eyes, and the hair that is almost combed back forcefully, I not only see the horror from “the bastard needs to go“ after my birth, but also all of the terror she lived through for the last 2 years since she had to flee from Russian Soldiers that were approaching Marienwerder near Danzig.
Her face looks frozen to me, maybe from the many days of her escaping in cattle trailers during the cold German winter in 1945 from this house that mom visited again in June 1979, already living down by the “Bodensee“, and took pictures of. The house of her childhood in Marienwerder, today Kwidzyn in Poland, 5 kilometers from the Weichsel down by the river Liwa (translates to “Love”).
The county Marienwerder with the county seat in the city with the same name was assigned to the Reichsgau Danzig-West-Prussia from 1939 to 1945, through which the river Weichsel ran like a backbone almost vertically.
That river, that turned into the eye of a needle during the escape from East Prussia and flooded Marienwerder and the close by Weichsel-bridge with refugees.
Although it seems as if the very impressive and visually dominant Ordensburg from Marienwerder, these marvelous huge brick gothic buildings from the early 14th century should have been able to protect the city against all enemies.
After the 1919 Versailles Treaty created a polish corridor to the Baltic Sea and therefore resolved the province of West Prussia, 92% of the population in Marienwerder voted to stay with Germany on 11 July 1920.
The Poland Campaign in 1939 integrated all of West Prussia into the German Reich, whereas the main focus of the Nazi politics was “Germanizing“. The paramilitary organization “Ethnic German Self-Protection“ that recruited their members mainly from members of German minorities, was involved in the murders of 30.000 Polish and Jewish residents. Looking at the history of the city Marienwerder and the population back then is scary:
1933 - 15.548 residents, consisting of 1 2.197 Protestants, 3.073 Catholics, 23 other Christians, 169 Jews
1939 - 19.723 residents, consisting of 14.778 Protestants, 4.307 Catholics, 122 other Christians, 0 Jews
“0 Jews“ is not a typo.
Mom was 14 years old in 1939.
She was born on 1 May 1925 in Marienwerder and grew up by the banks of the “Love” with her older sister Ursula and her younger brother Horst. Her family was upper class.
While mom went to middle school her siblings went to high school. The father Otto Paul Gade was a highly recognized government employee as the judiciary secretary. He was an enthusiastic Nazi and the crest of the German Order on his upper arm proudly presented his euphoria about a Germanic supremacy in the East, a German Teutonic Order in his homeland by the Weichsel with its huge fortresses built by crusading German military orders during the Middle Ages. While the Nazi elite was divided about their goal in terms of capture of the order, their symbolism and tradition was heavily used by the German National People’s Party after the Versailles Treaty.
On 15. October of the same year mom’s father, Otto Paul Gade, a military contender, married the bookkeeper Bertha Steffenhagen in the courthouse of Schirwindt, today Kutusowo, east of Kaliningrad.
Otto Paul Gade and his wife Bertha would have three children;
Ursula, born on 2 February 1922.
My mother Brunhilde, born on 1 Mai 1925, died on 4 March 2008.
Horst, born on 29 July 1928, died on 1 July 2010.
Their mother Bertha Gade died from tuberculosis when mom was ten years old. Otto Paul Gade, to make sure his three children that posed around him in the picture, were well taken care of, married again in 1936. The stepmother Gertrud Gade, maiden name Bukowski, must have treated Brunhilde very bad. Mom mentioned that several times later on.
Her sister Ursula, too, implied the difficult relationship between Brunhilde and her stepmother and also revealed the relationship of the two sisters. According to her stories mom was competing against her sister. Ursula was, as the saying goes, “quicker and brighter’, and apparently had a much better relationship with the “evil stepmother”.
In the fall of 1944 the Eastern Front moved closer to this highly respected, but inwardly dysfunctional family of officials. Endless lines of refugees from East Prussia moved through the village.
In January of 1945 the people there had to leave their houses and the city was evacuated. A few weeks later the Soldiers of the Red Army reached a city that was almost empty. Because it was not destroyed, the Russians used Marienwerder as a military hospital base from March to November of 1945. There was looting and burning and the old part of the city was destroyed. Tons of rubble stones were transported to Warsaw to rebuild the almost completely destroyed city. In the end Marienwerder was placed under Polish administration. Then the immigration of Poles and Ukrainians started.
Mom never spoke of her escape from her homeland. If one believes contemporary witnesses like eight year old Heinz Bomke from Gross Krebs, a small village of Marienwerder county, the escape during the icy cold winter of 1945 must have been gruesome and hard.
Their first station was the Weichsel.
“The Weichsel was frozen at the time and we had to cross the ice with the horse-drawn vehicles. It was a terrible view. There were burst vehicles, empty baby carriages, suitcases, boxes. Those were the first impressions and we were glad when we reached the other side after enduring a lot of pain and misery.“
The Gade family members were either dead or scattered in the winds when Marienwerder was evacuated in January of 1945.
Father Otto Paul Gade had been drafted, but survived the war. Something worse would happen to him later in life. It will all be revealed in the next chapter of this book.
Horst volunteered for the Army and for quite some time he was fighting for Pomerania. He also would survive the war.
Ursula and her stepmother escaped to Hamm in North Rhine-Westphalia on a route unbeknownst to me. And Brunhilde?
Mom had, as many girls and young women of her generation, taken jobs as “worker girls“: From one service camp of the Reich Labor Service (RAD) to the next, from the east further to the west, She was part of the “workers army“. Young women that had to take on the work of men especially during the years of the war. “Farmers and their sons are leaving the village in the grey uniform. Now the worker girls have to fill the gap” as propaganda brochures celebrated.
The world war sucked everybody in.
“Happy work. Hail Hitler. Dismissed.“ The worker girls were ordered to their work stations under the swastika flag flying in the wind. Lots of women were talking about that for a long time, even today. They remember the “honorary service to the German people“ and can still sing the song number 5 of the RAD they had to sing. The celebration song of the work according to a text of the Reich Labor Service leader Thilo Scheller
“God bless the work and our beginning,
God bless the Führer and this time.
Be on our side to win land,
to serve Germany with all our senses, Make
sure we are ready no matter the hour.”
There was leisure time and the judiciary secretary Mr. Otto Paul Gade agreed to an unsupervised “bathing fun” for his daughter Brunhilde as seen on the memorandum from 6 July 1944:
In a stack of field mail I received after mom died, just staring at the letters for a while back then, are a few letters and documents that permit me to follow her way from Marienwerder to Geislingen at least a little. Like a letter from her brother Horst from 12 June 1944 to camp 5/252 Freudenthal of the German Labor Service in Rosenberg/West Prussia just a few kilometers east of Marienwerder.
“Brunhildchen“ has finally made it, she may settle well and be free from the “incubus“, her brother Horst writes, which makes me think that mom wanted to finally get away as a worker girl from the tyranny of the stepmother at home in Marienwerder and end the night horrors it caused.
As for many other girls and young women a huge wish must have been granted for mom when she entered the German Labor Service.
Her sister Ursula looks just as happy in this picture that shows both young women in their RAD uniform at the Freudenthal camp.
Just a few months later the coming Eastern Front made the people retreat and flee. Just like “Brunhildchen” who lost contact with her family soon after, as this postcard to her brother Horst shows.
Mom wrote this to the brother on 16 February 1945 according to the postal stamp from Neustadt-Glewe, district of Ludwigslust-Parchim in southwest Mecklenburg. The brother was living at an address of the Adolf-Hitler-School in Sonthofen. The castle of the Order in Sonthofen with the attached Adolf-Hitler-School was an installation of superlatives, was a Nazi elite school and a military hospital at the end of the war. Horst didn’t seem to be there because he was wounded. Brunhilde tried to reach her brother at the field mail station L 35388 (German Air Force). Mom wrote desperate and reproachful:
“Why don’t you write? I am so desperately waiting for mail. Do you know anything about dad and Uschi? I have not received any mail as of yet.“
Horst replied to the card on 1 March 1945 with a letter:
“I don’t have any mail from Ulla, dad and mom. Who knows where they are. Marienwerder has been long gone. Hopefully that will change soon.“
But on her card Brunhilde didn’t ask for “mom“, as Horst called the stepmother.
The German Empire was in its death throes. Mom served in this empire in the RAD camps as a worker girl in camp Neuhof close to Parchim as mentioned in her discharge papers. She must have been very afraid back then.
Very afraid of what was coming. Would Germany lose the war? How far did the Russians get? And the Americans? Everybody knew that the allied forces were coming closer. When would I have to flee?
Mom found an answer to her last question.
The tasks of the worker girls included working the fields, taking care of small children, washing clothes, cleaning, and cooking, garden work and in the last year of the war it was a frequent practice to detail them as helpers for the air force. Mom probably had to do a lot of the above mentioned tasks.
I know of one task for sure: Mom had to pack care packages for the Soldiers at the front lines in one of the RAD camps she worked in.
In those packages you found wool clothes, dressing material, books, chocolate, and coffee. Mom probably placed a lot of those items in an endless amount of packages.
She might have thought of a good idea, because of her fear while doing just that.
One day she placed a handwritten call for help in one of the packages. Mom told me. Her lines said something like this:
“We have to flee pretty soon. I don’t know where to go. I don’t have anybody. Please help me. Brunhilde Gade/ Worker Girl.“
The package made it to the front lines.
The call for help, that would play a major role in her life, was laying on top.
And it was found.
The Soldier at the front lines was Werner Schabel who received that very package. He opened it, took the note, read it and answered right away.
The letter included a few encouraging words, and the most important; an address in Geislingen an der Steige.
According to mom’s “discharge papers wJ” she left the camp near Parchim on 4 April 1945.
On the same day 33 American B-24 bombers dropped bombs on the Parchim air base, but for the most part they missed this Army air base.
Mom, still charmingly called “wJ“ for female youth on her discharge paper, was in the West Mecklenburg region at that time. That was where the Unites States Army and the Red Army would have met if the conference of Yalta wouldn’t have drawn a line of demarcation that separated the troops.
For months lines of refugees must have went through that area. In addition there were Army units, first organized, then in small groups or as single Soldiers.
And still mom had a lot of luck in this horror scenario. Apparently she escaped in time in early April.
Since her discharge paper was also valid as an economy train ticket from Parchim to Geislingen/Steige, and with the address of the Schabel family, she most likely took a train.
I don’t know if it was a passenger or freight train. Most of the people escaped on freight trains. Trains, full of scared people and then some.
On 8 May 1945 the shooting stopped.
The war was over.
More than 60 million people died.
My grandfather Otto Paul Gade, the former Volkssturm man was missing. In 1964 he was officially declared as dead.
“Since the 6th of April 1945 she hasn’t heard from him”, his widow Gertrude Gade informed the authorities back then. My aunt Ursula, however, told another story: Father came home from a war camp in Torgelow near Stettin and wanted to rebuild the house in Marienwerder. Russians had shot him dead in the basement of his house. Gertrude Gade and Ursula stayed in Hamm in North Rhine-Westphalia, Horst and his wife Lore built a house in Lüdingshausen and raised their three children there, my cousins.
In May of 1945 and for another 6 years mom lived in an attic apartment at the address shown in this bank transfer of the Volksbank Geislingen.
Her address was Lange Gasse 34.
My dad had the same address.
Mom lived in that attic apartment on Lange Gasse 34 in Geislingen alone and was very homesick. Werner Schabel and mom were writing letters back and forth and fell in love. Her “beloved Wernerli”, as written in letters, came home to Geislingen healthy and well after the war ended. Nevertheless she didn’t see him much. As lots of letters tell he was travelling by train constantly and was working a lot to convert the weapons factory into a machine plant. For a long time mom didn’t know that Werner Schabel was liaised in a “status marriage“, a marriage to boost his SS Officer’s career and his military pay.
“I was thinking of you a lot today“, she writes in an undated letter to “Wernerli“ Schabel that was probably never sent where she also commits to her home sickness:
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