Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pregnant Women And Forced Labor Camps

Women from Eastern Europe who were or got pregnant during forced labor camps  were under immense pressure.Pregnant women generally should not be deported to Germay from Poland for forced labor but because it was the aim to get the most profit of these  women deported to Germany,the  authorities did not want to care for pregnant women and their new born babies.

German authorities installed laws and guidelines in the end of 1942. Female forced laborers from Eastern Germany who got pregnant in Germany, had to return to their homeland.The number of pregnancies among this group of laborers rose, never the less  to have a child, was also a  way to escape force labor, although an illegitimate child was consdered shameful. Thus came the end of 1942 a new regulation was in forced, female forced laborers from Eastern Europe were no longer under the protection of maternity.Most women worked hard until the last days of the pregnancy and had to  return to work quickly after giving birth.

Births took place in specially equipped departments of hospitals or in separate barracks in the camps,the  hygienic cirumstances were on a very low level. March 1943 a new decree was once again put into action, now formulated bt the Reichs Health Ministry: " The racially inferior offspring of women workers and Polish women should not be born " Therefore abortion on order was now allowed.Principles and guards were now able to point out women who should  get an abortion. In the meantime German women who interrupted pregnancies were punished harshly. " Abortion by own desire" which was often written on medical files of  forced laborers was a farce . In addition premature births after 6 months were initiated, it is estimated that a quater of pregnant women from Eastern Europe were forced to interrupt their pregnancy. The children that were born and needed special care were put in barracks where women who were not fit for work  were housed called  "Auslanderkinder-Pflegesstatten", known as alien child care center which resulted in a high mortality  rate. Furthermore, from June 1943 the authorities were called to find those children of Eastern Europe forced laborers  who were " Good racial stock "  The children were selected and raised and educated as German children.

The high mortality started in 1943 and there were efforts to get the hygene on a higher level and better care for the women and children. The photo is of my brother who died as a baby in the camp, he is now an angle of God.  I  yearn  to know what happened to my mother's first born in 1942, a girl , nothing was ever said, but that I had a sister.

Monday, February 27, 2012

No Place To Call Home

My Mother
When I was a young girl I always wondered about the blue tattoo on my mother's arm, curious to know I asked her. My mother said " One day I will tell you ", that day never came, my mother was killed at the age of 55 on my first wedding anniversary , February 1st 1970 , by a drunken driver walking the side of a road. She had survived two wars, lived in the worst of worst of times in Poland and a drunken driver took her life away. I was 20 years old when she died and never had the answer to my question.

My mother was born Katarzyna Mielnikowa, later changed to Mielnik , in Kowale Poland in 1914, during WWI. Her father was a Polish soldier and was killed fighting the war, her mother was killed during the war and my mother was left an orphan at the age of two.My mother never talked about her early childhood, I wonder if she ever had a childhood, an orphan who was placed from home to home.Today I can understand why. As a young woman at the age of 22 she was in one of Stalin's camps during the pogrom of 1936. She worked for a while on the Trans-Siberian Railway as well as on  fishing boats out of Vladivostok, far eastern terminal of the Trans-Siberian Railway.I can't imagine how she endured those years. My father  Walerian Brejwo , lived in Paczewice Poland, today known as Belarus,part of Lithuania, Poland and Russia. My father's parents worked a small farm in the villiage as well as my father.From Vladivostok my mother ended up working on the farm, I assume that is how she met my father. My mother never had any schooling and therefore she never learned to read and write.She begged my father's parents to let her go to school but they needed her to work on the farm. I remember her practicing writing her name for days when she had to sign a document. How she yearned to read and write and never given the opportunity. I would catch her thumbing through magazines, just looking at photos and she would ask me to  read to her.

WWII had began in September 1, 1939, many Poles had to flee the country, but where to go ? My parents were placed in camp Buttnerfeld , Hannover Germany one of many camps they lived. During WWII the need for intimacy was needed, people often ignored the normal criteria for marriage. My parents were not officially married at this time,even when my mother gave birth to my brother Eugene. Life was hard, conditions in the camp included lack of privacy, over crowding and constant dependence of aid organizations made it difficult to raise children. Once again my mother is displaced, from the age of two she never had a place called home. In retrospect, I think coming to America was like stepping out of  a dark  horrible dream. Today I understand why she kept those years to herself, she left them behind when she came to The United States Of America, this was her new home.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

International Refugee Organization ( IRO)

My Mother's IRO card
The International Refugee Organization ( IRO) was founded on April, 1946, a temporary agency of the United Nations. Their mission was arranging for the care , repatriation, or resettlement of Europeans made homeless by WWII. By the time it had terminated operations on January 31, 1952 it had provided care and shelter for more than 1,000,000 refugees in camps in Europe, moved 1,038,750 in resettlement to overseas countries and repatriated 72,834 people to their countries of origin at a cost of about $400,000,000. Before the IRO took over UNRRA , which was established by the United Nations in 1943, took on the refugee problem and established refugee camps known as Displaced Persons Camp or DP CAmps. The IRO dealt with the massive refugee problem during WWII.
People living in DP Camps were issued identification cards like my Mothers,  above photo.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Schools In DP Camps

My brother Eugene standing,  in a DP Camp school
Over 150,000 children , at least half of them under the age of six lived in DP Camps.

Since 1939, Polish children in occupied Poland were not allowed to continue their education and schools were closed.For most of these children, the war meant almost six years without any schooling, creating a gap in formal education. Many children did not learn to read and write until later on. Kindergarten and elementary schools were organized in DP Camps. Children lived with their parents and came to classes in modest buildings or a barrack, where sometimes several different levels shared a classroom. So many of these children were robbed of their childhood. Parents had to work in the camps and  placed their children in schools and  daycare as well.

As you can see in the photo these children have no books, pencils , etc: like you would imagine a school would be. The days were long for them ,many had to wait until the parents were done with work, which  can be ten hour days or more. My brother Eugene remembers those school days , he has passed on at a young age. Oh, how I wish I could talk to him. May he rest in peace.

Monday, February 20, 2012

One Cup Two Bottles To Share

My father second from right
Boarded windows, no place to go, I find companions to feed off my loneliness.One cup ,two bottles to share with music in the air.

Dp camps provided shelter, nutrition,and basic health care. People had to  find different ways of entertainment. In this photo my father with a group of friends are enjoying music and drinks. You can see the windows are boarded up and a simple wooden table and chairs with one cup and two bottles. The men are out for a few hours to have some fun , it takes them away from the agony they endure.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Displaced Persons Camp or DP Camp

My father standing and my Mother with my brother on her lap.
A displaced persons camp or DP camp is a
temporary facility for displaced persons coerced into forced immigration. Combat, ethnic cleaning,genocide and general fear resulted in millions of people being uprooted from their original homes and countries during WW ll.    Displaced Persons were mostly Eastern European. People were forced to work in German factories and farms, some were survivors of concentration camps and others fled to escape Communist rule. DP's often moved from camp to camp, looking for family, country men, accommodations as well as other reasons.Most of the refugees suffered from psychological difficulties,many were depressed and traumatized.

After WWll  many people were housed in camps admimistered by the IRO International Refugee Organization.By 1952 all but one DP camp was closed. The last one was closed in 1957.

In Hann Munden Germany there existed a Polish DP Camp from August 1945 to June 1950, situated in the Kurhessen Barracks , a former military post. This is the camp where I was born.

In the photo above my parents enjoying time spent with friends. The accommadations were a tiny room that served as a bedroom ,kitchen,living room and nursery as well.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Child Left Behind

                                                                 A Child Left Behind

In far away Germany there is a lonely grave, no flowers placed over it.
To look for a cross or a name would be in vain, no one knows whose grave this is.
Many years ago a baby was born and died, taken to soon and only his memory lives in my mind.
Every year on his birthday, no flowers are place, the clock of time has worn away and obscured it's image. Maybe someone young will place a flower and say a prayer for the lost grave left behind.
Francisze Brejwo

My brother , Franciszek was born in Diepholz Germany on May 5, 1946. He died on July 8, 1946 , just a baby. He was buried in Rehden Cemetery . The cause of death was Febrile intestinal catarrh.  It took me almost a year to find his grave with the help of Falk Liebezeit and the  International Tracing Service.  In the letter I received from Falk Liebezeit , he states that " Some grave markers were made of concrete and did not stand the heat and frost over more than sixty years. The Brejwo grave marker was no longer there when the Polish graves and grave markers were set into a decent shape in 2006, the grave markers were cleaned."  The Head marker with the name  Sauter is still there so they  did find out he is buried in that spot but no headstone. It breaks my heart when  I  think of him , long forgotten. The photo was taken in Rehden Germany before my parents were once again displaced to another DP camp. I can't even imagine how my parents must of felt leaving a Child behind and never able to visit his grave.  I was able to get a copy of his death certificate  and happy that  I did , it is an  answer to one of my many questions and puts my mind at peace.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

November 11,1951 , New Life , America

November 11th, some call it Veteran's Day, some call it Armistice Day others choose to call this remarkable day, Remembrance Day. November 11th a day we honor our military veterans, a day of celebrating the end of an earlier war. On the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice, World War l had ended. On November 11, 1951, my family entered a new life in a new land, America. I had turned my back on my history as I was growing up for what was the past to someone like me who only had dreams of the future. I was clouded by the hardships my family was enduring and I only knew I was going to live a better life then my parents. Years have past, I have grown so has my curiosity, I feel an unexplainable desire to learn and write about the foundation of my life, my parents. Today, I read through memoirs , documents, history and look at old photos, conscious of the power of names, places,dates,my roots. I understand the significance of traces that remain of bygone generations. I now crave my past, I weep trying to remember what I felt as  my mother touched my hand, my life with my parents was too short and not enough was asked or said. As Eleanor Roosevelt said on November 11, 1951 in the midst of the Korean War during a speech she had broadcasted ".... it isn't enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it . One must work at it " I am eager to do the work I hope to find my own inner peace with the knowledge I gain from writing my story as my parents must have felt the hope for  peace in America.

To the right is my Mother and my Father holding my brother.

This is me at the age of two