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Eveline Scholz: 1936 - 2002.

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     My "aunt" Evi was born in 1936 in the beautiful Silesian City of Ohlau near Breslau back when it was still a part of Germany. Silesia was one of the parts of Germany given to Poland in the aftermath of WWII. 
     This photo was made during a small party at her home in Belzig, Brandenburg in 1997. I had just tasted some truly evil Schnapps making me grimmace and her laugh.

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Germany lost Silesia, Posen, Pomerania, East & West Prussia and Eastern Brandenburg in 1945.

     In January 26th of 1945 The German Authorities issued the decree shown below which translates as: 
 
     "Females of all ages as well as male children under the age of 16 and men over the age of 60 are hereby ordered to evacuate the City of Breslau. In order to make possible the transport of the sick and infirm, all able bodied persons are to leave on foot."
 
     It was this order that was to change Evelines life forever. The Scholz Family set out n foot, leaving their father behind to never been seen or heard from again. The thousands of refugees headed West clogging all the roads in both directions.
    

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     One of the few memories that Evi ever shared with me about her experiences on the march were of...
 
     "marching through the feezing cold and snow. We children thought everything was a great adventure but there was no food and we were hungry. After a few days the advancing Soviets had caught-up with the column and were being engaged by The German Army. All around us was death and violence as we fled in all directions to escape the battles and skirmishes. It was during the periods of relative calm...usually early morning...when the adults would send us (the children) out to rummage through the pockets of the dead, frozen soldiers who lay about in trenches. I didn't understand what death was and thought it was a wonderfully fun game to try and sneak food from the pockets of the sleeping soldiers without waking them..."
 
      Eveline was 9 years old. She had one older sister and a younger brother when she left Ohlau in 1945. As they marched slowly into the unknown, the 700 year old City of Breslau was being burned and blasted into ruins. It was somewhere on Czech soil (German Occupied Sudetenland) that Evi encountered her first Russian. It was to be an encounter that would change her life.
 
     "He yelled something at me in Russian but I didn't understand. I spoke no Russian. He yelled at me again but I simply didn't know what he was saying. Suddenly I felt something smash into my back. I realized later that the Russian had been telling me to walk faster (phoenetically)"Tuhv eye!". I ran back to my mother but the pain was horrible, eventually I fell, unable to walk and was carried to a nearby Czech Field Hospital."

     German refugees were the last people the Czechs wanted to see so Evelines welcome was less than hospitable as she was carried into the field hospital. Her mother, desperate to get the rest of her family out of harms way, made a decision few mothers could make. She tore Evelines page from the Familienbuch (the equivalent of a birth certificate) and tucked it to Evis pocket along with a rosary. She then left her 9 year old daughter who was under heavy sedation and being prepped for surgery, gathered the remainding children and continued the Westward trek.
     Evi told me of a few memories while she lay there after her surgery which essentially cemented her spine back together and made it immobile. She would survive but she would never walk again. She was paraplegic. She talkedof how the Czech nurses would frequently laugh at her, making the sign of a knife across their throat. At one point she even had to struggle with one nurse who was attempting to steal her rosary stating " You don't need it! You will die!"

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Identifying the dead...1945

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The Streets of Breslau.

     Hitler ordered that The City of Breslau be designated a "Festung" or Fortress City. Both the soldiers and civilians were ordered to fight to the death. If Breslau fell, The Russians would sweep into Germany from the South and all would be lost. All was already lost and the slaughter that ensued was horrific. The loss of life was enormous with an especially large number of  children among the victims. Though briefly celebrated for their heroism, the fall of the city is rarely mentioned...seemingly forgotten.

     Eventually Eveline would be reunited with the survivng members of the family. They managed to escape death but did not wander far enough West to avoid falling into the hands of The Soviets. As an iron curtain descended across Eastern Europe the remnants of the Scholz family survived several years living  outside of Leipzig in a part of a barn that was shared by multiple homeless families. They eventually ended-up in the sleepy town of Belzig in The State of Brandenburg (about 1 hour South of Berlin). There they found better accomodations where Evi, her widowed mother, brother and 2 cousins shared two rooms.
     Items like wheelchairs and medical care were almost nonexistant in post war Eastern Germany and Evi moved herself about the tiny apartment my laying her body on peices of waxed cardboard and then dragging herself across the floor with her hands. For the first several years she never left the apartment which was located on an upper floor.
      

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Belzig (Mark Brandenburg) 2000

     Belzig would remain Evis home for the rest of her life. As conditions in The DDR improved, so did Evis life. Eventually she would get a wheelchair and whenshe later was given a job in a local factory that produced hot plates for electric kitchen stoves...she was given a Simpson DUO.  She could actually be placed into and drive the Duo on her own with her wheelchair in the back! In the 1980's she experienced one of her greatest joys when The State provided her with a Trabant Combi (wagon). Despite her handicap, she worked and contributed to the nation, as such she was well provided for by The State.
     The picture, below right,  is a Simpson DUO. It was essentially a 50cc moped with a bench seat and flimsy carriage to semi-protect its driver and passenger from the elements.

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A Simpson DUO.

     The DUO and later her Trabant Combi would provide Eveline with the mobility and freedom she lost on that fatefull day in 1945.
     She continued to work through the 70's and into the 80's. Her life was good and she enjoyed the added luxury that The DDR only granted to retirees and disabled people...a passport and the freedom to travel outside of Communist East Germany!!! She took full advantage of this freedom too! She made regulat trips in Wesr Berlin and even visited her sister who had managed in the early 1960's to flee to Hamburg. There she was offered an apartment and resettlement assistance if she wanted to leave The DDR permanently but she declined. Everything she now knew was behind The Wall. She had no reason to leave and The West seeemd very cold and frightening to her.
In 1989 The Wall would fall and everyones world would change.
     As with most of East Germanys citizens, the reunification of the two Germanies brought with it momentary euphoria followed almost instantly by unemployment and chaos. It was during that period of "change" that the factory she hd worked in all of her life ceased to exist. She found hersrlf suddenly just another one of the millions that made the unemployment rate rise to nearly 46%. She also found herself to suddenly be just a cripple. Given the number of people out of work, she had no chance to ever work again. Overnight she had become excess baggage. Two years later she would be diagnosed with breast cancer and undergo a masive, double mastectomy.

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A Trabant Combi.

     The cancer would spread quickly throughout her 110 pound body and she was informed by 1992 that she also had bone, blood and lung cancer. It was shortly after this time that we developed a real friendship. We were both attracted to each others "devil may care" attitudes which are not something often encountered in rigid German society. We both were in need of a true friend.
     I continued to live and work in the bordering State of Sachsen-Anhalt, driving almost every single weekend to visit with her, other family and newly made friends. By 1997 I had vacated my apartment in Koethen and moved into Evis small apartment in Belzig. I continued to commute by rail to my teaching jobs in Koethen & Dessau for about a year. Eventually I resigned my jobs in Sachsen-Anhalt and in early 1999 I took a new position in Brandenburg.
     As our friendship grew one thing I tried to do was take her places she had never been. So much of her life had been spent cooped-up, ignored and alone. The photos below show some of the many places we explored together.

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Wernigerode, East Germany.

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Tengermuende, East Germany.

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Frankfurt/Oder and Slubice, Poland.

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Lutherstadt Wittenberg, East Germany.

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Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

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Prage, Czech Republic.

     We had some really amazing years but all good things eventually come to an end. It gradually became more and more difficult for me to earn a living teaching. As years passed and unemployment remained around 30%, even I became unemployed by early 2000 and had recieved an "Arbeitsverbot" or ban from government emplyment. It was time for me to leave as I had become a liability.

     In April of 2000 I placed my 1974 Trabant on a Swedish transport ship bound to The USA and made airline reservations to fly first to Paris and then Houston.
     There was no tearful good-bye but we all knew we would probbaly never see one another again. My cousin Mischa, Evi and I drove to Berlin Tegel where I departed Germany for the last time.

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Evi and two friends on trip to Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) Czech Rep.

     We stayed in very close contact by phone and letters until 2002 when she called me for the last time. She was incoherent, due to a heavy dose of morphine. After a few moments my uncle came on the phone to explain that although her speach was a mumble of jumbled words, she was desperate to call me to say how much she loved me.
     She passed away a few hours later. Her suffering finally at an end.
 
                          Eveline Scholz 
                  from Ohlau bei Breslau:
                            1936 to 2002.

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