The German American
Dramatic Days of Childhood
Norman F. Weber is proud to be a German. And he is proud
to be an American. In the meanwhile he is both; yet, in his childhood
he was not able to be one or the other. The Methodist pastor,
today living in Tennessee, lived in Buchberg and Wolfratshausen
at the end of the War. His family had to conceal their American heritage
not to create danger for themselves.
The 71-year old Norman F. Weber is a witness of time
as only a historian could wish for. His remembrances of the war years
in the later Geretsried sound so lively as if they happened just yesterday.
And they sound most plausible. It is now a few weeks ago
that Weber surfed the internet and came upon this website.
The presentation of the NS-History of Wolfratshausen
and the surrounding area caused in him many remembrances.
He entered his name in the guest book, the contact was made.
Norman F. Weber was nine years old when the Second World War ended: within a few weeks he witnessed the American bombing raid
onto the munitions factory of the Wolfratshausen Forst (April 9, 1945),
the death march of the Dachau concentration camp inmates (April 30),
and the appearance of the American troops (May 1). It took seven days
within the chaos of the collapse that mother Aenny, with her three children, was able to literally fight her way through from Buchberg to Wolfratshausen and there to find a home and work.
The story of Norman Weber has many turns, yet start from the beginning:
It was in the 1930s that Norman’s parents Aenny Bauer and Frank Weber
met in New York. Both had recently emigrated there.
His father came from a small village southwest of Berlin
and his mother from Penzberg. It is summer 1939;
the naturalization process is still in the works, when the sad news
came from Germany that Aenny’s father was dying. He wanted to see
his family, so he wrote; the passage was paid for. The family returns
to the homeland not having any idea that soon it would change for them.
American Weber has to enter the Wehrmacht
Return to America is no longer possible since on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, the Second World War began. The USA now, although officially not yet in the war, is an enemy state.
Frank Weber was drafted and sent to the eastern front.
The American Citizenship, which he had obtained in the meanwhile,
is now null and void.
Living in Berlin, Norman’s mother now had to take care of her family,
her two children Norman and Lisa. Since the situation in Berlin
became more and more unbearable, primarily because of the constant Allies bombing raids, the family in 1943 joined her husband in Przemysl, Poland.
Yet there as well the situation became quite hot;
the Red Army was approaching; Norman can still remember
the artillery thunder.
The Weber’s again fled, this time to Bavaria where Aenny’s sister Elly
and her family were living. To be precise, to Buchberg, on the property
of the defense industry. Norman’s uncle Josef Lindner worked there
as a director of the IG Farben. No one outside the family knew that
the Webers had lived in New York until 1939.
No one knew that Norman and Lisa were born there and therefore
had their American citizenship. To be secure, mother destroyed
all suspicious documents keeping only the birth certificates of her children, keeping them in a secret place.
Weber still has wonderful remembrances while in Buchberg. The family was living there in a comfortable home located on the Reichsstrasse 11.
The freight train with which munitions were transported from the factory,
the boys went to school in Wolfratshausen. Norman and Ekkehard,
his one-year older cousin, experienced easy days although with
a few indications the war was coming closer and closer to them as well.
It is February 1945 when both cousins were send to the highland camp
of the Hitler Youth, for “military training.” Shortly thereafter Norman’s mother received the order to send her son to the “Leadership school”;
presumably this was the Apprentice School (Junkerschule) in Bad Toelz, today the Flint Center.
Norman does not go. Mother and aunt feared that he would be kept there. Sixty-two years later Weber remembers that his mother said
that this school would have “swallowed you.”
where Norman lived until April 30, 1945
April 9, Norman and cousin Ekkehard standing in front of the bunker
(on the road to Schweigwall), observed the American air raid
on the munitions factory. The attack failed although over 5,000 bombs
were dropped in the area of Geretsried and Gartenberg,
the approximate location of the factory. Only one worker from Koenigsdorf was mortally wounded.
Camp Commandant Lynched
Then it was April 30, 1945. The guards of the Camp Buchberg fled;
suddenly the forced laborers were free.
And the American allowed them to plunder and to commit revenge.
For one and even two days lawlessness ruled. Norman remembers
seeing the camp commandant, “a one-armed man”,
being lynched by the freed forced laborers.
Rocks fly through the windows. The families Lindner and Weber
are forced to give up all provisions. They fear for their lives.
Just a few necessitates are loaded in the baby carriage and Norman’s two-months old sister Helga is on top of all;
they are trying to fight their way to Wolfratshausen.
Norman F. Weber remembers the dramatic experiences beginning May 1945:
“First we tried to run through the woods behind our home
but we were shot at. We ran as fast as possible to the road to find Americans. We are accosted, “You German swine,” and other foul language.
Suddenly we were surrounded by a number of men.
They demanded to receive that what was in the baby carriage.
First mother refused. Suddenly a man grabbed me and held a long knife
to my throat with the demand that he would stab me
should mother not give up the things.”
It took nearly a week for both families to travel five kilometers to the Camp Foehrenwald. An American soldier stood at the gate. Norman’s mothers ran up to him showing him her children’s’ birth certificates speaking to him in English. Rescued!
The families could stay in the Camp Foehrenwald for two days: the forced laborers of the munitions factory are already gone, later to be the housing for nearly 6,000 homeless Jews (officially: DPs, Displaced Persons). Mother Weber is most welcomed by the American Military Government. She speaks English perfectly, she knows the American Mentality.
The American Military Government tries to built new structures out of the chaos. Curfew exists between 7 P.M. and 6 A.M. Numerous houses were confiscated to house the American soldiers, the inhabitants have to find their own housing, to be sure, as soon as possible.
The Webers profited from that. They were given a few rooms in the Spatz-House on Ludwig-Thoma Strasse,
the property of a Jewish cattle dealer family who had been deported
by the Nazis and killed.
First Communion 1946, Norman and his uncle Heinrich Fambach
Captain Bischoff, Aenny Weber and the Office Girls
Captain Carl H. Bischoff is in charge with six American officers
and a number of “American Office Girls” (as Anton Geiger,
later to be the community secretary, could remember).
They are housed in the Court House, today the homeland museum.
Mayor Hans Winibald in 1933 relieved of his duties by the Nazis
was once again the mayor. Again Anton Geiger:
“In reality our occupiers were quite generous.
In time one even befriended them. The first mayor Hans Winibald
always found with the Americans an “open ear.”
The family Weber also had the same experience. Frank Weber,
after his release from the prisoner-of-war camp in September 1945,
obtained the position of a translator and interpreter.
Thanks to the connection with the US-Army the Weber’s received more
and better groceries as the locals.
Norman was 15 years old when he received his driver’s license.
He is needed: for his father he delivers merchandise
to the American headquarters, the Flint Kaserne in Bad Toelz;
a city to which he has immediate family connections
as he several years later found out. His grand father was the builder
of the Protestant church on Schuetzenstrasse and of the Café am Wald.
When the Americans turned over local responsibilities to the civilians (Germans), the Webers moved to Chieming and a year later to Munich. Norman, in the meanwhile is 18, remembering his American roots in 1954 entered the US-Army and is transferred to Kentucky, in his homeland. Homeland? Only two years later he is transferred back to Germany
until 1959 stationed in Augsburg.
Father remained back. He is without a state and received
the identification card as a refugee (DP-Pass). Both of Norman’s sisters
also moved to the USA. After the death of her husband in 1972,
mother Aenny moved to live with her daughter Helga.
Norman F. Weber and his wife Sandy today retired Pastor,
in Mount Juliet, Tennessee
Weber Visits Germany Every Year
Norman F. Weber, while in the US. Army had married. In 1959,
having been discharged from the Army entered the University of Tennessee. He is able to obtain a position with a feed company which sent him to Krefeld for three years. The Webers have two children (today 42 and 40).
He decides to become an entrepreneur. At age 48 he had a second carrier
as a pastor of the Methodist church.
The connections with Germany remain most intensive,
not just because of the many relatives of his parents
but also because the Webers (after the death of his first wife he remarried), nearly every year come over the big pond. 2002 was the last time
he was in Wolfratshausen, 2004 in Bad Toelz,
and they want to return in 2010. Just this year they were on the trail
of the Reformation in northern Germany and Switzerland.
Still today Norman Weber conducts presentation about Germany,
in schools and in front of veterans’ associations. “You have bombed me,”
he says and then narrates his experiences in Buchberg and Wolfratshausen until the Americans came.
This article appeared on August 10, 2007 in the Toelzer Kurier;
Translation: Norman Weber.
Special thanks from the author!