*State AP Wire
Jutta Schreiner’s childhood was filled with brainwashing, war and faith in the Nazi Party.
As a 9-year-old German girl, she survived the British Royal Air Force’s attack on a German city, her hometown, Lubeck. About that time, she enrolled early in Hitler Youth and three years later, as the war was ending, she helped her mother destroy the last traces of her father’s existence and ties with the Nazi Party.
Ms. Schreiner, now 77 with her white, wispy hair and frail stature, says it was for safety – an effort to protect the family from association with the Nazis if her father ever came home from the war.
Her book, “The Signature Call,” shares snippets of surviving the war – stealing coal, hiding from airstrikes, joining Hitler Youth, and the day her father returned from the war.
She clasps her fragile hands under her chin and peacefully re-enacts her stories’ introduction. “These are war stories that happened in the second World War that I lived through.”
A few years ago, she started sharing her war stories at the dinner table among talks of politics, religion or her grandchildren’s day at school. Her friends and family encouraged her to write her story.
“I started telling about my war stories and my son-in-law always said, ‘You have to write those down; they’ll forget and so you have to write those down,'” she said.
She claims the stories as memories rather than “total facts.”
Ms. Schreiner was born in 1933 in Lubeck, the first German city to be attacked in substantial numbers by the Royal Air Force.
Her mother was a housewife and her father, a car salesman, she remembers, “was a 1,000 percent Hitler guy.”
In 1936, membership in Hitler Youth became compulsory for 10-year-old children.
The program intended to keep children busy and combat juvenile delinquency.
Ms. Schreiner walked with her older sister, Christa, to Hitler Youth meetings.
Because Ms. Schreiner was a fast runner, she said she joined Hitler Youth early, when she was 8 or 9 years old, just after World War II started.
While Ms. Schreiner wrote in her book that children were “oblivious to the horrors being committed by some members of the Nazi party, and part of its goal was to “brainwash” children, she said it was not all negative.
“Though it is humiliating to many that these beliefs were instilled in us as children, many of the young Germans were honest, empathetic and caring human beings who lived their lives on the principles of morality that were instilled in them at home,” she wrote in her book.
The Hitler Youth Troops had mandatory meetings on Wednesdays and Saturdays, kept daily logs and did one good deed a day, be it helping someone cross the street or babysitting an hour for a busy mother.
“It kept kids busy,” Ms. Schreiner said.
She said children’s basic education and morals still came from the family.
Decades later, she said the organization’s lessons have helped her survive not only the war, but a divorce and cancer.
“The urge to survive is a strong one,” she said. “And we survived it.”
She was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2002.
She said cancer gave her “more time.”
“I cannot sit quietly, not to do anything,” she said. “With cancer, I was restricted in walking and doing things, so I wrote my war stories.”
She said she owes the book’s completion to Sue Deakins and Jenny Molberg – “the wind beneath my wings,” Ms. Schreiner said.
Mrs. Deakins remains humble about her involvement.
“I realized she was never going to get it published if somebody didn’t help her with it – so much of the time she was in the hospital,” Mrs. Deakins said.
When Ms. Schreiner was tired of writing, Mrs. Deakins and Ms. Molberg encouraged her to keep at it.
They would say, “Come on Oma, you have to write it, you have to write more,'” Ms. Schreiner said. “That’s how it came about.”
One reason for her book is to remind others that people are kind, she said.
Another is to remind people of what happened during the war “and not let it happen again,” she said.
“Not make the same mistake, not just believe everything people tell you,” she said. “You should think about it and make your own decision: ‘Could this be possible?’ We were pretty little, 8, 9 years, 10. We could think, but I don’t know how much it takes to see political implications.”
When she saw Jewish families “driven down the street like a herd of cows,” she said people would say the families were going to “working camps.”
“I don’t know if people had gotten up and fought against it, but the problem is, if you got the guts to do that, you put your life on the line too,” Ms. Schreiner said. “When it comes to that, many, many people are thinking twice.”
Though she said she did not pick up habits from her childhood, her thick accent is a constant reminder of her German heritage.
“At the end of all of this, I came to the conclusion that human beings are kind, most of them, 90 percent or 85 percent are good, good creatures,” she said.
She said she believes it is “the government and the politics” that are responsible for wars and fostering hatred among people.
But out of her experiences, she said, “The war made me much more tolerable, to accept people as they are, to not criticize them,” she said.
Published October 24
Tyler Morning Telegraph