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Tag Archives: East Germany

S is for Spy Accusations #AtoZChallenge Historical Treasure

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.53.24 AMGrowing up in the 80’s, the Berlin Wall was to me a structure seemingly as permanent as the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. I knew it separated The East from the The West, keeping those who lived under enforced communism away from freedom and choice.

What I didn’t know and somehow missed in my history classes was that The Wall was a quite recent edifice. Prior to its erection in August of 1961 (and excepting Soviet blockade times), people traveled back and forth between the Berlins for work and pleasure (see Iron Curtain Memoirs Book 3).

At first there was no sanctuary in West Berlin for those with identity cards from the east. Many who tried to stay in the west were returned or kidnapped and brought back. Guards were only posted on the eastern side, and some trams continued to run their route across the border and back.

Such was the time in which Irene Kucholick, my A to Z Historical Treasure writer, lived.

I began riding the electric U-Bahn. Although controlled entirely by East Germany, the U-Bahn traveled from Potsdam, through West Berlin, and into East Berlin again. Each time I rode the U-Bahn I watched and learned.

Many people got off the U-Bahn in West Berlin. At all train stops on the East side, people were spot checked by armed Russian border guards….After Russian guard separated out suspected persons for further checking, the German police mustered them into a large room….

Persons in possession of forbidden Western items were transferred to another police station in the city. Each case was punished according to the degree of the offense. Even foodstuff and soaps were forbidden. We had such bad soap powder that it could only be called sand. Western soaps of any kind were welcomed articles for the black market.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.04.07 PMConfiscated items were sold in a store run by the government in Potsdam….Few people could afford them. The exchange rate was still five East Mark to one West Mark and four West Mark to one American dollar. That gives one an idea of how little East German marks were worth. Next to nothing.

Persons caught trying to escape…were usually sentenced for ten to twenty years at hard labor.

….This time I was stopped….Suddenly I remembered the Western literature. Ice cold fear gripped my body. There was no place to discard my borrowed material.

…[A scuffle broke out], I threw my magazines to the floor hoping no one would see where they came from.

Too many police and Russians were watching. Everyone saw me!

….I was immediately labeled a dangerous spy, as the papers were considered propaganda material from the West. [Excerpts from Survive Little Buddy. Copyright Irene Kucholick 1996. All rights reserved.]

One of many great images collected on Stacy Andersen's "Berlin Wall" Pinterest page

One of many great images collected on Stacy Andersen’s “Berlin Wall” Pinterest page

Can you imagine being able to cross the border, see the relative prosperity, soak in freedom for a couple hours before having to return? It’s no wonder Irene’s longing to break free from the Soviet communism strangling her homeland was so strong.

I have a short but powerful video of Irene talking about this incident that I hope to have ready for V is for Videos You Requested.

Coming next…T is for Temptation

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Kristin King is an indie author and sole-proprietor of Three Kings Publishing, which released Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs in 2013, and released the digital edition as Survive Little Buddy in 2015. Irene reminds Kristin of her own grandmother whose strength and convictions have endured from harder times.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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R is for Russian Accordion

A beautiful Russian accordion

A beautiful Russian accordion

Do you enjoy learning some new, random bit of knowledge? Maybe you enjoy playing Quiz Up or it’s more ancient predecessor, Trivial Pursuit. Those sort of entertainments are up my alley, so when I discover nuggets in a book like Survive Little Buddy I’m all together hooked. Here’s one for you from my A to Z Historical Treasure:

One day while singing and playing in the waiting room at the Riesa railroad station, the Russian patrol came so quickly we could not escape. shouting in Russian that we had committed a crime, they arrested us.

“We have been looking for you two a long time,” said one of the patrol. “You have broken the law. No entertainment is allowed in railroad stations.”

They yanked my accordion from me, forcing us outside and into a truck. It was evening when they took us into the military police headquarters.

….”You broke the law and you will be punished,” was what they repeated over and over….They took our ID cards, the contents of my pockets and Krista’s handbag….They made fun of me for all the girl stuff I had in my pockets, but I did not reveal myself and would not dare, since I always used my brother Ortwin’s ID.

….With nothing left but our clothing…we were forced…through the building….They opened a door and pushed us down another flight of stairs….They pushed us in [a totally black room] and I stumbled and fell down a step I could not see. The door banged shut and someone helped me stand up. My hands were we and we were standing in ankle-deep water….

….My eyes adjusted….The cold water looked very dirty and the odor of urine grew stronger….

Krista grabbed my hand and whispered loudly, “They’ve put us in here until they kill us or send us to Siberia!”

….I touched the wall. It was slippery and wet. Hours passed.

“How long can we stand like this?” Krista asked. “My knees ache and my feet are numb.”

I didn’t answer. We held each other and cried quietly….We counted the hours by the chimes of a church clock we could hear ever so faintly through our prison walls.

[Later]….We were taken through the same passage….A different officer was there now. With much gesturing he said, “You will be put away for good if you are caught in a railroad station again.”

….When I saw our things I knew we were going to be released. I could not see my accordion and asked the officer for it….

“You didn’t even have a an accordion, you little liar,” he bellowed. “If you don’t shut up and get out of here we’ll arrest you again and never let you go!”

….Though we stood all the way home, the train felt very comfortable after the sleepless night standing in water.

….With no accordion there was no way to make money and we had no articles to trade for food in the black market. A few days later, Mama, carrying a large bag of rutabagas for that family, made a visit to Zschopauer Strasse to ask Herr Hillebrandt to make a trip to the Musik and Toy Towns Klingenthal and Zwothal to find a new accordion for me.

….In Zwothal we walked to the factories where they made accordions and other small instruments and wooden articles. “We are not making instruments for the German population, only for Russian needs,” was the disheartening information we received.

Seeing my fallen expression, one of the workers in another factory thrust an accordion at me saying, “The Russians have a different musical scale. Here, try it. You cannot play it.”

….I reached for the instrument and found it difficult to play. The notes didn’t sound right.

….Herr Hillebrandt had heard me play my old accordion….”You want it? Think you can learn to play this one?”

“I’ll learn no matter what,” I promised.

“Okay. You got it.” He turned to the factory representative and said, “Sell it to me. The Russians took her accordion.”

He peeled some money off a roll he carried and with a wink at the factory people I now owned a new accordion. I put it in its brand new case and said a silent prayer of thanks to God. [Excerpt from Survive Little Buddy, copyright Irene Kucholick 1996. All right reserved.]

The Russians have a different musical scale? Really? I love discovering a bit like that. I wonder what their do-re-mi sounds like. I should ask a friend. One of the ladies in my book club might know, and one of them pointed out that the airman taken prisoner by the Russians in the movie “Bridge of Spies” was also put in a cell with standing water. Living in Holland, I can tell you that the Dutch could not abide a room with even a puddle, they are so determined to control every drip of water.

What pluck and determination Irene had as a young teen. Honestly, she is still like that today. A credit to Herr Hillebrandt’s kindness (K is for Kindnesses), she did learn to play that instrument and was soon riding the rails with Krista again. Her next adventure was near the Reisa black market.

Our next A to Z Challenge bring us to S. S is for….oops. Well, not really. But I used my S topic for M, M is for Music to Survive. I’ll dig up another S for you in a flash.Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 9.42.40 AM

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Kristin King is an author and publisher of Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs which include Books 1, 2, and 3; My World War 2 Childhood, My Years Hidden As a Boy, My Escape to Freedom. All three books are contained in Survive Little Buddy along with photos, a historical time line, and maps not available in the stand alone books.

 

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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M is for Music to Survive #AtoZChallenge Historical Treasure @AprilA2Z

Same brand Irene now owns, Hohner accordion from the Latin Collection

Same brand Irene now owns, Hohner accordion from the Latin Collection

(April is A to Z Historical Treasure featuring posts related to the memoir “Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs” by Irene Kucholick.)

Do you remember your first instrument? My lil’ guys were so excited recently because they and all their classmates got recorders to learn to play. My nine-year old even tries to practice instead of doing other homework, so he’s on a time limit till that’s done.

Irene’s instrument was the accordion, and her lessons didn’t stop because she lost interest but rather because the music teacher’s space was bombed. She certainly had a World War 2 Childhood. She continued to practice and play not knowing that  music would help her survive the post-war Iron Curtain when she spent three years hidden as a boy.

One cold winter morning Krista and I walked into Chemnitz. I carried my accordion but my fingers were too cold to play. Most of the activity was, as usual, at the railroad station, so we went there to see what was happening. People were sitting on bundles of luggage waiting for trains….A few soldiers were playing cards. The only sound seemed to be the shuffle and snap of cards as they played….A melancholy mood was everywhere.

“Let’s sing and I’ll play, Krista.”

We started. heads turned and people smiled. This was the encouragement we needed. We sand some of the old German folk songs: “A Penny and a Dollar,” and “When All Fountains Are Running” and others.

Coins were tossed toward us….a young man picked up the coins and put them in his hat, gathering more as they were tossed….

“Krista, we could us this money to ride the trains out to places where food is more plentiful.”

Working on 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

Working on 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

An idea was born and we decided to try it…with permission from our mothers who gave it only reluctantly….When night came we slept in waiting rooms of railroad stations, hunched against the wall, or on a bench if one was empty.

….Police occasionally disturbed us when they came to check our IDs and tickets. Some German police overlooked our playing and singing, since it was clearly evident people seemed happier when they heard us. More often though, they forbade us to play in no uncertain terms, whether we had a ticket to travel or not. Anyone without a ticket had to leave the station and might even be arrested.

We were told, “You better watch out for the Russian patrol. They won’t allow any singing and playing in railroad stations,” and they warned us that we could get arrested for that.

Some young kids around the stations kept watch for us.[Excerpt from My Years Hidden As a Boy, Book 2 of Survive Little Buddy. All rights reserved.]

The accordion has always fascinated me. I love to watch how the player makes it breathe and sing its husky chords. Irene still plays, though I’ve only cajoled her into it a couple times, once using my children and their lack of ever having seen one played as the impetus. Unfortunately I don’t have video of her playing. We set her accordion next to her on the couch in some of her videos, though, so you can see what her current instrument, a Hohner accordion, looks like.

I want to say a quick “Thank You!” to everyone who has stopped by, left a comment, and watched our videos.

Next we’re jumping ahead into Book 3 of Irene’s memoirs where she is a young adult working behind the Iron Curtain. “N is for Nurse Comrades” in communist East Germany.

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Kristin King is an author and publisher who inquired about taking accordion lessons in middle school from the church organist. Lessons never panned out, yet Kristin still appreciates listening to players and is more likely to stop for a street performer with said instrument. She is now wondering if Irene knows whatever happened to singing friend Krista.

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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F is for Fear of Rape in Post War Years #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2Z

My Years Hidden As a Boy - 1st Edition Cover

My Years Hidden As a Boy – 1st Edition Cover

You can probably call to mind instances in your own life when fear gripped you, squeezing your chest tight making it difficult to breathe. Most recently for me, being hit by a motorized vehicle while on my bike has changed my life in Holland. Now each time I put my feet to the pedals my heart rate to increases. The dread of what might happen or happen again only worse is the spark of ice-fired fear.

Gang rapes by Russian patrols were a part of the daily life in the Soviet occupation zones for years in post-war Europe. Irene Kucholick’s memoir describes several instances of Russian attacks, some worse than others. In interviews Irene said there were good patrols and bad patrols. On one night in her village four soldiers abducted four women and took them back to their headquarters where they appeared to wait for the commandant to take first pick of the bound victims before beginning their festivities.

“Antony Beevor describes it as the ‘greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history’, and has concluded that at least 1.4 million women were raped in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia alone.” I suspect his work probably does not take into account the decades of rebel activities in the mountains of east Congo which is north of where my NGO project operates. Regardless, as recently as 2015 his books were banned in some Russian schools and universities.

This was one time during The Iron Curtain Memoirs that I appreciated the lack of sentimentality typical of Irene’s accounts. At this point, Irene was already “Hidden As a Boy” when she went out.

The Russian solders’ constant search for women was greatly feared by the women in Euba. When the women learned they could not be protected within their homes they left their children and slipped away to sleep in the trenches dug by German soldiers. The trenches were deep and fairly dry. Some trenches had small wooden sheds with straw floors which provided cold but fairly comfortable places to hide. German men were afraid to protect their women from these assaults since they were not allowed to have weapons.

….One night a Russian patrol on horseback came into the area where we lived. One of them knocked on the door. We opened the door and saw a big soldier smiling at us. He grabbed Mama. My thought my heart would stop beating. We knew immediately what would happen to Mama. We screamed as loud a we could. Mama screamed too. Ortwin and Hartmut kicked him….By now five solders were standing in the open doorway… [Irene tells how assault was averted.]

….On those nights when everything was quiet and we heard no “Frau comm, Frau comm,” we would say, “Tonight the good ones are on patrol.”

….One day Mama sent me to Niederwiesa to get a few pounds of oat kernels ground….Ursel and her mother decided to go with me. We walked rapidly and made it to the mill with no problems. We had to wait in line to get the kernels milled. It was late afternoon when we started home….

Working on a 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

Working on a 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

At dusk a group of five Russians patrolling on bicycles passed us and turned around to begin following us. We walked faster. they advanced and wheeled around us in a threatening circle from which we could not escape.

There was no doubt as to their intentions. They suddenly wheeled closer, dismounted and grabbed us by the shoulders. Would I be mistaken for a boy? Evidently so, I was to be taken care of first. A hard blow to my face sent me reeling dizzily backward. A sickening kick in my stomach knocked me down. Four of the men grabbed Ursel and her mother, forcing them to the ground. I tried to slip along the wall of the building, thinking the growing darkness would hide my escape. A big hand on my neck shoved me against the bricks. I was warned not to move if I wanted to live. Another blow in my face and stomach left me in great pain and unable to move. I could only lie there and witness the sordid scene of rape. [Excerpt from “Survive Little Buddy: The Iron Curtain Memoirs.” © Irene Kucholick 1996]

According to Wikipedia, “Female deaths in connection with the rapes in Germany, overall, are estimated at 240,000.” Rape-murder was not uncommon. Victims ranged in age from 8 to 80. Yet as recently as 2008 when a feature film was made about this, “it was widely rejected in Germany after its initial publication but has seen a new acceptance and many women have found inspiration to come forward with their own stories.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_during_the_occupation_of_Germany)

During last year’s A to Z Challenge I wrote about my project trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and chose to focus on the brighter side, beauty, and reasons for hope. With this Historical Treasure theme the posts are mostly dark this first week. Certainly there were holidays, fun times, even laughter and little reasons to rejoice throughout Irene’s accounts. A few of those are coming. However…

Next up, G is for Gestapo.

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Kristin King is a co-founder of Future Hope Africa, an educational project in east Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although she published Irene’s Historical Treasure, Kristin is a fiction author, mom to four boys, military spouse, and family travel planner. She thanks God that the man in Czech Republic who tried her hotel door knob, knocked, and called “Come, sex, come” for two hours one dreary night in Prague did not get into her room.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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B is for Bolsheviks (A to Z Historical Treasure)

April is the A to Z Blog Challenge – 26 posts in one month. My theme this year is Historical Treasure.

Publishers get to do things like update cover designs. This mockup might be on the 2nd edition of Irene's first book.

Publishers get to do things like update cover designs. This mock-up might be on the 2nd edition of Irene’s first book. Need to work in a swastika or other Nazi symbol.

Publisher.

Not a title I expected to have. Even after sending my husband’s first novel and my own into the world, I did not expect to work on getting others’ books into the hands of readers.

Then came Irene. Her complete manuscript came into my hands at church on a Sunday night. It was obviously photocopied from a typed original. Having never been a huge fan of biographies and history, I nonetheless agreed to look it over. Almost from page one I knew I was holding a historical treasure.

Here is an excerpt (copyright 1996 by Irene L. Emmerich Kucholick):

Around the time of my birth in 1929, in the industrial city of Chemnitz, Bolshevism had established itself in Russia. The Nazi party catapulted into power, teetering Europe on the brink of great turmoil.

My father, fluent in many languages, worked as a foreign correspondent for industrial firms. During evening hours refugees from Russia–members of the old white Russian nobility (anti red) crowded into his study to learn the German language. His attraction to a Russian countess and subsequent unfaithfulness to my mother caused her to leave him while she was pregnant with me, her first child. She later divorced my father.

….After dinner, strange people in elegant clothes began to arrive. Father took them immediately into his study. They spoke harsh-sounding words I could not understand.

“Russian,” Father told me.

When they took off their coats, I saw fashionable dresses of fine wool. They wore jewelry and I saw large rings reflecting bright colored lights from moving hands. Long earrings and necklaces held brilliant jewels.

“This is the wealth they brought from Russia,” Father said, “and they keep much of it on them. They are slow to trust others.” When the men removed their coats, I noticed medals of rank and honor, awarded by the Czar.

From this point forward, Irene’s memoirs had me. My fascination with the story of Anastasia, much encouraged by the 1970’s movie with Amy Irving as the supposedly still surviving Russian princess, and with the fate of the Tzar’s family prior to World War 2 urged me on.

3 Memoirs in 1: World War 2 Childhood, Years Hidden As a Boy, and Journey to Freedom (East to West Berlin)

3 Memoirs in 1: World War 2 Childhood, Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin)

Story after story of Irene’s young life in tumultuous times played out as I read straight through her childhood and young adult life in three days. History came alive for me in a way it never had before. Irene’s straight forward accounts, written without emotionally charged embellishments, brought the era closer home to me than had my visits to historical sights such as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Dachau contraction camp, and the battle fields of Bastogne.

“We have to publish this,” I told my husband. And we did.

I’ve gotten to know Irene who is one of my heroes. Getting her story into the hands of readers became a labor love from the days of transferring typed pages into digital format via three softwares to the audio recordings I am making this month.

This is the historical treasure for you to catch glimpses of throughout the A to Z Blog Challenge this month. What episode of history fascinates you? Do you have a question for Irene? Tell us in the comments.

(Next up: C is for Crazy Kids (World War 2)

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Kristin King is a publisher with Three Kings Publishing, but she does not accept manuscripts for review…normally. Three Kings Publishing is a mom and pop publisher of Christian writers, not necessarily Christian books.

 
 

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Tis the Season Reading : FREE Christmas “Behind the Iron Curtain”

"Behind the Iron Curtain: My Years Hidden as a Boy" FREE here Amazon till Sunday.

“Behind the Iron Curtain: My Years Hidden as a Boy” FREE here Amazon till Sunday.

Today I am featuring a Christmas excerpt from the memoirs of an amazing woman. It’s Christmas 1945 behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany where the Russian Communists rule and send every scrap back to Russia. Here’s what Irene lived:

Fall passed and winter came. If we had not looked at the calendar we would not have known it was Christmas 1945. We had a few sacks of potatoes and very little else to keep us going, but the people in the city did not even have that. They were starving badly. Typhoid fever reached the epidemic stage even though everyone in the city was vaccinated.

I began scouting further from home in the hope of finding more food. With few rations available and money worthless, it took large sums to buy food in the black market. One pound of butter cost 200 Reichsmark, equivalent to fifty 1946 U.S. dollars.

Born in the same year as Anne Frank (who gave us 2 years of WWII), Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs cover the whole war (Book 1), her 3 years spent hidden as a boy (Book 2), and her final escape to freedom from East to West Berlin (Book 3).

FREE through Sunday on Amazon is Book 2 of this incredible historical treasure. Why is it free? Because Irene needs 10 REVIEWS of this title on Amazon in order to qualify for affordable advertising. Give her your gift here, a read and review. Read the whole set in Iron Curtain Memoirs, the 3-in-1 book. There you’ll find out what Christmas was like before and during WWII as well as all the other incredible events of Irene’s life.

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Before the Iron Curtain: My WWII Childhood

Behind the Iron Curtain: My Years Hidden As a Boy

Escape the Iron Curtain: My Journey to Freedom

Iron Curtain Memoirs (3-in-1 with photos, maps, and timeline not included elsewhere)

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Kristin King is an author and publisher. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).

Contact Kristin King for more information on Irene Kucholick’s books or to book an event.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Christmas, Freebies Alert, Story Bites

 

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