Austin Civil War Round Table

Ilse and Donald Tipping

Civilian, Berlin, Germany, 1939-1945

United States Army, 1956-1980

Ilse Tipping's Story

Ilse Tipping has a unique story to tell -- one that few Americans have heard. As a young girl growing up in Germany during World War II, Ilse experienced firsthand the pain and horror of defeat in wartime. Later, Ilse met and married Donald Tipping, who was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany. Ilse became an American citizen in 1960.

Map of Germany When the war began, Ilse was living with her grandparents in their home in Steglitz, a suburb of Berlin. In many ways, they were a typical German family. Ilse is frank about her childhood impressions of Adolph Hitler, before she knew anything of the German dictator's atrocity. "I was born in 1933. When the war started in 1939, I was little, and we were told Hitler was the best thing, and I didn't see the ugliness. It might sound terrible to you, but you get indoctrinated -- you believe what you hear. I wanted to belong to the Hitler Youth group. It was a beautiful uniform that they had. But my grandmother said no, you need clothes more than you need a shirt and a uniform."

By 1943, Berlin had become a prime target for Allied bombers. "The bombing got heavier and heavier," Ilse says. "They had places for the kids to go -- bunkers under the ground. You went to the streetcar and went to the bunker and waited all night long, and you'd feel the shaking. When you got out of the bomb shelter, you didn't know 'Is the house standing? Is my family alive?' I think that was the worst thing that anybody could go through. I was eight or nine years old, and I'd get out and not know when I got home if the building would still be standing."

To get her away from the bombing, Ilse's grandmother arranged for her to go stay with a wealthy family in German-occupied Poland. "My grandmother wrote to these people and asked if I could come and stay there because the bombing got so heavy, and they said they would take me. That's how I got to Poland.

Ilse and Donald Tipping "The people I stayed with in Poland, were experts in leaving and taking everything with them," Ilse recalls. "They left Russia in 1918 when the Bolsheviks took over. They were 15th or 17th in line for the Russian throne, something like that, so they were experts in surviving. They went from Russia to Lithuania, then Hitler came into Lithuania, so they went to Poland. They were German -- Russian German, I guess you would call it. When the Russian front came through, they took everything, and I was sort of left behind."

Along with some other children, Ilse wound up in a Polish orphanage near Warsaw, which also housed pregnant women who were about to give birth. The small group of about 20 children and 10 adults was stranded there as the Russian front drew closer.

"In late 1944, they started thunder bombing Lodz and Warsaw and those cities," Ilse remembers. "They told us at the orphanage that those were thunderstorms. 'Not to worry, kids,' they said. I was twelve at that time. We believed it, too -- we weren't as smart as kids nowadays. The front got closer and closer, and all the Germans and Nazi people left. The woman who was in charge or our group, she couldn't get transportation out of there."

In January 1945, virtually on the front lines, Ilse's group was finally evacuated from Poland. "The German troops came through, and they put us on military vehicles to get us out of that area," Ilse remembers. "They say 1944-1945 was one of the coldest winters ever in Europe. I remember some shooting, and we drove off. On the truck, believe it or not, women were giving birth. It was an open truck -- no cover, no nothing. Some of them had to drop their children aside because it was so cold, they didn't survive.

"We finally came into a bigger city, and the German soldiers dropped us off and we got slowly back into Berlin," Ilse says. The trip took weeks of traveling by truck, by train and on foot. "Thousands and thousands of people were leaving Poland, and all those people left and went into Berlin. Some of the women died on that truck, because of the cold. I had frostbite, feet and arms and hands, because it was cold. We finally made it into Berlin on a train at the end of January 1945. The woman who was in charge of those kids was a Nazi official, and she was a fighter. She did a tremendous job getting us back."

"We got into Berlin, and they put us into a train station shelter. I'd see a streetcar -- generally in Berlin the streetcars were still running -- and I'd see the streetcar that would take me home. I knew the number of the streetcar that would take me where I wanted to go, but they wouldn't let me go. The woman who was in charge of us said no. I cried and cried and said, 'I want to go home.' She had negotiated with Sweden, and they said they would take the group of kids I was with, but I said, 'I don't want to go to no Sweden, I want to go home.' She did notify my grandparents. Finally my grandmother came there to get me, and I got home."

Ilse was relieved to be back with her family, but home was anything but a safe haven. "The bombing was heavy in Berlin, and it intensified at the beginning of '45. It got worse and worse, because there was no defense there. The planes just came in, dropped their bombs off, and left again. Nothing worked right. We were hoping that the Americans would come, but they didn't."

With the outcome almost a certainty, there was nothing left to do but wait. "We waited and waited," Ilse says. "Bombing and air raids -- we'd just hole up. There was no schooling to speak of. You'd go to school, pick up your work, turn in your work, and go home again. That went on until the end of April."

With the Russians approaching and Berlin becoming more chaotic, Ilse and her grandparents made do the best they could. "We had a little bit -- scrounged a little bit. A lot of things were traded, like a piece of clothing for some food. We didn't use much sugar in our family, so we always had something to trade, because sugar was a rarity. Somebody would tell you that a shipment of something had come in, and then you went to the store. I don't think we looted. I don't remember anything like that in my family. I'm sure it took place.

"Before the Russians came, there were trains filled with food," Ilse says. "A relative of mine was there, and told me what took place. The trains were sitting there with the food, and some looting started, people grabbing what they could. Then planes came in and shot with machine guns right into the crowd. I feel how the people in Baghdad feel, a little bit. How terrible that was. But that's war, you know."

By the end of April, the Russians were at the gates of Berlin and the German Army was in its final retreat. "The German soldiers came through, and we stayed in the basement," Ilse remembers. "We lived in a an apartment house, and we all lived in the basement because of the bombing and the air raids. This went on for fourteen days, something like that, before the fall. Everybody scrounged a little bit, everybody had a little bit to give, I guess. We shared food with some people. There were people who had lived there all their lives."

With defeat imminent, German soldiers began to desert. Those who were caught by the SS received the ultimate punishment. "Rather than trying to get them to fight, they'd shoot them or hang them," Ilse says. "The German military hung them from lampposts, just strung them up, as an example to others, and they didn't cut them down until the Russians came. They were hanging there for quite some time."

"The German soldiers came through, and then the Russians came through. The first group of Russians, the fighters, they didn't have time for anything, they just went through and made sure there were no soldiers in the group with us. We had some old men from the neighborhood -- not everybody went to war -- but the Russians didn't do anything to them. They just looked to see if they had uniforms on.

"The second group that came through chased us out of the apartment house. In Berlin, one side was German and one side was Russian, and they made us walk through that area where they were shooting. But they quit shooting, because I think they saw there were civilians walking through. That was quite a long ways. Nobody was killed in the group that I was with. We'd see dead soldiers, and dead people laying there. The Russians were going block by block, house by house -- street fighting, from one street to another."

Ruins of Berlin The Russian troops moved the civilians out of Berlin. "We wanted to get away from Berlin and all that shooting, naturally," Ilse recalls. "But we were afraid they were going to put us on a train and ship us to Russia. " They were taken to Teltow, a smaller city some 10 or 15 miles from the center of Berlin. "The Russians grouped us again and put us into a place that used to be a labor camp. Not a concentration camp, but a labor camp. They have a canal going through the city, Teltow Canal, and the labor camp was there. And there we were. We didn't have anything to eat for two days."

The Russian soldiers had been given carte blanche by their commanders, and they were intent on wreaking vengeance. "They dragged people out of the group and raped them -- that was understandable. In our family, we were not harmed. I was twelve at that time, and my grandmother was an elderly lady already. I was sitting underneath her chair, and she was sitting on the chair and had a blanket around her, so they didn't see me. Quite a lot of people were raped, including a girl who was five years old. There was nothing you could have done. The Russians held machine guns on the people, and they raped them right in front of everybody."

"Finally, the Russians did feed us, a little bit. I don't remember, but we must have had something to eat. It was around the first of May, 1945. The weather was nice. April and May in Germany is nice, not that cold. We slept outdoors. We stayed in the camp for two or three days. We were quite a ways out into the country. Some people stayed in the inner city and the outer city, and that's where the real bad things happened. We were sort of by ourselves.

"Finally the Russians said, 'The war's over.' We had to wear white bands on our arms to show we gave up. Some people said, 'Don't go back to the city, stay out here, you're safe. The city is just terrible.' But you know how it is -- you want to get home."

Despite the warnings, Ilse's family started back towards Berlin. Dangers were everywhere. "The Russians had stripped us of everything we had, watches and jewelry and things like that. We came into one little town and the Russian soldier was there and he wanted watches, and we didn't have anything. We said, well, that's the end, he's going to shoot us. But we were lucky, because we survived.

"When we got back to the house, there was nothing left," Ilse remembers. "Whatever was there, our own Germans looted. We'd see things that used to belong to us on the laundry line for somebody else. That's survival, I guess. We'd see jewelry or weapons lying around -- there was a lot of money on the street, cars with jewelry and silver, and all that . We didn't dare take anything, because we were afraid we'd wind up in Siberia. Somehow that was in our minds, that they were going to take us out and ship us to Russia. Some people did pick up a lot of stuff. But we just worried about us, we didn't worry about other people."

Ilse's family home had been plundered. "There were broken pieces everywhere, and furniture was torn apart. We found two or three German uniforms where German soldiers had changed clothes and left them behind, which was a terrible thing for them to do, because the Russians used to burn the houses when they found uniforms. We took them and threw them out. A good friend of our family stayed behind, they were a little bit well-to-do. They had an apartment in the basement. The husband and the son were taken away. They agreed, between the husband and the wife, that if something like that happened, she'd take cyanide. The husband was turned loose, and when he came back, his wife had killed herself. That was very bad." It was some time before the German people learned about the suicide of Adolph Hitler.

Russians raising flag The Russians set the German civilians to work cleaning up the city. "They said the city needs to be cleaned up because the occupation is coming in," Ilse recalls. "When we got back there, we started cleaning, because there were dead horses and dead people still laying on the street. People are horrible -- I remember seeing a dead German officer, with all these gold teeth, and one day he was still laying in the street before he was buried, and the gold teeth were gone. So you know somebody took them."

It was a struggle for the Berliners to surrender their pride and cope with the Russian military occupation. "I don't want you to think I was a Nazi, but a little bit of that was ingrained for us," Ilse says. "The Russians set up soup kitchens for us, to feed the children. And not too far from where we lived was a big park, and in that park the Russians lived. And I had a little nephew with me, and they said, 'You go there and they'll feed you.' But I wasn't going to take anything from anybody. The pride of being a German, I guess you'd call it. Finally, I was hungry enough that I did walk down, but they'd moved out that day. I don't remember where the food came from. We didn't have no care packages, that I know for sure."

"We had no running water, naturally, no electricity, no nothing. I don't know what we did with the sewer. We lived in an apartment house that had had running water with toilets, but I don't remember what we did," Ilse says. "At the end of the street was a government building, and behind the government building there was a natural well where you pumped water. So we all went there three times a day and got water in a bucket. My grandfather was crippled from World War I, and I was a big girl, so I had my stock with two buckets. That's where we got our water for a long time, going into December. But while the Russians were there, they helped themselves to some of the women in the crowd.

"Luckily, we were in a part of Berlin that became American," Ilse says. "The Americans came in June. I didn't have a very good first impression of Americans, but they were soldiers. Soldiers will be soldiers, and I can't hold that against them. I'll tell you what I remember, my first impression of Americans. They drove in with Jeeps, with their feet up on the windshield, chewed gum and called everybody 'Honey.'"

Slowly, food supplies began to trickle into Berlin. "Sometimes we'd stand in lines and lines and lines to get bread. We had a bakery not too far away. They'd get flour in, and you'd hear about it, and you'd have to go there, with a lot of other people. If you wanted to stay alive, you'd stay there until the bread was baked." The military gave the food over to the churches to disperse, but if you weren't a part of an organized religion or a member of a specific church, your name was at the bottom of the list.

"The back yard we planted with vegetables," Ilse recalls. "We lived where a there was lot of greenery, a lot of parks. One time I was standing in line to get bread and on the way there, someone said, 'Plants are coming in.' So instead of going home, I went to wait for the plants, and I ate almost all that bread. And when I got home, there was no bread left. I should have had a beating for that. We got some tomato plants and other things, that went in the yard, and we dug the ground up and put things to eat in there.

"The black market worked, but we didn't have anything to trade. It was all gone. The money was no good, even if you had a lot of money. Somehow we survived. Believe it or not, I think I coped pretty good. I had nightmares for a long time. But I think survival makes you cope. A loving environment at home makes a big difference. In a way, I was protected. Nowadays, if something bad happens, they have counseling. Nobody counseled us. There's a lot of things I blocked out -- I don't like to think about it. But it's there."

The family suffered another blow with the death of Ilse's grandfather in April 1946. "It was so cold and the ground was frozen so hard that he couldn't be buried," Ilse recalls. "It took four weeks before they picked up the dead body, because so many people died in that time. There we were, living in a two-bedroom apartment, and it took four weeks before they picked him up. After grandfather was cremated, his remains were put in a gas mask canister. It took a long time for them even to cremate you."

As the occupation continued, things settled into a routine, but life was far from normal. "I remember we had curfew," Ilse says. "At certain times, you had to be off the street. I went to a Christmas party that the Americans gave. I was invited -- I don't know why, I guess from school. One of the fancy houses became a club for the Americans, and they gave us a Christmas party. They had food, and chocolates. Nice time, but it went beyond the curfew. Somebody gave me a ride and took me home. He put me in a jeep with another kid that lived close by, and dropped me off. So all Americans were not bad. And remember, I was at that age. They liked twelve and thirteen year-old girls."

Ilse remembers a particularly searing incident that showed that the American soldiers could have very different attitudes towards the defeated Germans. "I had a little nephew, he must have been three years old. They had streets blocked off for American troops. The troops moved into the better part of town. Not apartment houses, but big fancy, homes. We lived in an area where there were a lot of single homes, fancy, nice homes. The whole area was blocked off, and someone said, 'What the Americans don't want, they give to the kids.' It took me a long time before I went there, to get leftover, with my little nephew. All the kids were at the gate, and I was there too. There was a G.I. with his mess kit, and he had some food on him. He took a cigarette and smashed it out in the food, and said 'Here.' I said, 'No, danke, danke.' I didn't want it. But believe it or not, there was a nice gentleman there, a nice American. I don't know where he came from, but he saw that, and he came over and he grabbed me. And he showed me a picture of his kid, and it looked almost like my little nephew. So every evening we could come and he would have something for us. I told Donald when he was in Vietnam, I threatened him, 'Don't you ever do that to the kids. When they're hungry, they're hungry, and you don't treat them like that.'"

In 1947, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation: British, French, American, and Russian. Berlin, which was in the Russian zone, was divided into four sectors. In June 1948, the Russians closed down the autobahn and the railroad and stopped traffic in and out of Berlin. For more than a year, American and British planes flew thousands of tons of supplies into West Berlin daily in a massive effort known as the Berlin Airlift.

Ilse was stuck in the middle of East Germany when they shut down all the trains and had to walk back into Berlin. She remembers it as a very bad time. "A lot of bad things happened to you," Ilse says. "Everything was rationed. There were airplanes coming in and out. We were cold. Even in those days, every window didn't have glass yet. Even coal was rationed. We just huddled in one room because that was the warmest place. We didn't burn any wood, because we didn't have any. We had unity." Most rooms of the house had soapstone or ceramic stoves, but German brown coal was so low grade that you had to burn a lot of it to generate any heat.

At the end of 1949, the Russians abandoned their plan to starve out Berlin and reopened access to the western part of the city. However, anybody traveling through East Germany to West Berlin had to be cleared through a checkpoint to confirm their identity. U.S. Army personnel became a fixture in West Berlin. By the mid-1950's, this included a young soldier named Donald Tipping.

Donald Tipping's Story

Checkpoint Charlie "I am originally from Northern Michigan," Donald says. "My grandfather was born in Canada, and he read a lot of western novels. About 1906, he got the urge to become a cowboy. So he walked across the ice at Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, and he went out to Montana and worked over that entire summer, and then he stayed over the wintertime, when almost all the other cowboys and migrant workers went South. It was the coldest winter, I think, in Montana history, and it cured him of being a cowboy." Donald's grandfather returned to Michigan and went into business. "Then the Depression came in, and he went bust like everyone else. But he stayed in Northern Michigan."

During World War II, Donald's father was in the Navy and his mother was a nurse, so Donald was raised by his grandparents out in the country. "We had no running water -- we had a pump and an outhouse," Donald recalls. He remembers eating home grown vegetables and voraciously reading history books from the city library.

"My father joined the Navy in 1942," Donald says. "He was well over the age of the draft. In the Navy, he found out what California and Hawaii were like in the wintertime." Tired of cold Northern Michigan winters, Donald's father moved the family to California. In 1955, Donald left to join the Army, and in 1956, he was posted to Berlin.

"By the time I got to Berlin, there was no rationing," Donald recalls. "Other than the military rationing, alcohol, and stuff like that. But the public didn't have rationing, except in East Germany. I went to England in 1956 on vacation, and they still had rationing there. For sugar and tea. Germany did better after the war than England. Berlin was known for its fortitude."

More than ten years after the end of the war, the destruction was still evident. "Homes were ruined from the bombing, and they could not find the original occupants or their heirs," Donald says. "So the ruins just sat there for years before the city of Berlin could declare the property abandoned. The area around the Brandenburg Gate used to be embassies. They couldn't do any rebuilding there, so they were ruins until Berlin was reunited in 1991."

"The Tiergarten, a large parklike area in downtown Berlin, was stripped of every tree in 1944-45," Donald says. "It had been an area of beautiful homes. It was in the downtown area, where the bombing was concentrated. For blocks on end in the center city, there was block after block of rubble. All of the destroyed materials from the buildings were trucked out to the west of Berlin, and there's a mountain of rubble there. It's 200 feet higher than the surrounding terrain, and stretches over many acres." Ironically, this rubble mountain, known as "Teufelsberg," became a huge spy station for intercepting Eastern bloc radio communications.

"Everyone in Berlin had a story," Donald recalls. "They would be in their cups late in the evening and they would be telling stories or singing Nazi war songs." Ilse jokes that a lot of the songs are still catchy. "When I feel like cleaning I put on, not Nazi songs, but German march songs. You should see how I clean up with those playing."

Donald and Ilse met in May. "I was in a tank company, and I had a friend who was going with Ilse's best friend," Donald says. "And one afternoon he said, 'Come down with me, and we'll sit around and tell lies to each other, drink some beer, have some fun.' We worked all day long -- it was Saturday afternoon. We were painting concrete floors. So anyway, we went down in the afternoon, and we sat around drinking beer, and telling war stories. She was his fiance by then. Then she called Ilse up."

"I was working," Ilse remembers. "And she called me up and said, 'John brought somebody with him. Why don't you stop over? Don't forget to bring a bottle of cognac.' So I worked until 4 o'clock, and then I came home. My grandmother always spoiled me. On Saturday afternoon, in Germany, you'd go dancing. I got dressed, took a bath (we had a bath that you had to heat with brown coal). So I went over there. They had a broken couch, and he was sitting down low on the couch."

"I saw this big huge, tall thing coming in the door," Donald smiles. "It was the 25th of May. I probably got to Berlin about the 17th of January. I met her in May, and during that short period of time, that's the only thing I can tell people about the wild and woolly Berlin nightlife. After that we were going together. "

"We went out in a rowboat," Ilse recalls. "We had a good time, but we weren't serious with each other. His mother said the minute he met me, he wrote home and told her about it. But he had a girl waiting for him. So we didn't get married -- we had an affair, I guess, and then he left. My grandmother was so happy. She didn't like him. He used to be a redhead. In Germany, we don't have many redheads, and my grandmother thought, 'You can do better than that!'"

But it was meant to be. "He did send for me," Ilse says. "He went to college and that didn't work out, so he went back in the military. And the bonus that he got from the military paid for my flight to come to America. I came on an immigrant visa in August of 1959."

Donald had been assigned back to Berlin, and it would be much easier for Ilse to travel as a U.S. citizen. They were able to persuade the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to expedite her citizenship process, and Ilse became an American citizen in January 1960. By April 1960, the Tippings were married and living in Ilse's old family home back in Berlin.

"My grandmother used to say, 'Stand straight, you are German, you don't stoop,'" Ilse says. "But now I'm 70 years old, so I guess you do stoop when you get that old. It's a little bit of pride. We all should have pride. I'm proud to be an American, even if I was just a naturalized one."

Donald's new assignment was to be a Russian interpreter aboard the duty train that ran from West Berlin to West German. "I took Russian. I went to foreign language school for one year, six hours a day, and then I rode the duty train for three years, in and out of Berlin. We left Berlin in the evening time. The train got to Helmstead about midnight, and then the train coming in from either Frankfurt or Bremerhaven on the coast would come to Helmstead, which was the last station in West Germany. The duty train crew, which was an officer, two MPs, a radio operator and a translator/interpreter, would get back on the train, go into Marienborn, which is the Russian checkpoint, get off the train, show all the documents of incoming personnel, get back on the train and ride into Berlin. You got back at six or eight in the morning. It ran seven days a week, continually. That was my only duty for three years. It was seven days a week -- Christmas, New Years, whenever."

In those years, West Berlin was a lone outpost of freedom behind the Iron Curtain of Soviet occupation. "In West Berlin was one infantry regiment and one tank company," Donald says. "In the tank company, we had four platoons, and maybe 20 tanks. And we were 125 miles behind the Russian lines. Between us and the West German line was God knows how many Russian armored divisions. It was just a show, for the world to see that we were there."

The Cold War was at its chilliest during this time, and the repression of the East German people was evident. The Americans had to watch their step carefully. "You couldn't ride the S-bahn (Schnell-bahn) because it extended out beyond the city, and if you happened to fall asleep and go over into East Germany, you were going to go to jail for it," Donald recalls. "We could not enter East Germany under any circumstances. You could enter East Berlin under certain circumstances, though I never got into East Berlin. When traveling by car between West Berlin and West Germany, you could not exceed two hours, or get there in less than an hour and a half. You were often accompanied by an escort.

Brandenburg Gate "We used to run the regular passenger trains, and the Army also ran freight trains, to keep Berlin a viable city. The trains were guarded by MPs. The East German railroad people were so frightened and indoctrinated they woudn't even accept an orange from one of our people. They knew if they had taken it, they would have been in very serious trouble."

The Tippings were in Berlin when the Russians erected the Berlin Wall. Ilse was philosophical about seeing her city and her country divided. "There was not much you could do about it," she says. "When the wall went up, Donald was a Russian interpreter. I had relatives, uncles and aunts, on the other side, and it was totally blocked off. You couldn't write to them -- we couldn't do that anyway, with me being an American. We had to put a line between them and us because he had top security."

In 1963, Donald was assigned to Fort Hood, and the Tippings came to Texas for the first time. In 1966, Donald was sent to Vietnam. "I was doing 'imagery interpretation' -- providing interpretation and analysis of aerial photographs," Donald says. "There were so few imagery interpreters in the U.S. military that the turnaround time going back to Vietnam was eighteen months. If you stayed in that job, you spent a year in Vietnam, came back for eighteen months, and then went back to Vietnam, for the duration of the war. I had been over there in 1966-67, and I knew that sometime in 1968 I was going to go back. So said, "I'd better change my job." So I changed my job, and I never did go back to Vietnam."

In 1976, the Tippings went to Panama, and were there when the Panama Canal Treaty was signed. "I was in language school taking Spanish," Donald recalls. "I was in California and my wife was in Atlanta, Georgia, and we met in El Paso. We decided to drive down with another Army guy, to watch out for each other." After a hairy drive through Mexico, they spent Christmas Eve, 1976, in El Salvador. They drove through Honduras and Nicaragua and arrived in Panama in late December 1976.

"Things were brewing -- the Panamanians wanted their independence." Donald says. "We stayed there almost three years. Americans lived within the 12-mile Panama Canal zone. You could swim on the Pacific side, and jump in the car, and 40 miles later, you'd be on the Atlantic side, and you could swim there. You could also go up in the highlands, where it was colder weather."

Ilse worked in the Army Exchange, working directly with Panamanians. She still remembers how kindly they treated her. "They liked us because they liked Germans," Ilse explains. "When they'd have problems with the Americans and say 'Yankee go home,' it didn't faze us, because we were not the Yankees, we were the Germans. We were treated like royalty -- we never had any problems down there, or anywhere. It's how you treat other people."

Donald retired from the military in 1980, and the Tippings spent eight years in California. In the late eighties, they moved to Marble Falls, Texas and built a home on a piece of land rich in local history. Donald enjoys having Texas as his home base for conducting Civil War research projects. The Tippings have one son, who is working down on the Texas coast, and a granddaughter and great-granddaughter who live nearby in Central Texas. Their grandson is a Seabee in the Navy and recently served in Kuwait City.

Of her experiences as a child during wartime and her time growing up in occupied Berlin, Ilse has this to say: "Don't make war, because the civilians are the ones that suffer most. That's about all I can say. But no matter how much we wish it, war will keep on going. It's been going on for centuries. It's something very ugly.

"At times, I know we were starving. They had gardens all over, in the park, and sometimes we snuck in and laid down on the ground to eat carrots. We'd pull them up and eat them. I was in those years, growing up, when you can eat a lot anyway. In spite of that, I don't have unpleasant memories at all. But I guess that's just me."

Still, the effects of war last a lifetime. "We don't throw anything away," Ilse says. "If we cook it, we eat it, until it's gone. I guess that's a little bit left over from the war. If you give me a chocolate bar or something, I still appreciate it. It's not that I cannot afford it, it's just knowing that somebody gave it to me. It still means a lot to me."


Return to Wartime Heritage Project

Return to Austin Civil War Round Table Home Page