Maria Mayer

* 1935  

  • My younger sister, we often meet and I always tell her about the house, always, we always talk about the house and she keeps asking: “Where do you know all of this from? How do you know that?” and I tell her: “You know. I was already eleven at the time. And you were only four. That’s the difference.” And when I returned for the first time, back in 1965 it wasn’t possible, that was winter, but then in summer we went up to our home, or the place our house used to stand. I could find it blindfolded. I could find our house blindfolded. Even though the woods had changed a lot, a lot of big trees weren’t there anymore. But I’d find it blindfolded, immediately. My husband was with us and asked: Can you still remember the way?” I said: “Why shouldn’t I remember it?” I could really find that way blindfolded, truly, that’s how seared it is in my memory. We walked there every day, in summer and winter.

  • Once the divided us up into men and women. We were naked, completely naked. I was 11 years old, so I already had small breasts and I was so ashamed. We had to strip naked, I was holding my little sister on my arm. And then we had to cross over, naked, across these boards into a room. My mother thought: “And now they’ll gas us.” We didn’t know what was going to happen. But it was just delousing, there was vermin everywhere. And there we were divided into men and women.

  • The soldiers left ammo and weapons behind in the woods. The woods were like a second home for us children, so we found and collected everything. We played in the woods saying: “We’re playing at war.” My two brothers, my cousin and me, I was ten at the time, in 1945. We played with weapons and ammunition. There were these huge boulders in the woods, enormous. We placed one shell on the boulder and hit it with another. There was a cloud of smoke and fire, you couldn’t see a thing. I thought to myself: “I’m here alone, nobody else is here.” Then the smoke was gone and I could see again. So we played like that and we were alright. Then we found a phone, these little boxes that turned and cut wires. I had to hold the wires together so my brothers could use the phone. I could feel the current, so I dropped the wires. They smacked my bottom for letting go. They said: “If you won’t hold it, you can’t come with us tomorrow.” And so I held them again. They often beat me up, but I didn’t give up because I wanted to be around, I kept holding the wires over and over again while they were telephoning. So that’s how we used to play, no harm came to us, it was wonderful. It didn’t even occur to us that we were risking an accident. Our parents didn’t know and we didn’t say anything. In the evening we would put all the things in our hiding place.

  • I ate my first banana at age sixteen, it was a gift. One lady asked me: “Would you like a banana?” I blushed, but said “yes” and put it in my pocket. And she asked me: “Aren’t you going to eat the banana?” and I started crying. “Why are you crying? she asked me. “I’m so ashamed, I don’t know what a banana is. I don’t know, am I supposed to eat it just like that?” And she peeled it for me and I ate it. And I thought: “Good God, this is delicious! I’ve never eaten anything like it. Delightful.”

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    Neukirchen b. hl. Blut, 06.09.2019

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    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu The removed memory of Šumava
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My childhood was beautiful. What followed was something I’d wish on nobody

Maria Mayer as a young woman
Maria Mayer as a young woman
zdroj: pamětník

Maria Mayer, née Greiner, was born on 24 April 1935 in Špičák na Šumavě. Her parents, Johann and Maria (née Kuchler) were both from Špičák. The very poor German family lived in a homestead at the base of mount Pancíř, an hour from Železná Ruda. They had a small farm and the children worked with their mother on the fields and in the woods. They had no running water, just a well, no electricity, just a kerosene lamp. Her mother knitted every evening and sang with her father and the children. It was a poor, but beautiful childhood. On 20 April 1945, on Hitler’s birthday and just before the end of the war, they saw the bombing of Železná Ruda. The shock wave broke the windows of the cottage and sent Maria and her four-year-old sister flying two metres away. After the war the children liked to play in the woods with abandoned guns and ammunition, which were later subject to searches. Two of the older brothers were investigated for that reason, and on pain of death they uncovered the hiding place of the weapons. The whole family was expelled on 17 June 1946. First they spent a month at the camp in Alžbětín, followed by two weeks in Augsburg while eventually settling in Swabia. Because they had no money, Maria could not get training and so initially worked as a general servant in the village and at the farm, later at the butcher’s. At the age of twenty she married, had three children and she and her husband gradually furnished themselves a nice household. The expelled family were provided with farmland and a house in a former military zone, with low payments. Maria returned to her homeland for the first time in 1965. Since the borders opened she has been coming back regularly. She had the chapel repaired, as well as the gravestones of her grandparents from both families. The house of her birth “Cold Spring House” was demolished, with only the fruit trees and bubbling stream remaining.