Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Phoenix from the Ashes

Untitled Documen9)
1949 - 1951
American tanks still rumbled through our town, ruining the blue stones of centuries old cobble pavements. Boy was I scared.
They were so terribly LOUD and huge. I was hor-ri-fied. I remember being at the opposite side of our house and needed to cross the street to go home. I did not dare to run between two tanks. Frozen with fear as I was the soldiers were sitting on top of the tanks having a blast throwing chocoloate bars and introducing chewing gum to the old world.
"Shawing Goom" is what we read on the Wrigley wrappings and that's what the kids were screaming for. "Shawing Goom, Shawing Goom"
(Owing to my extreme youth, I don't know how I even remember any of this. But I surely do, even now I still see myself looking in horror at these tanks and sticking my fingers into my ears.)

My parents hated this "shawing goom" and forbade us to chew in their presence and actually all together. "One can not imagine that any one with good manners would CHEW and throw that stuff around in their mouths all day long and in front of other people"!
Now two new states were born. Germany was divided into the German Democratic Republic (DDR) and the BRD, the West.
The East first was fed by Russia, just as the West was supported by the Allies. The Soviet Union could not let the population starve because after all they wanted to take over, thus had to pretend to be friendly.
Sadly however, the Russians dissembled entire productive facilities, complete industries, even the tracks of railroads because Russia had nothing left either.
I can not even start to imagine how chaotic life must have been in the east sector. They were totally isolated - there was no in or out. (Which of course got worse in August of 1963 when the wall was built to halt a mass exodus and keep 'brains' in the eastern part of the country.)

1949 West Germany conducted it's first free and democratic election:
A Catholic Attorney and former Mayor of the City of Cologne,
Konrad Adenauer became the first post war Chancellor, after a while affectionately called:
"Der Alte" (The Old one)
Adenauer shaped the politics of West Germany for more than 14 years
and managed to raise Germany's reputation in the world again.
German soldiers were still imprisoned in Siberia, Russia in 1958 !!!
and Adenauer was the one who traveled, negotiated, and begged
the Russian Government to finally free them.
He was successful, but not many were able to come home.
Most of our POWs had starved to death.

Surely you have heard of the world famous International Frankfurt Fair - a fair for all kinds of goods and the biggest in the world of it's kind. (It could be though, that Shanghai in China might be bigger now)
Father attended the International Frankfurt Fair since the first one in 1948 (Twice a year the Koziol company is present to this day).

This was one of the first if not THE first display ever at Frankfurt Fair,
presenting Ivory and the new "imitations" (1948) Today Koziol is represented at over 40 international fairs every year.

The only thing Germans were longing for now was working and living in peace. They were busy as bees rebuilding their country.

My Father though came up with an ingenious idea. And naturally there is also a story to it.
T'was winter 1950 when a man drove through the forest surrounding his home town and became stuck in a snow drift. Looking back out of the window of his VW Beetle he saw in front of tall firs two deer  that were probably as stunned as he was.
Snow was falling softly and because this man was my Father he immediately saw a "story". It was the birth of the world renown Snow Globe, right there in the middle of a dreamy snow covered forest.

Yup, Bernhard Koziol sr. invented and produced the first Snow Globe ever. An item that I think everybody owned at one point and has fond memories of.
Being a child and wanting an allowance I always had to earn it. I painted figurines or the back "sky" onto the clear globes. I glued scenes together or - later on - had to clean those LOUD, big, greasy injection machines or work benches. This work was carried on after school or on Saturdays and during school vacations.
I earned a dime and then later a quarter per hour and although I didn't like it, I learned some discipline. I had to write an invoice before I got paid and I remember at one point Father handing me a letter saying that he is only paying me if I "promise not to waste the money and spend it on things that are harmful to the body". Yes, I am serious!

Yet today I think he had a good reason to ask for responsibility because I was a bad tomboy, always fervently wishing to be a boy. Yes, I had dolls, but the more welcome gifts were cars big enough for me to sit in and race around. No tree was too high for me, I never ever had "clean" knees. We were not allowed to leave our vast backyard and visiting kids from the neighborhood were almost hand picked. I always was the "leader" but looking back we were not aware then how much our parents had isolated us.
In hindsight - THAT was NOT a good thing for me.

MUCH more to come.

Please don't forget to hug your kids tonight! I missed out on that :(
In the meantime, Please , sign up, become a "fan", follow me? Leave a message? Tweet it, click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!

And this is what I am doing now, trying to pay my bills :
And I am selling part of my jewelry HERE


Johanna (YooHUNNa)

Monday, December 19, 2011

USA to the Rescue


1945 - 1948

Following the defeat of Germany after the World War, the country was divided into two states: The Federal Republic of Germany (BRD, West Germany) was founded on democratic institutions, and the German Democratic Republic (DDR, East Germany) a totalitarian Stalinist Dictatorship which became a client of the Soviet Union.
Berlin, located in East Germany, was also sub-divided into four sectors. The ostensible purpose was both administrative and diplomatic. On one hand, the Potsdam Agreement among the allies implemented the post war German borders and areas of allied control, while the Morgenthau Plan laid the foundation for a new economy, stripped of military and industrial capacity. On the other hand, Potsdam and Morgenthau placated the Soviets, who were determined to completely swallow up as much of Germany as possible.

The eventual outcome was a reborn West Germany which rapidly became the most productive and richest economy in Europe, and an impoverished East Germany where living conditions and industrial production were a sad reflection of a failing Soviet economy.

However, in the years immediately following the end of hostilities, misery intensified by magnitudes in ALL of Germany's occupied zones and among all its people. West Berlin in particular was at high risk. Completely blocked and encapsulated by the Russians on the ground, the only access to West Berlin was by air. Care packages of food, coal, medicine and other necessities were brought in by a massive, round the clock airlift, an "air bridge" whose planes became affectionately nick-named "Rosinenbomber." "Rosinenbomber" translates to "Raisin Bombers" and that's exactly what they were, especially for Berlin. In addition to the tonnage of raw materials, the planes dropped candies, treats, and yes, raisins, launched from the open cargo doors and cockpit windows of the "Sky Train" which was Berlin's only life line in those days. Many of these confections were actually attached to their own little parachutes.
"Raisins" sailed from the skies.
The Allies saved thousands and thousands of lives.

Additon - I personally JUST learned today:
There is a cute story to the "Rosinenbomber", perhaps apocryphal, about how the whole raisin bombardment thingy started. Evidently, it was an individual pilot in the airlift who tossed some candies out one day, but the idea caught on and was eventually supplied by donations from US citizens. The military supported the effort completely, because, in addition to the nutritional value, it helped Germans understand that Americans were not monsters or oppressors, and it helped US citizens understand that the German PEOPLE were not their enemy.

As I mentioned before, we were lucky not to fall in Russian hands. US soldiers and officers confiscated parts of Father's company facilities. Not without a fight though - the officers demanded too much space and Father stood up and sternly said "no".
'We need space to continue working and space for refugees too.'
He got his way; the officers wisely agreed and we worked together.

Even so, the American officers also came to our home and took (or "borrowed?") a lot of our silver (meaning our flatware - silverware).
In time, the American officers, enlisted men and my family all got along pretty well. (Although we did not get our "silver" back.)
The officers watched my Father carefully and he watched them.
At one point Father's observations of the American's cooking and eating habits drove him up the wall. 'These guys are THROWING stuff and FAT and OIL away!!' he exclaimed. 
He was outraged.
So, he finally confronted them
'Hey guys, you are throwing fat and oil to the ground and my people are starving to death!'

He mainly communicated in gestures, with his hands and feet, because of the language barrier. And in truth, from then on, he received everything that was left over; sugar, flour and of course the infamous fat they didn't want.

 Production at Father's factory, controlled by the Morgenthau Plan, turned to consumer products like combs, buttons and especially those buttons for "Lederhosen Hosenträger" (buttons for the renowned suspenders of Bavarian leather pants).

MANY, many years later it dawned on me what Father witnessed and was talking about back then, when he confronted the American officers about food waste. It was the grease from cooked bacon that is thrown away by the tons to this very day! Yeah, sad.
Father collected every little left over crumb and gave it to the women whose husbands still didn't come home and who had to feed an entire family, including all Omas (Grandmother), Opas (Grandfather) and Enkel (Grandkids); and many aunts and uncles, too.

MY Oma though, my Father's Mother, was a tough cookie in her own right. She went into the forests, collected mushrooms, the fruits of beech trees ("Buchegger" is a kind of a nut), blueberries, hazelnuts and brought them home. She gathered "factory second" Koziol-made buttons and combs, took them to the farmers and exchanged them for eggs or even a chicken now and then!!

My Oma! She DID have a strong mind of her own!
When my Father married his wife, Oma was mightily upset that the bride did not bring a sewing machine into the marriage! Yup! Customs were more rigid back then.
By the way, this Oma was the very one who wore wide skirts so she could pee directly on the ground - and she was my Godmother! We shared the same first and last name. And I am VERY proud of it. (Although she didn't like me too much... I think!) She always preferred my cousin
Ute, [R.I.P., my dear and best Friend] the daughter of HER daughter Lucie.
This Oma, though, had a wicked sense of humor of which, sadly, my Father had only a slim inheritance.
At one point, "unsere Amis - our Americans" how Father called them, drove my Mother and her big belly in a Jeep to the hospital to have her third child. They were excited to no end. "Frau hat baby", which translates to "Woman has baby, woman has baby!!" they shouted in their broken German. Well, this baby happened to be me and "our soldiers" helped bring me into this world. Mother had problems and they HELPED, literally. Yup, there was a doctor too among them. They also gave soap and powdered milk to my Mother who in return donated it all to the hospital.

That is one incident among many that made me feel very fond of America and all things American. Who would have thought that I would even end up living there one day?

Nuh, surely not I.
The only thing I always "had" was this "wanderlust". I wanted to see the world. I NEEDED to learn about different cultures and today I feel like I have lived MANY lives before. Indian, Japanese, Chinese, American, African but mostly and strongly Asian, actually. Is this possible? I believe so.

You know who was my very first "love" - music-wise? No, not the Beatles or Rolling Stones or any band like that.
It was Harry Belafonte, Fats Domino and the like and their music, lyrics and style. The ONLY live concerts I have ever been to in my life (besides classicals, of course) was to see Harry Belafonte - twice in Germany!
Crazy yeah.

But, well, I am getting ahead of myself now again. I am, after all, still a baby at this point in my story.

PLEASE, don't forget to hug your kids and tell them - they are doing GREAT!

MUCH more to come.

This is my birth town, Michelstadt, dubbed "The Pearl of Odenwald". Enjoy my little Video presentation ;)

Thank you JS Geare for correcting my sometimes very "personal" English ;)
In the meantime, Please, sign up, become a "fan"? Leave a message? Click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!

And this is what I am doing now, trying to pay my bills:
And I am selling part of my jewelry HERE

Johanna (YooHUNNa)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dreadful Times (not only for Europe)


The Western Allies intensified their air strikes. Numerous German Cities were bombed to rubble and ashes.
The greatest loss in my opinion was the near total destruction of Dresden on February 13, 1945. Just THREE months before the end of the war in Europe.

Dubbed "The Elbflorenz" (Florence on the Elbe) and esteemed as "Europe's Capital of the Arts", the city is located east of Berlin in Saxony and was home to countless works of art and antiquities, housed in famed and ancient museums, cathedrals, schools and institutions. Hundreds of planes bombed the city for 3 days and the resutling firestorm leveled 15 square miles. The death toll has been variously estimated between 25 and 100 thousand civilians.
Yes, yes, many people say the Germans had it coming. I agree - but Dresden represented nothing but art, churches, cathedrals and museums. For these to go up in flames was soooo senseless.

Telling you the truth:

Growing up I surely did not feel comfortable about being German. As a child I thought I had to be "ashamed" to be German. I was totally consumed by this collective "sense of guilt" and was not able to shake this feeling far into my 40s.

While visiting foreign countries I always tried HARD to hide that I am German. (But no, not anymore!)
Why? I'm not sure. Maybe because I saw so much of the hardship that Nazi Germany had caused. We always had people and refugees around who lost everything. Father constantly plundered Mother's closets and cabinets for bed linens, towels, clothes, blankets even tooth brushes. And she complained and scolded him but he just laughed. That was just so my Father.
As for me, personally, my Father molded me. Today, I wish I had only half of what I have given away over my life.

Dresden later was part of the Soviet zone, thus, we were not able to visit. The East German Government (DDR) did little or nothing to reconstruct the once bustling and gorgeous city.
I visited in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall came down, and was literally in tears. I was overwhelmed by seeing what an abundance of beauty and art has been destroyed there. Irreplaceable treasures... paintings, buildings, bridges, art, art, and more art. Dresden was, and still is, being rebuilt after Germany's reunification - for the most part using the original stones or what was left of them.
Today, I'd send everybody who wants to see "Germany" to... no, NOT Heidelberg! Dresden it is!! Dresden is a must see for every visitor.

 -> on the right: The reconstructed world famous "Frauenkirche" (Church Of Our Lady)

Then, just think of the incredible Semperoper (Semper Opera). It too was reduced to rubble. See picture -->

The East German Government restored it though. It was a matter of prestige.

OK, enough distraction for now - the above was my heartfelt info / opinion about this incredible City of Dresden.

The Allies landed on the Normandy shores. Germany lost on all war fronts. An end of WWII was in sight.

For some reasons that are unknown to me, Father managed to stay away from the Nazi Party. And for some more mysterious reasons he knew from the very beginning that this Party would become deadly. He KNEW it was bad. And he always said 'it will not last'. Whenever possible he would hide or work even on Sundays to have excuses not to attend Party meetings. He hated the whole "mishegas" (Yiddish for insanity or craziness).

Father had not been drafted because his factory produced military-related necessities. Alas, his employees were wives of soldiers bleeding out in Siberia or elsewhere on war fronts. They were mad and bugged him about why he was still at home.
One day they had him worn down - he jumped on a train and left for Berlin to go to the war front. His train was underway for maybe 2 hours when my Mother found out.
Now SHE jumped! Into a car, that is, and raced to catch the train. Yes, she caught up, found him, dragged him out and drove back home.

The 'Deutsche Reich' (yuk, how this sounds to me)  surrendered unconditionally on May 7, 1945. In August of that same year, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan and forced them to surrender. Germany was living off food stamps, stamps for ONE egg, for milk, and potatoes. We ate them even when they had sprouted; nobody suffered food poisoning.
The Koziol company survived with no damage to the facilities.

AND then the Americans came. (We were lucky not to be "sold" to the Russians.)
Father "took them on". He made them help, you better believe that.

Hunger reigned and droves of refugees appeared everywhere. The Nuremberg Trials started in Bavaria late November of 1945. Koziol provided work for many war refugees - they were all displaced and coming from the East. Most of the women wore head scarfs and long, wide skirts. (You are wondering now who they were? Well, about 90% were Catholics). They had their scarfs tied under their chin.

I remember Gypsies too. A lot of them. They came in their wagons "parked" on the side of roads and lived there. We had none close to our family though and we children feared them like the devil because we were told horror stories about them. Sad, huh?
 Tell you what - my Oma (grandmother) wore those wide skirts too. She got MAD when we stole an apple from the trees in our own garden. She had counted them all (seriously)! But one day she stood there and peed on the ground. We kids screamed and giggled - she just laughed. These wide long skirts were pretty convenient... you get my drift  ?

Oh my Lord, so much history, so many memories in my head, all told by my Father.


Please don't forget to hug your kids (I never received one)
 ... to be continued.
Thank you JS Geare for correcting my sometimes "very personal English" ;)
In the meantime, please leave a message? Click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!

And this is what I am doing now, trying to pay my bills:

And I am selling part of my jewelry HERE

Johanna (YooHUNNa)