of seven million civilians – women, children, and elderly men – from their
homes in the German provinces of East Prussia,
Pomerania, and Silesia following World War II
is largely unknown in the United States.
Weeds Like Us is a gripping
true adventure story about the author’s own East Prussian family. The author’s earliest years were spent
in relative comfort on his grandfather’s farm in East Prussia during World War II. For him, life in Hitler’s
Germany was the natural order of
things. Then, in January 1945, just
after the author’s seventh birthday, the Russians rolled into East Prussia. Full of unexpected twists and turns, Weeds Like Us tells the story of what
happened over the next six years, as the author’s family tried to make its way
safely to the West.
was born in Königsberg,
East Prussia, in December
1937. By the time he was thirteen
years old, he had lived in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and in both the
Soviet-Occupied Zone and the British-Occupied Zone in Germany. After he came to the United States in 1964, he obtained a Bachelors
degree from Hunter College and an MBA from Pace University while studying at night. For most of his professional life, he
worked as a marketing consultant to American and German firms at the German
American Chamber of Commerce, followed by eight years at Bayerische Vereinsbank
AG in New York
his retirement he has devoted his time to writing. He and his wife live with their two sons
in Westchester County,
The moonlight shone on a row of tall thin
poles which poked out of the ice at regular intervals. Like guideposts, they led us slowly
forward. Sometimes the ice creaked,
threatening to give way. Sometimes
a layer of water floated on the surface, coloring it black. Partly submerged wagons and the
carcasses of horses jutted out, the broken crust of the ice refrozen around
them. A thin layer of snow lay on
top. The scene was
Far to our right, we heard occasional faint
hissing sounds. The glow of flares
illuminating the sky spooked our horses.
Each time, Opa and Ilse struggled to regain control.
"Now what?" Oma grumbled. "First they warn us to travel under
cover of darkness and then they turn night into day."
"Perhaps it's the Russians," Mutti
After that, no one said a word as we moved
on; we listened instead for the drone of approaching Russian airplanes. The wagon wheels ground against the
ice. The horses snorted as their
hooves rhythmically tapped the hard surface. Once in a while one of the animals
slipped and my heart skipped a beat.
I had seen what happened to horses with broken legs. It was agonizing to watch their slow
progress; how much worse it would be if we were forced to abandon our wagons and
travel on foot.
As my eyes scanned the starry sky for the
moving lights of Russian fighter planes, a hand tapped me on the shoulder from
inside the wagon. Oma slipped me
five cubes of gingerbread. I
stashed four pieces into my coat pocket and popped the fifth one into my
mouth. The gingerbread was frozen
solid and I sucked on it until it was soft enough to chew.