My mother wrote:
Day 3: Monday 23. April 1945
“Today the ‘queuing fun’ continues. From 10 am to 4 pm, once again we queued in vain. Later there is butter for free. 1/2 kilo per head, but no luck here either. Just when we were about to enter the shop the supply runs out.
So, slowly we are becoming weaker from hunger – the cold – and tiredness. Let us hope that we get through all this. The shelling is getting louder, but people are getting dulled. We will see what the day brings tomorrow.”
As usual, my mother and I exchanged places in the queue. Often the queueing went on for hours.
My mother’s diary is not really comprehensive and I must say so much is missing and I saw the world around me differently from the way she saw it. Different impressions are often the result.
On that particular day, we were hoping to get “our” butter ration as long as we waited long enough. For me, all this waiting among the old people was an experience in itself. “Old people” because younger persons were either working or helping out at the front. Not to speak about the men that were in the army and were just now defending Berlin against the onslaught of the Red Army. And for a nine-year-old boy all people are “old”. For me, it was interesting to listen what they had to talk about. Some were fearful and others were stoic. Whatever will be, will be!
In those days, the butter did not come conveniently prepacked in 1/2 kilo portions. It came in drums and the grocer had to weigh every portion himself. This was a very slow process done with a wooden spatula. The People owning the shops were usually very old people who should have been retired a long time ago.
On this particular day, we inched our way towards the shop door. Just at the moment when I reached the door and the butter seemed to be in reach a motor lorry of the Waffen-SS stopped at the kerb. Heavily armed soldiers jumped off and entered the shop. I could not hear all the conversation that took place, but one word I could understand, “Requisition”. That was the end of our dream to have some butter. It wouldn’t have been much anyway, but every scrap of food was important. as regular supplies were not available anymore. The soldiers carried out a few drums of butter, threw them into the lorry and disappeared. The people in the queue grumbled and went home. They were probably thinking if their own soldiers were stealing from them, what could they expect from the Russian soldiers who would be, most likely, out for revenge?
In those days people, when they departed, did not say, “Goodbye” or “See you later” but said. “Bleib’ übrig!”. This is very difficult to translate and the meaning is obviously to stay alive and survive, but actually wishing you to be at least one of the few who was still alive, after the battle was over. The feeling of this being the “endgame” was in the air.