Edited By Christine Feldman-Barrett
Part Two: Identity and Community
p a r t t w o Identity and Community c h a p t e r f i v e Lost Province of German Youth Remembering East Prussia’s Last Generation christine feldman-barrett The beginning of Hannelore Zimmermann’s life, and the place where she was born, had the makings of a fairytale. Among pristine forests and lakes, she was born in “the hospital wing of an old crusader castle” in the town of Rössel, East Prussia, on March 4, 1931 (Feldman, 2006, p. 19). These medieval structures still dot the landscape of what is now the extreme northeast corner of Poland. Centuries old, they nonetheless appear seemingly untouched despite the two world wars that swept through the region with relentless brutality. Unlike these proud, romantic fortresses, the lives of young Germans like Zimmermann who were born in East Prussia prior to World War II did not remain unscathed. The idyll of country life for those children and adolescents living in Germany’s most remote province would be dwarfed by the cruelties of war. Like most of these youths’ stories and voices, their Heimat (homeland) also would be lost. East Prussia and all it represented, for good or bad, ceased to exist as part of Germany in 1945. Moreover, the expulsion of Germans from the East by 1945 remained a mostly undiscussed topic after World War II. Consequently, this narrative of East Prussian youth is one of loss three times over: lost youth, lost home, and lost voice. The voices of...
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