A Reflection on a Teenage Moment in Post WWII Germany

by Hudson Phillips

I was one of a few thousand military dependents, at that time, who were living in Germany. The second world war had ended five years before but we were uncertain about the loyalties of the people. Many still lived in the midst of rubble and had to rummage for the next meal. Americans brought with them amenities that stirred jalousie and resentment. Hollywood movies and teen snack bars were our exclusive privileges. The boys wore fresh “buzz” cuts and the girls wore white “bobby socks.” While we danced to hit Juke Box tunes, such as Kay Star’s “Wheel of Fortune” the popular tune on German radio was “Auf Wiedersehn” (Goodbye.)

To move about without the support of my American friends, was to know heavy sadness and to look into the eyes of people who had lost everything. One moment stands with me. I had missed my train stop near our apartment in Stuttgart and ended up in a heavily bombed, industrial area at 1:00 am. The conductor told me that it was the last train until eight o’clock. I took a seat on a bench at the stop and contemplated my next move.

My eyes adjusted to the darkness to the point that I made out a large, embossed poster of Adolph Hitler on the wall. He was looking down at me just as he had always looked at the people waiting there. It was as if the war had never ended. I felt, suddenly, very awake. I scraped some mud off the ground and rubbed it over his face. I tore at it with my fingernails and banged it with rocks. I felt defeated, I could not mar it in anyway. This had gone on for almost thirty minutes and it was getting me nowhere. I looked at the tracks and realized that if I could not ride on them, I could at least walk on them. In my sport jacket, slacks and penny loafers I shuffled the eight miles, contemplating the face on the wall and regretting that I flubbed my chance to get in my “licks.”

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