Alapocas Friends Meeting, 1986
Hans sat back in his chair and answered a question from a friend: “Oh, I haven’t been here for the last two weeks because I had stents inserted into two cardiac arteries. I felt tired all the time and noticed that I got winded even when walking up a little hill. The doctors told me that I had blockages, and the next day I went to the hospital.”
A gray haired woman queried, “Why didn’t you let us know?”
Hans said, “Well, it happened so fast, and I didn’t think that anyone here could help. And my housekeeper brought me food after I got out of the hospital. I was fine.”
Weeks later Hans told us a bit about his history: “I grew up in Germany and lived in Berlin near the end of the war. Oh, yah, I was a Hitler Youth. We all were in the Hitler Youth. No one gave us a choice, and we knew better than to question our orders…We hid in cellars and had nothing to eat or drink when the Russians came. I got work after the fall of Berlin with a mechanic who beat me when he felt like it. Sometimes I worked too slowly, and sometimes I made mistakes. Sometimes he got drunk and wanted to hit someone, and I was the nearest. We could travel from East Berlin to West on the commuter trains, and one day I heard that they were starting to build a wall to keep East Germans from escaping to the West. I decided that I had to go but didn’t tell anyone. I packed a school bag with a book and an apple and got onto a train. I had a few marks in my pocket. I told the conductor a story about why I planned to visit West Berlin, and border agents went through the cars to check identification cards when we neared the outskirts of West Berlin. My heart thumped in my chest, and I was sure that they would pull me off the train. The secret police could make people disappear. The agent studied my cards and gave me a hard look, but then he handed them back and passed down the aisle.”
“I came to the United States in the mid sixties. A Quaker couple sponsored me. They advised me on colleges and helped me win a scholarship to MIT. I did well enough to graduate and found a job here in Wilmington working for Dupont. So here I am.”
Hans crossed his long legs and gave us a weary smile.