In an essential supplement to published accounts of World War II, Evelyne Tannehill tells her tale from the perspective of a German civilian during and after the conflict. Born Evelyn Rapp in January 1936, Eva (her family’s name for her) recounts the brutal life that was her fate in the German province of East Prussia – part of Poland ever since the end of the war – from her earliest memories to her departure for the United States just after Christmas of 1951, about three weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday.
Abandoned and Forgotten is the story of three years in the life of an orphaned girl and the experiences that emotionally scarred her for life.
Eva’s family ran a farm in the village of Niederhof, next to the village of Steglitz, a short train ride from the decent-sized city of Elbing (now Elblag) near the Baltic Sea. She was the youngest of five children of a German mother and German but naturalized U.S. citizen father. After the rise of Hitler and his serious shaking of the war sabers, her father attempted to flee to the United States by virtue of his citizenship. After some debate, he finally decided to move the family in 1938. By that time, Hitler had closed the borders and it was too late.
This sealed their awful fate.
The harrowing account is divided into four sections and an epilogue. “The Germans” is the wonderful childhood experienced by Eva with her family, complete with storybook holidays and summers at a cottage on the Baltic Sea. “The Russians” is synonymous with a life of hell, terror, and rape for the East Prussian Germans who were not able to flee the approaching Russian soldiers hell-bent on revenge. “The Poles” brings only a slightly better existence to the local Germans and a life of discrimination and de facto indentured servitude. “The New Germans” tells of repatriation (finally in the fall of 1947)—not always happy for the now orphaned Eva—and reunion with her aunts and an uncle in the American sector of West Germany.
After her mother’s death in the summer of 1945, Eva’s search for love and acceptance dogged her for the rest of her life, and she was not able to find it—anywhere—except when she eventually married for the second time.
Evelyne’s prose is extremely simple but quite functional—and readable. She shows complete honesty in her accounts of the motivations, actions, and characters of other people—and of her own. Only photographs of the people and places featured in the narrative are missing from this very poignant and often painful tale.
Scott, now a copy editor by trade, is a once-and-future Latin teacher. He pursues his passions for brain plasticity, jazz piano, and golf in southeast Massachusetts. He lives alone with Cicero, Shakespeare, Mozart, and Ella Fitzgerald.
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