We Were Children — growing up in Germany, 1936-1948


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A look from the other side. Written through the eyes of a young girl in Dusseldorf, Germany during the years from 1939 to 1948, Inge brings the reality of hardship to innocents in political conflict. Follow Inge and her family as they face, and overcome, horrors and deprivation.

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an excerpt:

The searchlights fingered the night sky, their beams crisscrossing in their frantic search for the bombers. Suddenly they caught one in their bright beams and the instantaneous burst of canon fire was deafening. Almost as loud was the cheering heard from the entire neighbourhood. To us children, it was all so exciting and fascinating.

Of course, I would not admit that I was also very scared. This was no time to be a “baby”. My brother had already calculated where it might come down. If it landed not too far from us, we would run there tomorrow morning to pick up any plane fragments or bomb shrapnel. Hitler encouraged everybody to save, re-use and recycle. One of his recycle programs was to trade shrapnel for an army steel helmet. We all wanted one. After breakfast the next morning my brother and sisters were getting ready to go out and hunt for shrapnel.

“Wait for me” I yelled. “Ah, you stay home, this is no place for babies” my brother said. “Who are you calling a baby? I’m six-years-old and can outrun anyone of you,” I protested, putting my hands on my hips. That made them laugh so hard that they had to take me along. And a good thing it was too, because I found shrapnel that all of my older siblings had missed. We found enough shrapnel around the site to fill half a pail, in spite of the competition from all the kids in the neighbourhood.

In the next few weeks we collected enough shrapnel for only one helmet. I was allowed to try it on only once and only after reminding my siblings vociferously of my contribution to the shrapnel haul. The helmet came down over my eyes, causing my less than charitable siblings to tease me mercilessly. “Look, a blind soldier! Who you gonna shoot, blind soldier?”

I was used to being mocked but never gave them an inch. I knew I was small but deep inside me I also knew I had the“right stuff” — long before Hollywood expropriated that term.

Additional information

Weight140 g
Dimensions8.12 × 5.25 × 0.24 in


  1. Staff

    Reviewed by Reviewed by Rev. Audrey Brooks, M.Ed., M.Div., Unitarian Ch, 03/11/14

    This is an intriguing memoir, written through the eyes of a young girl who lived in Germany during the years from 1939 to 1948. Seldom have we had a child’s perspective on how war came unexpectedly to her person and her family. Not only does this perspective fit a current literary niche, but this slim volume of 109 pages also holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end. This is a “must read” book!
    The narration begins with a family that lives in Dusseldorf, and spends a couple of summers camping outside the city, where Inge and her siblings explore, build sand castles and pick flowers- idyllic scenes. Descriptions are vivid and colourful: “ Ever since then I have loved the moaning sound of foghorns. It invokes in me memories of long summers on the banks of the river Rhine. Today had been one of those glorious sunny days of my early childhood, the memory of which has stayed with me all my life.” And suddenly, the beauty of nature, the bliss of childhood, is changed when war is declared. How do children deal with war? What does war even mean to a little girl whose life until that point was secure, has been joyful and adventurous? This is a story about a family impacted by world events that changed their lives in a very dramatic way.
    We Were Children is written by the youngest child in that family: through her eyes,we experience how a German family with four children is drawn into a world war they did not start, but had to survive with strength, perseverance and inventiveness. The love and determination of Inge’s parents to protect their children in turbulent times, makes this a universal story. War and violence, which are politically motivated, affect innocent families on both sides of conflict : it is they who are the “collateral damage” of indiscriminate violence. In telling the story, a statement is made and a witness is given on this theme, yet it is told with clarity, careful attention to detail; with wit that shows the personality of the author. in describing personal behaviours and responses to the world she lived in, Inge has both a poetic style of writing and a wonderful command of language.
    – migrated from ShopPageMaster.ca (old store)

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