Much has been written about World War II, but not often do we hear about the immeasurable suffering of the Germans who wanted no part of Hitler's regime.
Abandoned and Forgotten is the memoir of a young girl growing up in the then-German province of East Prussia by the Baltic Sea. Orphaned at the age of nine and left to fend for herself in a hostile world, Evelyne Tannehill witnessed firsthand what happens when law and order break down and self-preservation becomes the only thing that matters. Her journey is a poignant example of how resilient the human spirit can be, even in the face of war's greatest horrors.
THE GERMANS tells of my early childhood as the youngest of five children living on a quiet farm in East Prussia under the watchful eyes of the Nazis. I witness the sudden absence of my playmates’ fathers, the military build up all around us, endless transports of wounded soldiers, bombing victims arriving by the thousands, camps with Russian prisoners of war, my Father’s incarceration in a concentration camp (although he was a naturalized American Citizen). By January of 1945 thousands of refugees, along with the retreating German military, line the highway. Father puts my sister, age sixteen, on the last refugee train out of the area, and we pack up and run from the advancing Red Army by horse and sled. But it is too late. We are turned back by German fighting forces. We end up on an isolated farm with several other refugee families.
THE RUSSIANS appear and unleash uncontrolled violence on us, their first German victims. They rape the women and torture the men. They take away my Father and my oldest brother, seventeen, despite their American citizenship. Two weeks later they abduct my middle brother, not yet fourteen, leaving Mother to cope with my youngest brother, age eleven and me, age nine. We witness suicides of desperation, cold blooded murder, starvation and brutality with an occasional act of kindness. Mother is raped as she lies dying of typhoid fever, leaving my brother and me at the mercy of strangers.
THE POLES follow the Russians as the new occupants of our properties. After continuous ousting from our various temporary living quarters, the Germans leave my brother and me with the Polish family who has settled on our farm. A drunken wife-beating husband, an ever-pregnant bitter wife, and vindictive unschooled children our age make up our new family. We are beaten, starved, held captive and tortured emotionally. My brother runs away, leaving me to fight alone for survival. Eventually I get away from this abusive family only to enter the hell of sexual molestation.
THE NEW GERMANS brings liberation. After three years of suffering all the remaining Germans are rounded up and transported out of the area in cattle cars. My brother appears minutes before the train leaves. We are put into an orphanage in East Germany until our family is found. Ten years pass before we are reunited in America, except for my father who perished in Siberia. I stay with aunts in recovering Germany until I, too, must go to America in order to retain my American citizenship. By the time I see my oldest two brothers and sister again, they are married.
EPILOGUE the Berlin wall comes down. I visit the family farm and stop at Mother’s gravesite. Sitting at the edge of a potato field where her body lies buried I tell her about my life in America.
About the Author
Evelyne Tannehill was born in January of 1936 in the German province of East Prussia. She was a dual citizen of Germany and the United States due to the US citizenship of her father. She lived and attended school in Germany until the age of sixteen at which time she came to the United States. She made her home in the Chicago, Los Angeles and Reno areas where she had significant business interests. Among them, she was the Director of a branch of the Berlitz School of Languages in the Chicago area.
At present she is retired and resides in Green Valley Arizona and travels extensively. She has two children and four grandchildren.
Evelyne has given over 150 lectures/book talks to groups locally and internationally.