By Dieter Huth
Already as a young boy in Germany I had written contact with people in the USA. During the hunger years after WWII my parents received Care Packages from America. Germany was almost completely destroyed by the end of the war in 1945. There were hardly any shops open. The currency was worthless. You went to farmers to exchange your valuables, like rings or carpets, for food. People began to steal from other people’s gardens. Many were starving. The Allies realized that they had to get this situation under control. Americans began to organize donations. Through the Lutheran churches in the Missouri Synod my family got packages from three families in Michigan, Wisconsin and Kansas. Whoever has never experienced hunger cannot imagine the joy and comfort we knew when these Care Packages arrived from 1946 onward. When I see the amount of butter you receive here with an order of pancakes, I remember that amount lasting my family a whole week.
At that time my father bought me a German/English dictionary (a very expensive gift then) and showed me how to write thank you notes. First, I wrote them in German and then looked up each word and wrote them in English. Now I can imagine how funny these must have sounded.
The first package we received had clothes in it. I remember getting a shirt with cowboys embroidered on the collar. At school, in that shirt, I was the star of the classroom. My parents said I was to write a thank you card even though they had hoped the package would contain food. Soon, however, food packages began to arrive. The organization CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) provided a list of items for people in the USA wanting to send packages. The food item list contained: lard, sugar, egg powder, milk powder, coffee, chocolate, honey, raisins, beef broth, canned meats such as liver, corned beef, bacon, spam, and canned fruit.
With one lady from Wisconsin, Anna Staedt, I had a special relationship. I always wrote “Dear Aunt Staedt” and she wrote, “My dear Nephew Dieter”. We exchanged letters until she died at the age of 93 in 1973. To help us with English in Germany, one of our grade school teachers offered to hold a Saturday class for those interested. He gave us each an English name. I was Bill and I sat next to Betty. To practice pronouncing the English “r” correctly we had to put hot potatoes in our mouths and say “Ahrrrrrr”.
After I married my American wife Nancy, we decided to try to find and visit a Care Package family. In Detroit, Mich., we met up with Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Kunert, then in their 70s. They had raised eight children in a modest home, yet still found the means to send us food packages. They showed us the old 1664 German Bible they had inherited. Some years later we visited one of their daughters on Whidby Island off the coast of Washington state. And later one of their grandchildren visited us in Germany.
The Americans have always been known for their generosity. I experienced this first hand. It’s too bad my Aunt Staedt didn’t live to see her nephew Dieter become an American citizen in 2014.
As we celebrate the Fourth of July with picnics and an abundance of food, I remember with gratitude those Care Packages from the USA.
Dieter Huth was born in Germany during the second world war and raised near the city of Cologne. He taught chemistry at a technical college until his retirement. In 2005, he and his American wife Nancy moved to Middlefield. He is now holds dual citizenship of Germany and the USA.