German Girl Visits War Friend
"Home" at Rushden to meet again the man whom she helped when he was a half-starved prisoner-of-war working in a factory at Dresden, is a pretty black-haired German girl, Fraulein Edith Pawlowitsch.
Edith with her brown eyes-sparkling, will tell you that at last she is happy. "Rushden is a nice little town," she says with a cheery laugh. "One gets the feeling that people are very kind. It is not like Germany; all the people are very nice people."
To be able to make that little speech, Edith can thank the B.B.C., for it is from broadcasts that she has picked up a working knowledge of English. She was preparing a letter of thanks for the post when an "Evening Telegraph" reporter visited 138, St. Margaret's Avenue, this week.
Edith, dressed in a red pullover, made the tea and sorted her documents in Russian, German and English, while Mr, Albert Bayes, sitting before a cosy fire in shirt sleeves, told us the story of the circumstances which had brought this vivacious 28 years old German girl to the town to make her home.
In The Desert
Mr. Bayes was captured in the North African desert in 1942 and was transferred to Italy, where he remained a prisoner until the time that Italy surrendered. The story of his own troubles which became so linked with the troubles of Edith Pawlowitsch, can best be told in his own words.
"When the war in Italy ended" he said, "we were walking about for several days but our English captain told us that we should spend the night in camp in case we were attacked by Germans. One morning we woke up and would have had the roll call as usual, when we found we were surrounded with Germans who had machine-guns. They shipped us into wagons, gave us the food parcels from the camp, and sent us to a village in Germany. We were there for two days and then went to Muhlberg.
"There they asked for working parties, and we were pleased to work, for the camp was terrible. They asked for 60 workers for the railway, and to get out of the camp I volunteered. I was first in the queue.
"We were marched down to a laager, and it was a very good billet. We had hot water baths, cook houses and a football pitch, and they treated us better than we expected. Two days later they came and asked us what we did in Civvy Street
"I was put on gas welding. We did not work too hard and did quite a lot of sabotage. Our main food was potatoes.
"The young lady started to work near me in October. She used to bring me bread and used to hide it under sacks. Sometimes she brought cigarettes.
"She was very good to me, and if she had been caught she would have been put into a concentration camp. We did not speak many words to each other, as I was afraid of the consequences to her. Then we began to write letters to each other and hide those, too.
"I used to give her things from the Red Cross parcels, though it was a long while before she would accept anything from me, as she knew that we were as badly off as she was.
"She would have been put in a concentration camp if she were caught looking at an Englishman and we were warned that if we were caught looking at a German woman we would be shot.
"Six weeks before the war ended, we had no parcelsthey were being stolen from the railway carriages. The Germans were getting very hungry at the time, and we could see what was coming."
At this time, Mr. Bayes, said the prisoners used to watch the bombers over Dresden six or seven hundred at a time, and the roof was blown off the factory two or three times. Eventually the workers were standing in the factory in about a foot of snow and warmed themselves by turning the welders on to the metal benches.
"The bombing got so bad" he continued, "that the Red Cross ordered that the, prisoners should be taken from the danger zones. On April 14th, 1945, we were taken from Dresden and at 2.30 in the morning we were told to go to a farm on the mountain side on the border of Czechoslovakia.
"While we were going up the mountain side, we witnessed the most terrible bombing we had ever seen in our lives. We all said nobody could live through it, and so I thought Edith was finished."
But Edith was not finished, as he later learned, and her house in a suburb of Dresden was undamaged. While the prisoner was dodging S.S. men she was re-arranging her life to meet the end of the war.
Eventually, after many struggles, Mr. Bayes reached the American zone, where he was treated royally and offered a seven-course dinner in an hotel at Chemnitz. Although he did not know it, Fraulein Pawlowitsch was in the same town.
Three years ago next May, Mr Bayes, who now works in the making department of Messrs. B. Denton and Son, Ltd., Rushden, arrived home by plane. One of his first tasks was to trace the girl who had befriended him when he needed help most.
"It seemed no good writing to Germany," he said, "for I was almost positive that Edith was not alive. You could almost see the houses going down like paper that day they bombed Dresden. But she has been writing for quite a time, and now she is here sitting by the fire."
In spite of her B.B.C. lessons, Edith could not find words to express fully her thanks to the people who have already been so kind to her. Many of them have already invited her to their homes.
They need have no fear about harbouring an ex-Nazi for Edith's papers, some of them in German and Russian tell of her high democratic ideals, of her family history and of her father who was once in a high Government position in Dresden until he was dismissed by the Nationalists, and who suffered several times at the hands of the police.