I was born in Braunschweig, Germany, in 1936 after the great Olympic Games in Berlin. The German people had a new leader who promised to rebuild the country after the difficult years in the early 1930s; however, he started the war in September 1939 that ultimately became World War II.
When the bombing started in the early 1940s, all children were evacuated out of the cities into the country and my siblings and I had the great fortune to be sent to our grandparents, who had a large farm in Zwochau near Leipzig in East Germany. We enjoyed a fairly normal childhood, but could observe the American and British “silver birds” in the sky dropping their bombs on the nearby cities.
After the war, Germany was divided into four sectors – American, British, French and Russian. Since the eastern part was to be occupied by Russian troops, we returned to our hometown, which was located in the British sector. We had to share one apartment with another family because 92 percent of Braunschweig had been destroyed. Our family of five slept in one bedroom. In the spring of 1946, we were able to obtain a two-bedroom apartment. Life was not easy in those years after the war.
After high school, I began an apprenticeship at a wholesale coffee company. For three years, I was trained in the coffee trade and also attended a trade school. In 1957, I moved to Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, to increase my knowledge of the commercial world. In 1958, I decided to immigrate to the United States.
Oh, how excited I was; my first airplane ride on a Lufthansa Super Constellation. After three stops, I arrived at Idlewild Airport (now JFK) and within 30 minutes had passed through the Customs and Immigration inspection and here I was, standing all alone in this very large arrivals building in my new land called America.
I had brought one suitcase, my featherbed and a grand total of $80. This was the beginning of my new life. I made my way to Buffalo, where I had a friend and hoped to get a job in the food industry. It was not easy in 1958, but after six months I finally landed a job with the A&P supermarkets, where I advanced to head cashier.
Two years after my arrival in the states, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and trained in the infantry. I was sent back to Germany, but within one week I was selected to become the personal interpreter for the commanding officer. Wow, what an honor. I enjoyed my time in the Army very much.
After my return, I rejoined A&P, but in 1967 I changed careers. A new airline had come to town and I was hired by Eastern as an agent. After four years, I moved up to supervisor and eventually became manager of customer service and operations. I had a great job with the best airline in the industry for 24 years. Unfortunately, Eastern shut down in 1991 and I became unemployed. At age 54, it was not easy to obtain a decent job, but with several part-time jobs and my wife’s job in the school system, we survived quite well.
My wife, who is also a native of Germany, and I now enjoy our retirement with our children and grandchildren. We love it here in Buffalo. The area has so much to offer: parks, beaches, beautiful summers, great entertainment, the nearby Finger Lakes and Canada and a low cost of living. I have never regretted coming to the greatest country on our planet.