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From the Heart’s Closet
A Young Girl’s World War II Story

By Anneliese “Lee” Krauter
  • Otto Wiegand born in Bettenhausen, Thueringen Province, Germany

  • Alma Wiedrich born in Kiel, whose un-wed mother placed her in a basket on the steps of the Hansen family -- known in the community to raise foster children. The Hansens raised Alma in the fishing village of Husum on the North Sea.

  • 1920s Alma and Otto meet in Hamburg. Otto goes to sea, sees the world and eventually jumps ship for a life as a butcher and sausage-maker in New York City.

  • 1927 Alma and Otto are married in New York City

  • 1931 Frederick Wiegand is born

  • 1935 Anneliese, the author, is born and joins a family living in the German-American section of the metropolis. The family participates in several German interest and language groups like the New York Turnverein and the German/American Vocational Society.

  • July, 1937. Otto takes his family for a visit to the ancestral home in Bettenhausen. He sees that the Nazis are dominating thought and the political scene and retains his love of and interest in the fatherland, but was wary of Adolph Hitler’s extreme nationalism and military build-up.

  • 1938-43 War heats up in Europe and the Wiegand family experiences prejudice and continues activities in the German American clubs and operation of Otto's neighborhood butcher shop.

  • 1942 One of the German clubs asks the Wiegand family to board a mysterious “Herr Gruda” who comes to live in the home, does not interact and one day disappears.

  • July 10,1942 Father Otto Wiegand is picked up by the FBI on suspicion of harboring a German spy. He is taken to Ellis Island for interrogation and detention.

  • 1942-1943 Protesting his innocence Otto continues to be detained in various internment camps around the nation.

  • 1943 Family is reunited in the Crystal City Internment Camp, Crystal City, Texas, with other families. Another section of the camp is for Japanese families.

  • 1944 Wiegand family is repatriated to Germany on a ship sailing under the protective flag of the international Red Cross, passing through Lisbon, Portugal, Spain and finally occupied France on the way to the ancestral home in Bettenhausen. Life takes up but the war is moving into a grim phase for Germany. Allied bombers cause terror. Allies arrive to liberate the area. The Family Wiegand becomes translators for the American Military Government. They narrowly escape being trapped in the zone the Russians will claim, with great danger to Otto, who has been a police person, while Hitler was still in power, having to break up plundering gangs of former forced laborers and earning their hatred. The family escapes by night with the life-saving aid of a master sergeant and other American soldiers.

  • Ten-year-old Anneliese undergoes a terrifying experience at the hands of an American soldier and courageously decides to keep it a secret from her vulnerable parents.

  • 1945 New Life in Attenkirchen with blessed relief for Anneliese, with school, friends and sports.

  • 1947 Freddy, always longing to return to America, moves to live with relatives in New York City. Alma struggles to reunite the family in America.

  • 1948 Anneliese and her mother return to New York City for a while. Otto cannot go because of his records with the FBI, which haunt him. Lee flourishes in school and interacts happily with her cousin Marianne, newly arrived from wartime exile in Germany, and unhappy and homesick. Anneliese takes pleasure in her achievement at the New York High School of Music and Art.

  • 1949 Time to return to Germany. “Pappi” puts them all to work on the truck farm he is setting up. Lee finds a more sophisticated life as a model, a student at a business school and work in an office. An unpleasant episode with a male friend recalls her bitter past with the American soldier and forces her to tell her parents.

  • 1950 Freddy has joined the Air Force in America. He is sent to Germany along with his handsome friend Joe Krauter, who wants to meet Anneliese.

  • 1952 Joe and Anneliese meet and fall head over heels in love and are married soon. They honeymoon, take up living in the U.S. Air Force in occupied Germany, and eventually come to America after having served Joe's tour of duty. She must tell Joe of her past troubles and he understands.

  • 1953 Farewell to Germany. Finally both Otto and Alma are able to return to the U.S. Freddy follows in 1954 and is discharged from the Air Force. A visit to Joe’s parents convinces Lee and Joe that farm life is not for them.

  • 1954 Joe gets a sales job and they go to Indianapolis where Lee joins a jewelry firm as a credit clerk. Lee, Joe and the Wiegands are reunited in a wonderful Christmas in New York.

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