When I first began to attend Coffee Call at the Vets’ Museum on the first Saturday of each month, one of the friendliest women there was someone who had been born and raised in Germany during the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Her name was Margret Mefford, and she quickly became one of the best things about getting to the museum by 8 am.
When we first met, I found out she was working on a book about what it was like to grow up in Nazi Germany. She had diligently sought out the stories of eight German women, most of whom married American soldiers and came to the States to make a whole new life. Indeed freedom had been found, they had remarkable stories to tell, and Miss Margret has compiled them with the help of James Ehl into a dear book entitled Journey To Freedom.
Stories have a power that never abates. They are the basis of scripture, the tales that define us as a culture and as individuals, and the best part is, if they are true, can never be successfully challenged. As a former pastor once said, “He that hath an experience is never at the mercy of the one who only hath an argument.” The stories told by the eight women run the full gambit of emotions, and make one glad that after great adversity, liberty was captured and continues to be cherished.
Margret began to tell me some of her stories, and one of her frustrations is that while there has been necessary attention given to the Holocaust, rarely is the carnage perpetrated by Joseph Stalin mentioned, and it was many times more than what happened in the concentration camps of Germany.
Another stereotype that Margret quickly dispels is the notion that all Germans hated Jews. “It simply was not true,” she said. “We didn’t know any Jewish people, and where we lived, we honestly did not know about any concentration camps.” I found that shocking, but know Margret to be a woman of her word.
She tells of things such as her first pizza, eaten during the American occupation, and she mistook the olives for grapes. She tells of her wedding day, not at all the dream wedding that most girls think of, and it especially touched me that there were absolutely no flowers, not even a corsage. She was married at the justice of the peace, and her immediate family served as the witnesses.
There were no pictures, no trappings of any kind, but there was love and it is a marriage that has lasted more than 50 years.
Other women were not as fortunate initially. One had been repeatedly savaged by members of the Russian army, but then married a kind man who was the love of her life. They escaped from East Germany, made it to the States, and were married for 52 years.
All in all I think that Journey To Freedom is an important book that deserves to be read more than once, and as a published author, I would like to both congratulate Margret on her hard work and encourage you to buy her book.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner