Thursday, August 9, 2018
Todd Schwartz became the Executive Director of the European American Chamber of Commerce (EACC) in January, 2017. With the support and guidance of the EACC’s Board of Directors, he develops and implements EACC activities in three key areas – Economic Development, Talent and Workforce Development, and Business Development. The EACC is part of a growing transatlantic network with chapters in Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, New York, New Jersey, and the Carolinas.
Prior to joining the EACC, Mr. Schwartz was a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. His twenty-eight year career as a diplomat included overseas tours in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Qatar, the Philippines, Kuwait (Counselor for Economic Affairs), Canada (Principal Officer in Winnipeg, Manitoba), and Iraq (Counselor for Economic Affairs). His assignments in Washington have included tours as Director of the Office of Iraq Economic Affairs; Director of the Office of Iran Affairs; Assessor with the Board of Examiners for the Foreign Service; and Deputy Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs. He received numerous awards throughout his career, including three Superior Honor Awards, six Meritorious Honor Awards, and the Secretary’s Career Achievement Award.
Mr. Schwartz earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Economics at the Richard T. Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A father of four, he is married to the former Nancy Dye Sunderland of Dayton, Ohio. Nancy and Todd now reside in the Mount Washington area of Cincinnati.
Deborah Schultz introduced her good friend, Todd, to the club. Beyond the information provided above, Deborah further described Todd’s expertise as a “trivia buff extraordinaire.” She told us she appreciates what Todd is doing at EACC to support many local businesses.
Todd told us that one of the first things that everyone asks him is how he got a job with the State Department? My first trip overseas included a tour of six countries in Europe with a choir from Miami University. I remember being fascinated by the people I saw in the various countries in Europe who “not only spoke, but thought” in a foreign language.” I enjoyed it so much that when my very next opportunity came during my junior year, I signed up for Miami’s Luxembourg program. During the program, I field-tripped all over Europe. Finally, when I returned and was back at school during my senior year at Miami, the State Department came to campus to interview the expected graduates. I interviewed, took, and passed the State Department’s entrance exam. That’s how it began.
My tenure at the State Department involved being more than a diplomat. I was the father of three sons and a lovely daughter. I dragged my wife, Nancy, and our family around the world. The kids were always changing schools. They followed everywhere, but they couldn’t go with me to Iraq. I was gone for a year. This posed many challenges for 28 years, but also we were offered many opportunities.
Todd showed us a picture of himself in the desert of Iraq with a large fire burning behind him in the picture. He was standing at a crossroads of tire tracks in the desert sand. He said, “We quickly learned to walk where the tire tracks were in order to miss stepping on a mine.” Yes, there were challenges!
When it came time to retire from the State Department, it was Nancy’s career that brought us to Cincinnati. She enjoyed telling me, “Now you will have to find something to do!”
That’s what led him to the EACC. The Mission Statement stated that it intended to “stimulate business and network relationships between the tri-state region and Europe.” Interestingly the translation for “Greater Cincinnati” was met with stares and the question, “greater than what?” Thus the word choice “tri-state region.”
Initially EACC was the French-American Chamber of Commerce with international chapters in Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, NY, NJ, the Carolinas, Miami, and Boston. Today there are more than 120 companies locally. They are largely manufacturers. We facilitate their business relationships.
You may ask, “Why is the EACC in Cincinnati?” Because there are over 200 European companies from Germany, France, the UK, and Italy to name a few operating locally. We make it our business to help them so they can create jobs. This makes our region the 11th largest exporting region in the US while being 29th in population size.
What does the EACC do? We work in three areas: economic development, talent and workforce development, and in business development. Examples of economic development include working with a local company like Fluid Bag and Finland. Workforce development includes partnering with Cincinnati State and with foreign companies that provide internship programs from European companies here in the US. Business development is ongoing with many networking events such as Stammtisch which means regulars who meet monthly with business directors from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Another example is L’Appertif, a French cocktail hour for networking prior to the evening meal. Other opportunities are planned for an overview of the business climate for trade, commerce, and investment in the Baltic countries offered by their embassies. Please see www.europe-cincinnati.com/events for more information.
If your company brings in anyone from Europe or exports to Europe, then we can use our network to help you.
1. What is the impact of tariffs? We are a 501 C 6 organization. Recently we had the European Union Ambassador here to speak just prior to the onset of the tariffs. He said, “Europeans are concerned. This has created a lot of uncertainty.”
2. What are the perceptions of Iraqis about the US and Americans? They recognize that the vast majority of Americans had nothing to do with the war in Iraq. They also know that the State Department is there to help them, even though we broke their country. I arrived in Iraq three weeks after the Black Water incident. The Iraqis I met were wonderful people who generously provide hospitality. At the same time they resent our presence there. Even the military just wants to fix what is broken and get back home.
3. What about BREXIT and food production? Europe is fragmented as is the UK. I don’t see that people will be starving in the streets. I am concerned, however, about disruptions in the supply chain. It is clearly a mess. I think the average person’s standard of living will be negatively affected.
4. Does the EACC have a structured education program? No. We do work with UC a lot though. They have a chapter overseas. Each country has great exchange programs. I will put American students who wish to gain foreign business experience on their radar.
5. International business is conducted here with people who have a short-term visa, like a V1 visa. They have gotten help at the airport. However, renewals and approvals are taking longer and longer. This is a cost of doing international business. This cost will be increasing in the future due to uncertainty.
6. Expansion by the European Union (EU) in the future? There was an article about this just today in the Wall Street Journal. The next few years will be a challenge for the EU.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
MONICA J. POSEY
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
Dr. Monica J. Posey became president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in June 2016 and has energized the College with a collaborative leadership style and a vision for increasing student success and strengthening employer engagement. She is Cincinnati State’s first woman president and the first African American woman to lead an institution of higher education in Greater Cincinnati.
A native of Philadelphia, Dr. Posey holds a Doctorate of Educational Foundations from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Business Administration degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University.
After a business career that included eight years with AT&T Company, Dr. Posey moved into higher education in 1991, first at the University of Cincinnati as Assistant Director of Career Development & Placement, and a year later at Cincinnati State, where she was named Assistant Dean in the Engineering Technologies Division. In 1998, she established and became director of the College’s Office of Institutional Research. In 2003, she became Academic Vice President and an officer for the college, a position she held, adding the title of Provost in 2015, until being named interim President in September, 2015. During much of her career she has taught Business Statistics as an adjunct instructor at UC.
Dr. Posey’s extensive list of recognitions and community service includes the Business Courier Women Who Mean Business award, the Greater Cincinnati YWCA Career Woman of Achievement award, and a Distinguished College Alumni award by the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. She is a graduate of the Cincinnati U.S.A. Regional Chamber Leadership Cincinnati Class of 2010, and serves on the boards of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, ArtsWave, the Holocaust & Humanity Center, Minorities in Math, Science, and Engineering, and GRAD Cincinnati, Inc.
Dr. Posey and her husband, Rev. Dr. Michael J. Posey, live in Green Township. They have one daughter, Marchelle, and three grandchildren.
Ken Keller introduced Dr. Posey to the club. He said that Dr. Posey has been energizing Cincinnati State ever since she ascended to the Presidency in June, 2016.
What’s Happening at Cincinnati State?
Dr. Posey told us that nearly half the students at Cincinnati State are attending the Community College. Due to the “open access” policy at Cincinnati State, no matter what a student’s academic achievement level, each is invited to attend classes. Placement testing enables their insertion at the appropriate course level.
Cincinnati State’s faculty offers a qualified technical education. They are not asked to do research in order to promote. They share their industry experience instead. We offer a transfer program through partnerships with other academic institutions to transfer credits earned while at Cincinnati State. Our largest partnership is with the University of Cincinnati. We are a two-year institution where students who attend can go on to earn their bachelor degrees at these additional four-year schools: Northern Kentucky University, Miami University, and Mt. St. Joseph, to name a few. Wilmington College actually uses the Cincinnati State buildings to offer four-year degrees of their own.
Our goal is that we want some part of our curriculum to have a practical aspect through co-ops. As you may know UC founded the co-op system. Few two-year schools offer a co-operative component. Some of our students are enrolled in “terminal training” programs (ending in a certificate with no degree intended).
Cincinnati State enrolls 9,600 students each semester on average. It is the 4th largest academic institution in Greater Cincinnati. We offer the bachelor degree – bound student a two – year Associates degree. We also offer a High School Dual Credit program for high school students who desire college credit prior to high school graduation. Tuition is $158 per credit hour. This amounts to $5,500 per year or approximately half UC’s tuition. We offer classes in Clifton, Middletown, Harrison at the airport for aviation training, and Evendale at GE. Class size is approximately 16. We do not offer classes taught in large lecture halls. Upon graduating, approximately 90% stay in this region for work.
Cincinnati State’s demographics are as follows:
- There are more females than males enrolled.
- The average age of students is 26. There are high school students and adults who are returning for retraining.
- 20% are African-American. 3% are Hispanic. 7% are international. 3% are Veterans. 15% are high school students.
- We primarily service Hamilton and Butler counties, but also some come from Clermont County.
- We offer tuition reciprocity (credit that is accepted by all local institutions). We recommend checking with the administration prior to enrolling in courses, however.
- Most students are employed, some with as many as three jobs. Many students are eligible for financial aid.
We offer courses in the following industries:
Nursing – A student can earn an RN degree from an Associates degree. This provides a significant increase in pay.
Manufacturing and Engineering
Culinary – The pastry chef at the Omni Netherland Hilton, incidentally, is one of our graduates.
Our initiative states that we at Cincinnati State are committed to the eradication of poverty in our region. While a student is enrolled in a program we offer such support as childcare and career counseling with help to find a job. For example, if a student chooses welding where they need math and problem-solving skills, after the two-year program they can earn $40-50,000 if they work full-time. Most can enroll with financial grants so they finish with “no debt.” Yet, if students don’t want a two-year program, but instead want a 3 – 4 month certificate, there is no federal financial aid. Because of this, we at Cincinnati State decided to start a fund to help support these students.
We bring high school students in, and even their teachers, to learn in our “hands on” curriculum. For example, land surveyors need a bachelor’s degree and an experience component.
Next year we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. We are offering new degrees all the time in order to keep up with the culture. One such because of its popularity is a degree in Brewing Science. Another is becoming a Food Science Chef.
Our goals are that we are continuing to try to reach more students. For example, if a high school student thinks he/she will be going to UC or OSU and suddenly learns that he/she has not been accepted, we want them to come to us and then, perhaps, try again.
We want to elevate residents of the region from low paying jobs.
We are trying to keep ahead through partnerships; that is, with institutions that guarantee credit transfer.
We want above all to inspire, engage, encourage, and transform.
Sometimes my students tell me that they can’t relate to me. I tell them my story so they will change their perspective.
My parents were older when I was born. My father worked on a cotton farm in South Carolina. Even though he worked hard, he realized that to provide for his family he would have to move us to Philadelphia where we attended the Philadelphia Public Schools. My parents knew nothing about college, but they did know about hard work. As it turned out, I got a full scholarship to Cornell University. When I arrived, I discovered the students at Cornell were middle class; whereas I was working class. I graduated, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Before long I enrolled in the MBA program at the Wharton School. Quickly I was surrounded by very aggressive students and wondered, “What am I doing here?”
Afterward I came to Cincinnati because my husband had been hired to work at Procter & Gamble. Soon thereafter, I began teaching as an adjunct professor. After 27 years at Cincinnati State, I realized that although I had started a doctoral program once, I had never finished it. BUT … now it was the time! I began the process and when I graduated at last, I applied for a Dean’s job two different times and was turned down for both. I kept working. When Dr. Odell Owens came to lead Cincinnati State, he recommended me for Vice President. Before long he recommended me as Provost. Finally, as he left Cincinnati State, he recommended me as the next President.
I have decided that through failure, if we keep working, we will eventually have success and hope. This is what I try to convey to the students at Cincinnati State. That’s MY story!
1. Describe the financial challenges you face at Cincinnati State.
When the economy is good, fewer people enroll. I’m tasked with rounding out the abrupt “ups and downs” in enrollment due to the economy. Everyone at Cincinnati State has helped me with the budget. We’ve cut our spending rather severely. We do not receive any “Levy funding” as does Sinclair College. Our only revenue source is tuition. Although it is low, it is controlled by the state.
2. What about the state’s regulation?
Each school has its own Board of Directors. In the Transfer Program, everything is guaranteed to transfer. In engineering, however, there are two degrees: associates of arts and associates of science. Transfers are easily obtained with the latter, but not the former. I recommend that students learn about the credit status of the courses they take prior to enrolling in them so there will be no surprises.
3. What about on-line classes?
We offer 20% of our classes on-line. There are many technology classes that need lab experience so most classes are still offered on campus.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
THE HONORABLE ROBERT A. McDONALD
8th Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs
Retired Chairman, President, & CEO of Procter & Gamble
Robert A. “Bob” McDonald was nominated by President Obama to serve as the eighth Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA). He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on July 29, 2014.
Secretary McDonald led the VA in its ambitious transformational journey to be a world-class service provider and the No. 1 customer-service agency in the Federal government. His goal was to give Veterans consistent, high-quality experiences. Secretary McDonald’s five Veteran-centric strategies effectively improved veterans’ experience, improved the employee experience so employees could better serve veterans, improved internal support services, established a strong foundation for the VA’s growing culture of continuous improvement, and enhanced strategic partnerships across the country. By the end of Secretary McDonald’s tenure, veterans at all VA Medical Centers had access to same-day services in primary and mental health care when needed right away, among many other improvements.
Before joining the VA, Bob McDonald was Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G). Under his leadership, P&G significantly recalibrated its product portfolio, expanded its marketing footprint by adding nearly one billion people to its global customer base, and grew the firm’s organic sales by an average of three percent per year. This growth was reflected in P&G’s stock price, which rose from $51.10 the day he became CEO to $81.64 on the day his last quarterly results were announced—a 60 percent increase from 2009 to 2013.
Bob McDonald is personally and professionally committed to values-based leadership and to improving the lives of others. Bob and his wife, Diane, are the founders of The 2 McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character at West Point—an annual gathering that brings together the brightest young minds from the best universities around the world and partners them with senior business, non-governmental organizations, and government leaders in a multi-day interactive learning experience.
The recipient of numerous leadership awards and honorary degrees, in 2010, the University of Utah Alumni Association named Bob a “Distinguished Graduate.” The West Point Association of Graduates named McDonald for its admired “Distinguished Graduate Award” in 2017, recognition provided annually to “West Point graduates whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives.” In 2014, The President of the Republic of Singapore awarded Bob the Public Service Star for his work helping shape Singapore’s development as an international hub connecting global companies with Asian firms and enterprises.
Bob McDonald graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1975. He earned his MBA from the University of Utah in 1978. An Army veteran, Bob served with the 82nd Airborne Division. He completed jungle, arctic, and desert Warfare training and he earned the Ranger tab, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and Senior Parachutist wings. Upon leaving military service, then-Captain McDonald was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
Bob McDonald and his wife are the parents of two grown children and the proud grandparents of two grandsons and one granddaughter. His son is a partner at Taft, Stettinius law firm and he is the founder of The Brandery. His daughter-in-law is expecting a new baby soon.
The last time I was here I spoke at my daughter’s wedding. I must say that it is much less expensive this time!
During Doug Bolton’s generous introduction, I was reminded of the time I saw Valerie Jarrett (former Obama aide) and President Obama lying on the steps of the dais during his introduction (because the introduction took so long). After all, it is the President of the United States. No introduction is necessary!
Lessons Learned: or What I Wish I Knew at 20
Having purpose in life leads to reward versus ongoing meandering. I learned about Rotary’s purpose from my wife, Diane’s, father, Wade, who was a Rotarian. I must give all the credit to my wife for my rebuilt empathy (sensitivity to others) after being an unemotional Airborne Army Ranger.
Once when I was visiting Harvard, a student asked me how to become a CEO. I told the audience that “I can’t prescribe that, but I can say that everyone wants to succeed.” In my first experience leading an infantry battalion, I encountered people who had been told all their lives that they were losers. They believed it. We gave them small tasks. With each success, the tasks got larger.
While I was with P&G, I traveled the world. I was invited into people’s homes to see how they were using P&G’s products. When leaving, I asked them, “What’s your dream?” All over world, each one answered, “I want a better life for my family.” Try to catch someone’s dream and help them make it happen.
My definition of character is a leader who puts the needs of his/her organization before his own. For example, an entrepreneur eats last. The needs of the enterprise are his/her first priority.
Take responsibility. A cadet is the lowest rank. He/she has only 4 responses. They are:
1. Yes, Sir!
2. No, Sir. (This is not an honorable response.)
3. Sir, I do not understand.
4. No excuse, Sir! (Which means he/she is taking responsibility and it won’t happen again.)
I am reminded of the West Point prayer where we say, “God, help me to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong.”
Leadership matters. I regret how long it took to get the right person or leader into the right job when I came to the VA. It took 2.5 years. I am reminded of what Jim Collins, the author of the book Good to Great, said, “To lead effectively you must get the right people on the bus in the right seat.”
Culture matters. This is why many resign when new management comes in. At the VA, many employees echoed, “I’m a prisoner and I can’t reach my goals.” I am reminded of two stories. In the first, a disabled vet arrived at the VA in Spokane, WA. He cell phone called the receptionist inside the VA for help with the 20 foot distance from the car to come inside. The answer by phone was, “I’m not allowed to leave my desk.” The veteran was forced to call 911 in order to come inside the hospital for his appointment. Bob responded immediately, “This is not what we want for our veterans!”
In a second, a nurse in White River Junction, New Hampshire experienced a “no show” from a veteran who was never ever late for his appointments. She took the initiative and went to his home and found him lodged between a living room chair and his wheel chair. Had she not gone to his home, he might have died there unbeknownst to anyone and unable to get help. Bob said, “We MUST have our veterans backs!”
The VA was too rules-based, which made it a safe environment, but it was not what we must do for our veterans. This wasn’t a good customer service model. We had to change it to have a good healthy, customer-responsive culture.
Cincinnati is a precious environment. If you haven’t lived elsewhere, I will assure you that it is very unique! In 2003, 3CDC was created. We invested $25M into the city and it was matched. Fortunately we got Steve Leeper to come here from Pittsburgh, despite his leanings toward the Steelers. His ability to revitalize has made us proud of Cincinnati. Look what has become of Downtown, OTR, the Banks, and on it goes!
Next, Centrifuse provided a place for entrepreneurs to have their logistical needs met. Once in place, venture capitalists began coming to Cincinnati to invest. Bob told us, “I’ve been out requesting financial contributions and I want you to know that perhaps only one in 1,000 of those asked, declined. I am so impressed with and I can’t speak highly enough about the generous spirit of this city. I once lived in Orlando, FL. They have come to Cincinnati to learn.
The United States has a long history of military action. Most of us have served. Our volunteer army system is good, but the US needs more widespread involvement. Only 1% serve in the military. When a civilization contracts its military, it loses touch. We must take care of our veterans and, civilians need to be better connected to those who serve.
Did you know that disabled veterans organized themselves as the Veterans Administration at Memorial Hall after World War I? They have become a fantastic organization. Why do we need the VA today? First of all, for research. It was at the VA that we had the first liver transplant and the first prosthetic arms that were powered by the brain, to name a few. Secondly, for education. The VA trains more nurses and doctors than any other organization. The VA was set up by Omar Bradley. It was Bradley who created the association between the VA and medical schools. It is no accident that UC and the VA are down the street from one another. It is this association that will insure the VA gets state of the art care.
Many ask me why veterans are so humble and won’t talk about their service? One vet after his Normandy experience said to the Ambassador of France, “We all feel inadequate.”
Bob said, “I know vets who with no arms and legs are leading very productive lives.” They say of themselves, “How can I complain, when my buddies made the ultimate sacrifice?” Remember in Steve Spielberg’s movie, Saving Private Ryan, where Tom Hanks stood in the cemetery imploring the grave markers, “Please tell me I earned it.”
1. I am a veteran. I get great service at the VA. I have no complaints. Another veteran, a female, retired Army Colonel said, “The VA is an outstanding “team” of people.”
2. Which was more challenging, being CEO at P&G or directing the VA? Each was a blessing. There is nothing more precious than being responsible for someone else. In both cases, my challenge was to inspire people. I wanted us to open the windows, let the sunshine in, and put down the draw bridges.
3. The VA has made progress, but now how is it to be sustained? If the VA was on the Fortune 500 list, it would be 9th. P&G is 25th, for comparison. There are 22M veterans and 6M of them are in medical care. The VA changes its leaders every 4 years. Many leave in scandal. We need for the VA to become a quasi-governmental organization — not political. After all, “What’s political about veterans?”
In 2016, we codified the VA’s accomplishments. We invited the Harvard Business School to critique the VA. We are eager to uphold any suggestions. Write me at RAMWP75 (which stands for my initials and West Point class of 1975).
4. What has changed you most by your experience at P&G? The turning point was our move to the Philippines. We saw that we could change lives with the products at P&G. The majority of people in the world live in much worse conditions than we do in the US. Very few are literate and even fewer have computers.
July 12, 2018
FROM STONISCHKEN TO GEDHUS – A CHILD’S VIEW OF WORLD WAR II
To ensure a little known history is not lost, Gerda Braunheim is sharing her childhood memories of brutality, homelessness, and heroism while fleeing from World War II. Gerda experienced the horrors and trials of World War II as a young girl living in East Prussia. She will be sharing the story of her recollection of what happened when Hitler invaded Europe, and she was forced to flee her home, taking refuge in train stations, and leaving everything behind. She fled with her brother Willi, her older sister Lilli, an aunt, and their grandmother. She landed in a refugee camp in Gedhus, Denmark, that contained over 5,000 displaced Germans who had no way of communicating with loved ones left behind in Germany, as all communication was suspended for two years. Her story isn’t about political viewpoints or economic impacts of the war, but the impact of the war on the world of a young girl. She will also share the details of her immigration to America in 1956.
Gerda Braunheim was introduced by Past President Ute Papke. Ute told us that Gerda was born in East Prussia which had once been a part of Germany. Today the area has been divided into Lithuania and Poland. We learned that Gerda’s mother became very ill when Gerda was young. Her mother actually died when Gerda’s father went to war. This is a true story of a child facing war and loss without parents.
Gerda said Hitler moved into Poland (1939) and later destroyed Stalingrad (1943). From there they moved on to control Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) by 1944. The army was strong; yet over time they suffered substantial losses. At least 700 trains came through to supply the Russian forces each month.
The Germans were ruthless. Once the Russians began to retaliate, nothing could stop the Russian army.
Gerda said she remembers seeing the Russian troops moving toward her home town. They forced out over 12M people from their homes and farms. No one could understand what was happening, but everyone heard the bombs.
The biggest burden was on the women who were left behind once all the husbands had gone to war. What I remember was that we moved from town to town, but we couldn’t outrun the Russian invasion. We finally got to a harbor where there were ships waiting to help transport the refugees, but there were only 4 ships and 25,000 people needed help. One of the ships had been a cruise ship. More than 10,000 people were aboard. It went down and about 9,000 people drowned or died of exposure in the icy waters.
By this time it was August 2, 1944. I was with my aunt and grandmother. We boarded a train and hastily said good bye to our homeland. We got off in a small town and stayed 3 months. It was the coldest winter on record. While there, we learned that many people either froze to death or they starved. The town had been 12,000, but it was decimated by the harsh winter conditions. While there we stopped at a lady’s farm house. She was afraid to open her home to strangers. Little did she know that she would become a refugee herself a week later. The Russian Army kept coming. We walked to another village and found another farmhouse that turned their three beds over to us five. We thought we might be safe for a while when after five days, Russian tanks rolled in. For three days and nights the soldiers set houses on fire, shot civilians, and in short, had no mercy. They actually went into the farmer’s homes and took control. They luxuriated in the security of having enough to eat.
On February 2, 1945, the Mayor went to the Russians to ask them to cease their attack on the town. He found the Russian soldiers to be so drunk that he came back to the remaining townspeople and directed them to join him and his family to escape from the town at once. My grandmother was too afraid so someone carried her. We walked through snow from about 10:30 at night until 2:30 AM. We didn’t know if the drunken soldiers had awakened and surrounded us. It was very quiet walking in the forest. We suddenly became aware that my aunt and grandmother were no longer with us. We realized that the forest was too thick for the tanks to follow us. Once stopped, the group became aware that we three children had no one to look after us. During war times, everyone was fighting for their lives, so they told us to leave them and to return to our grandmother and aunt who had stayed behind. We started walking back when we came upon three Russian defectors. They said we would never survive, because things would surely get worse. We realized that we would have to abandon our grandmother. We found a barn for the night, then continued walking the next day and got to another village, but had to continue walking to village after village. Finally we reached a larger town, but it was only a shell of its former self due to the bombing. As we walked, there were dead bodies everywhere. They couldn’t be buried because of the frozen ground. I remember a lady with an infant. The infant had frozen to death in its mother’s arms. All we could do was to wrap the infant in a blanket and lay it in the snow.
We finally boarded a train that would take us from Germany to Denmark. It normally took about 4 hours, but in our case the weather was so bad it took 3 weeks. The homeless people aboard were so hopeless and discouraged from the traumas they had endured. After about three days, we got a Danish newspaper. Although we couldn’t read Danish, we learned that Germany had capitulated. We departed the train for a school where we were kept for three months. They insisted upon shaving our heads to rid us of lice and cleaned us for no one was able to bathe during the exodus. We were extremely filthy after being on the run for so long.
Time went by with no further news. We were Germans in Denmark. After three months, they put us on another train. In 1927, Hitler had established a pact where he agreed not to bomb an area if detention camps were built. We were taken to a camp where there were 5,000 refugees. In fact there were 1,100 camps that housed a quarter million people. Denmark didn’t know what to do with all of us. During this time over 7,000 infants and children were starved to death, to make room for more refugees.
Finally, I learned that my father had survived the war. He was working in Germany to bring us back together even though after the war Germany had little to offer: no food or housing. We hadn’t had any schooling for so long. There weren’t any schools.
After WWII, we were invited to come to America. I had been working and made about $25/week in early 1956. The day I landed in New York harbor I was greeted by the most beautiful sight: the Statue of Liberty! Finally on December 19, 1956, I arrived at the Museum Center in Cincinnati. There were 47 others with us. We had so little. Each worked to establish him/herself in a diversity of professions. I am so grateful to America for giving me the opportunity to become who I am today.