On October 23, 1944, the people of Kerkrade were told that their town was liberated from the Germans and that they could go back to their homes. Many of their houses were totally damaged from the fierce fighting that had been going on for almost a month. Before the Germans left, they had stolen everything out of the people's homes. It was a tragic return for the people of Kerkrade.
To clean out the West wall area from German occupation took almost three weeks of fierce fighting. It was so close to our hometown that artillery shells would hit our area off and on. Besides, the Germans would send one of their fighting planes to drop a few bombs here and there. Our town was loaded with army equipment. What we heard was that the supply lines couldn't move as they wanted to. I had a great time hanging around with all those soldiers. I was driving around in their half-track tanks, which was not allowed at all by the army. Whenever we would hit a check point I had to lie down and cover myself with an army blanket until we had passed the MP.
One day when I was driving around in this half-track tank, this soldier showed me all kinds of naked sex pictures which he brought back from France. I spent time in the ditches with soldiers who were in charge of the light artillery and we were shooting at German planes. The war had become part of our daily lives and living in it for so many years already we didn't notice the danger of it. For us kids this large arsenal of war equipment had become a playground. With all those soldiers in town they asked us for many favors. As we didn't speak English very well somehow there was no problem in communicating. Most of the soldiers would always ask if you had a good looking sister at home, or if you could get him a girlfriend. Some soldiers pointed at their crotch to let us know what they wanted them for.
American soldiers were very popular and it was very easy for us to find ladies. American soldiers were so popular because they could give people domestic things they needed and hadn't had for so many years during the war. I saw American soldiers coming back from the front-line with truck loads of all kinds of stuff. They had furniture which they must have taken out of the German stores or houses and rolls of all kinds of material. Some of them still had small bullet holes.
Whatever we did for the American soldiers we were always paid with chocolate bars and cartons of cigarettes. Those were very popular items on the black market at that time. Especially those chocolate bars were my favorite.
In those days ordinary working people had no bathtubs or shower rooms in their homes — that was only for the rich. Most of the soldiers who were stationed in our town would take a drive to the coal mine company and take a shower. Many soldiers who were relieved from their combat zone would go in truck loads to the coal mine company to take showers. The coal mine company had large open shower rooms.
We made so many friends with all kinds of American soldiers as their units were always moved around. I became very friendly with a soldier who always saw me hanging around the army kitchen during chow time. He became concerned and took me home at night like I was his own son. As he found out that the only reason I was hanging around the kitchen was to get some food, he gave us plenty of leftovers. It was so much that we shared it with our neighbors. Sometimes he would come to our house and spend some time with us. When the war was over he wrote us several times. His name was Pete Zehr and he lived in Manson, Iowa. It was not easy for us to reply to his letters as in those days not too many people spoke English. Whenever we received his letter we needed an interpreter to explain to us what all he wrote about. So we lost contact over the years but I always kept his letters. Another American soldier stayed in our house for several weeks. His name was John Huloski and he lived in Camden, New Jersey. During his stay in our house he became just like one of our own family. He would take us with his jeep to our grandparents' home. He was the captain of one of those boats which had to take intelligence personnel across the Rhine river into Germany. Before he went there he told us how scared he was to go on that mission. From friends we heard that his boat was hit during combat and that they found him in the boat in a state of shock. He never recuperated from that war trauma. I visited him many years later in Camden, New Jersey, and he was living on a V.A. disability check. Soldiers who stayed in our house always carried their loaded rifles with them, because the frontline zone was not that far away from us.