Escaping Berlin: Returning to the post-war city and aftermath

Part II of II


Special to the PRESS

Brunhild Rajaniemi is shown in her home where she told the Press about her World War II endeavors. (Photo by Freddy Jimenez)

On October 20, 1945, Brunhild and Gitta arrived back in Berlin by train. Brunhild found her grandparents living in a cramped apartment in the French sector of the city. “They lost their home because my grandfather belonged to the party.”

From her grandparents Brunhild heard of the terrible events of the day the Russian
soldiers arrived at their house the day after she and Gitta made their escape.

The neighbors’ tenyear-old daughter was gang-raped by Russian soldiers while her mother was forced to watch. And Gitta’s cousin was shot by a Russian soldier in front of her father.

Most of Brunhild’s family served in the armed forces during the costliest war in history. “My brother died in Russia and an uncle was a motorcycle courier. A brother-in-law survived, and maybe some cousins I never met.”

Bruhild’s grandmother did not have long to live after the war’s end and died in 1948. Her grandfather lived until 1969.

As devastated as Berlin was, Brunhild and Gitta decided they couldn’t stay and, for the second time in less than six months, they escaped the city and went back to West Germany. They settled briefly in Trevemuende and were comfortable there but jobs were very scarce, so they were back in Berlin by the end of November.

The war may have been over for months by then but the hard times were just beginning.

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(Part I of this story can be found on the May 2, 2019 edition of the PRESS.)

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