Stationed in Germany after the war ended, Mervin Cohey shared stories of the poverty, starving children and dangers he encountered in post World War II Germany.
Interviewee: Mervin Cohey
Date of Interviewers:
And, of course, little kids over there, you felt sorry for them. Men, they were starving, people starving. A lot of Germans over there appreciated us. I mean they did. This one fella I met, he got talking to me right in front of the hotel. He had two little kids with him, and he invited me out to his house to have dinner. And you have to be very cautious. And I kept putting him off, and, finally, he said, “Well, my kids would really love to have you come out.” So, I got up the nerve to go, and I went out there. He was a farmer. He had a nice little farm with a big barn, cows that like went underneath of his house [which] was up over the cows, up over the milk cows. And he had three little kids. The whole time I was going out there, and out there you like ‘is all the time (motioning left to right) head’s goin’, looking who’s moving. And him and his wife they just took to me for some reason. Cause, of course, I’ve always loved kids. I mean, couldn’t have one, me and my wife. We adopted two, but these little kids were starving so I would give ‘em my K Rations whenever we could give to them for the kids. German’s order made them move, tear it down, and move. But them little kids!
Then these little kids, they’d come up to the barracks hotel there, and pick up the G.I.s clothes and take them home and wash them. Their mother would take, wash them, and send them back with these little kids. They were starving. Then this little girl comes one day, said, “Mommy wants to know if you’ll come out to our place, to our house, and have supper with us one night.” And, of course, we were forbidden of that. I said, “No, I don’t believe so.” So she went off. About a week or so, she come pick up my clothes to go get them laundered and then bring them back. And then she come one day. She said, “My daddy said that if you come out for supper, he’ll come here, pick you up, get on the train with you and escort you to our house, and escort you back.” Of course, the street that she lived, that’s where most of the killing was going on at that time — the snipers. So I thought it over. After a while, I thought, “Well, danger’s anywhere you go.” Finally, I give in to her. And then he come with her one day, and he said, “Now, don’t you leave this place. You stay right here til you see that train coming; I’ll be on it. And when I get off, to you, I’ll get a hold of your hand, and you hold on to my hand and don’t let go. You stay right with me on that train.” So we went down to where we got off, and he said, “Now, don’t worry about people standing there or following us,” he said. “You just hold on to my hand, on the inside.” And that’s the way I went down about four blocks down the street holding his hand. And had two of them following us for two blocks, then they gave up. Went in, and she had a nice meal fixed, I mean nice for her and the family, And so, when time’s come for me to go back, he said, “I’m going to escort you back.” He said, “You see strangers following us but you got nothing to worry about, and don’t get off that train when it stops ‘til your stop.” He said, “Wait ‘til I get out, and then you come out and hold my hand.” And he escorted me back up to the hotel. I done that a couple of times but that was scary. You see them people. Just seeing those people standing there, staring, waiting to get you.
Moving out Hitler
It could have been a lot worse. We had to guard this building. Yeah, just an empty building. There wasn’t nobody in there then, but just the troops guarding. Nobody took out any of his papers or anything. They wanted to take them back to headquarters cause Hitler had moved most of his stuff out, over in a hotel — big hotel there that had a whole open field in front of it for people to gather to hear his speeches. In about a week, or two weeks, something like that, we received orders to clear the house out, empty it out, everything in there – load it on a truck, and take it back to his headquarters. And I was in charge of that. Shipping it. I helped to put it on the elevators. I used to run down the steps for the running it to the truck. And first thing you know, last trunk that was taken down, it fell apart with them. And all these pictures of Hitler just strung out all the way down the steps. And they was packing up, taking stuff down on the truck, getting ready to leave. And I hollered to them. I said, “Here’s a bunch of pictures on the step of Hitler.” I said, “You wanna come back and pick them up?” They said, “Throw them in the trash; we got enough of them. We got enough of them on here.” And instead of throwing them all in the trash, I saved five or six of them and sent them home. I got one of them, kept one for myself where it showed him, Hitler, making a speech and everything out of this same building. And all the guards there that day, each one of them took two or three a piece. But, he had a whole stack of them there.