Wars Are Bad and Horrible
Wars are bad and horrible
You know it's true
Children have nothing to do with it
I'm telling, “You saved my life, it's true.”
I was born into a war
My father did not
Come home alive
In World War II
What could I do
Wasn't my fault they went to war
What on earth are they fighting for
My husband came to Germany
In 1960 we married
Moved far from home
Soon he was gone
When he came back, was not the same
Who on earth is to blame?
After divorce, fell in love
We were married 20 years
Took him from
The life we loved
I German, he a Jew
Both children of World War II
When he died, I was depressed
Felt so alone
Then a concerned neighbor
Came to my home
And said to me
You should volunteer
Helping teachers at Birchview
That's how I met all of you
To help you, it helps me
To live a life
Filled with hope and happiness
Free from strife
Don't give up
You can do it
Always try to do your best
Each of you are so blessed
Words & music by Larry Long with Sabrina Werremeyer’s 4th Grade Class of Birchview Elementary School in Wayzata, Minnesota
© Larry Long 2009 /BMI
My real name is Erdmuthe Fist. I get called Ms. Sam because no one can pronounce that name right. I was born in Germany on Dec 13, 1939.
I was born when the war started in 1939. My father was a soldier in the war and in 1944 he was killed on the Russian front. My mom had another little boy, his name is Wolfi.
When the war was going on we lived in a huge town and went out to farm towns and lived with farmers during the war. My grandmother came with us because my grandfather was in the war also. My grandfather came home from the war.
My home was in Wurzburg. It’s on the river Main in Germany. I went to school from first grade to eighth grade. It was a little schoolhouse, all in one room. When the town was rebuilt we got a regular school. I went to eighth grade and went two years to learn home economics. For three years I went to work in a bicycle shop. I sold tricycles and scooters and had to learn how to put bicycles together.
Back then, you had to learn what you sold. After three years I had a test and graduated. I was a sales clerk until 1958. In 1959 I met an American soldier from Fargo, North Dakota. When he said North Dakota I wondered, “Where the heck is this?”
We got married in 1960 and came to U.S in 1962 and moved to Illinois where he worked in the Army with missiles. We then went to Taiwan for two years. From Taiwan we went to El Paso, Texas. Then we went to Okinawa in the Far East. It is Japanese. Taiwan was Chinese.
I had to come back because he had to go to Vietnam for a year. It was sad because they saw so much in the war and the war messed him up bad. Eventually we got divorced. I came back to Minneapolis and met my second husband, Peter. We got married and lived down here from Plymouth. We had a nice house there and never had any children. We lived there almost 20 years and sadly Peter got lung cancer. After two years he died. So I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I talked to my neighbor and she said, “You should get into volunteering work. Go to schools and find out.” I called Birchview and told Dr. Koch and he said to come in. He said, “I have the perfect teacher to work with: Ms. Strom.” I came in October and this is my sixth year.
I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t work with all you kids. I love everyday I come here. When school is out in the summer I don’t know what to do. Many times when I go grocery shopping I run into my kids and it feels so good.
I did enjoy my life traveling around. You meet so many nice people in the military. You go to different states and different countries. I enjoyed every trip we made.
I was married to my first husband for 17 years. With my second husband we would have been married 30 years next year. Pete [worked on] air conditioning and heating. He worked for many buildings and apartment buildings.
During World War II we were far away from the bombing. We could hear the airplanes flying over. Some nights we could see the red from the fires. Food was scarce. There were eight of us in two rooms. In those days I had the feeling, and later on my grandfather told me that the farmers weren’t happy having city folks living them. We had to go out in the fields to help.
It was OK to help. Many weren’t welcomed. I remember my grandfather came home from the war. He had been in a Russian prison camp and an American camp. He had malaria and was in bed. He had a fever and would shake. One day I can remember, he had his eyes closed. I went to bedroom and lifted is eyelids and asked, “Are you alive?” He played with me and looked like he was gone. I don’t know much of the war because I was still young.
My aunt stayed in our hometown. She was hard of hearing. Her daughter stayed with her when the sirens went on and they went to fallout shelter. Fallout shelters were dug in the mountain and above that was a riding school. When the shells hit, it hit into the riding school and the horses broke out and many people got killed by the horses. There was fire everywhere. I will never forget those people killed from those wild (well, they weren’t really wild) horses and the fire.
My hometown was 99% bombed on March 16, 1944. Only a few months before the war ended. We were told so many airplanes had so many bombs on board. They wanted to get rid of them and dropped them wherever they felt like it. It was a nice town and it was 99% bombed. It’s been totally rebuilt. Wurzburg, Germany. It’s in the Bavaria section of Germany on the River Main.
When the war ended I was 6 years old. I was your age when the war ended. It was kind of hard when I came to the states from Okinawa. My English was really bad. You can still hear my accent. When I met American people, I was German. I remember one lady who said, “you might be a nice person, but you and I will never be friends”. My father got killed in the war. My friend’s father got killed too. I was a child and had nothing to do with it. It’s like someone blaming you with the Afghan or Iraq war. Wars are bad and horrible and children have nothing to do with them. So many children die from the wars. To blame me because her father got killed is unfair. Wars are horrible.
I was 22 when I came to the United States.
After the war, we stayed awhile in the farm town and then went back to Wurzburg and lived with aunts and uncles whose houses weren’t totally destroyed. We always had a huge family living together. My aunt had a house outside of my hometown in the woods. It was beautiful out there. I lived there from 1947 until 1949 until we got our own place. We went to school.
My grandfather tried to find a job. Many people worked in town to fix up the city. My mom and grandmother, I remember. The bricks that fell off the buildings were to be reused for new buildings. Women, men, and children helped out. The husbands and fathers who came back from the war were undernourished. It was a sad time, but if you stick together as a community anything is possible. Even my little brother helped. It made us stronger to pull through and survive.
Many, many people died. I hate wars. Hate to say this but I hate wars. I know what people are going through in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It’s the children who suffer, but really for what? I hope it is over and you never have to go through this. You’re lucky because you live in this country and never have to go through this here.
I would like to tell you a little bit about my second husband who died of lung cancer. He was my hero. For two years he suffered really badly. He had chemo and radiation and for him such an active person his whole life. He never complained. I told everyone at his funeral that he was my hero. I looked after him. Cancer is a very bad sickness. Never smoke. He smoked for 40 years and died of lung cancer. Never touch one [a cigarette] in your life. I smoked and stopped 30 years ago. It’s a nasty habit. He was a strong person and I admired him.
Some of you kids remember on Veterans Day I show you a flag. Because he was a soldier I got the American flag and had it put in a box with medals he won when he was in Korea and I brought them (the flag and medals) in every year. I talked to you about Veterans Day and what it means.
For a few months I stayed home and went through a process of being in a house alone. Eventually I knew I had to get help. I went to a meeting at a hospital, which was for a grieving group. It was for people who lost someone to talk with each other. We all knew what it means to lose a loved one. For three months I went once a week to Methodist Hospital.
Out of this came friendship with three people and we have been meeting three times a year. Anniversaries and holidays are hard. Then my neighbor told me to call Dr. Koch. He is my lifesaver and he said to come in and talk to him and said, “ I got the perfect teacher for you” and he was right. To help you guys it helps me and hope and I can do it for years and years to come. Every year I ask Dr. Koch if I can come back next year.
That is my story. I have had a happy, happy life. I saw a lot of the world and hope I’ll be around for many years.