September 2nd is when World War Two was finally declared a victory, and this year marks the 75th anniversary of that event. On September 2nd, 1945 Japan had officially surrendered to the Allies, following the German surrender 4 months earlier. The Surrender Document was signed in Tokyo Bay aboard the battleship USS Missouri, the last battleship to ever be commissioned by the United States.
Life Magazine reported that as soon as people heard the news, people began celebrating “as if joy had been rationed and saved up for three years, eight months and seven days since Sunday, December 7th, 1941.” New York’s City’s Times Square had the largest crowd in its entire history gathered there to celebrate.
The celebrations were so exuberant that they became a frenzy. By noon, 5 inch deep piles of cloth scraps and ticker tape had been thrown on the streets and sidewalks by workers in New York’s Garment district. Everybody was offering each other beer and wine, and streets across the globe were filled with singing, dancing, firecrackers, hugs and kisses (especially by young ladies to servicemen). Waves of friendly pillow fights erupted in cities like San Francisco out of pure elation and joy. What followed were hangovers, prayerful thanksgivings and the start of a brand new era for the entire globe: The Atomic Age.
World War Two was the largest global conflict in world history, affecting over 100 million people and over 30 countries. It also has the highest fatality rate in world history, with records of 70 to 80 million fatalities, and estimates of up to 17 million civilian deaths. The war is generally considered to have started on September 1st, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.
In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War Two, I'm offering Playing with Matches for FREE for a limited time. Enjoy reading this well-researched, dramatic story of what it was like to be a teenager in Hitler's Germany. A slightly different perspective than many world war two novels.
Also available in German: https://smarturl.it/GZpwm
Sale ends on September 6th.
I was compelled to write Playing with Matches a few years ago when a friend of ours sat on our couch and started telling us his story from when he was a young teenager in Hitler Youth and what happened to him directly after the war. It was very compelling and told from a different angle than any world war 2 novels that I had seen. Most books and movies tell stories of world war two heroes who were fighter pilots or soldiers in the field. Not many focus on the young people who bravely resisted from inside the ranks of Hitler's Youth.
While visiting my husband's uncle and aunt a few years ago, we had the presence of mind to record Alfred's story. Here are the English transcripts from his interview.
I was born Alfred Radke in Tuckum Latvia 1929. From 1934 we live in Santen, That’s where Martha (ed note: my mother-in-law) was born. In 1936 we were back in Tukum. We swapped a few times. In 1938 we were back in Santen In 1939 we left Latvia for the province of Varegau It was an operation officially called ‘Back Home in the Reich’ for Germans. Hitler and Stalin made a pact. Hitler took the Germans and Stalin took the land.
We were on the train and as we were leaving on one track on the other track came the Red army with weapons and tanks. It was my first time I saw tanks. We travelled to the port of Liebow. The military was there too and as we left to go onto the ships the land was taken over. The Red army took over the official leadership, even today we don’t know what happened to the Latvian officials and where they fled to. They had destroyed all records.
We left Latvia and went to Danzig. Danzig is a good harbor with two cities. Then we went to Poznen and nearby in Ebenhausen. We settled and lived until 1945. In 1934 Dad was already called into the military. He was eventually killed in Gotha, Thuringen through a bomb attack. He was buried/funeral in Ebenhausen.
In 1945 the Red army came and we fled with our horses and wagons. We had a Polish worker that worked for us at the farm and he drove the wagon. Because we only had one horse we were given another (named Max) by our neighbor because they had three horses. We were always borrowing things to each other and so when it came time to flee we were helping each other. We fled until Brandenburg.
On the way we came to Cottbus. Martha got sick and we had to wait there for eight days, by then the thunder from the cannons was so loud we finally kept going until Hohenseefeld. There we stayed at the family ‘Theil’. We lived in the horse stall and that’s where I was enrolled into the Reich work ministry. I was taken to Bad Willsnacker on the Elbe for training, then I was in Brandenburg working the Flak 88 guns.
I had never seen a Flak gun. We had seen the military with normal guns but never these flak guns and we got there in the evening. The ones who were there before had been sent to the front. They were 18 or 19 years old. So we’re on the cannons in the evening. It was so loud. We were deaf and dumb. So, ya they told us when you fire you close your eyes and open your mouth. YA boom! (chuckles)