In March, Daddy unexpectedly got new orders transferring him from Berlin to the Free Territory of Trieste, situated between Italy and Yugoslavia, where he would become part of another joint occupation force—British and American—charged with administering that defeated territory until the Allies could decide on its future. He left for Trieste in March, and we were to follow in late summer, once our new quarters there were completed and ready for occupancy.
After Easter vacation, Eleanor and I returned to school on a Monday, but I remember only sudden and awful heartbreak. That afternoon the school bus stopped in its usual spot, across the street from our house. Eleanor was first off the bus, and she ran across the street and opened the gate. Skippy had been waiting. He streaked out through the gate to greet me as I exited the bus. At that very second, a military jeep approaching from the opposite direction screeched as the driver slammed on his brakes. But it was too late. The jeep hit Skippy squarely and flung him toward me. He landed at my feet, his ear-splitting cries filling the air. Instinctively, I dropped to my knees and tried to take him in my arms, but, in mortal pain, he sank his sharp teeth into my wrist just above my left thumb. My blood spurted and mixed with his as he went limp and his short life ended. Franz buried him by the rose bushes in the backyard.
I was inconsolable. I cried and cried, my heart broken in a thousand pieces.
Frau Erdmann began making phone calls. Three days later, she accompanied Mommy and Eleanor and me out into the country to inspect a litter of boxer puppies. We chose a fawn-colored male, promptly named him Bozo, and in two weeks we went back to pick him up.
His tail and ears had been cropped, and his ears were still taped together on top of his head so they would stand up straight and tall once they healed. I hugged him and kissed him and played with him and shared my bed with him, and after a while my broken heart began to heal.
Several weeks later, Mommy got an unexpected phone call from a former Army colleague of Daddy’s, warning that the Russian communists, increasingly incensed with the rapid progress America and the other Allies were making toward democratic government in Germany, were threatening to close down Berlin. He told Mommy it would be wise for us to get out of the city and the Russian zone while we still could and to travel late at night, if possible, when the checkpoints would be more lightly garrisoned.
Mommy wasted no time. First, she called friends in Munich. Then, aided by Frau Erdmann, Gertrude, and Franz, she hurriedly packed our things and crammed them clear to the roof of the Standard Vanguard, leaving only enough room for a wiggling, barely housebroken boxer puppy and two young sisters who’d come to love Berlin.
“But what about my birthday party?” Eleanor wailed. “We already sent out the invitations, and everyone in my class is coming.”
“I’m sorry about your party, honey, but it can’t be helped. We have to go.”
The following evening, we were ready. Just as they had when we first arrived, Frau Erdmann, Gertrude, and Franz lined up along the front walk to tell us good-bye and wish us well. Gertrude and Franz showed little emotion, but Frau Erdmann hugged us tightly and dabbed at her eyes with her hanky as we climbed into the car.
Without further fanfare, we locked the doors and Mommy pulled away from the curb into the darkness, leaving behind forever the grand fairy castle at 42 Im Dol Strasse.
In less than an hour, we came to the gate separating the American sector of Berlin and the Russian zone of Germany. Guards on both sides examined our papers for twenty minutes before allowing us to pass. Once we entered the Russian zone, Mommy drove as fast as she dared, and at each checkpoint we came to, she waited—white-knuckled hands clutching the steering wheel—while heavily armed Soviet soldiers peered into our car windows, inspected our papers, and muttered among themselves in words we couldn’t understand. Mommy heaved a sigh of relief each time the guards raised their gates and allowed us to continue.
Once through the Russian zone and into the U.S. zone, she drove non-stop to Munich, to the home of family friends, where we all could finally relax. We were safe. A day later, Daddy came in from Trieste on a bus and drove us the rest of the way to our next new home.
We escaped from Berlin only two weeks before Eleanor’s tenth birthday—and only two weeks before Russian dictator, Josef Stalin, cut off all rail, road, and water communications to the city, with the aim of driving the Allies—the Americans, British, and French—out of the Russian zone of Germany. The Americans answered with a mission that came to be called the Berlin Airlift. For 318 days, hundreds of thousands of U.S. planes ferried more than two million tons of food and supplies—a flight landing every three minutes—to the Tempelhof Airport in the American sector and carried out German industrial exports. Finally, after nearly a year of privation and hardship, Stalin lifted the blockade on May 12, 1949.