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Talking Germany

Blog with Peter Craven

Walter Möbius, survivor

Or: Kriegsgeneration
Of course, many people from many different countries suffered terribly under the Germans in the Second World War. But Germans suffered, too. Men at the front. Women enduring terrible hardships and violence. Children left to fend for themselves. These are the people of the Kriegsgeneration – the war generation – and it’s only really in recent years that they have been telling their stories. One of this war generation is Walter Möbius, my latest guest on Talking Germany.
Walter Möbius is in fact a distinguished doctor and we invited him on the show to talk about his recent book, in which he calls for medical practicioners to spend much more time simply talking to their patients and listening to their stories. We also, of course, wanted to hear about his relationship with Helmut Kohl. The 77-year-old has for decades been the former chancellor’s friend and personal medical advisor. And I’m sure he’s done good service in both capacities.
But we find ourselves talking almost immediately about his wartime experiences. “I was separated from my parents when I was six years old,” he says. “My mother already had three children, she was pregnant again, and Bonn – the city where we were living – had been badly bombed. I was evacuated to the east. It seemed safe, the eastern front was still a long way off. I was isolated, though, and there was sometimes very little to eat. I was actually mothered by a goose. Yes, a goose! She looked after me, and when I got into trouble with some village boys, she chased them away.”
Then Walter Möbius tells me something that seems even stranger: “You know: I wasn’t really unhappy. It was an adventure. A game. I hid in a hole when we were strafed by British aircraft. I learnt how to survive. But the front got closer. My mother had hidden a postcard in my trousers. She’d told me to put my address on it and send it to her when things got really serious, which I did. And then she and my grandfather came to get me.” During the show, I ask Doctor Möbius whether life is more suffering or more joy. He grins wisely: “It’s difficult to say. But one thing is for sure,” he says: “There’s no joy without suffering.”


September 19, 2014