My uncle, Berhardt Herman Adolf Bober was born in Berlin, Germany on January 12, 1936. He has been MISSING since late January 1945! This is the story of how he became one of the Lost Children shortly after turning nine years old…
In an attempt to keep them safe from the intense bombing during WWII, most children were sent out of Berlin, and other big cities across Europe, to the perceived safety of the country. They were not always sent to live with relatives or family friends, but were often packed off to live with complete strangers. Such is the story of the two youngest Bober children: the youngest girl, Hannelore (my mother) and her next older brother, Bernhardt (called “Teddy” by family) . They were both eventually sent to a small town over 300 kilometers North East of Berlin, then called Jastrow, now called Jastowie, Poland. However, these two children, barely 7 and 9 years old in 1945, were not even sent to stay with the same family. My mother recalls being sent to live with a cruel SS officer while Teddy went to live with a kind, elderly couple who had a cottage on the edge of town.
Near the end of the war, as the Allied forces were making their way towards Berlin, the Red Army moved through Jastrow. Ahead of them, any Germans living in the area began to flee. Naturally, this included the families that my mother and Uncle Teddy had been sent to stay with. They weren’t alone, as a whole caravan of refugees headed out to avoid the Russians. Although she was but a young child at the time, my mother can recall the events of that day very clearly… She remembers seeing Teddy, with the elderly couple, and asking the man in charge of her if Teddy could come with them. The answer was a heart-wrenching, “NO”! Sometime later my mother was abandoned by this officer and his wife. She was found in a refugee camp, some weeks later, by her father who had come searching for his two lost children. Sadly, like hundreds of thousands* of other German children, young Teddy was never seen nor heard from again.
From the very beginning the family contacted the Red Cross to ask their help in finding Teddy. Over the decades additional inquiries were sent, but all with the same response – no hint of what happened to Teddy was ever uncovered. The last letter arrived just a week ago. My mom is the only sibling still living… and today is her 77th birthday. We have a plan to have someone translate Teddy’s story into Polish and publish it in the Jastrowie newspaper, continuing to keep the promise of never giving up the search for any news of what might have befallen him the day the Russians came to Jastrow.
*Tara Zahra wrote: “The German Red Cross received over 300,000 requests to trace missing children or parents between 1945 and 1958, while the International Tracing Service traced 343,057 lost children between 1945 and 1956.”