Topic: GERMANY IN AUGUST 1939 by Joan Dorothy McCauley

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The following article by Joan Dorothy McCauley (nee Harvey) appeared in the 'Taranaki Daily News' on 13 September 1939 (p. 6). Many thanks to Bob Anderson for providing the original of this article along with a full transcription. Also thanks to Mike Gooch at Puke Ariki (New Plymouth) who after much searching was able to track down precisely which issue of the 'Taranaki Daily News' that the article appeared in.

Looking strange? see an archived version here


On Friday, August 4, three young former New Plymouth residents were at Berlin in the course of a 3000-mile tour of Europe by car. They found the people looking very healthy, received the impression that there was no shortage of the necessities of life and nowhere did they see any desire for war, although uniforms and army vehicles abounded.

The story of a trip that embraced France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy and Switzerland is told in a letter received at New Plymouth from Mrs. Joan McCauley, formerly Miss Joan Harvey, who made the trip with her husband and Mr. Trevor Bellringer, son of Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Bellringer, New Plymouth.

Trouble With Customs.

“Going into Germany we had trouble with the customs,” wrote Mrs. McCauley after detailing their adventures in France, Belgium and Holland. “They counted all our money and shook their heads at our tin of tea but after a while we got through. Almost immediately we realised we were in Germany, as right from the frontier there were thousands of uniforms and army lorries, trucks, etc., were tearing past us all the time. All along the road the children were out to see the military cars go past and they all called out “Heil Hitler” and raised their hands in the Nazi salute; they certainly have the children trained”.

“All the way to Berlin we saw an enormous amount of cultivation, mostly wheat, and there were miles and miles of pine plantations. We were in Berlin on August 2, 3, 4 and 5 and on August 4 we saw a parade and the changing of the guards in front of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Berlin was a very clean city with wide streets and we were very impressed with it. Germany as a whole was very solemn and serious after the happy natures of the French, Belgium and Dutch, but we were impressed with the build and healthy look of the Germans and at Berlin they were well tanned”

Butter Seen In Shops.

“Food was fairly expensive in Germany everywhere, but there seemed an abundance of the necessities. We had taken a fair supply of butter into Germany, having been told we wouldn’t be able to get it, but we saw it in shops and at breakfast at a café, with rolls. Also we had heard that the Germans made a synthetic coffee but what we had tasted good”.

“One thing I noticed was that in the hotel everything was cotton—there was not a woollen rug or blanket anywhere. The bread alone would keep the people healthy; it was very heavy, black bread with plenty of body, and they all drink plenty of lager beer, which was good”.

“ On the fourth night in Germany we ran off the autobahn road to pitch the tent and the chaps made friends with a young lorry driver who was also resting. He tried to tell them that “war was nix guid” and shook hands to say he wanted to be friends with the English. We met a fellow at Munich who was rather objectionable; he wanted us to shout him and then began to mutter about his being a Nazi and wanting colonies back. However, we got rid of him and didn’t give him his colonies back!”

“Through the Tyrol we had trouble over fuel. Petrol tank after petrol tank was empty until just before Innsbruck we managed to get a gallon. Germany is obviously very short of petrol”.

“The proprietress of a hotel at Tai, just over the border into Italy, could speak “American” and she said none of the Italian people wanted war, looking on the Axis with disfavour. They were of the opinion that things would blow over eventually and they were not worrying a lot”.

Italians Friendly.

“The people we met as we approached Venice were happy, friendly and care-free. At Venice we went into an inn, and about a dozen standing around the bar looked at us interestedly, knowing we were visitors. They wouldn’t let us pay for our drinks and they tried to talk. They mentioned war, shook hands all round and intimated they did not want it. They shouted us several times and we left with the memory of the people in that inn who didn’t know us from a bar of soap but who wanted to show us their friendship because we were English. Benzine in Italy was about 4s a gallon but food was very cheap”.

“At Paris we met at a café a German who spoke English”, continued Mrs. McCauley, after detailing her trip through Switzerland and Luxembourg. “He told us that a few years ago he spoke too openly his views when he was with a few people and next morning the Gestapo went to his house and took him off to a concentration camp. He was there for 18 months, escaping eventually by slipping on the clothes of a police inspector, who had left them in a room”.

“He told us some grim things about that camp, how men were often taken away and not seen again, while next day a small notice would be put up that so-and-so had been beheaded for espionage. Apparently things are pretty grim in those camps and people are put in at the slightest provocation. No wonder everyone is frightened”.

This page was archived at Perma cc August 2017

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