Local woman recalls life under Hitler and Stalin Germany, Europe

Sapp will tell her story Aug. 13 at Underground Railroad Museum

— “They gave us yellow cornmeal, which we had never seen before,” Sapp said.

The local Germans supplemented their diet with wild weeds and whatever else could be scrounged. The collapse of the Nazi state left her despondent.

“I was terribly disappointed,” Sapp said. “We all were. But with our hungry bodies we didn’t have much time to think about politics. We just wanted the bombing to stop.”

In the summer of 1945, at the Potsdam Conference, Germany was split in two. West Germany was handed over to France, Britain and the United States. While East Germany was given to the Soviet Union.

Suddenly, Sapp was living in a Stalinist satellite state. She remembers, with a bitter laugh, Russian soldiers parading about with armfuls of watches taken from the Germans.

Everyone she knew had a small garden patch that they relied on to survive. Black market dealings ran rampant.

Yet there was some, small, silver lining. When she was 16 or 17, in the late 1940s, she was able to join a rowing club. Under the previous regime, only the wealthy had this privilege. Her team grew increasingly competitive and was invited to West Berlin. There they saw a world outside the Iron Curtain.

“We saw for the first time what life could be like,” she said.

Soon, she’d leave East Germany for good. At 18, Sapp decided to cross into the west illegally. A man brought her and another woman to a cleared area where he knew when the guards changed shifts.

“I could have been shot,” Sapp said. “The man took us to the border, pointed his finger, and said, ‘run.’”

And that’s what she did. Making it safely into West Germany, she settled in Frankfurt, where she had friends. She quickly found a job, and lived there for about 10 years.

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