Letter from Charlotte Stevenson stationed in Germany to her family, 19 November 1945
Charlotte Stevenson was a Richland County social worker that traveled to Germany after World War II as a part of the Displaced Persons Operations of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. In this letter to her family, Stevenson discusses the international members of her work team, her residence in houses of former Nazis, and brief stories of a few of the former concentration camp internees. Stevenson’s work in Germany illustrates the unique experiences available to women after the war, as American professionals were needed to help rebuild much of Europe.
Stevenson, Charlotte, to family member, 19 November 1945. Charlotte Stevenson Papers. Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
Team 542, Dingolfing, Germany
Nov. 19, 1945
I had that long-anticipated head-washing a little while ago and have done by hair up in clips, as the English say, bobbie pins to you, and have tied my head up in a woolen comforter. I am now sitting by a hot little stove in my bedroom. The stove is about as big around as a stovepipe, but makes the room nice and cozy. As I mentioned yesterday the English assistant welfare worker, Barbara Adams, and I have a room together, heated by wood. German boys were working all day in the back yard chopping wood. The kitchen has a big range which burns coke and heats the hot water for the kitchen and the men’s bath. The staff has two residences. In this one live Mr. or pronounce, from Cuba, Mr. Rosenbaum, a Czechoslovakian Jew, but a Catholic by religion. His relatives have not been heard from, but he has his second wife and a fourteen-year-old son in Paris. And one of the other men whom I’ll mention, I forgot which one lives here. The others live in the other house. Miss Ballydieu, the nurse, is French, so is the driver. No, he is a Belgian, but speaks only French, he is very nice. I believe he is the other one who lives here, because his hemstitching is always here. When we all sit down together, he gets out this elaborate cross-stitch runner he is making and goes to work in the most unselfconscious way you can imagine. Then the deputy director is French, very nice manners. Always he and the Cuban doctor pick on each other, having little teasing feuds. He wears a marriage ring prominently. Then Mr. Hart, the gentleman who took me to ride yesterday, and Mr. Dodge, who is the supply officer, completes the team. At the mealtime we swap the news of the day and the Director sort of has a staff meeting and gives out decisions. I think they are all very nice. They are very loyal to each other…
There is a possibility I many not remain in the house, as the Director has assigned me responsibility for the camp near Landau, called Ganaker, where 600 Poles, Russians and Ukraines are living in a German Air Forces barracks. Transportation is all so difficult, I would be most of the time on the road if I worked it from this residence, and the Army has promised us this wonderful house occupied by a sculptor, who was thrown in jail. You read about all those Bavarian Nazis who had been holding prominent positions during occupation. This was one. The Director suggested I take it. The Deputy Director , Mr. Peneau, also would be there. We both have offices in a nice house formerly occupied by an armored division, U.S. Army, which were being fixed up for us today. We (the Cuban doctor took me in his car) went there today. A lady was out in a little prosperous garden gathering greens. The doctor asked who she was and the D. P. in charge of the office said she was the owner of the house. She was putting them in a little knitting bag. The D. P. in charge, Mr. Duboc, or something like that, is a Pole who father, brother and himself had a factory making mineral oil. The Germans took the factory, put his parents in Concentration Camp. He has no property now. He has his wife and at least one child, a boy about 7, whom I saw. His brother is in charge of one of our warehouses. They are both gifted linguists, and speak very good English. He begins very long sentences with a statement, “It is SO,” and then continues on and on. He will be a big help to me. I told the Director tonight that since I had seen the office, the camp, and this residence we are in, I realized I couldn’t do much of a program going back and forth from here, but I did not want to leave the team, that I enjoyed it here. But when we picture the roads deep in snow, and they have no car for me yet, and it gets dark at five, and is foggy from the river, most of the morning, I just couldn’t cover the distances involved and do anything.
Tomorrow, Mr. Delmet told me to go to Castle Schloss, which he has taken over, which is a regular museum of wonderful art, furniture, and relics, and move some of the valuables into rooms and lock them, keeping beds and any furniture I wanted for the Russians to move into. They are at present living in stables, lying on straw, no beds at all. The castle is a wonderful contrast. However, he caught a priest this afternoon stealing some plates. He wants usable things brought here to the residence and real valuables locked away. So we are to take some D. P.’s from across the road to work at our direction (Adams and I) and the Deputy Director will give us some cigarettes to pay them in. I took a package of my cigarettes today and as I went about the camps passed them to the camp leaders. They are all under the administration of leaders they choose themselves. We ask for such people first. I went to the Russian camp and a Polish camp this morning, to the one in my charge this afternoon. A boy took me about-Polish-looked about 20, elected camp director of this big camp. He spoke very good English. I saw the kitchen, Catholic church, barracks (men and women not related live together, it is their way, they prefer it. Groups who were slaves together still stick together), and schoolroom and hospital. A group of 12-year old girls at my request sang the Polish national anthem and an army song, then at the pushing and prodding of her classmates and teacher, a little blonde stepped forth and in precise English recited “Roses are red, violets are blue, etc.” One of these little girls was Marshal Pilsudsky’s niece. The doctor (Polish) impressed me very much. They did all this themselves, organizing school, church, etc., and I am to get up work projects, handcraft groups, and try to stimulate artistic talent, and do as much as I can to aid them in group living. They have their own camp police. We have nice things in the warehouse, most of them have to be dyed or made over, such as thousands of felt and fleece-lined gloves and German Army uniforms. Projects are hard to get up because little things like thread are the hardest to get.
Standard 5-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920’s and 1930’s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.
Indicator 5-4-5 Summarize the political and social impact of World War II, including changes in women’s roles, in attitudes toward Japanese Americans, and in nation-state boundaries and governments.
Indicator 5-4-6 Summarize key developments in technology aviation, weaponry, and communication and explain their effect on World War II and the economy of the United States.