Sunday, December 28, 2014

Concerning War and Watches

In the last post I present a translation from a 1945 diary written in Hungary; the passage features a Russian soldier, stealing a watch.

To this might be added some of our own experiences, also dating to that same era. Brigitte, living in Weissenfels, Germany, witnessed the theft of a watch by an American soldier at their apartment. It was a very straightforward “grab,” from a dresser, in the presence of three females who—not surprisingly—said nothing. A short while later the American army withdrew from Weissenfels and yielded that part of Germany to Russian occupation.

My family lived in Bavaria at this same time, occupied by the U.S. Army. There, too, watches played a major role—in the Black Market. My father was quite active in it, trading watches, obtained from several “clients” of his, for valuable food products and the even more valuable nylon stockings obtained from American soldiers.

What my highly literary Hungarian diarist does not mention—it might have interfered with his cultural interpretation of events—was that in a time and place where local currency had zero value, the watch became a kind of useful currency easily turned into cash. They were even round, like big coins….

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