Sun, Oct 30, 2005 - Page 6 News List

How GIs and frauleins fraternized in Berlin


"It Started with a Kiss" is the intriguing name of an exhibition about German women who met and married Allied soldiers in Berlin in the 1945-50 post-war years.

Inaugurated at Berlin's Allied Museum on Thursday evening, the exhibition offers a fascinating insight into life in the German capital when it lay in ruins, and Allied soldiers were banned from fraternizing with local women.

An order of this kind never gets obeyed for long. Berlin was teeming at the time with lonely war widows and pretty frauleins, some of whom were in desperate need of food and shelter after their homes had been bombed and their loved ones killed.

After years of war misery, it was hardly surprising that large numbers of German women dreamed of escaping their devastated city, and starting life anew as brides of GIs, or of British and French soldiers also based in the divided capital.

But Germans were still regarded with great suspicion by the Allied authorities and city walls plastered with "No Fraternization" posters offered little encouragement to Berlin women.

Berlin's female population found themselves portrayed in the most unflattering matter by allied officials.

"Beautiful? If you could see what the Doc sees you'd leave 'em alone. Don't be a dope with a dose" read just one of many scaremongering posters dreamed up by US propaganda officials between 1945-47.

Another poster printed by the US army featured a soldier in uniform approaching a German prostitute on a street corner. "Watch Your Step!" was the prim warning.


Given the degree of enmity that prevailed in those early post-war years, it looked as if GIs were doomed to be love-starved for lengthy periods. In reality, as the exhibition proves, it didn't take long before human contact was established and romances flourished -- despite the strict anti-fraternization decrees.

The first German women to obtain official permission to leave for the US with her lover was Annemarie Lauenstein (nee Heinke). At the end of the war, she was a ballet dancer, living in Dessau in the Soviet zone.

Her anti-Nazi father, arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, was liberated from a detention camp by US troops in 1945, but died shortly afterwards. It was during this time that Annemarie met her future husband Bob, who was running a military-controlled pub in Berlin.

With beer in short supply, he and several colleagues drove to Dessau for fresh supplies. There he met Annemarie Heinke who had been sent to a store with a letter her mother wanted smuggled to Berlin.

The couple fell in love and Bob Lauenstein later smuggled both Annemarie and her mother from the Soviet Zone to the comparative safety of West Berlin, then under British, French and US control.


Later, when she was told Bob's regiment was being recalled to the US, Annemarie challenged him, saying: "I thought we were going to get married?"

"Why not!" he replied.

At that time there was a ban on so-called German "war brides" entering the US, but the couple found a loophole in the system. They arrived in New York in October 1946, where a posse of reporters were waiting at the airport to interview her.

"I was terribly shy and could hardly speak a word of English," recalled Annemarie, now 82, in St. Louis, Missouri.

"My marriage was a very happy one. My husband was the president of a steel firm, and we traveled a lot to Europe," she said.

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