“It was just lovely to receive the CARE packages”

CARE packages arrive in Berlin in 1949

Mrs Hilton, now aged 78 and living in Norfolk, remembers receiving CARE packages as a child in Germany:

It is still clear in my mind, even though I was only 8 when the war ended. What happened back then is clearer than what happened two weeks ago.

I am German and lived in Germany during the War. When the War ended it was different for us. Here it was a celebration, for us – we were occupied by our enemy. I remember when the Americans first came we were told not to stand by the window, because they would shoot us. Of course they didn’t. I remember how on one beautiful sunny day an American soldier, who was stationed at a base a few hundred yards away from our home, came wandering into our yard. My mother spoke English, so she went to speak to him and he showed her pictures of his family.

Then the allied forces, our occupiers, decided to divide Germany. The Americans drew back and the Russians came. I didn’t understand it.

I remember my neighbour doing a spread eagle across her front porch, not letting Russian soldiers into her house, giving her daughters time to escape from a window.

I also remember on 8 September, my birthday, someone told me to go home quickly, because they were coming for my dad, who was in bed with asthma. I remember it clearly. I ran home, and he was flanked by a Russian soldier and a local who had become a communist. They took him away for a week or so. I don’t know what my mother must have gone through then. As children, we didn’t really question it. He did come back, but told us that someone else who had been taken with him had died.

By Christmas my parents had decided to flee, so, after 10 years of marriage, my family fled East Germany to the American zone. It was really very dangerous. My parents fled with us with only two suitcases and two rucksacks. We went to a place called Kassel, where my grandfather lived, and stayed with him. But he had already taken in two other families, so it was quite cramped.

It was in the American zone where we got the CARE parcels, it was around 1948.

There was such great excitement, quite honestly I have never seen anything like it.

There were tins of ham and eggs scrambled together, powdered milk, and plum pudding! Plum pudding was such a luxury; we just didn’t have anything at the time. We even got clothes, I remember shoes with heels (though they didn’t fit me, which was a terrible disappointment) and a yellow and white checked dress. We were glad for anything.

I live in Norfolk now, I’ve been here for 50 years but it was so long ago now but it really stayed with me and is still so clear in my mind.

There was even coffee to roast in the parcels, which was impossible to get, and I remember sitting and grinding the coffee for my parents as a little girl.

We really were in a poor state back then and in 1948 any money we had became completely worthless; we all had to start from scratch. I thought thank you to the people who sent the parcels but we didn’t know who they were from, they just said CARE on the side, but we didn’t even know who or what CARE was.

I know there is a lot of need at the moment too.

Though we didn’t know where they came from it was just lovely to receive the CARE packages.

Share your story

If you or your family or someone you know received a CARE package, please get in touch to tell us your story:

  • fill in the form below
  • call us on 0800 320 2233

We’re very happy for you to just share a few memories or your full story – as much or as little as you want to share. And if you have any photos or other memorabilia to go with your story, please let us know. We’ve created an online home for memories about the original CARE packages (and we feature longer stories on our website too). We think it’s important that the stories aren’t forgotten and that future generations can share them.

CARE's picture

News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.