“When a CARE package came, it was like Christmas”

Bernd Kadritzke and his siblings, taken in 1947

75 Years of CARE

CARE was set up in the USA in 1945 to send ‘CARE packages’ of food and other essential supplies to people in need in Europe after the end of World War 2. Bernd Kadritzke was one of the original recipients of these first CARE packages.

Bernd Kadritzke shares his memories of receiving CARE packages after the war ended:

I was born in 1939 and grew up in a small village near Stuttgart in South Germany, having fled from East Prussia in January 1945, with my mother, grandparents and three siblings: a younger sister and twin brothers.

My father was working hard in a factory nearby, my mother and my grandmother did a lot of knitting for other people to help our income, but there was very little to buy except basic items. Being a ‘child rich’ family we easily qualified for the CARE Program which was established in the American occupation zone. We received a package every few months, beautifully wrapped with coloured paper we had never seen before.

I still remember the excitement, as we had to wait until our father came home from work before we were allowed to open them.

The table was cleared for the big opening. First the string was carefully unwrapped and saved for future use, then each item was taken out separately and inspected. The most excited person was my grandmother, who was hoping for ‘real’ coffee because you could only buy ‘Kaffee-Ersatz’ in the shops.

I remember her grabbing the coffee tin, pressing it against her and jumping up and down like a child!

There were also sweets for us children. To this day I remember the taste of the chocolate.

Of special value were the cigarettes: American ones were in great demand to be used in exchange for many other things. Since my father didn’t smoke, we were able to buy our first furniture with the cigarettes. If something was wrapped in wax paper, we carefully scraped the wax off and made candles out of it.

We were also the first people to receive jigsaw puzzles, something nobody had ever seen before, and the whole neighbourhood came to join us for this fascinating job.

Every time a CARE packet came, it was like Christmas – after 70 years a very big thank you to CARE.

This story was first published in 2015.

Tell us your story about the kindness of a stranger

To mark CARE’s 75th year we want to share stories that celebrate the power of the kindness of strangers and inspire people to take action today. So if you have a story of how a stranger’s act of kindness, no matter how big or small, has left a mark on your life please get in touch. Email Hannah Richards: Richards@careinternational.org

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