Growing Up in War-Torn Germany

What was it like to live in Germany during World War II? What was it like to receive a CARE package after the war ended? Helga Arndt, a planned giving donor, shares her experience.

Helga visiting a bomb shelter

Helga visiting a bomb shelter in 2004.

I was born in 1939 in Germany - the year Hitler started the biggest war of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, we lived in the most industrious part of Germany - the Ruhr Valley, known for an abundance of coal mines, steel factories and gas refineries. As a matter of fact, the biggest ammunition factory, Krupp, was only 10 km from our little town.

Needless to say, the first six years of my life were spent in a major war zone. I remember falling bombs, nights interrupted by shrieking alarms and running to the bomb shelter or being carried by my mom. It was a horrible time, a time I wouldn't wish anybody to go through. Although WWII was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, we know that was only wishful thinking.

When the war finally ended in 1945 the country was devastated. Everything from food to clothing, even life's most basic necessities, was scarce. The Allies took different part of Germany to help bring order out of the ruins. We lived in an area that the Americans helped.

First we received school lunches and one thing I hated: cod liver oil. Of course, today I know that was good for us. Then we began to receive CARE packages. How wonderful. We were very excited. Finally, there was the possibility for new clothing.

Think about a country after six years of war. No supplies as far as material, yarn or wool - nothing. Women were being very resourceful in altering clothing or using drapes, just to have something new. I remember my mother telling me that some women found parachutes. That was excellent material to make into blouses.

The CARE packages were mainly distributed through churches. Our church really grew in numbers. I guess people were seeking God as well as aid they received by attending church. Nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, through churches, humanitarian aid may have had a better chance to reach the people in need than through secular "officials" who were perhaps more motivated to benefit who they saw fit.

Helga and her sisters

Helga (middle) and her sisters in 1947.

After more than half a century, I still remember some items from CARE in details. There was a faux fur coat! My, I felt like a teddy bear! Then there was a nice plaid skirt and a colorful tweed jacket. I loved all of it. Other items were sometimes puzzling. There was a wallet with so many compartments; we had never seen anything like it. Another time my mother received a green velvet evening purse. Keep in mind, this was a very devastated country. Nobody was thinking or could afford to go out for an evening. Please don't get me wrong. We really, really appreciated the packages, but maybe this is a little hint for someone who wants to donate clothing. Try to think what people might need.

But the most important thing is that I have never forgotten the help we received from CARE. My husband and I have contributed to CARE over the years, off and on. Now we are retired. We are not rich, but from a sale of real estate we received enough money to retire on. I also believe that we have to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We both feel CARE has proven to us firsthand that it is a worthy organization to give to, so others can receive.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to CARE a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

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A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to CARE as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to CARE as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

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