Dad said that war was pretty messy. He talks about dead horses lying everywhere and how the Germans were good at burying the dead but the Soviets were horrible at it. He noticed the Soviets left bodies where they fell – even their own. For a young, ornery boy, this time in Potsdam was attractive and exciting. Particular war gadgets made for interesting entertainment and boisterous toys.
Enter, the hand grenade. One of my dad’s cousins, Otto, a member of the gang of boys that roamed Potsdam for food with my Dad, writes about finding hand grenades everywhere. Otto writes, “I also remember going deep into the forest, tying a hand grenade to a tree and a long string to the handle, taking shelter behind several thicker trees and then pulling the rope or string, just for the loud bang of it.” He also says that the grenade adventure was not only dangerous, but could have landed them in jail…or worse. I don’t know, “jail” in an area where the Soviets are exacting their revenge on the Germans, takes on a whole new meaning. However, the boys found it thrilling!
When I was a kid we’d go visit my cousins where fireworks were legal. We’d spend hours popping those Black Cats off, shooting bottle rockets and such. It was so exciting, the loud bangs and “whoosh” of the rockets. I’m not sure how much different that is than what Otto and Dad had experienced. We were always warned about the dangers of the fireworks but we were allowed to play with them. From what my Dad says, same thing for him. The dangers of war were pointed out but each day, he’d don a backpack, wander around bombed out Potsdam and find random toys to play with, so to speak.
The image below was taken from the Wikipedia page “F1 Grenade (Russia)“. Dad said it looks just like some of the ones they played with.