My name is Vera Palmieri and I lived in Germany during World War II. Today, I'm 86 years old and live in the United States where I enjoy Jazzercise and learning new technology. I'm on to my "second set" of friends now that my friends before are entering nursing homes...

I recently had a biography written about me, called Nothing Is As Bad As The Second World War. It's available here: Amazon or iBooks

My Proof:

(Typing for me is my computer helper, Scott.)


Edit: That's it for today! Thank you for all of the questions. I hope this AMA has helped people to better understand what the brainwashing really did to us, even though it's very hard to comprehend. (From Scott: Feel free to PM me more questions and I will make sure Vera receives them!)

Comments: 325 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

fauxchicken94 karma

How did you survive emotionally and mentally? Was there a certain thing you did to help you get through? I.e. a song, art, sewing?

swb1192270 karma

I was a child at the time, so I wanted to live since I was so young. My mother tried killing herself during the war and even asked me if I wanted to join her. I told her that I did not want to die, but she went upstairs and turned on the gas. I was crying downstairs so loudly that another woman came by and asked what was wrong. I told her that my mother was killing herself and she was able to get help so my mother could be saved.

marchingants123479 karma


Was your mother ok after that?

swb1192218 karma

Eventually, yes. But I was afraid of her and even had a hard time sleeping at times, because I didn't know if she was going to kill me and herself.

implies_casualty77 karma

How did you (and people around you) evaluate Germany's chances to win the war? Were you certain of victory at any point, and how did it change over time?

swb1192166 karma

It never changed - the average German believed victory was imminent. A secret was leaked and spread around about Hitler's "secret weapon" - the atom bomb - and we believed that he would use it at any time to end the war and win. It was a big surprise when it turned out we lost. German soldiers who were running back from the frontlines were sharing information about how the Germans were losing. They would say about how only handfuls of soldiers were making it back after battles. I was scared when I found out we were actually losing.

augustwest7877 karma

What did your parents say to you to justify treating Jews like they were less than human?

swb1192224 karma

It's hard to believe, but the average German really didn't know what happened to the Jews. We only knew that the Jewish people had to work in the fields after they were picked up from their homes.

On the fences of the concentration camps, there were the words: "Arbeit macht frei" -- "Work Frees You".

We didn't find out until after the war what happened to the Jews. We thought they were simply working. But afterwards, once they opened the doors to the camps we found out they were starving and being killed. It made me feel very guilty and even to this day when I meet a Jewish person I feel compelled to tell them I'm sorry for what happened to Jewish people. I might not have had anything to do with it, but I still feel guilty.

MaxFreedomMoussa83 karma


swb1192305 karma

We felt that the Jewish people never truly worked - they only owned property and stores so the general feeling was, "Good - they finally have to work and do hard labor."

calmmoontea65 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

I assume you still went to school during the war. What was it like before the war compared to during the war? Did you have any Jewish friends, and if so what was school like for them?

Also, since you live in the US now, what is one thing you miss about Germany?

swb1192172 karma

During the war, there was not too much school. There were constant bomb raids, and as a result we spent so many days in the bunkers. If the bomb raids were finished by midnight, you were supposed to go to school at the regular time. But if it was 12:01, we would come in two hours later. As children, we would always hope for this so we could sleep in.

If I had Jewish friends, I only knew they were Jewish because right after the war started because they disappeared from school - they weren't allowed to go to school anymore. People would ask where certain kids were and others would respond, "he was Jewish, he's in the concentration camps now." Or others would be moved to the ghettos.

I miss the closeness to other countries. In Germany, you drive two hours and you're in Italy, you drive one hour and you're in France... You can experience so many cultures in such a short amount of time. That's what I miss the most.

calmmoontea45 karma

Thank you so much for your information. Amazing that there was a sense of normality during the war.

swb119294 karma

It's hard to believe, but we didn't know much of what was going on. We didn't even know that Hitler's girlfriend was Eva Braun. We saw many pictures of them together, but nobody knew.

Pardon_my_dyxlesia61 karma

Do you recall the first days of the war? How were they like?

swb1192133 karma

Yes, very much. I was nine years old. My father was a part of a private gliding club and was picked up a week before the war by the SS because of his gliding skills. He asked the SS men if he could just have a few moments to say goodbye to his family, and they only gave him a minute to wake me up and leave while they stood by the doorway. We didn't hear from him for weeks, and in the meantime the war started.

caillumknowles64 karma

Excuse me for asking, but did he return?

swb1192138 karma

Thankfully, yes. During the war, I would see him once a year for a couple of weeks during his furlough. Some soldiers would request to go back to the frontlines before their furlough was supposed to end because at least they would have a gun at the frontlines instead of sitting around in the bunkers waited for the sirens to stop.

When the war ended, he was a POW for five years but he eventually did return.

sleighur60 karma

Did you have any personal interaction with British or American forces advancing through Frankfurt in '45?

swb1192173 karma

I was a classical dancer and we would perform for American troops around this time, and afterwards we would hope to be asked out to dinner by one of the men since we still didn't have any food to eat. That's actually how I met my husband!

Tomcat110856 karma

Did you live in fear of the Allies or did you hope for their victory?

swb1192173 karma

I feared of the Allies because I was a child. I believed they were the bad guys.

However, my mind started to change when we went through Kristallnacht. It was terrible because all of the stores who belonged to the Jewish people were destroyed - everything was in the street. The SS was standing guard to make sure no one would take anything. After, my mother would tell the SS men, "It was German people who made the goods you're destroying... The Jewish people are the ones who simply owned the stores. You're destroying German goods!" And the SS men would tell her to be quiet or they'd have to take her in. At this time, I started to realize something wasn't right.

leredditorlel123453 karma

Simple question- Did the people realize what was happening in Russia?

swb1192138 karma

No - we had no idea. In fact, I'm still not certain to this day... We were only fed information through the propaganda. A lot of brainwashing. We were told that we were making other countries happy because we were "freeing" the people.

fer_d64 karma

I wish we could put this answer in a Billboard around the country.

swb119242 karma

Curious - which country?

leredditorlel123416 karma

But you knew that Hitler had decided to invade the eastern front, correct?

swb119251 karma

I was just a child, so I did not know many details about what was happen. But our history books told us that Germany had previously owned the parts of Russia where Hitler was attacking. "Heim ins Reich", Hitler would say, which means "Back home" or making the land German again.

Thailure52 karma

What was the main thing you ate during the war?

swb1192143 karma

Bread, but not much of it. My mother once sent me to get our ration of the bread from the store, but on my way back I started tearing parts of it to eat and ended up eating the whole loaf. When I arrived back home, I could tell my mom was heartbroken that I had eaten the whole thing but she did not punish me since she knew I was hungry.

Thailure39 karma

Wow, I can't imagine living that hungry. Was the government at the time running the bakeries? Appreciate the response!

swb119265 karma

It was run by regular Germans, but the bakeries needed to prove that they had no Jews working for them.

RedditRalf47 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. How did you feel about Germany's decision to go to war with other nations?

swb1192129 karma

We were told in school that we were going to war to take back the land that was ours, Poland for example. Hitler's propaganda told everyone that half of Poland was German before so the war - we were supposedly taking back what was ours. Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, was on the radio repeatedly - and it was mandatory that we listened to the radio every time he came on during school.

In addition, we had to watch the propaganda movie Jud Suess in school where there's a rape scene where a a Jewish man rapes a young woman. Even though sex in the movies during that time was unheard of - they didn't even show a kid - they showed everything during that movie. Oddly enough, all of us kids were giggling and interested in watching the sex scene because we hadn't seen anything like it before. We didn't understand what Hitler was trying to portray (putting the Jews in a negative light) and instead we were simply watching it for the rape scene.

larswienand39 karma

Hi from Koblenz/Germany! Where did you live?

swb119260 karma

Hi! I once lived in Frankfurt so you're not too far away. Today, I live in Phoenix Arizona in US.

Apisit10037 karma

Did your house ever get investigated/searched for jews and such?

swb119263 karma

No, that didn't happen in our neighborhood. The Jews were taken early on and placed into concentration camps and they simply weren't around anymore.

tandevic37 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA. What is your most poignant memory from that era of your life?

swb1192156 karma

There are so many moments... Especially all of the time I spent in the bunkers. One time, a bomb destroyed the wine cellar we were hiding in during a raid. Before it was destroyed, I was standing by the stairs near everyone else but the man who was in charge of the bunker demanded that I stood near my mother on the other side. Right after I walked to her, the bomb hit and killed the man who commanded me and hurt or killed everyone else. My mother and I were the only ones who were not harmed and were saved.

lunar_plexus36 karma

How difficult was the transition back into your regular life after the war?

Also, what's your favourite piece of technology on the market right now?

swb119297 karma

That's a good question. It was a very slow transition. Since so many cities were destroyed like Berlin, I couldn't imagine at the time that the cities were going to be ever rebuilt. Yet the money from the U.S. helped to get them rebuilt very quickly - yet Germany never really thanked the US and it was never really advertised to the citizens where the money was coming from.

Emotionally, writing the book helped me fully get through the transition. I spent decades telling myself, "forget forget forget." Yet my author Connie kept telling me, "remember remember remember." And remembering the truth of what actually happened helped me finally realize what happened to me.

My new iPhone 6 Plus is my favorite. I like the way it works - it's really simple to use. I really like the big screen and its replaced my iPad for me for the most part. I also like to read books on it - I just finished the Steve Jobs biography. If it was a physical book, I would have gotten cramps in my hands since it's so big but on my phone it was perfect!

larswienand35 karma

I'm German and I've been to Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi once. Quite a lot of people collected Nazi and WW II items. People Seen to be more interested (and willinig to pay more) than People in Germany. What's York explanation?

swb119279 karma

Hello! In Germany, people don't want to remember the war. For example, my cousin collected Grandfather Clocks before the war but after the war he would tear them up to burn for fire during the winter. He didn't find out until later that people would pay great amounts of money for goods like that.

When Germany took down the Berlin Wall, they didn't save parts of the wall but when tourists from America and other countries would come to see it they would ask - "Where's the pieces of the wall?" So they rebuilt parts of the wall so tourists can see it.

When I still lived in Germany in the 1970s, my sister-in-law came to visit. I asked her, "What do you want to see?" and she said, "a bombed house." It floored me! Of course all of the bombed houses were gone and they had already rebuilt.

Ableyoungthug34 karma

Did you ever personally have any ill will towards Jews just because of how you were raised?

swb1192112 karma

When the Jews were in the ghettos, our classes were forced to walk past them and see how filthy and gross they looked. We couldn't understand why they were so tiny and covered in dirt. But we never thought about how they didn't have any food, they didn't have any water, and they didn't have anything to clean themselves with. Someone nobody asked these questions - the brainwashing had already taken over so we didn't even think to ask logical questions.

TheOfficialLegatus31 karma


swb1192119 karma

  1. I was in Hitler Youth - it was mandatory. For one meeting, I couldn't make it since I was very busy with ballet and, as a result, my mother had to write an excuse note to the 10-year-old "leader" of the Hitler Youth group. In the group, we would sing a lot and there were very nice songs that we learned. The one that I enjoyed the most in particular had a main saying, "Today, we own Germany and tomorrow the whole world." It had a really catchy tune and I used to love it... But I never really considered what those words meant. I only thought of the melody and how nice it was. We also did a lot of running, exercising, and sports. I actually enjoyed going to Hitler Youth because of all this. We were separated by genders, unless we were going to see Hitler speak in Berlin then we went as a whole group.

  2. I most definitely thought Hitler was a great leader. Germans would call him the New Messiah. We never questioned Hitler and only scrutinized the political leaders who talked against him - who would end up being beheaded. It was usually the logical and smart people who talked bad against him, but we didn't realize that at the time.

FaolanG27 karma

First of all thank you so much for doing this, it's an honor to have you here!

I was curious how you felt right at the end of the war with Germany under Allied control after having gone through so much? Also, I see you said your father had to leave, was he ever able to return?

swb1192120 karma

When we were liberated by the Americans, there were very large, African American soldiers that came to free us. I had never seen a black person before except for Jesse Owens who won in the 1936 Olympics. They scared us, even because they were chewing gum - we hadn't seen chewing gum before. When they were in control, at night they would ask for "Freuleins" - unmarried woman - so they could drink with them or have girlfriends. My mom would hide me in a crib in the house so they wouldn't find me. The Americans would knock on the door and she would say, "Shh- the baby is sleeping." They were respectful.

But when the Russians arrived, they would barge into the houses looking for young women to rape. My mom did not even have time to hide me in the crib and I was taken once. The next day, my mom found someone who was able to take us (for a cost) from the Russian sector to the American sector in Berlin so we could be away from the Russian soldiers.

Khajor7 karma

Might I ask what "crib" refers to in this context? When I imagine a crib, I think of an infants crib, too small for anyone over the age of 3. Elsewhere in this IAMA you said you were 9 at the start of the war. Am I missing something?

swb119224 karma

It was indeed a crib for an infant, but large enough for me to hide in.

swb119228 karma

My father returned from the war five years after it had ended. He became a POW in Siberia when the war finished.

Tmaffa20 karma

How's food today compared to then?

swb119252 karma

During the war, we had no food... We would get stamps that we could redeem for bread and butter. We would go to the park where I would pick some edible greens so my mother could make a salad. The most food we would get is when word got out that a train stopped nearby so all the children (including myself) would run and steal the food from the train.

a3rospace18 karma

You look incredible! What's your secret for overall health?

swb119249 karma

Exercise, exercise, exercise. I go to Jazzercise every day in the morning and once a week I go to yoga. And I like to think my friends keep me healthy, too.

smartalec9817 karma

Did you find the propaganda to be believable? Or did you find most of it to be unrealistic and wrong?

swb119241 karma

I was just a child, so I believed anything that was told to me. For example, my mother would tell me, "If you tell a lie, when you die, your hand comes out of the grave and into the air." Every time we went to visit relatives at the graveyard, I would look around for hands reaching out from the graves. Today I laugh thinking about how I believed her when she said that! But it shows how I believed anything at the time. And that's exactly how/why I believed Hitler's propaganda.

But even beyond that, we were brainwashed. It's hard to explain, but we weren't allowed to think. It wasn't about believable or not believable - it was about what we were told and that was just the truth. No question about it.

CaptainSupreme16 karma

Out of everything you have experienced, what do you think is the most prominent piece of wisdom that you wouldn't mind sharing with us?

swb119230 karma

The title of my book - "Nothing is as bad as the second world war." I always said that to my boys when they were complaining about something. I even say this to my friends and those who get to know me. Right after they complain, they look at me and go, "I know, I know... nothing is as bad as the second world war..."

GreyishOrange15 karma

Thank you for doing this, it's fascinating! Did anyone who disappeared from your area ever reappear, such as Jewish friends who were taken away?

swb119236 karma

We weren't allowed to talk to Jewish people during the war, but I saw a few who would disappear for perhaps a few weeks then return beaten or starved. If they talked to us, they were told that they would be killed. We thought that they were taken away and beaten because they had done something bad, not just because they were Jewish.

Branko170115 karma

How were things after the war? Specifically regarding expressing opinions against/for the Nazi regime, since only one of those would have been allowed during the war?

swb119249 karma

I still have problems expressing my opinions against the government when I disagree with something - even here in the US. This was true for a lot of other Germans after the war... and I hear that it's why a lot of people from Germany are still afraid to talk about what happened. After my friends from Germany read my book, they sometimes tell me about how they had similar experiences that happen in the book, yet they had never told me before. It's kind of life nobody talks about it. By writing the book, my hope is that younger people understand better what happened from a different perspective and how intense the brainwashing was and what brainwashing can really do to a person.

thefastandme14 karma

Were you ever taken captive? Were you threatend by any nazis? Did you lose any friends/family?

swb119256 karma

I was never taken captive and never threatened by Nazis.

I lost cousins who went out to the war. One of my cousins was shot as a soldier. Another was a cook in a submarine. Before he died, he told my mother about the poison that they had in the submarine's kitchen that could be put into drinks to kill themselves if they were attacked and stuck at the bottom of the ocean. He ended up being attacked and presumably used the poison he described.

Undercover505114 karma

Thanks for the AMA.

Did you happen to have any Jewish friends? What happened to them?

swb119224 karma

I might have had Jewish friends, but I didn't know that they were Jewish.

sapperdeboere13 karma

How was life in the years after WWII? (West-)Germany recovered fairly good in the fifties thanks to the Wirschaftswunder, but that didn't came directely I assume.

swb119222 karma

It was a very slow return to normalcy. So many people didn't have homes or couldn't connect with their families. With a lack of technology, communication was difficult and resulted in a slow recovery.

ratcat_00711 karma

Thanks for the AMA! Vera is a beautiful name and it suits you. What did your family do after the war ended?

swb119231 karma

A year after my father returned (he was only 60 kilograms), my husband and I married in Germany. At that time, if you married an American then you had to leave right away. Since I was an only child, my husband wanted us to still be close my parents since he knew that they would miss me. So he got a job in Turkey, which is only a couple hours flight from Germany.

laurambp10 karma

How long did you live in Germany after WWII? Do you miss living there? Do you still have family there?

swb119222 karma

I got married and moved to Turkey around three years after the war. I don't miss living there because there's no more family there for me. I'm the only survivor from my mother and father's families now. I do still have some friends that are there still and I talk to them via email all the time.

GrundelScraps8 karma


swb119237 karma

So many things are unusual! We had a telephone when I was younger, but even that was unusual for a family to own a telephone. My family was wealthy - I was privileged before the war started.

I was one of the first to get a computer when they became common... When I went to buy my first computer, the salesman didn't like Apple so he made me buy an IBM computer. It had a 12 inch screen. I would use it to email my friends in Germany. Today, I usually use my iPad or iPhone rather than my computer.

Saminal786 karma

Where did you live during and after the war? Did your family remain intact?

swb119218 karma

We had a home in Magdeburg and two homes in Berlin -- all at one time. Due to the bombing, all of the homes were lost. They bought another home in Nordhausen, but when the Americans asked the mayor if the town would surrender without a fight he said no so they pulled out the troops then leveled the town. We had to move again after that, of course.

My father was a POW for five years after the war, but in the end we remained intact.

goldgibbon6 karma

EDIT: I guess the question asking time is over. This was one of the best AMAs I've ever read.

What was it like living in Germany during WWII? Is there anything else you want to tell us about it?

swb11928 karma

(This is Scott again)

Thanks for the compliment regarding the AMA - she really enjoyed it and before I left she kept saying, "We must do this again!" So I'll be happy to hold another one soon... Just not sure what the rules are on that or if it's simply based on demand/upvotes/interest.