The Commerce Journal

Local News

February 13, 2014

Growing up surrounded by war

German born Karl Clauss recounts growing up in Germany during World War II

COMMERCE — German born U.S. Army veteran Karl Clauss went through things as a child that most people never have to go through.

Clauss shared his story of growing up in Germany in 1940 during the East Texas War and Memory Project (ETWMP) Lecture Series on Feb. 5 inside the Rayburn Student Center.  

“I, as a five-year-old boy, had to see things which now still are in my memory,” he said, adding he still has pictures of the gruesome images of time in a concentration camp in his head to this day. “In fact at eight-years-old, I had PTSD. All these memories started affecting me.”

Clauss said it was a difficult thing to live with, especially to talk about with people who did not have to endure what he did.

“I had such a guilt-complex because I had found out what had happened in Germany,” he said, adding when they moved to America in 1957, he would tell people he was from Austria rather than Germany, to keep from speaking about the subject.

During his college years, Clauss said he would give presentations to students to show that there was more than one side of Germany during the war.

“Germany was totally devastated,” he said, adding that much of Germany was in rubble.

Clauss said it was a big culture shock moving from Germany to America, but after a while he was able to adjust living as an American.

His father, on the other hand, thought he was living too recklessly and “he encouraged me to join the Army.”

During his stint in the Army, Clauss rose to Specialist 4th Rank, and was actually stationed in Germany where he was assigned to a chaplain and translated weddings.

As a German born man in the U.S. Army, Clauss did receive some discrimination, but he said it was to be expected.

“One has to realize this was 1958, so the war was still in the minds of the soldiers,” he said.

After his service, Clauss worked for several companies that gave him the opportunity to travel throughout the world.

Clauss worked on developing technology for swimming pools used during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

“It was a great opportunity for me,” he said.

Tragedy struck during the Olympics when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September.

Clauss was actually in Spain during that time, and said getting back into Germany was very difficult.

“We had to go through so many checkpoints,” he said. “It was obviously such an embarrassment that this could happen.”

Clauss’ work would then take him to the Soviet Union during another volatile time in the world’s history.

“We stayed in a hotel on the red square when the Soviet Union fell,” he said. “There were actually shootings going on in the lobby.”

Clauss now runs a small ranch in Cumby with his wife.

“I really enjoy Texas, and I’m still trying to get the accent,” he said.

After witnessing so much war and bloodshed, Clauss said he wishes people would take the time to think on the inhumanities of war.

“I wish we would learn from history,” he said.

Clauss said an honest hard day’s work needs to be brought back before more people can have successful careers.

“Too many people aren’t motivated any longer,” he said. “Enjoy life by all means, but be productive.”

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