Sunday, September 23, 2018
Events

Valrico woman chronicles tribulations of growing up in Nazi Germany

VALRICO — While Adolf Hitler was planning to take over the world, Ingeborg Ryals was spending her carefree childhood years running through green meadows, swimming and ice skating in nearby ponds or building castles of snow in the small village of Pomerania in northern Germany.

Her happy childhood ended at age 11 when World War II started in 1939.

"The party was over,'' said Ryals, a longtime Valrico resident who has chronicled her experience in memoir called The Tears of War.

During her next few teenage years, Ryals endured hardships, rape, hunger and strenuous workloads — first for Nazi Germans and later for the Soviets as they took over Germany at the end of the war.

Her nights filled with nightmares and terror.

She endured a near-death bout with diphtheria and malnutrition. So many around her had passed on in the makeshift hospital far from her home that she had expected to be next. The future looked bleak with little promise of health or happiness.

"One night as moonlight spilled through an open hospital window and into the darkened room, I knew I wanted to see the starlit sky one more time,'' Ryals said.

"I slowly dragged myself to the window as the other patients slept. I was suddenly filled with an overwhelming desire to live. I prayed to God, please, make me well so I may live. I don't want to die.''

Her recovery process was slow, but after several weeks she was allowed to go home.

When the Soviet Union occupied northern Germany, things changed quickly.

"The Russians tore everything apart and took all they could find from us,'' she said.

Then things got worse when she was sent to an island Soviet labor camp in the Baltic Sea where she and other able-bodied women dismantled German buildings and laboratories to be shipped to Russia. They even dug up underground pipes.

Cabbage soup and a hunk of bread made up their daily diet. There was no pay for their labor.

Her first encounter with a rapist was diverted by her acting deranged.

"I was 16 and hiding in a small storage shed,'' she said. "I started howling like a dog and slobbering. He put a gun to my chest, but then he left.''

But the Russian rapist knew her as he was in charge of her work brigade. He had pursued her relentlessly and did not take kindly to her saying no.

He summoned her to his quarters one Saturday to pick up the next week's work assignments for the 50 workers she supervised. Intoxicated, he locked the door and raped her, giving her a sexually transmitted disease.

Ryals escaped from the camp with just the clothes on her back. After a hazardous journey, she finally arrived at her village. When her mother found out she was a fugitive, they decided that taking a train to American-occupied Berlin to stay with her aunt would be best.

There she would find freedom as the Americans and British soldiers were humane to the German civilians.

"So different from the Soviets,'' she said.

In Berlin, she met John, an American and her future husband, who worked with the military to assist in the reorganization of Germany's civilian communications.

In August 1951, they married and because he was married to a German citizen, he had to return to the United States. They came to Florida, where he was raised and still had family, and he became a successful businessman.

He operated his own supermarket and convenience stores and together they raised five children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Ryals said it was incomprehensible how one man, Hitler, could lead a highly civilized country astray and cause total destruction. Hitler and his Third Reich forever would be remembered as a time of infamy.

"Hitler was not even a German,'' she said. "He was an Austrian.''

Contact Michelle Jones at [email protected]

Comments
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Sept. 24-30

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Sept. 24-30

Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum: Two of country music’s most upbeat and crowd-pleasing acts perform Friday at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa. ($35.25 and up).Super Boat National Championship: The high-speed powerboats return to Clear...
Published: 09/23/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday, Sept. 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday, Sept. 23

Tampa Bay Lightning Fan Fest: The kicks off the hockey season with this free event including player autograph sessions, team scrimmages, selfie stations with players, food and beverage discounts, merchandise specials, hockey equipment sale and activi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
At 50, Clearwater's real-life superhero is hanging up his super suit

At 50, Clearwater's real-life superhero is hanging up his super suit

CLEARWATER — For two decades, Dale Pople patrolled the streets feeding the homeless, helping old people carry groceries, extinguishing a car fire. He wore a red, yellow and blue Spandex outfit with an SH emblem: "Super Hero." Now, Clearwater&...
Published: 09/21/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Saturday, Sept. 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Saturday, Sept. 22

Niall Horan: The One Direction singer-songwriter on his own tour brings along country’s Maren Morris. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $29.50-$107. (813) 740-2446.MegaCon Tampa Bay: The multi-genre convention brin...
Published: 09/21/18
Review: Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark packed with action

Review: Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark packed with action

On a fall night in 1915, an American reporter sips Chartreuse at a sidewalk table as German Zeppelins patrol the perimeter of Paris. As he plans how to finagle his way to the front lines of World War I, a bomb explodes at another cafe nearby, and he ...
Published: 09/21/18
Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

SeaWorld has ditched the experiment that made it the first major ride in Florida to incorporate virtual reality.Last June, the theme park announced with much fanfare a new feature that would project an undersea showdown on Kraken, incorporating VR he...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/21/18
Bar review: Punk meets Pilsner at Antibrewery in Dunedin

Bar review: Punk meets Pilsner at Antibrewery in Dunedin

I’ve had readers jokingly complain that I’ve exposed their off-the-radar watering holes that already are a carful away from becoming overcrowded. It’s like watching your favorite indie band achieve mainstream success: It’s good for them, but now you’...
Published: 09/20/18
The making of a nightmare: Behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

The making of a nightmare: Behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

TAMPA — Once the scare actors were made up, they headed toward the haunted house to rehearse.But it wasn’t quite time for them to be scary yet. Busch Gardens, which opens its Howl-O-Scream Halloween scarefest on Friday, was still open for regular bus...
Published: 09/20/18
Gilda Radner is remembered in her own words in the documentary ‘Love, Gilda’

Gilda Radner is remembered in her own words in the documentary ‘Love, Gilda’

With the aid of rare audio recordings, the late Saturday Night Live comic force Gilda Radner narrates the story of her life in the new documentary Love, Gilda, opening Friday at Tampa Theatre.But it wasn’t easy initially for director Lisa D’Apolito t...
Published: 09/20/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Friday, Sept. 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Friday, Sept. 21

MegaCon Tampa Bay: The multi-genre convention opens today with a lineup of celebrity guests and comic book creators; hundreds of vendors selling art, toys and memorabilia. There will be a celebrity Q&A with Weasley twins from the Harry Potter films, ...
Published: 09/20/18