Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Events

Valrico woman chronicles tribulations of growing up in Nazi Germany

RECOMMENDED READING


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
5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

1. Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show and Sale: Check out these rocks when more than 50 dealers from around the United States sell crystals, minerals, beads, gems and jewelry. $5. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through ...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
This weekís best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

This weekís best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

SWINGINí AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE: Brian Setzer OrchestraWhen you spend 13 straight Thanksgivings on the road, you build some traditions with your crew. "We get a big ballroom," said Brian Setzer. "I donít know how many turkeys we go through, but ev...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that arenít Thanksgiving

Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that arenít Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day!Or is it? Sometimes life just doesnít come together at 2 p.m. on Thursday.Circumstances mean itís not always possible to sit around the table on Thanksgiving, a family in a Publix ad smiling over a glistening bird. Maybe family is ou...
Updated: 4 hours ago
4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

Perhaps you have relatives in town for the weekend, and youíre running out of ways to entertain them. Or maybe youíre wondering what to do with your long weekend. Thereís a perfect solution for either scenario: Go see some art. Thereís plenty on vi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Top things to do this weekend: Lindsey Stirling, Faizon Love, Daniel Tigerís Neighborhood Live

Top things to do this weekend: Lindsey Stirling, Faizon Love, Daniel Tigerís Neighborhood Live

PULLING STRINGS: Lindsey StirlingDubstep violist Lindsey Stirling shot to fame as a quarter-finalist on Americaís Got Talent in 2010 and she has been rocking the spangles on Dancing With the Stars this season as the last woman left . But on Friday yo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

The last thing this world needs is another rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, likely the most remade, reimagined and ripped off literary property ever. At the same time, the world would be poorer without seeing Ebenezer Scrooge i...
Published: 11/22/17
Plan your weekend: Indie shopping, Lindsey Stirling, ice skating, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Plan your weekend: Indie shopping, Lindsey Stirling, ice skating, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Shopping Black Friday: Avoid the madness of the malls at a variety of indie shopping experiences this weekend. Skatepark of Tampa has one of the best sneaker selections in Tampa Bay and free skating all day Friday to celebrate. They’ll open at...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay the day after Thanksgiving

Top things to do in Tampa Bay the day after Thanksgiving

Here are our editors' picks for things to do on Nov. 24, 2017. St. Petersburg Tree Lighting: Mayor Kriseman flips the switch to illuminate the city’s Christmas tree at this celebration with live entertainment. 5 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth ...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday isnít just for stores. Many theme parks and attractions in Florida are also offering up deals that could make a nice gift or family splurge. The smaller the park, the bigger the deal, so Legoland, Gatorland and SeaWorld are touting some ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 25

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 25

Shopapalooza: 150 vendors, artists and local businesses. 10 a.m., Straub Park (Center), at Beach Drive and Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg. Free (items individually priced). (727) 637-5586. John McLaughlin: One of musicís most influential guitarists....
Updated: 2 hours ago