When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it signaled the beginning of World War II and the end of childhood for Anna Price.
Price, 77, is one of a dwindling number of people who survived the concentration and forced labor camps of what many regard as the 20th century’s darkest era. Now a Fulton resident, Price recently shared the story of her life and loss with The Fulton Sun.
Born Nov., 28, 1925, in Ravarusha, Poland, the girl known then as Anna Demkil was a farmer’s daughter. She was raised a Catholic, but she says her family medical records indicated a Jewish background, a fact which likely was not overlooked by the Nazis.
German soldiers took away the family members who were old enough to work, leaving Price’s 7-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother as orphans. When first imprisoned, the girl of 15 wrote home only to learn soldiers had killed the family’s last cow. There was nothing left. She has not seen the other members of her family since 1941.
“I had to grow up fast,” Price said.
The girl was taken to a work camp in Germany, and later moved to Klandine Camp in Fulda, Germany. Price said she was among many who slaved for the Germans on 12-hour shifts, enduring a policy of “No work, no eat.”
Each prisoner was given a coat and blanket — which also served as a towel — and groups of four or five girls slept together in unheated shacks. They were rained on. They chopped up the floor for wood. They slept on straw and had lice in their hair.
The latter issue, however, may have been all that kept soldiers away from the girls, Price said.
Food provided the prisoners was equally paltry. In the morning it was a cup of coffee and paper-thin bread. Lunch was a meager helping of soup.
“Spinach soup every single day for a whole month.” Price said, “We were nearly starved.”
Price’s eyesight failed her at an early age, she said, a problem she attributes to malnourishment. Physical abuse equally was common during her 4 1/2 years in the camp. “They beat you up — slap side of head,” Price said. “I couldn’t figure out what I had ever done to them. There was so much hate.”
Liberation finally came in April 1945 with the arrival of American forces. It was shortly thereafter that Anna Demkil met Sgt. Donald Price, a native of Rochester, Minn. In 1946 the two were married in a town near Frankfurt, Germany.
Her new husband left for the U.S. along with other returning troops, but she was able to follow six days later on a Red Cross ship full of other brides and children of American soldiers. She tripped from New York to Chicago, rejoining her husband. The two trekked from there to South Dakota, where they established a hunting resort.
The Polish immigrant later moved to Fulton. Price said her husband’s parents hail from the area.
In recent years, Price — with the help of Fulton law firm Brady, Crane and Stingley, LLC — began the process of filing a claim with the German Forced Labor Compensation Programme. That claim, of an undisclosed amount, was finalized in December.
The GFLCP was established by German Parliament in 2001 and raised more than $4.4 billion in compensation for the 1.2 million surviving slave laborers from the government and national industry, including some of Germany’s largest companies.
“It take me 60 years to get this money,” Price said, adding that no compensation could replace the loss of her family.
Price said it was years before she was able to talk about her experiences. “War, war, war. All I know in childhood life,” she said.
Asked what stayed her through her darkest times, Price said, “I didn’t blame nobody. As a Christian I believed in God. I always believed. He give me strength.”