Dagie’s Story: The War Years
Dagmar “Dagie” Snodgrass and her current husband, Dale Snodgrass. The couple lives in East Wichita.
Jen Bookhout/East Wichita News
Story by Jen Bookhout

    Six-year-old Dagmar Weiss took one last look at her parents as she boarded the train. Berlin, Germany was the only home she had ever known, but she was headed for the Polish border with hundreds of other German children on Adolf Hitler’s Children’s Train.
    At 80-years-old, Eastsider Dagmar Snodgrass has seen all too clearly the horrors war can bring. The children’s train took her into Obornick, along the border of Germany and Poland, to live with foster parents during the constant bombing of Berlin.
    “They wanted me out of the danger zone, so they said to me, ‘You might wind up having a little brother or sister to play with when you go to foster parents, so you might enjoy that,’” Snodgrass said. “By telling me this, they got me to say, ‘Oh, I would love that.’”
    The children arrived at the station in Obornick, waiting patiently with their suitcases in hand as, one by one, the foster parents came to take them home. As the evening stretched on, Snodgrass found herself alone in the station.
    A German officer reached out to her and brought her home to his family. Snod-grass adapted quickly to her foster family, bonding instantly with her new sister.
    “Even though we were not to pray, this family prayed,” she said. “I would say to her, ‘Let’s say a prayer to God so you will have a baby brother.’ And we would lay in bed, me on one side, her on the other, and we would put our hands together and pray that she would have a brother. And she did.”
    The young girls became great secret keepers, going every night with their mother across the border to the Polish neighborhood, distributing food and medical supplies.
    “They were a family that had secrets,” she said. “And their secret was that they disobeyed Adolf Hitler.”
    Snodgrass, who was afraid of men in uniform, quickly came to love her foster father.
    “The man wore a uniform, but he had a heart of gold,” she said.
Dagmar Weiss, center, with her father Franz, left, and brother Erwin.
Contributed photo
Berlin beckons
    After nearly a year with the foster parents, her mother sent a letter requesting her return; she missed her young daughter terribly.
    Seven-year-old Dagie boarded the train with strict instructions not to get off until she reached Berlin. This time, there were no other children with her.
    “About two or three stations down the road, the doors opened up and many children were put on the train,” Snodgrass said. “All of them spoke different languages, and I got mixed up with these children.”
    The children were guarded by German soldiers. Suddenly, at a later stop the soldiers herded them off the train.
    “I got up with all the other children and I left the train, and I wound up in an orphanage,” Snodgrass said. “My folks had to come looking for me, they had to hunt for me.”
    At the orphanage, the other children would not speak to her. Every night, Snodgrass and the other children slept on benches in the hallway, with little more than a blanket.
    Through much difficulty, her parents tracked her down, and the night before she left for home, the other children connected with her.
    “They showed me how they danced,” she said. “I had friends all of a sudden for that one night, and then they separated me from these children and put me in the room that had a bed.”
    The next morning, the orphanage was silent as Snodgrass left for the train station. There was not a child in sight. She never learned what happened to the children, but she highly suspects they ended up in a labor camp. However, Dagie made it home to her parents.
    “Every place I went, every place I look in my lifetime, I see the hand of God that kept me out of the biggest trouble,” she said.
A young Dagmar Monk rode this ship with her two children to America to meet her first husband, Garrett Monk. They were married 49 years before he died. Contributed photo
Brokeness in Berlin
    When she returned, Snodgrass and her mother were living in an apartment near an airplane and paint factory, a constant target for American and English bombs. In the heart of the city, with her nose just above the windowsill, Snodgrass watched tragedies unfold below her.
    Books burned, business windows were smashed and Jewish citizens were hauled off as she watched from the window, not fully understanding the commotion.
    “I saw the soldiers go in, I saw them come out,” she said. “And they would hoard people out to the trucks and shove them up onto those trucks, and they were pretty rough.”
    As the war carried on, life in Berlin grew more difficult for Snodgrass and her mother. Her mother found a place to rent just over the Polish border, and the two left for safer grounds with Dagie’s aunt and two cousins.

Angel unaware
    Eventually, the battlefront drew near to their small sanctuary town, and the family needed to return to Berlin. However, they were forbidden to leave.
    A soldier who recognized her mother’s Berlin accent offered to take them to a train station if they would deliver a message to his wife in Berlin. In a Red Cross vehicle, on a dark country road, the group drove without headlights to the nearest train station.
    “There we sat with all the other refugees, waiting for the trains to leave,” Snodgrass said. “One train was going halfway; the other train was going all the way to Berlin.”
    As her mother stood in line to buy the tickets, a soldier insisted they take the halfway train that was leaving immediately. Though they wanted to go straight to Berlin, she trusted him and bought the ticket for the halfway trip.
    “We call this soldier ‘angels unaware’ because we got on this train that was going halfway, and hardly any one got on that train,” she said. “They were all waiting for the other.”
    They boarded the train, expecting a three-hour trip, and instead found themselves on a slow, all-night trip straight into the heart of Berlin. With a guilty conscience, her mother returned to the station a few days later to pay the fare for a full-length trip.
    But the man at the counter wouldn’t take her money. He couldn’t explain what happened, but the other train never reached Berlin.
    “All these people that were waiting for the train, refugees going to Berlin, never got there; we did — explain that one,” Snodgrass said with a lump in her throat.
    In recent years, Snodgrass has written a blog detailing her World War II experiences. The blog is available at dsnodgrass.blog.com. Additionally, more of her story will be available in the April edition of East Wichita News.