Nelly and Walter Däs – Married for Sixty Years!

The Editors."Nelly and Walter Däs - Married for Sixty Years!" Volk auf dem Weg, April 2011, 40-41.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado.

Nelly and Walter Däs [pictured at their wedding]

Nelly Däs nee Schmidt, born in 1930, reached [western] Germany in February of 1945. She had come all by herself, a refugee from the Warthegau [Poland]. Her mother had arrived a bit earlier and was living in the Swabian Forest, but Nelly had been forced to remain behind in Poland during her year of service [she had been required to perform by the Nazis] in “the countryside.” She experienced the end of World War II in Birkenlohe in the Ostalb County of Baden-Württemberg [May, 1945].

At the time, there were few apprenticeships to be had, so she was forced to take what was available, and she eventually finished formal training as a seamstress of men’s tailored clothes.

At the age of seventeen, she fell in love with a local German, Walter Däs, but when her mother found out about the relationship, she was not at all inclined to approve, and she confronted Nelly as follows: “What are you doing with a local? He’ll never marry you, a refugee girl and, on top of it all, one from Russia!?”

“He doesn’t need to marry me, I’ll marry him!” was Nelly’s answer. She did indeed get her Walter, married him in 1951, and the two have had a good marriage ever since. This month the couple will be able to observe the rare celebration of a “diamond” wedding anniversary.

Nelly’s Walter went on to participate in every event of the Landsmannschaft. For several years he was part of the chorus of the local chapter in Stuttgart. And, yes, he even sang in Russian.

After finishing her apprenticeship training, Nelly moved with her husband to Stuttgart, and in 1954 they built a home of their own in nearby Waiblingen.

Nelly Däs was never able to forget life under the hammer and sickle, and so she began to write. Her first book, Wölfe und Sonnenblumen [Wolves and Sunflowers], was published in 1968 and became a genuine success, of which she was very proud.

Her second book, Der Zug in die Freiheit [Train to Freedom], was for the most part a continuation of the former one. Altogether the two books span about ten years of her life, which was pretty much like that or similar to the lives of so many thousands and thousands of other Germans from Russia.

With support from the Bund der Vertriebenen [Association of Displaced Persons], Nelly went on to do more than 2,000 readings in schools, in parishes, and in various clubs and associations. She became a member of the Landsmannschaft as early as 1950 [when it was founded], and for more than thirty years she served the Association as its national spokeswoman on behalf of women. Her personal observation on that topic: “The Landsmannschaft was a huge part of my life!” 

During the years she would publish a total of twelve books. She once commented, “With every book I feel somewhat saddened. If my wonderful mother were still alive – what would she say about all that?!”

During her life, Nelly Däs has been heaped with honors and decorations. Not surprisingly, she long ago received the Golden Pin of Merit from the Landsmannschaft, and as early as 1982 she was awarded the Federal Government’s Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande [Cross of Merit on Ribbon].

The Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland hereby expresses warm wishes to Nelly and Walter, and, together with all of their relatives and friends, many more years of happy and harmonious togetherness.   

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller