Strangers saved Bay-area family from starving after WWII - WFLA News Channel 8

Strangers saved Bay-area family from starving after WWII

Posted: Updated:

PALM HARBOR - At 73, Werner Haasch has lived a pretty darn full life. The German native ran a successful car repair business for years. He's traveled the country in a Volkswagen van. He met the love of his life. They had two children; four grandchildren. Laughs and smiles fill the Haasch home in Palm Harbor.

But there was a time when Werner didn't know if he would make it to the next day.

It was 1945. He was 6 years-old. World War II was just ending and soldiers forced him and his family off of their farm in Germany.

"The Polish knocked on the door with their guns and gave us 20 minutes to leave our farm," he said. "My youngest brother was only 2 days old."

His mother, Alma, had four sons to take care of now. The refugees walked 130 miles and survived by eating grass for three days.

In the months to come, as the family finally settled in another town in Germany, it was hard to make ends meet.

"You had to beg for food," Werner said. "You had to beg for everything."

There were times when even the leftovers from the farms were hard to come by.

"One time I was so hungry I ate some tulip bulbs which made me very very sick and I almost died [because] of it," Werner said.

From the 15 by 15 house they were staying in, Werner's mother - so desperate - wrote to an old friend in the United States. She didn't know that friend had died. But somehow - call it fate if you will - the post office forwarded that letter to another family by the same name nearly an hour away: The Radtke family on a small dairy farm in Marion, Wisconsin. Ernst and Marcella. They didn't have much. What they did have was blind generosity.

"My parents lived through the depression so I believe they knew what it was like not to have anything," said Jim Radtke, the son of Ernst and Marcella.

Starting in 1947 through 1951, the Radtke family sent care packages to the mother and four sons they'd never once met.

"They sent us coffee; they sent us Spam," Werner said.

Soap came but the family would sometimes have to exchange for food. Material would come so Alma could make the boy's clothes.

"If they wouldn't have done that ... I probably wouldn't be here today," Werner said.

Both families have kept in contact for years. Jim Radtke and his wife were in town this week to visit Werner's family.Ernst died in 1963 but Werner got to personally meet Marcella in Wisconsin before she died in 1985.

"I could only say thank you," he said with tears in his eyes. "They came from heaven. I know there are still good people in this World."

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:52 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:52:26 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
  • Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:35 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:35:13 GMT
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:58 AM EDT2014-04-23 12:58:50 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:52 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:52:26 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
  • Sarasota teacher meltdown goes viral, student in video being bullied

    Sarasota teacher meltdown goes viral, student in video being bullied

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:51:00 GMT
    Jeffrey Daughtry is a math teacher at Sarasota Military Academy, is seen having a meltdown on video.Jeffrey Daughtry is a math teacher at Sarasota Military Academy, is seen having a meltdown on video.
    By now, many have seen the video of a Sarasota teacher screaming at one of his students. Now the family of that student is speaking out.
    By now, many have seen the video of a Sarasota teacher screaming at one of his students. Now the family of that student is speaking out.
  • TIA rolls out green carpet for IIFA Bollywood stars

    TIA rolls out green carpet for IIFA Bollywood stars

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:34 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:34:47 GMT
    Actress Deepika Padukone with TIA CEO Joe Lopano. TIA Twitter photoActress Deepika Padukone with TIA CEO Joe Lopano. TIA Twitter photo
    Tampa International Airport rolled out the "green" carpet for celebrities attending the IIFA Bollywood awards this weekend in Tampa.
    Tampa International Airport rolled out the "green" carpet for celebrities attending the IIFA Bollywood awards this weekend in Tampa.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Woman claims pedicure crossed the line

    Woman claims pedicure crossed the line

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:45 PM EDT2014-04-23 03:45:39 GMT
    A Shreveport woman said a nail tech from Style Nails in Shreveport crossed the line during a pedicure, and that she has cell phone video to prove it.
    A Shreveport woman said a nail tech from Style Nails in Shreveport crossed the line during a pedicure, and that she has cell phone video to prove it.
  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Search halted for missing Gaboon Viper

    Search halted for missing Gaboon Viper

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-04-22 23:08:20 GMT
    The missing viper could still be out there, but the search has been halted for safety concerns.
    The missing viper could still be out there, but the search has been halted for safety concerns.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.