Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: October 25, 2012

German Civilian Eva Rigney

Eva Rigney was born in Berlin, Germany in January 1928. A happy, carefree, only child of restaurant owners Hermann and Helene Goerlitz, she grew up near the famous Tempelhof Airport.

She remembers at the age of five when Hitler came into power; her parents were very unhappy. At age six, she started grammar school and at age ten transferred to the Lyceum. At that time, she had to join Hitler's Bund Deutscher Maedel (Hitler Youth for Girls) which was compulsory if one wanted to attend school.

At age 11, World War II began; Eva remembers her father saying to her mother, "Helene, this is the beginning of the end," which Eva was told never to repeat in public. In 1943, air raids on Berlin began to be more frequent and severe; the family was totally bombed out. They were placed in a vacant apartment that was destroyed four weeks later.

The family then spent increasing amounts of time in air raid shelters until April 25, 1945, when the Russian Army entered Berlin. That became the most dangerous time for the family until early July when American and French forces established a presence in Berlin. At that point, bread was handed out to starving Berliners.

Eva, then 17, had learned English in school and was hired as an interpreter for the American military -- a job she loved. Four years later, she married an American Army soldier she had met while working. Soon thereafter, she came to America; her new home for 62 years. Eva worked in law offices as an office manager and paralegal for over forty years until her retirement.