“I had never been anywhere from home before. I was lucky to have walked the right way!”


Marie-Anne Moeder, shown above, was a Swiss citizen living in Alsace-Lorraine, a country in Europe that frequently switched between French and German control, during the start of WWII. She tells her grand-daughter, Hannah Moeder, of an historical journey she took at that time.

I was 14 when I went to Switzerland. We were with the Germans at the time, during the war, and we had nothing. It wasn’t very nice. When they took my father, there was no communication. No one had telephones. You did not know what was going on. He came back three days later. He had been put in prison, questioned by Germans who believed he was a spy for the French, but passed their tests. Things were bad. So, at this time, all Swiss kids got a special pass to go to Switzerland to be safe. So I went. There, it was like Christmas every day. First, there were lights on. Everything was dark back at home. Food, we could eat everything. The stores were full. At home, food was bad and we had rations. You were lucky to have anything. So, all these kids, we had these passes around our necks and they put us on trains to Switzerland.

My uncle was supposed to be waiting when we crossed the border but he wasn’t there. I had left all my money at home and the telephone was expensive. All we had was the telegraph. I must’ve talked to someone. I knew where my uncle was staying, so they got me a train from Basil to Zurich. From there, I went with my heavy suitcase. I walked for miles until I ended up at the Salvation Army for the night. I had never been anywhere from home before,.I was lucky to have walked the right way! I went to where they sold bus tickets the next day and asked for one to where my uncle was, and said he would come and pay later, so they gave me it. When the bus arrived in those days, all the men from the hotels would line up and have the name of the hotel out. I went to one of the men. He took my suitcase and from the front desk. We found my uncle. I’ll never forget how happy I was to see him there, to know the journey was over. Looking back, it was so hard to go away. People knew very little. It took weeks to hear from anyone. It wasn’t easy. Now, somebody sneezes in California and everyone knows about it instantly.


Montclair State | New Jersey

Hannah Moeder

Hannah is a Communications student at Montclair State University.