Early Life

Wartime Germany

Postwar Germany

Reuniting with John Joyce

War in Germany

Segment stub for 94729

Hitler and other Nazi Dignitaries

Life with John Joyce

Annotation

Josefine "Piepsi" Joyce was born in Vienna, Austria in December 1925. She had strict parents but her childhood was very nice. She was a tomboy who liked the outdoors and sports. When she attended school, she did not like to learn the English language. Her father was a captain in the Austrian home guard. He arrested people who were illegal Nazis. It was before Hitler [Annotator's Note: German dictator Adolf Hitler] came to Austria. She met Bundeskanzle Schuschnigg [Annotator's Note: Austrian chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg] when families of the home guard were invited to a Christmas party. The talk was about Hitler but she was too young to be interested. In March 1938, Dr. Schuschnigg said Austria had to give in to the German takeover or the Danube would run red. Her parents were crying. She was 13 years old. The street where she lived was renamed for Hitler. Her religious parents prayed. Her father was taken away and beaten and severely abused by Austrian Legionnaires [Annotator's Note: the pro-Nazi Austrians formerly outlawed by the nation] a few weeks after the takeover. A picture of Hitler had to be placed above the door. Joyce's mother put a crucifix in front of the picture. After the horrible treatment of her husband, her mother took Hitler's picture down, tore it up, threw it on the floor, stomped on it, and then spit on it. Joyce lived through that incident but soon had to become a member of the Hitler Jugend [Annotator's Note: a youth organization of the Nazi Party for young men and women]. She and her girlfriends had fun and enjoyed their new uniforms and Sunday activities. Her mother was angry at Hitler because her daughter could not attend church because of the conflict with the Hitler Jugend activities. Joyce considered her parents old fashion as a result. She completed school at 13 and wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. The family's religious faith kept her from being accepted for that education. She became a worker for another family for a year without much pay. It was an attempt to reeducate her in a different fashion than her parents had. By that time, the windows had to all be blocked for light [Annotator's Note: as an air raid deterrent]. When it looked like she could become a kindergarten teacher, she went to work for another couple with two children. Girls of a certain age were called to be interviewed by a German Luftwaffe officer. She beat carpets which hurt her hands. She next trained for six weeks. The school was a distance from her home in Vienna. She had to learn the abbreviations for the hundreds of locations where the Luftwaffe had bases. After completion, she went to work.

Annotation

Josefine "Piepsi" Joyce went to work outside Vienna, Austria for the Luftwaffe [Annotator's Note: German Air Force]. She worked with a switchboard. She worked with Luftwaffe personnel and ate well while there. She was chosen to transfer to Berlin [Annotator's Note: Berlin, Germany]. Vienna had not been bombed but Berlin had. It was a scene of destruction. She arrived at a big camp with girls identifying planes and operating teletype machines. Joyce worked with the telephones. She slept at the camp but was tormented by bed bugs. She was allergic to them and had to stay outside the camp. Her barrack had to be treated for the vermin before she returned. She met nice German girls who were spotting airplanes. One nice girl was engaged to an SS [Annotator's Note: Schutzstaffel; German paramilitary organization; abbreviated SS] man. Joyce knew the terrible things the SS did. Once while on the way to a movie, she crawled over a fence to get an apple because she was hungry. She was caught in a trap set up by the homeowners. In March 1945, the Russians approached her area. She could feel the earth shake from the Stalin organ which was a gigantic cannon [Annotator's Note: Russian Katyusha multiple-launch rocket launch system]. Hermann Goring [Annotator's Note: German Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring, or Goering, commanded the German Air Force and was second only to Adolf Hitler in the Nazi chain of command] decided they had to leave. They boarded a train and traveled to an unknown destination. The conductor told her that she was going in the right direction because he could identify her Austrian dialect of German. They reached Braunau on the Inn River [Annotator's Note: Braunau am Inn, Austria] where Hitler [Annotator's Note: German dictator Adolf Hitler] was born. The Americans were coming and the Russian were near Baden outside Vienna. She did not want to go toward the Russians. The group she was with went back to Weselberg, Germany where they were billeted in a former insane asylum. Facilities were not comfortable. On a walk with her friend Analyssa Messerschmitt [Annotator's Note: name spelling uncertain], they noted the Americans were coming from the west and would bring their terrible jazz music with them. When the Americans did come, all hell broke loose. The German troops left the workers. It was chaos. Joyce grabbed a bicycle and some other items and left with six other girls for the west. A French prisoner helped them get a wagon to carry them and their few goods. The snow came down and everything was soaked. Joyce's ill-fitting boots caused blisters on her feet. It was bad and she could not walk. It was causing blood poison. She stayed at a convent with nuns. She was not happy there even though she had something to eat. Two Austrians soldiers came begging for food. Joyce left with them headed for Vienna [Annotator's Note: Vienna, Austria]. They traveled through fields until they were stopped by an American soldier. The soldier and his sergeant asked for her papers. Joyce's Luftwaffe papers showed her details. The sergeant smiled at her and she noticed his beautiful teeth. The non-commissioned officer told her that she would have to be taken to a location where she could be officially discharged by the Americans. The camp in Weselberg was filled with all types of German military personnel. When asked where she lived, Joyce pointed out where she had left her belongings nearby. She was accompanied by a young American soldier back to the location.

Annotation

Josefine "Piepsi" Joyce was taken to the location where she was arrested by Charlie Kinesley [Annotator's Note: spelling uncertain. She was stopped by the American soldier because she was wearing a Luftwaffe uniform immediately after the end of the war.]. She said that was where she lived. She zoomed into the house and asked the owners if she could stay. They were already sheltering two nurses but not for free. They wanted the girls to fraternize with the Americans and bring food, chewing gum, and cigarettes back to them. Joyce left after two weeks. She met an older guy named John [Annotator's Note: Joyce's future husband, John Joyce] when she was washing her hair. He was sleeping on a bench when she combed her hair. He invited her to stand guard with him. She did so every evening but hid from anyone coming by. John's officer complimented him for doing a good job not knowing Joyce was fraternizing with him. John would bring her cigarettes and food. They fell in love with each other but stood by their Catholic faith. When he was sent back to the United States, they cried. They never declared their love but they knew it existed. Two weeks after leaving, she received a response to a letter she sent to John. He signed it "with my truest love" but she thought she would never see him again. Some Americans arranged for her to work as an interpreter in Vienna [Annotator's Note: Vienna, Austria]. She was sent on a train. She reunited with her parents. Her father had fought against the Russians using a flamethrower. She lived in the Russian zone and worked in the American zone. She received a picture of John at Christmas [Annotator's Note: 1945]. She wanted to develop that relationship. Her father did not approve of her feelings toward the American. It caused a fight between them. She posted a letter to John on Christmas day by leaving her home in the Russian zone and passing through the French zone to the American zone. While there, she was offered a job with the Americans at their hospital where they needed operators. It was a long distance to travel across multiple zones of occupation but it was worth it. The switchboard was better understood by her than the young man running it [Annotator's Note: she had used the switchboard as an operator for the Luftwaffe, or German Air Force, during the war]. All went well until an inebriated American official made unsolicited advances toward her. After she rejected him, she was fired a couple days later. They gave the rationale that she was in a Hitler youth organization. She refused to accept that and was able to have it changed. John communicated through the mail with her. He contacted Judge Michael Musmanno who participated in the Nuremberg Trials and asked him to look into the matter. Her job was reinstated after the CIC [Annotator's Note: Counter Intelligence Corps] intelligence group interceded after learning of Joyce's father's anti-Hitler activities with the Austrian government before the Nazi takeover. They knew that Joyce could never support the Nazis.

Annotation

Josefine "Piepsi" Joyce was asked by John [Annotator's Note: she had met John Joyce when he was on occupation duty in Europe. He would ultimately become her husband.] about when she was going to go to the embassy [Annotator's Note: to seek immigration papers for the United States]. He had previously mentioned to her that someday they might have their own child. She was excited about that and cried. She knew he wanted to marry her. They corresponded through both military and civil postal services. In September 1946, she went to the consulate and many papers were demanded from her and John. He was 21 and required parental permission to marry her. No other war brides required that. John's mother sent her a Saint Christopher medal and best wishes for travel to America. It worked. She passed all the physical examination requirements. John arranged for her travel by paying a large sum for her one way flight and additionally putting that much in reserve with the United States government in case they did not marry. The reserve was required by the War Bride or Sweetheart Act enacted by President Truman [Annotator's Note: Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States] since he was no longer in the Army. In March 1947, she said goodbye to her mother. Her mother blessed her and said she was a good child. It was the first time Joyce had heard that. She flew to Newfoundland first and cashed her 100 dollar American Express check for something to eat. It was a poor exchange rate. She arrived in New York [Annotators Note: New York, New York] with her suitcase and teddy bear. Passing through Immigration, she spotted John without his uniform. A week later they were married and spent their honeymoon in Miami, Florida at an apartment her cousin had rented. They had traveled by car to Miami. They were given a package of wonderful food by her cousin. It included bacon which she had not seen for years. She ate it raw. She was surprised to see a sign saying Gentiles Only. She was just learning English. When querying her new husband, it was explained to her. She was shocked. She had come in contact with a concentration camp survivor and a women who hid from the Nazis. She knew what had happened to the Jewish people but not that they were burned. In Detroit [Annotator's Note: Detroit, Michigan], she saw a friend of hers from the war. It was there Joyce encountered racial bias when she played with black children on a picnic. When she complained to her husband about it, he told her that she did not understand because she did not grow up in America.

Annotation

In seeing the movies [Annotator's Note: referring to the documentaries and Beyond all Boundaries 4D experience presented at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana where the interview was conducted], Josefine "Piepsi" Joyce felt uncomfortable. Hearing sirens makes her feel the same. In Berlin [Annotator's Note: Berlin, Germany], she experienced bombings first hand. There were 700 girls in the camp where she worked outside of Berlin [Annotator's Note: she was a switchboard operator at a Luftwaffe, or German Air Force, communications center on the outskirts of Berlin]. There were no air raid shelters provided for them during the two alerts that occurred there. The English came once and the Americans the other time. The girls had to go out in the open fields and lie in the heather. She looked up and saw the bombers flying to Berlin. At one time, she counted 900 bombers. As the smaller aircraft flew in and out of the larger planes, the bombers threw out silvery things to deter antiaircraft fire [Annotator's Note: tinsel like aluminum strips called chaff]. The girls collected that to decorate their Christmas trees. Once, a note greeting the beautiful girls below was dropped by a "Major Gallagher". After discovering that the Allies knew they were there, a project began to dig holes to protect them from the bombing. Joyce heard nothing but positive propaganda about the war progress. She believed it until the Maginot Line [Annotator's Note: a series of defensive fortifications roughly paralleling the Franco-German border built by France in the 1930s] and she began to think more about it. At 18, she never thought about dying. The girls were moved by train from Berlin to Leipzig [Annotator's Note: Leipzig, Germany] and then to Dresden [Annotator’s Note: Dresden, Germany]. There had been terrible bombings in Dresden. When they departed the train, the air raid alarm sounded. Joyce was in charge of other girls despite her small size. She attempted to find access to an air raid shelter but was refused at gunpoint even though they were wearing their uniforms. The girls went through a park with dead people lying around. A woman was screaming about her dead husband and the money in his breast pocket. She needed him turned over and Joyce helped do so. The man's brains came out when she did. Despite all of that, she was never fearful of not coming out of the war alive. She was scared but would never commit suicide like the Japanese did. Her father was beaten once by the Legionnaires [Annotator's Note: the pro-Nazi Austrian group formerly outlawed by the nation prior to the Anschluss in March 1938; Joyce's father had been in the home guard tasked with arresting Nazis in Austria before then] because he was an anti-Nazi. Everyone knew her family was against Hitler [Annotator's Note: German dictator Adolf Hitler] and the Nazis. His job was taken away and the family lived like prisoners in their own home. The Nazis threatened their freedom and safety. Joyce and her family feared someone would report them for their anti-Nazi views.

Annotation

Josefine "Piepsi" Joyce saw Hitler [Annotator's Note: German dictator Adolf Hitler] when he was in Vienna [Annotator's Note: Vienna, Austria]. The streets were lined with people. Joyce wore her uniform. The crowd had to shout their gratitude for Hitler. Meanwhile, her parents were not on the street. In fact, her mother turned her backside to Hitler and pumped water in the kitchen as he passed. In that way, she showed her disrespect for him. Instead of Nazis, the Austrians referred to Hitler's followers as National Socialism members before they became the Nazis. She never saw Goring [Annotator's Note: German Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring, or Goering, commanded the German Air Force and was second only to Adolf Hitler in the Nazi chain of command] while working for the Luftwaffe [Annotator's Note: German Air Force]. She did connect Field Marshall Rommel [Annotator's Note: German Army Generalfeldmarschall, or Field Marshal, Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel] with his family using communications through Turkey. At times, it was hard for the Rommels to understand each other's conversation due to the distance so Joyce helped Rommel and his wife interpret some of the unclear dialogue [Annotator's Note: Joyce worked as a switchboard operator for the Luftwaffe]. She was even shown how to bypass the mechanism that indicated when conversations were being monitored by others. She managed to listen in when the announcement was made to either Hitler or Goring that Mussolini [Annotator's Note: Italian fascist dictator Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini; also known as il Duce] had been caught. She acknowledges that she was a stinker. She told no one not even her parents about what see overheard until it was in the movies. She loved American movies and saw a lot of them. Certain ages could not enter movies. She still loves her husband and has donated his brain to Alzheimer research. She will be cremated and buried beside him in Pittsburgh [Annotator's Note: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania].

Annotation

Josefine “Piepsi” Joyce lived with him [Annotator’s Note: she is referring to her husband, John Joyce, whom she met in Europe after the war] but it was not all honeymoon. They had their good share of little fights but it was good overall. The couple had Barbara, Margarette and then Brian. Her husband was a railway mail clerk. He shuttled between Pittsburg [Annotator’s Note: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania] and New York [Annotator’s Note: New York City, New York] at times staying overnight away from home. He spent one week working and then spent a week at home off duty. As the family grew, he took another job for the week off duty. He suggested that Joyce take their first child to show her parents [Annotator’s Note: her parents lived in Vienna, Austria]. She was pregnant with their second child at the time. Joyce’s parents had never met her husband before she married him. She sailed on the SS United States the fastest liner sailing across the ocean. Her family has donated funds and movies taken on their voyage when Brian was a small child. Joyce and her husband could afford the voyage on his salary because they knew how to save their money. Their home was the only thing they bought on credit. Everything else was purchased with cash. John eventually contracted Alzheimer’s and the family took care of him. He was not a problem except when it came to bath time. He resented being undressed. A doctor advised Joyce that it was natural for someone with the disease to react that way. Her husband raised his fist and gritted his beautiful teeth only one time during one of those occasions for a Saturday shower. It made her cry. Joyce attended support group meetings but those participants had much worse things to deal with than she did. The family took care of her husband at home until he had to have prostate surgery. The anesthesia heightened the disease so he had to be admitted to a nursing home. He was there for two and a half years. Everyone liked him and it was peaceful for him. He eventually forgot who his wife and children were. It was the really long goodbye for her husband. Being an animal lover, Joyce got a little dog that she brought to the nursing home and eventually leaned on for help during the recovery from the loss of her husband. She handled being a widow and is satisfied with her life. She was unbelievably lucky and blessed to have such a good husband and marriage. She wishes the same for her children and grandchildren, but in these times, it is becoming more and more difficult. That is what life is…it is what it is.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.