How It All Began

As part of the wave of German migration eastwards, at the end of the 18th century (around 1770), my family were among those who left their northern German homeland and settled in Poland. In 1945 they lost all their property due to expropriation by the government, and had to cut their ties with their beautiful farm and everything they possessed. My family returned to western Germany and settled in North Rhine-Westphalia.
After the Second World War, in 1948, my father returned, seriously injured and critically ill, from a Russian prisoner-of-war camp. The family hit rock-bottom again. With much hard work, thrift, and a strong Christian faith my parents built up a new nest for our family. We, the children, were always the focus of their affections. They did everything humanly possible to make our way in life as smooth as possible.

This enabled me to achieve my ambition of becoming a businessman, and so I went into business independently at the age of 21. I had a starting capital of DM 5,000, which I had saved up painstakingly. With a strong will and a good deal of determination and persistence I succeeded in building up a wonderful company.

One day, when my business was going well and my father had died, I asked my mother what I could do that would be especially beneficial to her, and what she most desired. I wanted to show my thanks for my parents’ devotion and self-sacrifice that had enabled me to achieve so much.

My mother’s reply was clear and to the point:
“I have everything I need. But there are many people in the world who are in need. Many children who have no parents to care for them. Widows who have no one to look after them. In the Bible it says we should care for orphans and widows in their affliction. If you want to repay us, your parents, for what we have done for you, then give it to orphaned children. By doing so you would give us the greatest joy possible.”

From that day on I had a new perspective on life and began to devote myself to these people. It was thus my mother who laid the foundation for our DIE BRÜCKE ZUM LEBEN Foundation, which came into being at the end of 2011.

- Gerd Johannes Hemmerling