In peaceful times, Karl Sigmund had decided to become an officer because he saw the military as more of a diplomatic service acting in the name of peace. He now had to go to war as a captain, which involved frequent postings. Whenever possible, Elisabeth Sigmund followed him within Germany and worked as a Red Cross nurse.
Toward the end of the war, Karl Sigmund was stationed in Rudolstadt, Thuringia, for a long time. The Sigmunds were able to move into a small tea house that was part of the baroque-style Heidecksburg residential palace. It was also called the Schillerhäuschen because Schiller had temporarily lived there. To provide relief from everyday life during the war, Elisabeth Sigmund arranged an artistic evening every second Thursday with selected guests, including many creative artists. This group increasingly became an intellectual and social home for those who did not want to put up with the Nazi regime and the war.
The end of the war and a tough new beginning
On 13 April 1945, the American forces took Rudolstadt, accompanied by severe aerial bombardments. On that day, Elisabeth Sigmund was working as the head Red Cross nurse in the basement of the Heidecksburg. At the time, Karl Sigmund was in Böhmen, where he received a telegram on 8 May 1945 telling him that the war was over. He ran on foot to Rudolstadt. On the way, he was briefly captured by the Americans but released again once they had determined that he was not a Nazi. After his arrival in Rudolstadt, Karl Sigmund began to offer a courier service using a converted Citroën but was imprisoned by the Soviet secret police in the Weimar city jail without reason. Elisabeth Sigmund tried to arrange his release with the Russian police. He was only set free after two years. During this uncertain period of waiting, the contacts from her Thursday gatherings proved to be a real help to Elisabeth Sigmund. For example, one of them gave her the opportunity to work as second dramaturge and director’s assistant in the theatre in Jena.
In 1947, after Karl Sigmund’s release, he and his wife had to leave Germany. Within the scope of repatriation, large numbers of people who had been living somewhere temporarily because of the war returned to their home countries. The Sigmunds moved to Salzburg, where they prepared their plan to move to Sweden. The idea came from Karl Sigmund’s Swedish foster aunt Signe, with whom he had spent two years of his childhood in Stockholm. He remembered this as a wonderful time. After the end of the Second World War, aunt Signe convinced him to build a new life in Sweden with his wife, saying that she had enough funds to help them with this plan. In 1948, the Sigmunds received their entry permit and sold all their remaining property to finance the sea journey.
The Sigmunds arrived to stay with 59-year old aunt Signe without a penny. But contrary to what she had said, she was not in a position to help them. Her husband, who had been a bank director, had embezzled money from the bank and spent four years in jail. He had since died and aunt Signe was living off a small pension in a one-room apartment outside of Stockholm. The Sigmunds had had no idea of her situation and both felt that they had been deceived. However, they did not have the funds to immediately return to Austria and so, they stayed. Karl Sigmund took the first jobs that came along as a labourer – initially without a work permit. In 1950, he found a job at a large driving school in Stockholm. On 1 March 1965, he took over management of the driving school. In the meantime, Elisabeth Sigmund learned Swedish and began studying cosmetics again.
Even during the war, Elisabeth Sigmund kept studying medical books in libraries. After she found a chemist in Berlin who sold plants on the black market, she made cosmetics and gave them to the officer’s wives that she met to test.