During peaceful times in Austria, Karl Sigmund had decided to become an officer because he viewed the military as diplomatic service acting in the name of peace. With the start of World War Two, he now had to go to war as a captain, which involved frequent postings throughout Europe. Whenever possible, Elisabeth Sigmund followed him within Germany, working as a Red Cross nurse.
For a long period toward the end of the war, Karl Sigmund was stationed in Rudolstadt, Germany. The Sigmunds were able to move into a small tea house that was part of the baroque-style Heidecksburg residential palace. 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 support the Nazi regime and the war.
The end of the war and a tough new beginning
On April 13, 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, today Czech Republic, where he received a telegram on May 8, 1945 telling him that the war was over. With no transportation available, he ran on foot to Elisabeth in Rudolstadt. Along the way, he was briefly captured by the Americans but released once they had determined that he was not a Nazi. After his arrival, Karl Sigmund began a courier service using his converted Citroën, however he was soon imprisoned without reason by the Soviet secret police in the Weimar city jail. Elisabeth tried to arrange his release with the Russian police but to no success. During this uncertain period, the contacts from the Sigmunds’ Thursday gatherings proved to be a great help to Elisabeth. One gave her the opportunity to work as second dramaturge and director’s assistant in the theatre in Jena, offering her both a new experience and the ability to earn an income. Two years later in 1947, Karl Sigmund was set free.
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, Austria ,where they prepared their 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 war’s end, Aunt Signe convinced Karl to build a new life in Sweden with his wife, saying that she had enough funds to help them. In 1948, the Sigmunds received their entry permit and sold all their remaining property to finance their journey across the Baltic Sea.
The Sigmunds arrived to stay with 59-year old Aunt Signe without a penny. But contrary to what Karl’s aunt had said, she was not in a position to help them financially. 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, so they stayed. Karl Sigmund took the first job that came along, working as a laborer – initially without a work permit. In 1950, he found a job at a driving school in Stockholm. On 1 March 1965, he took over management of the driving school. As for Elisabeth, she learned Swedish and returned to studying cosmetics.
Even during the war, Elisabeth Sigmund studied medical books in libraries. After she found a chemist in Berlin who sold plants on the black market, she made skin care products that she gave to the officer’s wives to sample.