Peter’s Family during the Year after I first met Peter

When I visited Peter’s family they were always very welcoming. They lived in a small apartment on the fifth floor. There was no lift!

Peter’s mother had only one room to herself. The second room in the apartment was occupied by Peter’s older sister, brother-in-law, as well as their baby daughter. In the third room lived Peter’s Great-Aunt .

Peter slept sometimes on the sofa in his mother’s room. Every room in the apartment was used as a bedroom! However during the day, these rooms were made into cosy living-rooms. I do not know, how people managed this kind of comfort under such crowded conditions. Sundays I was often invited for a tasty hot meal at lunchtime. We were usually six people around the table in Mama’s room. Sunday afternoons there was coffee and cake for the family, often including another sister of Peter as well as her husband and baby son. I felt very much at home with Peter’s family. Another family-member was a little dog called Tussy: Every day, after its morning walk, this dog enjoyed a cup of cocoa and a dog biscuit. A very special treat indeed.

Peter’s mother had a small balcony attached to her room. The following picture of Peter and me was taken on this balcony.

A Challenging Teacher


Dr. Petzel, our seventy year old German teacher, fled from East-Prussia, when the Russians approached. Dr. Petzel seemed ancient to us girls. Instead of teaching German, he would often tell us about his experiences on the road from East Prussia to Berlin in the bitter cold of winter. I was amazed to hear, that people were able to continue walking even after their toes were frozen! How did they do it? How could they walk for hundreds of kilometers with frozen toes or worse? I really felt sorry for all the refugees. The sub-zero temperatures affected just about every one of them, especially babies, whose nappies all too often froze onto their bodies. I don’t know, whether under those circumstances any baby really had a chance to survive. Often babies were just left at some Red Cross station, either dead or dying.

But back to Dr. Petzel. He was of very small stature and had hair like a hedgehog. What little hair could be seen, looked grey. He often made remarks, how important it was to get a good education. ‘Look at me’, he would say, ‘I lost everything because of the war. But one thing no-one can take away from me, is, what is in my head.’ Another one of his favourite sayings was, that he studied German at university, that is he studied ‘Germanic Languages’, but still cannot say, that he knows German . ‘There is so much to know about the German language’, he said, ‘no-one can really know it perfectly.’ Before he started on this elaboration, he went around the class, stopped in front of one student, then another one, and another one. He asked each of them, whether they knew German. Of course every-one answered with ‘yes’. Finally Dr. Petzel informed us quite gleefully, they were all wrong, since we did not know very much German at all, neither did he, even though he studied it.

 At High School all the teachers in those days, rightly or wrongly, had the habit of looking up in the files, what profession the students’ parents had. Then they picked on those students, whose father or mother had acquired a doctorate. One girl, Irene Flemming, had a mother, who was a medical doctor. Other than that there were only two girls in our class, whose father had the title of ‘doctor’. I was one of them, the other one was Franziska von Kopp. Irene, Franziska and I were often singled out by Dr. Petzel (and other teachers as well) as being the daughters of academics and therefore, naturally, we had to be smarter than the rest of the girls!

It so happened that I found it relatively easy, to understand grammar as well as punctuation. Needless to say, that was something for Dr. Petzel. One day he asked a difficult question about grammar, that none of the girls were able to find an answer for. Then he said to me: ‘Frl. Spickermann, can you give me an answer to my question?’ I stood up in order to say, what I had to say. Dr. Petzel walked very close up to me. He looked me straight in the face, standing on tip-toe to make himself as tall as I was. And believe it or not, I was able to provide the right answer!

When the lesson was finished, some of my friends came up to me, saying: ‘Gee, how come, you stayed so calm, when Hedgehog came right up to you trying to look into your blouse?’ I was surprised, that they thought, this had been going on. I think I was only thirteen and had hardly any bosom to speak of yet. And honestly, I had not felt threatened at all. I think my friends admired me for my so called ‘coolness’. To me it felt great, that my friends thought my behaviour was admirable.

Memories from my Teenage-Years

I was seventeen, when a nineteen year old guy, who was in his final year of schooling, showed an interest in me. The way he talked and looked at me, I could not help but fall in love with him! We were friends for a few weeks, when my mother found out, his father owned a small flower-shop. In my mother’s eyes this made him some-one of very low standing and definitely not suited for me as a companion. My mother decided, she wanted to see the father in his flower-shop and made me go along with her.

The flower-shop turned out to be very small indeed. The whole family was gathered in the shop, when we arrived. There was the congenial looking father, who was of small stature. The mother was a tallish woman. I imagined her to be very resolute and practical in every way. I knew, that she was my friend’s step-mother. His mother had died, when he had been at a very young age. He had shown me a picture of her. He did remember her quite well and missed her very much! The photo showed a young, extremely friendly and beautiful looking woman. I could understand, how a boy would be fascinated by those soft features. The step-mother turned out to have rather harsh features. There was also a step-sister, a spindly looking girl of about ten. When she heard, what was going on, she said full of ‘Schadenfreude’: ‘Ah. so W . . . .    has been telling fibs again!’

Then W was called out. When he appeared from behind the shop, he looked small and embarassed, letting his head hang from having a bad conscience. I felt very embarrassed for him. Talking to the father, my mother made sure, that we two young people were never allowed to see each other again. The father said a few soothing words to me, trying to comfort me. He urged me, that it was for the best, if I listened to my mother.

I trotted back home with Mum, feeling very, very sad indeed. For the next few months my only friend remained my schoolfriend E H. Her father was Dr. H. He was a boss at TELEFUNKEN, E lived around the corner and I was allowed to visit her at night-time, whenever I felt like it. I also went on a few outings with her.

 A few months later, aged eighteen, I started work. Then in the spring of 1953 I met another guy, who I thought was very likeable indeed. When a year had passed, since I had seen W, I met him once more. He had done his ‘Abitur’ in the meantime and found employment in some office near Kurfürstendamm. He was telling me about Fax- machines, which he had to use.

When I told him about my new friend, he must have sensed, that I was not really interested in a friendship with him anymore, feeling already too attached to the other guy. We parted as good friends. However we agreed, it would be interesting to see each other again at the same place, which was the Bayrischer Platz, exactly ten years later, on the 30th June 1963. But by that time I was already married with three children and living in Australia. Needless to say, I never saw him again.


I left high-school at intermediate level in the summer of 1950. Thereafter I lost contact with all my girl-friends, who went on to high-school to the end of year thirteen to get the ‘Abitur’, which would qualify them for university entrance. My choice was to continue higher education at a commercial school, which hopefully would qualify me for a secretarial position.

The best thing at that school was, that we read Goethe’s Faust. I was therefore able to get good marks in German. English was a good subject for me too. However in all the commercial subjects I was extremely unsatisfactory.

One day our class-teacher, Herr Gluschke, had had enough and talked to me under four eyes. ‘How come ‘, he said, ‘that you are good in all subjects, the other teachers teach, and in all the subjects that I teach, you’re far from good?’

What did I answer? Did I say, that the other subjects interested me more? Did I tell him, I found it hard to work anything out on a counting machine because I felt I needed a lot more practice on it? Or that I had problems remembering the required wording in answer to a set question, when we were not allowed to take notes in his classes and when we had no books whatsoever on the subjects he was teaching? I don’t know, what I answered him.

No wonder I was dead scared of the final exams. Rather than finish the second year of commercial schooling, I applied for a job which would enable me to get familiar with secretarial work. I looked up advertised jobs. In one of the ads they offered two beginners’ jobs for office work. Later I found out, that there were ninety-five applicants for these two very lowly paid jobs! And I was the extremely lucky person, who ended up with one of the two jobs!

Herr Gluschke, on hearing that I wanted to leave school and start working, happily wished me all the best for the future! I started work in the clearing house of FLEUROP/INTERFLORA on the second of January 1953 and stayed with that company for the best part of five years.

At the commercial school I had made only one close friendl: E H. And E did not finish school either. Her father, who was an executive at TELEFUNKEN, had seen to it, that she could start work for TELEFUNKEN in Spain.

Apart from some commercial English, we had also learned a bit of commercial Spanish at school, which came in handy for E. Of course in Spain it did not take her long to speak and write Spanish fluently. She became friends with a Spanish guy called Jesus. So E stayed on in Spain and I missed her. We kept writing each other for a while. I also saw her, when she came back to Berlin to visit her parents.

I also missed that guy, who’s father owned a small flower-shop. He had been telling me such wonderful stories! He also played songs on the piano. I loved it when he played the song about the lonely soldier at the river Wolga. He also knew some naughty songs. But I told him, I wasn’t so keen on those. He accepted that gracefully.

His name was W .  . .. I called him ‘Wölfi’: he called me ‘Schäfchen’. Schäfchen means ‘little sheep’. Of course, he only called me that, when no-one else was around. ‘Schäfchen’, he said it lovingly and understandingly, and I didn’t object! I must say, as compared to him, I really felt like a ‘Schäfchen’. He told me, he earned some pocket money as a piano-player in night-bars. So he must have been well aware of what was going on at night-time in a big city.

 Students in their final year of high-school, that is the thirteenth year of schooling (after having started at around six), those students in their final year were called ‘Abiturienten’. So W was an ‘Abiturient’, when I met him at a Spanish evening class. I had joined that class of the Workers’ Education to catch up on Spanish, for I felt the few hours of schooling at my school were not sufficent to get a proper footing in the language. Come to think of it, there would not have been a reason for W to join that class, for Spanish was not required at his school. He was interested in travel though. Maybe that is why he wanted to learn some Spanish.

It was the spring of 1952 I was seventeen and a half at the time and W was nineteen. When I told him, I had already learned a bit of Spanish at school, he asked me, could I help him with his Spanish. This showed me, that he was interested in getting to know me. He was allowed to visit me at my home. We still had a piano at the time. I loved it, when he played the piano.

Sunday nights I was supposed to sell news-papers. One Sunday night I skipped it, because I wanted to stay with W. That was a mistake, because Mum found out about it. She was outraged about my behaviour and started making inquiries about him. Something did not seem right to her. She had begun to smell a rat! And yes, she was right. W had been telling me and Mum quite a lot of fibs, For one, he did not want to admit, that his father was only a small shopkeeper. He thought, if Frau Dr. Spickermann knew about that, she would never agree to her daughter going out with him! So he told us stories about a rich aunt, who was his patron and who took him on travels to Italy and America. It was of course all phantasy! Naturally Mum thought, he could not be trusted anymore. There was not a thing in the world I could have done to change her mind. I still had feelings for him, but I had to suppress them.

I had started selling Sunday night newspapers at age fifteen. I needed a special permission from the police to do it, since fifteen year olds were not supposed to work late at night. But since I was nearly sixteen and looked much older anyway, I had no problem in getting permission to do it. I had to sell ‘Die Nachtausgabe des Montags-Echos’ (the night-edition of the Monday-Echo). It earned me a bit of pocket-money. Occasionally people would think I was a university student who was badly in need of money. These people would give me a generous tip, sometimes a five Mark note! Once a class-mate saw me selling papers in front of a cinema. I felt extremely embarassed that my class-mate had seen me selling papers. It was not the done thing for school-students to sell papers. University-students did it all the time, but not school-students.

When I started office work later on, I was paid an extremely low salary, Never the less, from then on I quit selling papers.

Pictures from 1938

My brother Bodo was born on the 9th of June 1938. I remember waking up in the morning and being told by Auntie Elsa that I have a little brother –  ‘ein Brüderchen’. He was beautiful! I saw him lying in his cot in my parents’ bedroom.I was overjoyed that this was my brother!

That same month my Dad’s father came to visit. Uncle Adi and Aunty Elsa drove Grandad, Dad and me to the Olympic Stadium  in their huge car. There were some pictures taken in the big square in front of the stadium. I look so very happy walking along with Grandad. Mum didn’t come along with us on that day because she had to stay with little Bodo. I think she kept still to her bed at the time. So it must have been soon after Bodo’s birth which was a planned home-birth. For years to come Aunty Elsa would talk a lot about it how it eventuated. She said coming home from seeing a movie at the cinema she noticed a hanky that had been placed on our balcony so it could be seen from the street. This was the sign, that the delivery of the baby had started and Aunty Elsa got very excited and rushed up to be with her sister. Apparently a midwife had been on call all the time and the delivery went on very smoothly. I never did get disturbed by it and must have been sleeping right through the night in the neighbouring room!

We already had a telephone at the time. To this day I remember our number! I was allowed to answer the phone. I was told to say: ‘Hier bei Dr. Spickermann!’ when answering the phone.

The picture with me beside Mum’s bed looking at Bodo in Mum’s arms shows that my parents’ beds had been seperated for the delivery of the baby. Normally these two beds would have been close together.

A few months later we had another visitor to Berlin: My cousin Ursula. The picture which was taken on our balcony shows Ursula holding little Bodo and me looking on.

And for good measure I’m going to add a picture of Grandfather and Grandmother from 1934 when I was a little baby.

Before and after the War

Before and After the War

Extracts from my Memories

In 1942/1943 my friends in Berlin and I had often contemplated what life might be like, once we had peace again. Our dreams for the future were very basic. We all wanted to get married and have children. We all wanted our husbands to have occupations that would enable us to live in comfortable houses. My friend Siglinde and I were for ever drawing house-plans. There would be at least three bed-rooms: one for the parents, one for two boys and another one for two girls. Yes, to have two boys as well as two girls, that was our ideal.

Before we married, we would finish school and go to university and our husbands would of course be university educated. In peace-time we would be able to buy all the things we had been able to buy before the war started: Bananas, pineapples, oranges and lemons; all this would be available again! Somehow we knew, we were only dreaming about all this. We had no idea, what would really happen, once the war ended.

I turned eight in September of 1942. Most of my friends were around the same age. My friend Siglinde however was four years my senior, the same as my cousin Sigrid.

After I started high-school, some time after the war had finished, Cousin Sigrid made a remark, that put a damper on my wishful thinking. Sigrid had noticed, that I got very good marks in high-school. So she said in a quite friendly way: ‘I see, you’ll probably end up becoming a Fräulein Doctor!’ This remark made me furious inside. It sounded to me, that once I embarked on becoming a ‘Fräulein Doctor’ I would have no hope in the world of acquiring a husband and children. ‘Who in their right mind would study to achieve a doctorate and miss out on having a husband and children?’ I thought to myself.

Mum, Tante Ilse and Uncle Peter loved to read romance and crime fiction. Most of the books they read were translations from English. Mum and Tante Ilse loved Courts-Mahler, Uncle Peter liked Scotland Yard stories best. They all had read ‘Gone with the Wind’. Even my father, who boasted, he never read any novels, read this one.

I read ‘Gone with the Wind’, when I was fourteen. My father’s sister Elisabeth, on hearing this, was shocked, that my mother let me read this novel. According to Tante Lisa, I was much too young to read something like this. However some of my girl-friends read this book too. They all loved Rhett Butler. About Scarlett the opinions were divided. Personally I did not care for the way she treated Melanie. I thought by constantly making passionate advances towards Ashley, she showed total disregard for Melanie’s feelings. Rhett adored Melanie. He showed her great respect as a person with a noble character. In contrast, he was well aware that Scarlet was anything but noble. Often he found Scarlett’s irrational behaviour highly amusing. Ashley treated Scarlett in a very gentleman like way. Not so Rhett. This impressed my friends. They all admired Rhett! I think, I admired Ashley more. –

Mum and Tante Ilse borrowed books from a lending library. A middle-sized novel cost one Deutsche Mark to borrow for one week, a real big novel cost two Marks. In secret I once read a translation of ‘Amber’. Fascinating stuff this was.

When I read ‘Amber’, I was probably thirteen. I read it only, when I was by myself in the apartment, which happened often enough. I was able to consume the whole big novel without anybody noticing it. I knew, Mum and Tante Ilse had read the book already, because they often talked about it, how good it was. But the book was still lying around at our place. There were a few more days before it had to be returned to the library. I found out, that Amber was a fifteen year old country-girl, who went to London. The time was the seventeen hundreds. Because of her beauty, Amber was able to make it in the world. She had lots of lovers. She always made sure, that her next lover was of a higher ranking than the previous one. That made it possible for her, to climb up the social ladder. – Well, this is about as much as I still remember from that novel.

During the first years after the war we lived like paupers. Still, I realized – maybe a bit to my regret – that there was a big difference between a desperately poor girl from the country and me, desperately poor city girl from a ‘good’ family. I knew then, whether I wanted it or not, I had to put up with an extremely low standard of living for some time yet. And I mean by ‘low standard’ not the low standard that everyone went through during the adjustments after the war, but a standard, where it was necessary for us to get social services payments!

Was I out to enhance my appearance in order to catch a prosperous male as an escort to take me out to fun-parties and adult entertainment? No way! Something like that was just not for me. I felt I was plain Uta who was never invited to go out anywhere with anyone.

Was I really that plain? I wonder. Up to age fourteen I may have had some chances with the opposite sex, given the opportunity. However by age fifteen I had put on so much weight, that I felt to be totally unattractive. I was right, because no attractive male ever made an attempt to woo for my attention, not until I was about seventeen and a half that is. But even then things didn’t change much for me. I honestly felt like some kind of a social freak during most of my teenage years.

Here is a photo which was taken in 1948 with Mum

and my brothers, who were 7 and 10 years and I was 14.

The Beach at Graal/Müritz

During the summer of 1940 we were on holidays at the Baltic Sea. We had rented a small cottage. Auntie Ilse was staying with Mum, little Bodo and me most of the time. Our maid Gertrud was with us too. Dad worked during the week in Berlin and came to Graal only on weekends.

Two year old Bodo must have already been quite a walker. I remember that Dad took us for walks in the nearby forest where we would be looking for blueberries. These berries were quite delicious. We would eat them for supper with some sugar and milk.

The beach was not far from our cottage. We went there every day. A photographer had a shop close by. During the day he often took pictures of people on the beach. The following day he displayed the pictures in front of his shop ready for sale. I think people did not order to have their pictures taken. They bought them only if they happened to like them.

In my files I have two of these pictures. They are more than seventy years old now. I was reminded of these pictures when we went to an Australian beach the other day. In one of these old pictures you can see my father with my mother and Auntie Ilse. The women sit in their ‘Strandkorb’. These ‘Strandkörbe’ are very popular on all German beaches. They are popular still to this day. They are a good wind shelter. I think people usually place them in such a way that they can catch the sun. Mum and Auntie Ilse were always proud of their suntan.

Ute mit Bodo Graal Mueritz Sommer 1940

The other photo shows me with Bodo,  my little brother.

Picnic at Bronte Beach

What a lovely day: 28 Celsius, no wind, mostly sunshine. It was picnic-day at Bronte Beach in Sydney.

For this perfect picnic-day we have to thank N since she was the one who suggested it. N is in Sydney on another visit from Berlin. She stays here with friends. Recently  she contacted us and asked:  Would we like to meet her? She also contacted C and M. This is how Peter and I came to have this picnic yesterday with N, C and M.

We had plenty of food and drink set out on a roof covered picnic table right at the beach. A swimming pool was nearby and all of us went for a swim in it.. Later in the day C and M invited us to their place for coffee and  home-baked scones with plenty of fresh cream and strawberry jam.Yummy!

It took us 90 minutes to drive back home to Dapto. We happily arrived home at 6 c’clock in the evening.