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.

7 thoughts on “Before and after the War

  1. Uta–thank you for the absolutely spellbinding look into your youth. And—I am so glad you posted the photo of you and your family. You are wrong, though. You are stunning. I mean it—oh my—perhaps the boys were shy about asking you out. Brains and beauty can overwhelm the young lads at those ages. Love to you today ❤

  2. Hello, Aunty Uta! I hope your walk with your friend was pleasant. I don’t know what it is about wordpress or what we click. I do experience that sometimes, after I’ve commented, my comments disappear after I click “post comment.” And I have to start all over again.

    I want to be like you when I get to be your age—active, current, in touch with your environs, and vibrant! I read those books when I was about the same age too. I could not understand the fascination for Rhett nor Rhett’s fascination for Scarlett. They were both rather tiresome after a while. I imagined them as real life people living in my world and I thought I would steer clear of them.

    I agree with Kate. YOU WERE QUITE THE LOOKER AT 14!

    1. Yes, I love these walks with Irene. We always have to tell each other a lot. The walk usually lasts for 25 minutes. Time passes quickly while we are walking and talking. I am very glad that Irene loves to walk and never wants to miss a walk. That motivates me too to stick to our schedule to start walking at 6,45 in the morning.
      Looking back now I think I was a teenager for only about one year. Young boys probably didn’t interest me much and I had hardly any chance of meeting any. There were no boys in or near our school. I was dreaming of romances and made up conversations with ‘mature’ boys.

  3. Hi Uta, I totally understand the times you grew up in as I was there too. We too were dreaming of peace time and mostly talked about food. Peace time was not only the cessation of hostilities but meant also the availabilities of goods we desired. Now we have the goods and still are not happy, as a society I mean. It is as if people desire more than consumables. In those “bad” times we had hope for the better. Now this hope is missing. We seem to imagine crises and upheaval only instead of enjoying the present. I’m speaking of our society of course and I’m well aware that there are people on this earth who have not found the “good” life yet.

    You write when you were young that you were disappointed that young boys did not seem to be interested and this was reflected in you self-esteem. I think Kate is right, young boys are shy at that age and the thoughtless and forward ones you could forget anyway.

    In the end you found someone who appreciated you the way you were and I’m sure he still does so today. Whether we had a happy life we can only say so at the end of our life and might not be able to express so.

    1. Yes, these days we can eat whatever we feel like. Our generation does not take such a ‘good’ life for granted because we can well remember shortages. People who have never experienced these shortages would not know what it feels like. Sure, there are still millions of people who have never had a chance to experience the ‘good’ life and who go to bed hungry every night. I wonder whether there’s hope for them that one day they might experience the ‘good’ life too?
      My teenage years were very different from the way teenagers live in our society today. But not everything was bad. I am not complaining. I am just stating the difference. I don’t think I was ever without hope. And the way my life turned out to be is a life I am totally happy with. I can say this now and I hope I can say this when the end comes.

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