Childhood Memories


Towards the End of Worldwar II and after the War

During my year at the village school in Lichtenow, I had become used to a very individual teaching style. This changed however, when after the summer holidays of 1944 I was enrolled in year four of the Herzfelde Primary School, and I found myself there in a class of about thirty girls.

In this class we spent most of the time doing reading, writing and arithmetic. We also learnt a few songs, especially ‘marching songs’. We had to know these songs because they came in handy, when we marched through town, which happened about once a week. We thought, it was great fun, when all the girls of our class marched along in rows of two, singing all the marching songs, which we knew so well. I believe this marching business came about, because we were supposed to have a bit of exercise to keep us healthy and fit. We did not have a sports’ teacher at the time, which meant, that sport as such was not on the curriculum. Of course we had our class-teacher accompanying us on our marching sessions through town and surroundings.

Once a week we were given dictation. Every spelling mistake was marked by the teacher, counting one bad point for every mistake and half a bad point for a punctuation mistake. The student with the least mistakes was seated at the top of the class. All students were seated according to the number of mistakes they made in dictation. The students who made the most mistakes were seated at the bottom of the class right in front of the teacher.

Thanks to the good schooling I had received in Lichtenow, I was able to spell quite well and usually ended up among the top three students in the class. I felt lucky in that regard. My handwriting however was terrible. Handwriting had always been my worst subject. Luckily for me, it was a separate subject and did not influence the marking of any other subject!

That the teacher praised students with the better marks, was nothing new to me. It was also generally accepted, that the teacher let the other students know, who was in the lower range in any subject. For instance, when we were writing a composition on a given theme, the teacher would collect the finished compositions and take them home to mark them. Once the marked compositions were handed back to us, the teacher discussed in front of the whole class, who had written a good composition; also whose composition was satisfactory, just satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

I went to the school in Herzfelde for about three months only. From that time on I had a preference for sitting in the back rather than the front of the class. When I went to high-school in Berlin later on, I always tried to get a seat in one of the back-rows. I was rather glad, that In high-school we were allowed to choose ourselves, where to sit. I used to pity the girls in the front-rows, who often had to suffer a lot of spitting out of the mouth of this very old German teacher, Dr. Petzel. The standard joke after an enormous spitting session was, that the girls in the front rows should put up umbrellas, when Dr. Petzel was talking!

Right through my childhood I was made to wear a roll of hair on top of my head, which hovered over the midst of my forehead. On my tenth birthday I was finally allowed to comb my hair to the side. Because of this, I felt, I was on the way to becoming a grown-up person.

So here’s the picture from my tenth birthday and another picture that was taken a bit after my 10th birthday. The other picture was taken when I was only about 8 and my friend Eva was 7.


5 thoughts on “Childhood Memories

  1. There is something so precious about childhood memories. It makes us go back to a time when our lives were much simpler but fun and enjoyable, not fraught with stress and worry. Is your life back to a similar atmosphere? I wonder if we need to work hard to make sure our twilight years would be fun to live through.

    1. You’re right, Mary-Ann, cutting back on work and leading a much simpler life is possible in old age and can be enjoyable and less stressful. All the people I know in my age-group admit they tend to gradually do a bit less but enjoy doing the things they are still able to do. This applies to me too! Thinking back to what I was like before puberty set in I find that this was probably a relatively stressfree time.The atmosphere I grew up in was probably a healthy one even though there was a war going on. I was always healthy despite certain shortages due to the war.

      As far as old age is concerned, yes, life is simpler. You learn to accept limitations like not being able to walk as fast as younger people, your eyesight and hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, your bones are shrinking and sometimes aching etc. Well, as a young child you also have some limitations However you know as you grow older you get better in a lot of things.So you’re looking forward to the future. You want to grow up quickly to do this and do that.

      As an older person you just hope that the young ones are going to have a good future! It’s bliss to see the young ones grow up and develop their skills.

    1. I guess the roll on top of the head was fashionable and my mother liked it. Some girls seemed to cope rather well with it. Since I have extremely soft hair the roll just wouldn’t stay on top of my head but hover over my forehead which annoyed me no end.
      Teaching methods would probably have changed quite a bit over the years. After all these were the 1940s!

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