Memory Triggers

Pictures as Memory Triggers

 Two brothers, both students at the University of Leipzig (Germany), went out together to see a movie. Two young girls, who wore identical dresses, in a giggly mood followed the students into the cinema and sat down behind them. One of the students was my father Alexander, twenty-one at the time, and one of the girls was my mother Charlotte.

Naturally, the two young students did get to know the two girls. Soon the four of them went on outings together, and before long the two young men even started visiting the girls’ home, where they were well received by the girls’ widowed mother.


Five years later Charlotte and Alexander were married. In the meantime Charlotte’s sister Ilse had been engaged to Alexander’s brother Edmund for a few months. Ilse broke the engagement off and later  married well- to -do  Adolf S.

After World War II my parents separated. My father lived in West-Germany. My two brothers and I stayed with my mother in West-Berlin. At the beginning of 1951 I found out from my father, that some months previously my parents did get a divorce. My mother had never bothered to tell me this.

A few years later, when I went to visit my father, he told me that my mother had the marriage annulled by the pope, which would mean, that we three children had been born as bastards. My father was totally outraged about this.

Apparently my mother had the marriage annulled, so that she could marry another man, who happened to be Catholic. But when that other man wanted my mother to move with him to another city, she decided she didn’t want to marry him after all. So my mother stayed in Berlin, where she had lived since 1931 and where she died in 1994.

I keep looking at this photo, which has triggered all these memories. On the photo I see: Ilse and Charlotte; Edmund and Alexander. The girls are dressed in fashionable cotton-shifts. Both dresses had been sewn by fourteen year old Charlotte, who was very good at the sewing machine, whereas Ilse shunned machine sewing. Her contribution was doing the hems, which she could do by hand. Charlotte would sit at her sewing machine all day to finish the two identical dresses, so that the sisters could wear them for going out on that same day.

 My mother had another sister called Martha and a brother called Kurt. Cousin Sigrid is the daughter of Martha. Cousins Renata and Wolfgang are twins and the children of Kurt. Ilse never had any children.  Cousin Sigrid once hinted that she had had a botched abortion and that was why she couldn’t have any children. I would say her second husband didn’t mind this at all.

 Her second husband was Helmut L., but she called him Peter. Tante Ilse and ‘Onkel Peter’ were very much in love. They married on July 20th, 1944. It was a good marriage right to the end. Ilse died of breast cancer in 1978. Onkel Peter tried to stay in touch with us. But I think my mother rejected him. Somehow she had a grudge against him. All my life I found that my  mother had a grudge against various people, which did puzzle me no end. Why, why, this negativity all the time? I never wanted to step into her shoes! She would call me ‘Opppositions-Geist’. I guess, that is what I was. I found myself opposing her in a lot of things.

Just before my mother died, I was able to spend a few weeks with her in Berlin. She became very child-like and very likable in her old age. I just did get along fine with her towards the end. Her funeral became very problematic though and upset me no end. But that is another story.

Here is the little picture that triggered my memory. The other pictures show Alexander and Edmund as students in Leipzig.  I guess all these pictures are from 1925.

School starts: September 1941

In 1940 the enrolment for new pupils had been at Easter-time. I had not been allowed to go to school then because I was not six years old yet. (I turned six in September 1940). That means, when I was finally allowed to go to school, I was nearly seven., because in 1941 enrolments did not take place till September. In our school we had four first year classes: two boys’ classes and two girls’ classes. In each class were fifty children!

School lessons lasted for twice fifty minutes. There was a ten minute break (Pause) in between the two lessons. For me it was very important to be eating my buttered bread roll (Butterbrötchen) during that ‘Pause’. And when during the following year we sometimes had three lessons in one day, gee, that made me feel really grown up! I could not wait to have more and more lessons. I liked school that much!

On enrolment day my mother took me to school. I was given a large cone shaped bag that day. This cone shaped bag – Zuckertüte – was filled with sweets and fruit to sweeten the day. It is still the custom in Germany, that a child who starts school, be given such a bag. Of course, there are always pictures taken to commemorate the occasion!

My class was called 1 A and my teacher was a lovely elderly lady called Fräulein Anders. Rosemarie, a girl who lived a few blocks away from me, was in 1 B and her teacher’s name was Fräulein Bröde. We children would quite naughtily talk about her as ‘Fräulein Blöde’, which means ‘Miss Stupid”.

Rosemarie and I would walk to school together. We would have been shocked, if somebody had seen us being taken to school by an adult. No adult ever would have thought to accompany us on our fifteen minute walk to school. It was unheard of, that children could not walk to school on their own! Even when our school was evacuated to another school-building further away, we always walked to school on our own.

Here is the picture of me with my ‘Zuckertüte’ in front of the school!




Uta’s Memories from August 2010


Towards the End of August 2010

 Can’t wait for Spring to arrive …..

 Yes, we already had a few warm, rather springlike days; however, at the moment it’s back to wintry conditions. So please, please let it be spring soon! I’m sick of having to switch the heaters on all the time!

Recently Peter and I spent a weekend in Goulburn to attend a conference. We were booked into a motor-lodge. The outside temperature seemed very low. However we dressed warmly so that we did not feel cold at all when we walked to the shops. And our motel was well heated anyway. All in all we had a very pleasant weekend.

 I’m still contemplating whether I would like to live in an inland town. I know it would be cold in winter and very hot in summer. What I am not sure about is, would I be able to cope with a climate like that? After all I’m constantly upset about too many cold days in our coastal suburb! Maybe if the house, I was going to live in, was built for a colder/hotter climate, I would be able to cope?

 In any case I really do not like the idea that we all live in overcrowded coastal areas with not enough infra-structure for the steady increase in population. It’s such a shame that a lack of jobs forces more and more people to move away from inland country towns to coastal areas. Even new arrivals to our country settle on the main only in coastal areas.

 I hope that broadband is going to make a difference. If broadband gets installed all over the country it may result in more jobs being created further inland. This may perhaps give those deserted inland towns a new lease of life! I can’t wait to see what kind of government we’re going to get after our recent elections. A hung parliament may be not so bad in the way they form a government. It may perhaps result in the big parties having to listen a bit more to the wishes of the people rather than just follow party politics all the time However, no matter what kind of government we are going to get, I hope something will be done about broadband in those inland country areas!

Memories from August 2010

Sunday, 1stAugust 2010

Today I had the feeling that spring was just around the corner. I walked to church and enjoyed the warmth of the sun. Soon I took off my cardigan and let the sunshine touch my bare arms. This is good for replenishing Vitamin D and for absorbing more Calcium, I told myself.

I was amazed how healthy I felt on a day like today. Last month I had persevered with several more tooth-extractions, There were some five teeth that had very old and quite large amalgam-fillings. I had made up my mind that it was time to get rid off these teeth. So now there aren’t anymore amalgam fillings left in my mouth. I wonder whether this is why I feel much healthier? Soon after all those extractions I had started a detoxing program. Kate, the naturopath at the Dental Centre, gave me four different supplements, which I keep taking as prescribed. In about six weeks I’ll go for another check-up to find out whether the detoxing of the various metals in my blood has been successful.

Most days I feel that walking for thirty minutes or so is no problem. I usually don’t get pains anymore and I hardly ever seem to run out of breath while walking. Besides, I used to wobble a bit to one side quite frequently. This seems to be better now. Come to think of it, I have been keeping quite well over the last few months. Didn’t I undertake an exhausting overseas trip from the end of May to the beginning of July this year, and didn’t I cope with the stress of travelling remarkably well? Who would have thought that I was capable of travelling for so long without a problem?

The last time I had travelled overseas had been in 1994. That year I had gone with Peter and daughter Caroline to Berlin. In 1997 and 2004 Peter travelled to Berlin by himself. So I had not been to Berlin for a long time. I felt very much like a stranger there during our recent visit in contrast to Peter who straight away felt at home again. He’s extremely familiar with this city. I think the biggest difference, compared to my previous visits, was the experience of feeling so much more elderly. I was for instance always grateful when younger people offered me their seat on the underground train or on the bus. Being elderly gave me the feeling that I could go slowly. I did not have to hurry as the younger people did. Whenever I felt a bit tired I could sit down and rest for a while.

We arrived in Berlin on the 31st of May. We had expected warm weather, but it was still very, very chilly and often extremely windy. Consequently I soon developed a terrible cold. However with adequate rest I quickly recovered from this attack of flu. When it had become a bit warmer, Peter and I enjoyed what nature had to offer, especially further up north in Mecklenburg/Vorpommern where we stayed for ten days with my brother Peter and his wife Astrid.

Mecklenburg/Vorpommern has forests and many, many lakes as well as canals connecting these lakes. The small towns in the area all cater for tourists. Very old houses have been lovingly restored. Some new developments include expensive marinas. Peter and Astrid showed us historical sites and castles where previously kings and queens liked to relax with their families, away from the hussle and bussle of Berlin.

The last few days of our stay in Germany we were back in Berlin. Day-temperatures had risen to well above thirty degrees by then. It did not cool down very much during the nights either. Daylight lasted till about ten at night. At four in the morning it was quite light again. Sometimes it seemed to be a bit light the whole night through!

Peter’s sister, who lives in Berlin, went on a lot of outings with us. Sometimes we were driven around in a car by friends or family members. However most of the time we used public transport – and very efficient transport at that. When you want to catch an underground train, you hardly ever have to wait for more than five minutes for the train to arrive!

Most people probably do not know that Berlin has many lakes, rivers and canals with hundreds of bridges. I do not know the exact number of bridges, however, I was told Berlin has more bridges than Venice! We saw quite a few of these Berlin waterways. Once we were taken on a boat- excursion that took us right through the city centre! On the boat we were served beer. frankfurts and potato salad. A few times we went on ‘book hunting’ excursions. Visiting friends and family in different parts of the city kept us busy as well.

On Friday, 2nd of July, was departure day. We left from Tegel Airport . This Airport is rather small and totally inadequate for a city like Berlin. Because of a lack of space very few big machines can fly in or out of Berlin. However, a much larger airport is to be opened in Berlin in about two years. If all goes well, Peter and I may then be able to go on a direct flight from Sydney to Berlin which would probably cut travelling time by a few hours.

This time we had a return flight from Sydney to Berlin via Kuala Lumpur and Amsterdam. We travelled KLM. To our great relief our luggage could be booked through to Berlin and later back to Sydney.

I was a bit apprehensive about our return flight since the schedule included a five hour stay at Kuala Lumpur. To my surprise I rather liked this stay at Kuala Lumpur Airport. The airport is huge. Internet connections are provided without charge. There is also no charge for drinking water! In the midst of the airport is a rainforest enclosure for travellers to enjoy. And of course there are shops, shops, shops! Also facilities for showers, massages, reflexology treatments and more. In the sitting area you can find stretch-out seats for tired travellers!

We did not want to go for dinner at one of the restaurants. We rightly assumed we would get dinner on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. However we decided to go for coffee and cake at the Airport’s Deli France. And we enjoyed this! For a little while I also made use of one of the stretch-out seats. Why doesn’t every airport have those seats for sleepy travellers?

Subtropical Weather

Last week we met Caroline and her friend in Thirroul, a beautiful little coastal town, half way between Sydney and Wollongong. It had been raining and the streets were still wet. Peter took some pictures. Vegetation was very lush looking after all the rain New South Wales and Queensland were blessed with during the month of January and right into February.

Well, for parts of NSW and Queensland it wasn’t so much of a blessing any more because extreme heavy rainfalls caused flooding, rivers overflowing and thousands of people needed to be evacuated. Often the flooding occurs in parts of the country that are prone to years of drought. Then when the rain comes initially people are overjoyed until the downpours are just too much to cope with.The good thing about Australia is that when people get into trouble, be it floods or bush-fires, they can always rely on some outside help. The rescue services in Australia are very well organised. Still, it is a tough life for these people who are affected by these natural disasters.

We here in the Illawarra area of NSW have recently had more rain than usual. But the downpours were not very heavy and didn’t cause any flooding. Temperatures stayed somewhat below average this summer but  were still warm enough for everything to grow wonderfully. To my mind the weather has become rather subtropical. Because of all this constant rain we had recently very little sunshine . That means whenever there are  a few minutes of sunshine we can’t wait to go out into the sun and enjoy it!

That day in Thirroul there was no  sunshine whatsoever. It was still a good day for us. We had lunch in a Thai restaurant which was situated in the building of the ANITA THEATRE. This theatre is not being used as a theatre anymore but as a cultural meeting point.  I chose for my lunch a green curry veggie soup with boiled rice on the side. It was yummy! I always love Thai food. And yesterday I went to the Thai Yoga beginners’ class. I like this class because it is so very relaxing.

For afternoon coffee in Thirroul we were sitting outside under huge umbrellas and the drizzly rain didn’t bother us at all. We enjoyed being surrounded by some very lush vegetation. Next door to the coffee shop was a real estate agent. We had a look at Thirroul property prices. They’re truely unaffordable for people like us.

This morning I spent some time in our  backyard. Amongst all the recent lush growth I found some delicious very small wild strawberries. I consumed quite a few of these and so did Peter. I also asked Peter to take a picture of some. He did, and now I can include them in this blog together with the pictures from Thirroul.

Aunty Uta’s Diary


Today is a good day for me!

The past few days I was struggling with some pain in my hips and legs.  However since early this morning all the pain is gone like magic. I feel absolutely revived. It is just marvellous to be able to move about without experiencing any pain.

This ia such a good day for me.

Memories 1955 to 1959

In January 1956 I left Berlin to stay with my father. I stayed with him in Düsseldorf for three months only.

In April I returned to Berlin. Peter was unemployed at the time. I went to see the boss at FLEUROP to ask him for my job back. I felt great relief when he agreed to employ me once more.

From then on Peter and I saw each other on a daily basis. He usually waited for me outside FLEUROP at a quarter to five when my working day finished. Then we walked together all the way to where he lived, which took the best part of an hour. We had worked out, that we could have a meal together for five Marks and a bit. People told us a meal for two cost much more than this. We proved them wrong. We ate well and stayed within our budget. Amazing!

It did not take us long to come up with the idea to live together. We thought it would be terrific, if we could rent a room for the two of us. So we looked at rooms for rent. Disaster! Whatever made us think, anybody would take us in as a couple unless we were married? Like it or not, I had to stay at my Mum’s place in that tiny room which used to be the maid’s room; and Peter had to stay on his mother’s sofa.

In the summer of 1956 I looked for a place of my own again. Peter had gone to West-Germany to take up work in a coalmine. The previous year, when I had left home for the first time, I had rented a very tiny room. I had been nearly twenty-one then A year later, I ventured into the suburbs close to where my place of work was. The room for rent was a very large one in a single story house. The land-lady was very welcoming. She asked me, would I mind if her other lodger, who was a music student, was practicing her singing. I said, I wouldn’t mind that at all. This made the landlady happy, because she sponsored this student girl, who was only about seventeen and was happy to sleep on a small sofa in the kitchen. However, in the large living-rooms there was a grand piano which the girl could make use of. The landlady said to me, that there was a garden with a gazebo at the back and I could reach it from my room since my room had French doors to the garden. I said I liked this very much. Soon I felt quite at home in my new surroundings. But I missed Peter. Sometimes I sat in the gazebo reading his letters. He still worked in the coalmines of Meiderich, from where he wrote me daily . I tried to answer his letters promptly for I knew he was always waiting for an answer.

Peter returned to Berlin in November and we got married in December. Eight months later Gabriele was born. When she was born, we lived at Tante Ilse’s place. I got several weeks paid maternity leave. When I had to go back to work, Tante Ilse looked after our baby girl. Tante Ilse called her ‘Princess’ and looked after her as a mother would. When the sun was out, she liked to push Gaby’s cot out onto the balcony. She found it hard, to let me and Peter take over when we came home from work. To her Gaby must have been the baby she was never able to have herself. I remembered, how she loved to spend time with me when I was little. She tought me how to tie my shoe-laces. A lot of my toys were gifts from her. She felt like a mother to me.

Since the day we were married, Peter had employment in the dispatching department of a magazine. When it got very busy and certain deadlines were approaching, he was required to stay longer, sometimes even right through the night. I think, Peter did not mind that very much because he found the job interesting and challenging. Once he had to work continuously for twenty-four hours! That was at a time, when we had just been married and I had no idea, he might have to work longer. When he did not come home, I got very worried. I waited and waited. After a few hours I went down to a phone-booth and rang the office. I think the boss himself answered the phone. He told me about the overtime. Later on the whole office kept joking about it, how Peter’s newly married wife had to ring to find out about the overtime. Peter did then get explicit instructions to always ring me when he had to work longer. And the boss then got into the habit of asking him: ‘Did you ring your wife? Sorry, just wanted to make sure!’ Actually Peter had to remember to ring me at FLEUROP during office hours. There was no phone where we lived.

On the day we married we had moved to a room which was just a bedroom and extremely cold. There was a tall ‘Kachelofen” (tiled stove), which could be heated with wood and coal. The problem for us was, to buy coal you had to be registered, and we had not been registered long enough! For buying wood, you didn’t have to be registered. So we bought some of that. And the very kind store-owner, who sensed our plight, let us have a few ‘Briquettes’ of coal.

That winter the outside temperature dropped to minus fourteen Celsius or thereabouts. In our bedroom it must often have been close to freezing point. It was really, really cold! No wonder we longed to go to a warmer country such as Australia!

In Februar 1957 Tante Ilse became aware of our plight and invited us to stay with her in her apartment. Onkel Peter had left for the USA to get some military training in Florida. Tante Ilse said, she would be glad of our company and we would be very welcome to stay with her. I think, Tante Ilse was the first person, apart from Peter, who suspected that I might be pregnant. My father inquired about a possible pregnancy when we visited him over Easter.

After his training in Florida, Onkel Peter was received into the German Bundeswehr. He had to move to a Northern town of Western Germany. By the end of the year, Tante Ilse wanted to move there as well. Unfortunately we could not afford to take over her apartment in Berlin: It was too expensive for us! If you wanted to take over an apartment, you had to show, that you could afford the rent. Once you have won the rights to rent a certain place, you were allowed to sublet. It was such a pity that we could not afford the apartment!

My father wrote us, we could all stay with him, because his lodger was about to move out anyway, which made a room free for us. We were grateful for my father’s offer. In November, Peter left for Düsseldorf, where he found himself a job, which he started in January the following year.

Beginning of December 1957

Moving from Berlin to Düsseldorf

and sixteen months later to Australia

The train took us through the German Democratic Republic and then all the way to Düsseldorf. At the border our passports were inspected by the Volks-Polizei (People’s police). There were a lot of East-German people on board, because the train was an East-German ‘Interzonenzug’.

We were able to buy food and drinks in the dining-car. However we had to pay with West-Marks. If you were able to proof, that you were a GDR citizen, they let you do purchases with East-Marks. There was an East-German family in the compartment with us. The husband went to buy beer with East-Marks. When he came back, he offered to buy beer for us with his East-Marks. He said, he was willing to sell it to us for half the price of West-Marks that we would otherwise have to pay for it. Peter took up the offer. Luckily the VOPOs did not catch up on to that, otherwise we could have ended up in jail!

Peter had come back to Berlin to say goodbye to the family and to take me and Gaby to Düsseldorf. We boarded the overnight train. As far as I remember, Gaby was a very good baby and settled in well for the night. We even coped with the nappy business rather well. In those days disposible nappies were unheard of.

When, sixteen months later, we were on the boat to Australia with twenty months old Gaby and five months old Monika, we gave all the cotton nappies to our steward to take them to the laundry service. We were barely able to afford this nappy service. Yet we were not allowed to wash the nappies ourselves, even though there was a laundry provided for general use. Anyhow, the nappy service worked well for us. Luckily everything else on the voyage was free for us!

 Our Life in Düsseldorf

 In Düsseldorf Peter worked in a dispatching job once more. As a dispatcher he was on a monthly salary. The government provided two different medical insurances: One was for people on monthly salaries, the other one for people on weekly wages. Since Peter belonged to the insurance for salaried people, I, as his wife, could see with my second pregnancy a gynocologist, wo would not have accepted me as a patient, had I been in the other insurance. This gynocologist had very posh offices and I never had to pay for anything. Everything was paid for by the insurance. After the delivery they made me stay in hospital for nearly a week. This did not cost anything either.

For the time I was in hospital some very kind nuns looked after Gaby. They charged very little for that. When the weekend came and Peter was off work, he took Gaby home. I think he took a few days off after the weekend, so he could help me with the babies when I came home from hospital. I did not stay in hospital for a whole week. I insisted they let me go home early, since I felt all right to do so. The previous year, when I had Gaby, the policy of the hospital in Berlin had been to let mothers stay in hospital for ten days after a delivery.

Peter’s work was extremely low paid work. But we did not mind that. We lived rentfree and did not need to spend much on clothes. Food we could buy at a discount price just around the corner. My father loved to spend time with Gaby who became a very lively little girl. On Saturdays, when the babies were already asleep, Peter and I would go to a movie session. And Vati (my father) stayed behind, wishing us a good night. When we were very careful with the grocery purchases, we usually had enough money left for the movies, also to buy films for our camera, get them developed and pictures printed.

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.


Easter Photos from 1935


Apparently Mum’s mother came from Leipzig to Berlin for a visit  around Eastertime, when I would have been about six months. I think the dress I wear may have been knitted by Mum. Grandma volunteers to hold me up so I can show myself properly to the camera!

In the photo with Mum we see some Fruit, Easter-Eggs and Toys on the table.

The photo with Dad was also taken on Easter Sunday.