I was born on the 21st of September 1934. This was when we lived in Taunus Strasse, Berlin- Friedenau. Some time during 1937 we moved to Bozener Strasse in Berlin-Schöneberg. This is where Tante Ilse and Onkel Addi lived as well and also my friend Cordula Lepsius and her parents. Later on we did get to know Family Todtenhausen who lived in the house opposite our apartment building.
We lived on the second floor, Tante Ilse lived two floors further up. Mum quite often went up with me to visit Tante Ilse. One of my early memories is that Tante Ilse and Mum were lying under the bright lights of some tanning lamps (Höhensonne). They used some oil on their skin which smelled beautiful and made their skin look shiny. Their skin had usually a bit of a tan. They wore some protective dark glasses. Sometimes they made me lie under the lamp for a little while. I liked it when some of this nice smelling oil was rubbed all over my body. I too had to wear these dark glasses. I liked to wear them for a little while. But I was required to lie totally still. Very soon I did get sick of it, not wanting to lie still any more under the hot tanning lamp. I was then always glad when I was allowed to get up again.
I remember thinking that Auntie was a very beautiful looking woman with her very long curly hair. I remember watching In the three way mirrors of her dressing table how Auntie brushed her hair. It was very strong and long chestnut-coloured hair. Auntie usually brushed it slightly back so it stayed behind her ears. She often wore very long blue earrings. Oh, I loved the look of these blue earrings! They looked so beautiful hanging down from Auntie’s ears. I think Mum did not wear any earrings, because her ears were covered by her hair. Mum’s brown hair was very fine and much shorter than Auntie’s. My hair was rather fine too. Mum always cut it quite short. I often wished that I could wear my hair longer but Mum would not let me grow it longer.
Later on both Auntie Ilse as well as Mum wore identical three big rolls of hair horizontally on top of their heads. The front rolls covered the top of their foreheads, the other two rolls were rolled behind the front roll. They also often wore identical clothes, for instance light pink angora wool tops with identical grey suits.
Mum often called me ‘MAUSEL’ or ‘Mauselchen’, whereas Auntie liked to call me ‘HERZCHEN’ or ‘LIEBLING’. Dad sometimes said ‘HERZEL’ to me, but he usually called me by my name. Mausel is derived from Maus (mouse), Herzchen means ‘little heart’, Liebling means ‘darling’.
Cordula’s mum once told me, that her name meant ‘heart’ in the Latin language, but not to tell anyone otherwise some children would make fun of the name. I did not want anyone to make fun of Cordula. So I promised myself to keep the meaning of the name to myself.
My brother Bodo was born in 1938. I think Cordula’s brother Tilwin was born one year later. Mum said that Tilwin was an extremely odd name. And on top of it he grew up with very bright red hair. The children in the street teased him about his hair. As much as possible Cordula always stood up for her brother. I think for the most part Tilwin avoided playing with other children.
We lived on the third floor. The Lepsius apartment was on the same side as our apartment, just two floors further up. (Auntie Ilse’s apartment was on the other side of the fifth floor). I often went up to the Lepsius apartment by myself to play with Cordula. They had a ‘roof-garden’ (Dachgarten) above their apartment. It was the size of a big room and had no roof above it. I remember the sun shining right into it. The floor was concrete, and along the walls were garden-beds . Cordula was allowed to look after her own little garden-bed.. Once Cordula’s Mum let me have a portion of a little garden-bed too! Cordula’s Mum and Dad were always kind to me. They made me feel welcome and included.
Cordula’s family had food that I had never seen before. For snacks we children were often given some kind of brown flakes and raisins. Sometimes we were given dates or figs. I loved this food! My Mum thought it was strange to eat something like that. In Mum’s opinion this family was rather odd because they had lived in the Middle East for a while. Cordula’s father was an architect. My Mum called him ‘the Hunger-Architect’ (Hungerleider) since he seemed to get hardly any work in his profession.
Mum must have seen their apartment once for I remember her remarking how sparsely furnished it was. Mum found their choice of furniture quite odd. There were a great number of shelves stacked full with books. These shelves went from floor to ceiling. Herr Lepsius sometimes showed us children books with colourful illustrations. He also told us stories. We loved one story in particular which had a funny ending. We demanded to be told that story again and again. Each time we laughed our heads off, and Herr Lepsius laughed with us. The story was about a beggar who knocked at the door of an apartment. A beautiful maid opened the door. Some time later the beggar knocked at another door of an apartment in the neighbouring building. And the same beautiful maid opened the door! We found the astonishment of the beggar very funny! Herr Lepsius explained to us, that the family had two connecting apartments across two buildings; that is, the wall between the buildings had been broken through to connect the apartments on that floor. This was actually where the family of Herr Lepsius had lived, when he was a boy.
Herr Lepsius was old and bald. I believe he was about twenty years older than his wife. Quite a few years later Cordula and I went to the same high-school. We walked there together every morning. One morning I climbed up the stairs to Cordula’s apartment to find out why she had not come down yet to go to school with me. I rang the bell. Frau Lepsius opened the door. She was in tears. She did not let me come in but went with me to the top of the stairs. She said: “Our father just died; I haven’t even told Cordula yet.” She looked at me with despair in her face. I did not know what to say. She hugged me and then she disappeared in her apartment.
I found out that Cordula died on the 25th of July 2011, aged 76. This was very sad news for me. 😦