On a sunny morning in August 2011 Peter and I had morning tea in front of our house. We noticed a wild dove, who seemed to watch us, while she looked again and again towards a large bush. Was she thinking of building a nest there? We had found birds’ nests in the past in bushes near the front of our house. It was not like this with this bird. She soon took off to look around elsewhere.
Suddenly we talked about the games we played as children. We were comparing our different attitudes to being left alone. I mentioned that I cannot remember ever having been distressed when I was left to do something by myself. I had my ‘Kinderzimmer’, where I was often supposed to play on my own. When I was all by myself, I liked to invent people who would talk to me. I totally accepted that not all the time someone could be with me no matter how much I loved to be surrounded by people.
‘Yes’, Peter said, ‘I played with my toys all by myself too. I can imagine your Mum would have been home with you more often than mine because your Mum did not have to go to work, whereas my Mum always went away, and I hated it, when she went away. I did not want her to go away.’
I said: ‘I don’t think, it bothered me, when Mum had to go somewhere without me. However, I was very happy when I was allowed go on an outing somewhere with someone. And I certainly loved it, when I was allowed to play with other children.’
Many children my age and older lived in our street, the Bozener Strasse in Berlin-Schöneberg. The buildings in our street were five stories high. We all lived in rented apartments. Our street was very secluded with no traffic to speak of. We would play ball-games in the street. We also played singing games or games where we had to recite certain verses. I can still remember a lot of the songs or verses that went with our games!
The above was one of the first things I published. Noeleen sometimes liked to look up some earlier blogs. She happened to come across this piece. Here are her comments and my replies to it:
Noeleen: “This is lovely to imagine, Aunty Uta – playing ball in a good secure street. But being left alone – wow, you didn’t mind? It’s funny how as an adult, we’d be thought crazy if we made up people to talk to, but I can see your imagination was very alive, and kept you company. How funny to imagine that both your husband and you played with your toys alone. Similar as children, and not even knowing it…”
My Reply: “Thank you very much for visiting, Noeleen, and commenting. Making up people to talk to, isn’t that what we do when we write fiction? When real people talk to me, or I listen to others talking, certain conversations just stick to my mind and I reflect on them over and over again.
When I was about five and we were celebrating grandfather’s 70th birthday, there was music and dancing. I happened to be outside in the entrance hall listening to the music and trying out a bit of dancing on my own. Uncle Edmund noticed me. He asked me what dance I was doing. I said: ‘Swing. I’m dancing swing. This is what Mum and Aunty Ilse are always dancing.’ Uncle E was rather amused. I am sure his face showed great amusement! It embarrassed me greatly. I think, this is why I never forgot this incident.
Mum always told me I was not a very good dancer, same as my father. She called it ‘stiff’ dancing. I admired Mum and Aunty for being such good dancers. I longed so much to be able to dance like this!
I think Uncle repeated the word ‘Swing’ in a mocking way as though it was funny I should be using such an English sounding word for my little dance.”
Noeleen: “Ah, memories. We just can’t escape them.”
My Reply: “This reminds me that we all seem to remember different things. I think you said your sisters remember not the same things that you remember. Peter remembers a real lot about his childhood but his sisters don’t. I would certainly remember not the same things my brothers remember. My children probably all remember quite different things too. I mean they don’t necessarily all have the same memories. I think it’s great when you are able to write down some of your memories. And so we’re really lucky that we are helped along with this by having the opportunity to do it in the form of blogging. I find blogging is great fun! And to see how so many different people go about blogging all over the world, this is something truly amazing.”
Childhood Memories about World War Two
This is what I published in May 2013:
‘I have now two pages about my childhood. One is just “Uta’s Early Childhood”, the other one is “Uta’s Early Childhood, Part II”. In the Part II I inserted today some pictures about my sixth birthday in 1940 plus one picture from summer of 1942. All these pictures were taken during the war, World War II that is, when we lived in Berlin, Germany.
Did we suffer during the first years of war? I don’t think so. Except that my father had moved away from Berlin. He became the manager in grandfather’s furniture factory in Lodz, Poland, which since the German occupation in 1939 was called Litzmannstadt. My father had grown up in Lodz. His family had lived in Lodz since the early 1800s, when this part of Poland belonged to Russia.
My father had studied in Leipzig, Germany. In 1930 he had married my mother in Leipzig. During the early years of their marriage they had for the most part lived in Berlin. Sometime during the early war years my father had some disagreements with some Nazi people he worked with in Berlin. I think he didn’t voice his disagreements publicly. Had he done so, he may have ended up in a concentration camp!
In the end he was allowed to remove himself from Berlin. As I said he became then the manager in grandfather’s factory. My mother typically chose to stay with us children in Berlin. We only went for some visits to “Litzmannstadt”.’
On reflecting how children experienced the Nazi area in Germany, one book, that deals with this, comes to mind. I read it only recently. It is set in a small place near Munich in southern Germany. I lived near Berlin and in Leipzig during the last years of the war. So I have no experience what life was like for children in Bavaria during these war years in Nazi time. However what Markus Zusak tells us in his historical novel THE BOOK THIEF sounds absolutely believable to me.
THE BOOK THIEF
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the novel. For the film adaptation, see The Book Thief (film).
“The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. Narrated by Death, the book is set in Nazi Germany, a place and time when Death, the narrator, notes he was extremely busy. It describes a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents, the other residents of their neighborhood, and a young Jewish man who hides in her home during the escalation of World War II. First published in 2005, the book has won numerous awards and was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks.
In reply to Robert M. Weiss.
Robert, you are spot on with your overall view of history. I always say, that the 2nd WW was a continuation of WW I as it was finished in an unsatisfactory way. Meaning, nobody was thinking about the future. Versailles was a disaster. A much better solution was found at the end of WW II. The Germans, at the end of WW I, were hoping that Wilson’s 14 Points would be adhered to.
As a result “The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles”, as you say, led to the rise of Hitler.
You say further “By borrowing heavily from German mythology, Wagner, the concept of the ubermensch, Hitler instilled in the young a burning pride in Germany’s future. Hitler was also influenced by Schopenhauer’s “Will to Power”. This idea is the subject of a book. “The Jew of Linz” by Australian writer Kimberly Cornish
Cornish has been criticised too, but I found it an interesting read on a certain view point of history. Schopenhauer stipulates, that in a contest between “Will” and “Reason”, “Will” will always win.
In reply to The Emu.
The disagreement with the Nazis was on two levels: personal and about the conduct of war.
Personal: When Hitler came to power he joined the party as a “good” public servant would. Later the life style of his wife could have headed for divorce. This was intolerable for the Nazis and they asked him to discipline his wife or he could not remain a member of the party.
Contact of War: After the Sportpalast Speech
in which Goebels called for “Total War” to be waged. Uta’s father was of the opinion that it was pure propaganda. As an economist he could see that many mistakes were made and the German industry and population were not put on a war footing. He criticised the use of forced labour and called for the utilisation of German women in industry. Only 33% of women were working. Working women was an anathema for Hitler.
He wrote a Memorandum to Hitler and for his effort was hauled in front of Martin Bormann, secretary of Hitler, who advised him not to insist on sending the Memorandum to Hitler. Instead they sent him to the “Ostfront” because he was a Russian speaker.
This is the stuff novels are written about. A lot of what we know is only bits and pieces. Adults did not talk to children about it. Later, yes, but not all came to light.
My response: As I said, my father left Berlin to become manager in grandfather’s factory in Litzmannstadt (Lodz). Towards the “Ostfront” he was sent later, probably in 1943. I remember we were visiting Dad and the Grandparents in 1940/1941. In August 1941 we were back in Berlin, but Dad stayed with his parents.
Robert M. Weiss
Submitted on 2013/05/21 at 3:00 am
Janusz Korczak was offered an opportunity to escape from Poland, but he did not take it. Instead, in 1942, he marched with his orphan children to the death camp of Treblinka…. No doubt people in great psychological need follow cults, and often utilize unhealthy coping mechanisms. What happens with countries brings matters to a larger scale, and nationalism has been responsible for many wars. The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, the rampant unemployment, and other factors went into the cauldron of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s genius was to work with the young people, and gain their support in actively supporting the Third Reich and its goals. By borrowing heavily from German mythology, Wagner, the concept of the ubermensch, Hitler instilled in the young a burning pride in Germany’s future. Hitler was also influenced by Schopenhauer’s “Will to Power”, the incendiary speeches of Bismarck, and the methods of American advertising… History is composed of a series of reactions and counter reactions. Perhaps one day we will succeed in isolating the variables responsible for the vagaries of history, and gain a more precise understanding of the historical process.
auntyuta in reply to Robert M. Weiss:
” . . . . nationalism has been responsible for many wars.” This is a known fact. Still, leaders don’t want to learn from this and continue to promote it.
Will there ever be a time when mankind can live in peace without any wars?
Maybe if there’s an outside threat we’ll then be acknowledging our common humanity.
So he marched to the death camp with his children . . . . . I wonder how many children were with him.
Is it that the Nazis rigorously went to eliminate everything that seemed foreign to them?Do a lot of people to this day have an innate fear about this what doesn’t fit into their view of the world?
I think not many people are interested in understanding the historical process. They are just interested in how they see their own little world, which is an island surrounded by things that frighten them. Does this lead to fundamentalism? Can fundamentalists live peacefully together with non-fundamentalists or other fundamentalists? If they don’t want peace, what do you do? Eliminate them? Every religion teaches you not to kill unless you are attacked. So for instance Talibans want to kill us. So we are allowed to kill them. Aren’t we? No objections to killing Talibans. Too bad if a few other people get killed along the way. And so it goes. No wonder I need prayers to stay sane. Because the historical process goes on whether I like it or not.
Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 11:37 am
Very interesting Auntyuta, to read of your background in those years, virtually a first hand account and must be recorded and handed down into your family and put into book form.
It intrigues me as to the disagreement your father had with the Nazi;s, maybe you could elaborate on this Auntyuta.
A great historical reading.
Emu aka Ian
Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 3:10 pm | In reply to The Emu.
“The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the American program to aid Europe, in which the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. . . .”
Ian, this recovery program helped Germany enormously after WW II. Whereas what happened after WW I was a terrible disaster for Germany. The result was that the Nazis came to power!
The disagreements my father had with the Nazis had to do with the war. But sorry, I cannot recall properly what my father said about it. Anyhow the way I remember it, my father was objecting to the way the war was conducted. I think he moved to “Litzmannstadt” towards the end of 1940. This for instance would have been long before Pearl Harbour!
For a great part of 1941 we stayed with the grandparents in Poland.
By August 1941 we were back in our apartment in Berlin (without my father of course). In September 1941 I started school. I was then aged seven already! My second brother was born in October 1941.
My first school reports say my father’s occupation was “Betriebsführer” (Manager).
He was born in 1904. During the first war years he was regarded as being too old to be conscripted. But by 1943 his year, that is men having been born in 1904, were being called up for military duties. After some training my father was made straight away to be an officer. He was sent to the Eastern front.
He came back from the war with his health ruined. For many years after the war he suffered from these health problems without getting any support from my mother I might say. But his sisters and the sisters families as well as his mother who were all refugees from Poland, well everyone in his extended family supported him to the best of their ability. Eventually he did recover and was able to get full employment. Soon after the war my parents separated, Only in 1949 my mother got a divorce from him. In the 1950s when he was gainfully employed again and his health had improved a lot, he asked my mother to marry him again. She refused.
He married his secretary in 1959. In 1966 he died of prostate cancer.
Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 7:46 am | In reply to Robert M. Weiss.
Hi, Robert, I have the feeling what you say about Hitler may be absolutely right. My generation (after all I was only a child during the Hitler years) on the whole has learned not to trust people like this.
Aren’t there certain people around in certain countries who somehow are able to get followers when clearly if they only started thinking a bit for themselves maybe they couldn’t be followers? Sadly people in general go more by their feelings and what’s in it for them rather than thinking about the consequences of their support. Aren’t most people selfish? If something is promised that advances them they go for it, don’t they?
I guess Janusz Korczak was a remarkable educator, right? I think you mentioned him in one of your blogs. But I can’t recall any details. Did he for instance survive the war years? Did he have family? It is of course admirable if people stand up for what they believe in.
The best example where protests by a lot of people resulted in an immense change happened in the Eastern part of Germany. The fall of the Iron Curtain, which for years and years looked rather impossible, all of a sudden was possible in a rather peaceful way. That it went ahead peacefully was thanks to some noble people who restrained themselves from interfering.
War and Peace, War and Peace, maybe this is the fate of mankind for ever and ever. Didn’t Orwell say, some people when they say peace mean war? Our previous Primeminister Keating here in Australia used to fight a lot in parliament. His attitude was it was better to fight in parliament rather than attack each other in the street.
Robert M. Weiss
Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 2:24 am
Many people at that time didn’t voice their opinions openly. Janusz Korczak, the Polish educator, did. He walked through the streets of Warsaw wearing his Polish army uniform, and was put in jail for his efforts… I continue to be amazed how the Germans could have supported such a madman as Adolf Hitler, which he clearly was. He misused Darwinism, Nietzsche, and never followed his main tenet: to produce children for the Fatherland. Perhaps he knew that that he was the most misbegotten cross and handicapped person of them all.
Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 12:10 am
Yes, do please write about your childhood. It was so different then, and personal memories make it come alive for our children and grandchildren. My early life in England (1940’s and 50’s) seems like tales from a distant planet when I reminisce to the kids!
Submitted on 2013/05/19 at 4:36 pm
Hi Diana, thanks for the comment and welcome to my blogging. I read your about page and am interested in what happened to you when you turned forty. I remember, a long time ago when I turned forty my life seems to have undergone some kind of a change.
A lot of the subjects you write about look very interesting to me. I want to do some reading of your blogs pretty soon.
Cheerio, Aunty Uta.
Submitted on 2013/05/19 at 1:51 pm
Keep writing. That was a fascinating era — and we are just so comfortable these days. We don’t appreciate what our parents and grandparents endured to sustain the basic things we take for granted
Response by Emu 18th Oct 2014:
You got a lot of interesting comments on this article Uta, I do recall this post, the comments illustrate the interest in this part of your life and this part of history in general.
These memorys must be recorded while you can, as overtime history does get altered to suit the imaginations of the reader in recorded history.
October 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm
Thank you so much for coming back to this story, Ian, and commenting on it again. At the moment my head is full of reviews to the book “Before I go to Sleep”. I googled all these reviews and spent quite some time reading them. At the moment I took a break from reading. Having seen the movie today with Peter we did discuss the story quite bit. The acting was superb: Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman at their best! If the story is supposed to be a real life story, there were a few things that did not make real sense to us. We happened to mention it to the cinema owner and he suggested that maybe in the book there would be some more clues. Not having read the book yet but having looked up a number of reviews about it I am more or less informed now about a few more details. However it makes me wonder how often in the real world people are being lied to and don’t know whom to trust, and how often it is easy for criminals to escape prosecution because the police or the medical profession do not follow up on any given clues?
To me the whole thing is a human relationship story. How people relate to each other I always find most interesting.
I hope you, dear Ian and Ana, you both have a good weekend. When are the two of you going on another trip? 🙂
.This is a reflection on my parents. Their marriage their frequent separations, their divorce, how they related to us children, their interests, their friends or partners, Dad’s second marriage.
When I was about fifteen, Mum introduced ‘Bambi’ into our lives. ‘Bambi’ was Herr Burghoff aka Tomscick. Of course only Mum called him ‘Bambi’. To us children he was ‘Herr Burghoff’. We did not have any problem with this. Later on I found out that Dad had a problem with calling him by his adopted new name. Dad insisted on calling him ‘Tomscick’.
<strong>Here is a conversation I had with Dad when I was about eighteen:</strong>
It was June 1953. I was on a one week leave from FLEUROP and had used this, my very first vacation, to visit Dad in Düsseldorf.
‘The boys told me that Tomscik never shared his supper with you children,’ said Dad.
‘Don’t worry, Dad,’ was my response. ‘We never wanted Herr Burghoff to act as our Dad. I thought it was perfectly all right that he bought “Abendbrot” only for himself and Mum. At the time he was still studying and didn’t have much money. Maybe it would have been different had he already been employed in the Public Service.’
‘And what is this, that he wants to marry Mum?’ asked Dad.
‘Well, it’s true, he wanted to marry her. You know, that as a Catholic he was not allowed to marry a divorced woman. That’s why they asked the Pope for special permission. It took a while, but they did get it in the end.’
‘Yea, by declaring the marriage invalid and my children bastards,’ screamed Dad.
‘I know, they established that she married under pressure of her mother and sister Ilse. They claim, she didn’t really know what she was getting into when she married you.’
Dad looked extremely upset. ‘That’s absolute nonsense!’ he shouted.
I felt very sorry for Dad. ‘Anyway, Dad, it seems Mum’s not going to marry him after all. Tante Ilse says so.’
‘And why would that be? What could possibly be a reason for not marrying him now?’
‘The reason? According to Tante Ilse there are several reasons. You know, Herr Burghoff is now employed here in a town in the Rheinland. That is Mum would have to move away from Berlin, if she wanted to live with him. And you know what Mum’s like: She just does not want to leave Berlin!’
Dad nodded. He knew all about this: Mum had always refused to leave Berlin to live with him.
‘ And Tante Ilse told me something else. She said when Mum went to his new place for a visit, she noticed him praying a lot. At least twice a day he would fall on his knees praying in front of a statue. It was kind of acceptable for Mum to go with him to Sunday Mass in Berlin. But apparently she can’t stand all this praying at home. Tante Ilse thinks it was just too much for her to see him do this. Indeed, it must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back!’
Mum actually never re-married. An acquaintance of Mum’s helped her to acquire a permanent job in the Berlin Rathaus (Council Building). She worked there till she turned 65. She could have stopped working earlier, however she knew her pension would increase if she worked to age 65. She lived for her twice yearly vacations. She always saved up for these vacations to go on wonderful holiday trips. On one of these trips she met a widower who was keen on marrying her. Years later she once told me, she chose not to marry him. He was elderly and she was too scared he might eventually need nursing care. The thought of having to nurse someone in old age just didn’t appeal to her. She thought she deserved to have the opportunity to still have a bit of fun in life. On each holiday she took lots of photos and meticulously preserved them in photo albums. She also wrote a few comments for every trip. There are some records in her recollections about two very elegant men who invited her for dinner. These men turned out to be homosexuals who greatly enjoyed the company of a well groomed presentable lady. And apparently she enjoyed being invited and appreciated. She told me she was glad that none of them expected any sexual favours from her.
Dad was actually thinking of re-marrying Mum once he was back in secure employment. As far as I know he did ask her and she refused. Apparently she had no desire at all to get back together with him. I remember Dad did ask me at the time whether I thought it would be better for us children if he re-married our mother. Well, I must admit, I did not think so at the time. I just could not imagine the two of them being civil to each other after all the hostilities that had been going on between them for many years. I think I was eighteen when this question came up. When I was younger I would so much have loved to be living with two parents under the one roof. At eighteen I had overcome these feelings of deprivation of not having two parents around all the time. Should I have thought more about my two younger brothers? Maybe Mum would have mellowed and been able to put up with Dad for the sake of the boys who definitely would have needed a father – – – –
In June 1935 we went for a visit to Lodz in Poland, where Dad’s parents and all his brothers and sisters lived with their families. Dad’s sister Elisabeth (Lies) and brother-in-law Alfred Häusler owned a property near Lodz. This is where this picture of me was taken. I am probably not quite 10 months yet. Beneath is Dad’s passport which included Mum and Baby Ute (Uta).
Back to the story about my parents. I don’t know whether Mum would have paid any attention to what I could have been saying. I always had the feeling I could not talk to Mum about these feelings. It was very different with Dad. He always wanted to hear my opinion on everything.
Anyhow as it turned out I left old Germany a few years later with my husband and two young children. Dad was quite devastated to see us leaving. He had become so attached to his first born granddaughter Gaby. She gave him such great joy! We were soon well and truly settled in Australia. We felt Australia was for our young family much better than Germany. We never regretted having left Germany behind.
Dad’s secretary, Frau Kusche, was a war-widow. She came from Lodz in Poland the same as my Dad. She had raised a son and a daughter as a war-widow. I had seen Frau Kusche only once briefly at the office. I later heard her 28 year old son, who was married and also had a little son, this 28 year old was suffering from terminal cancer. Before he died he was witness at the marriage of his sister who had been an air-hostess and was marrying an American. My father, who had married Frau Kusche in the meantime, was also present at the wedding, together with his new wife of course.
Frau Kusche’s first name is Gertrud.. Dad had a few good years with her towards the end of his life. He too, sadly died of cancer when he was only 62. He and G made a few visits to America to see G’s daughter there. They had also planned to come and visit us in Australia. Sadly, this never eventuated. G. was looking after Dad when he was terminally ill. It took a lot out of her. But she recovered eventually. She’s still alive and well now, being in her nineties, her daughter-in-law is keeping an eye on her.
10 Responses to “My Parents”
September 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm Edit #
Your parents were victims of the political reality and the war in Germany. It is hard to say what would have happened to them without the war interfering in their lives. Having known both of them I venture to say they were not suited to each other in any case.
September 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm Edit #
You may be right there, Berlioz. Thanks for commenting.
September 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm Edit #
It is amazing that Frau G is still alive so there is someone who you may share memories of your father with. It is sad about your parents separation. However, you have weathered the storms well and set your own firm roots with your own family tree growing strongly here in Australia.
September 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm Edit #
Our family tree is indeed growing strongly here in Australia, Elizabeth. Of course, I do like this very much.
I saw my mother in 1994 shortly before she died.
With G I have some contact per e-mail and photos. We saw her in Duesseldorf in 1986. I would have liked to see her again last year when Peter and I were visiting Berlin. We also stayed for a while with my brother Peter Uwe in Meck/Pom (north of Berlin). Other than that we went to my cousin’s funeral in Munich. But sadly we were not able to travel to Duesseldorf as well. It would have been lovely to see G again. However it was good to see her in 1986. She told us a lot about her life with my father.
September 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm Edit #
Telling that story must have brought back many memories. Thank you for sharing it with us.
September 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm Edit #
It does bring back memories,Chris. Hopefully my descendants may be interested to read about it! 🙂
September 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm Edit #
Your memory is alive & well, Aunty Uta. There is heaps of detail here. How interesting your dad was so open to your opinions – I like that.
September 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm Edit #
Thanks, Noeleen. 🙂
September 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm Edit #
As I grow up (;-) I discover that families the world over and through the centuries have been weird. Just plain weird! It’s a good thing to know. More kids should recognize this fact so they wouldn’t feel so isolated by the facts of their families.
September 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm Edit #
Quite amazing, Linda, isn’t it? What exactly do you mean by ‘weird’? Families that are somehow ‘dysfunctional’? What about divorce? Hasn’t this been on the increase in our time? Maybe it has partly to do with the increase in life expectation? In any case I believe it is important for children to know who their parents are. Whether they stay through all their growing up years with one, two or none of their parents this is a different matter. Some parents might not be the best option for a child, but the same goes for some institutions. It all depends. I did get to know during my growing up years some very well functioning families. I am talking about our extended family and about the families of some of my friends. I also saw examples of desperately struggling war widows with for instance four children and a bone breaking job with very little money. When I was a child a lot of people seemed to blame WW II for the increase in dysfunctional families.