Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s in Germany something of utmost importance seemed to be ‘die Kinderstube’. I was made to believe that without a proper ‘Kinderstube’ a child had no proper chance to get on in life. So my mum and aunt would tell me, how fortunate I was to have this ‘Kinderstube’. How then did I experience this fantastic place called Kinderstube? Oddly enough, I had a ‘Kinderzimmer’. My Kinderzimmer was never called ‘Kinderstube’. It was just that all our rooms were called ‘Zimmer’. To call a room ‘Stube’ was socially not acceptable according to Mum. I was made to understand that only socially low standing people would call their rooms ‘Stuben’. Nonetheless, to have a kinderstuben upbringing seemed to be of the utmost importance!
So, as a toddler I would spend many hours every day in my Kinderzimmer. All my toys would be kept in that Kinderzimmer. I loved my Kinderzimmer and all my toys. I was very much used to be playing with my toys in my Kinderzimmer. So, mostly I would spend a lot of time all by myself in that Kinderzimmer. I remember it quite well, how I would spend time all by myself. I did not mind this, really, because I was used to it. But I always was most happy, when another person would spend some time with me!
I think when I was about four or five, I was allowed to invite a childhood friend to come to my place and play with me. We might be allowed to have a bit of a look into the livingrooms, but to spend time to play in one of the livingrooms was not the done thing. Playtime with my companions would always take place in the kinderzimmer. The same would happen when I went visiting one of my friends.
Did I go to Kindergarten? No way! When I asked Mum, why can’t I go to Kindergarten, she would say, that only kids who had a working mother, needed to go to Kindergarten. And these mothers only had to work because the kids’ fathers did not have a sufficient income.
I could not wait to start school. I knew the beginning of the schoolyear would be at Easter. I would have liked to start school at Easter in 1940. However my birthday is in September. That meant I could not start school at Easter in 1940 because I was then only five years old. It was said I needed to be six years old to start school. In 1941 there was a change: School begin was transferred to the beginning of September, and then I was already nearly seven!
For the first day of school children were accompanied by an adult and receive a ‘Zuckertüte’ that was filled with sweets and fruit. From the second day on children did walk to school and back home all by themselves!
Our school hours in first class were twice 50 minutes. This was our schooling for the whole day! Usually I walked to school with Rosemarie who lived across the road from where I lived. When I started school there were 200 kids enrolled in that school on that day. They made up four first classes, two classes for girls and two classes for boys. That means in every class were about 50 kids!
The war, World War Two that is, had started in September 1939 and ended in May 1945. It so happened that from the beginning of January 1945 all German schools had been closed because the end of the war was near. Later that year I started highschool, that is I had to wait till September for ther school to open. So, in September 1944 I had started fourth class. Only three months later this class was finished. And this was all the official schooling I had till September 1945!
How does the life of kids of my generation differ from the life of todays kids? Todays parents have so many problems with teaching their kids because of the Coronavirus. I do understand that it is very difficult for a lot of parents to have to adjust to all the recent changes because of the virus. I just ask myself, how did my generation manage to grow up in times of war and during the aftermath of the war?
I just copied this post about my early childhood with some pictures:
This saying about ‘the Kinderstube’ I think was well known all over Germany. Whenever a child would not behave exactly ‘the right way’ that child would be asked: “What sort of Kinderstube did you have?” or perhaps the question would be: “Did you not have a Kinderstube?” and the answer might have been: “Yes, but I was not in it!”
Another saying comes to mind: “Children are meant to be seen but not heard.” I think this meant if a child was allowed to sit together with a group of adults, the child was expected to say not a word unless spoken to.
Here are two questions of mine: “Children who had a Kinderstube, were they fortunate?” And the other question: “What if children did lose a great amount of schooling because of the influences of war?
I guess children are always in some way affected by wars. Our present day children in first world countries may have very little knowledge about wars and how to live through a war. Now because of the restrictions that are imposed upon us because of the Coronavirus it is said it is like being in a war. I wonder, how our children and their parents and grandparents may be able to adjust to it to find themselves all of a sudden in a warlike world?