Ja, this goes back to some early childhood memories of mine!
Playing with the children that lived in our street:
I spent lots of time playing with all the children in our street, Bozener Straße. One of our games was playing ‘Vater, Mutter, Kind’. It was understood, that the father had to be a boy. Luckily, there were usually a couple of boys, who did not mind acting as the fathers. If the girls outnumbered the boys, it did not matter. They could all be mothers. Each girl was allowed to bring one doll along. This doll then was a Kind, so that each girl would be a mother with one child. And all tghe dolls would be shared with the boys. We would be very proud, to see the boys showing affection to our dolls, that were our children!
I think, a game like this would probably have lasted for only a few minutes! We would quickly have gone to play any of our other games. We could play all these games in our very small street, that was hidden away from any traffic. Not that there was much traffic yet at this point in time. I am talking of the end of the 1930s and early 1940s, and Bozener Str. is pretty much in the Centre of Berlin.
We loved to play ball games, or hide and seek, or singing and dancing games. I only went up to our apartment for meals. Mum would let me know, when it was time to come up for a meal by calling down to me from our balcony. From that balcony she could practically survey the whole of Bozener Straße!
The house, that I grew up, in is still standing. It survived all the bombings during the war. It just had to undergo some renovations in the post-war period.
If the parents separate amiably the children usually learn to cope with the separation. Some children may on the outside cope all right, even if there is constant struggle between the parents. Children can probably cope all right if they happen to be totally in agreement with the parent they live with.
I do not want to make this too theoretical. So I just start with a bit of my own experience. I fall into the category of the child who is constantly torn between the parents. To my mind this is a pretty bad state to be in. I think I can say that my parents’ relationship was very much a love/hate relationship. The way I see it, it was not the right kind of love that led my parents to each other. Their outlooks and aspirations in life were extremely different. There were separations due to conditions under the Hitler regime and to the disaster of World War Two. After the war they just could not live together any more, that is my mother refused to live with my father. I constantly heard her saying bad things about him. Her hate was unrelenting. She showed not one iota of compassion towards him. My two younger brothers and I lived with my mother. There was no question that we could have lived with my father at the time.
My parents got divorced when I was sixteen on the request of my mother for she wanted to marry someone else. It turned out, the man, who wanted to marry Mum, was not the right man for her. She decided she would rather not marry him. Instead she made an enormous effort to get some secure employment and become independent.
When I was in my twenties, Dad married a second time. This time a widow who luckily was just the right person for him. Sadly they had only a short life together. Dad died of cancer aged 62.
My parents had been in enormously strenuous circumstances after the end of WW II. Till the end of the 1950s they both struggled enormously to make ends meet. Dad died in 1966, Mum died in 1994 aged 83.
Mum had two sisters and a brother. One of the sisters, who never had any children, divorced her first husband and had a very good marriage with her second husband. This was ‘meine’ Tante Ilse. She played a big part in my life. She was a very motherly woman.
Dad was one of six in the family. All his siblings married and had children. None ever got divorced. One of Dad’s nephews lost his wife after she had given birth to a little girl who was then raised by the second wife as though it was her own. The nephew also had a son with the second wife.
Mum’s other sister had only one child. This was my cousin Sigrid. Sigrid was four years my senior. She was a great person: Outgoing, fun loving, very musical. I adored her. She was such good company. She married a dentist. The dentist divorced Sigrid in a very amiable way. I think their two children were grown up already at the time. Walter, the dentist, then married his receptionist and had a child with her. Sigrid remained good friends with Walter and his new wife.
When I met Peter, my future husband, it turned out, his parents were divorced too. Maybe this is another story along with the divorce of one of our daughters.
Auntie, Sister. Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Mother and Wife of German Descent I’ve lived in Australia since 1959 together with my husband Peter. We have four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I started blogging because I wanted to publish some of my childhood memories. I am blogging now also some of my other memories. I like to publish some photos too as well as a little bit of a diary from the present time. Occasionally I publish a story with a bit of fiction in it. Peter, my husband, is publishing some of his stories under berlioz1935.wordpress.com View all posts by auntyuta
catterelEditDivorce usually leaves sharp jagged edges that hurt everyone involved in the relationship, parent and children alike. Even where parents refrain from badmouthing one another, I believe the children are inevitably torn between mother and father. But – besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als Schrecken ohne Ende.Reply
auntyutaEdit“Besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als Schrecken ohne Ende.” I agree, Cat, if the parents can refrain from badmouthing one another after a separation the children might still be torn between mother and father, however in this case an ending of the marriage is probably beneficial for all concerned in the long run.Reply
rangewriterEditRelationships are so complicated. This is an area in my life where I have not done well. What I do understand, however, is that women today have far more options to control their own destiny than in former times. The result is that if a marriage isn’t working, it is relatively simply to disengage from it. Simple legally, but never emotionally. Who knows what completely bizarre strains the German politics of the 1920-40s put upon all relationships.Often, people were forced to compromise their principles in ways we cannot and don’t want to imagine. And then the heart remembers those compromises and finds reconciliation difficult. My heart bleeds for your mom, your dad, and you and your siblings for the upheaval that ensued.While all divorce leaves a wake of confusion and grief, much of that pain can be ameliorated if only the parents can bring themselves to act like adults. Refraining from badmouthing a former spouse can be difficult, but it is a parental duty.Reply
auntyutaEditI did not do that well all the time either, Linda, even though I have been married now for close tor 58 years. But believe me, there were periods in my life when the togetherness did not seem all that harmonious. Sometimes I very much questioned my ability to function as a wife and mother. It can be hard work to make a marriage work; most important seems to be to keep love alive somehow. When love is regularly turning into hate, we have to face up to it that the marriage is unsustainable. Should my mother and father never have married? Then my brothers and I would not exist. But as far as there staying together is concerned, well, this is a different matter. I do accept that for them it was better that they separated and later on were divorced. It would definitely have been better if they could have done this without all this fighting. You say, Linda: Refraining from badmouthing a former spouse can be difficult, but it is a parental duty. In this regard I stand totally on the side of my father. In my experience he never badmouthed my mother. Even though he tended to be extremely emotional and hurt by my mother’s rejection of him, he always stressed that he did not want us children to have a bad relationship with her for she was our mother. When I let my mother feel that I did not reject my father she tended to be angry with me ‘for taking his side’. The way I saw it, my mother was totally guided by her emotions, whereas my father tried very hard to act as an adult towards us children.Reply
cardamone5EditAh, Aunty Uta, how glad I am that we found each other. You are blessed in your marriage to Peter, having not had good role models. I often find myself struggling with how to be the right wife, but my husband is enormously loving and forgiving. He is my rock (in the good sense that he doesn’t go anywhere if I break down, which I have done twice, and in the challenging sense that he is very stubborn.) I have no doubt that my own lack of role models will not effect the longevity of our marriage. We have been together for a long time already and have withstood all trials and joys. In fact, yesterday, we celebrated early our fifteen year wedding anniversary. It was lovely. Thanks for echoing my experience with your post.Fondly, ElizabethReply
auntyutaEditThanks very much for this beautiful comment, dear Elizabeth. I think, we, as women, cannot praise men like our husbands, highly enough! Cheerio, UtaReply
elizabeth2560EditYour post spells out the difficulties all those affected by divorce have. It goes down through the generations. And I know that much advice says that we (the divorced) should ‘act like adults’ but I think sometimes it is much more difficult for the ‘leavee’ to cope. For example, I know that I cannot pretend to be ‘friends’ as it is simply too painful. However, civility is managed most of the time.Reply
auntyutaEditOf course, Elizabeth, to be friends requires that you have overcome pain or maybe not felt much pain in the first place. However I think it is a great achievement if you can manage civility most of the time. Sadly my mother was not capable of this at all. Thanks very much for commenting, dear Elizabeth.Reply
elizabeth2560EditThank YOU for this series of posts. I have connected with them and I have been interested by your views on this topic.
auntyutaEditI thank you very much for your comments, dear Elizabeth! Means a lot to me. Thank you.
Helen Mirren played Elizabeth II in the movie THE QUEEN. We watched this movie last night on TV. This movie made me think about the issue of divorce in our society. I contemplated what leads to divorce, and how it effects our lives, for example in my own family but also in families like the British Royal family. Often one can see the signs that lead to divorce, but sometimes a divorce can come more or less totally unexpected.
First I want to say how well I think Helen Mirren portrayed the queen. We already saw several movies with Helen Mirren as British queens.
Wikipedia says apart from Elizabeth II Helen Mirren portrayed these queens: “The first was a queen consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in The Madness of King George (1994), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; the second was a queen regnant, Elizabeth I, in the 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I. She also played a policewoman, under cover as the Queen, in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.”
THE QUEEN is a 2006 British drama film that depicts the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died on 31 August 1997. I remember, how shocked we all were about her death. After her divorce from Prince Charles the media had kept haunting her unceasingly. I ask myself, did the public expect her to live like a nun after her divorce? Probably not. However the interest in Diana’s private life was kept alive by a very intrusive media. She was an extremely good looking, very kind woman. The public just loved her. The excessive media attention led to disaster. In the end not only Britain but the whole world was grieving her death.
I recall an interview with Diana as she opened up about her marriage. She said it was like there were three people in the marriage. She came across as being very honest and heartbroken about it. I think she felt as though she did not have a husband any more. She had fulfilled her duty to give the throne two heirs. Now Prince Charles felt free to follow his muse. Diana was too young and fun loving for him. She played no big part in his life. He probably had married her more or less only because she was young and good looking and likely to give him some children. But it turned out he had no real connection to her. She wanted some affection in her marriage. She did not get it the way she felt she needed it. How very tragic! Divorce followed after a long struggle. The rest is history, as the saying goes.
There were quite a few divorces in my immediate family: First my favourite aunt was divorced, then my parents were divorced, my husband’s parents were also divorced, my favourite cousin was divorced, also one of my daughters did get a divorce (in her twenties!), one of my brothers got a divorce. And so it goes. It seems there were plenty of divorces within my immediate family. Have divorces increased during the past fifty or a hundred years? Probably. Is divorce always a disaster? And who benefits from a divorce?
These are very general questions. I would say more often than not one partner wants a divorce to be able to marry someone else. The partner who is left behind may initially feel quite deserted but in time adjust to the new conditions and possibly be able to find solace in being free again. Sometimes divorce may be due to difficult economic circumstances . . . .
Does a deteriorating love life necessarily lead to divorce? Yes and no. After a man has been married for a number of years, he may wonder what it might be like with somebody else. He may feel that some new exciting love affair would be quite a challenge. What man can resist if an attractive woman indicates to him that she could be willing? The man tumbles into a new relationship. The new woman is hopeful the man is going to leave his wife and marry her. So he needs to get a divorce. Then he can marry the new woman. As simple as this.
In the ‘old’ days some women would refuse to grant the husband a divorce. Then maybe the husband would just live apart from his wife with the other woman. Sooner or later the other woman might find another man who could marry her. Then perhaps the first wife would end up with her husband living at home again. Or not, if she found it impossible to forgive him. Or found someone else herself in the meantime!
If a woman falls in love with a man who is married already, is it morally right if this woman accepts the advances of a married man. They both might feel they are made for each other. It may turn out then that the first woman is left behind. The new woman might be married herself and end up asking for a divorce if she wants to stay with the new man.
So far I have never mentioned children of divorced marriages. If there are any young children involved this can complicate matters quite a lot. I’ll write about my thoughts on this some other time.
Auntie, Sister. Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Mother and Wife of German Descent I’ve lived in Australia since 1959 together with my husband Peter. We have four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I started blogging because I wanted to publish some of my childhood memories. I am blogging now also some of my other memories. I like to publish some photos too as well as a little bit of a diary from the present time. Occasionally I publish a story with a bit of fiction in it. Peter, my husband, is publishing some of his stories under berlioz1935.wordpress.com View all posts by auntyuta
The EmuEditHaving divorced my first two wives Uta, I am not game enough to mention the word with Ana. Diana’s divorce was a disgrace to Prince Charles, he lost a lot of credibility then. EmuReply
auntyutaEditThanks for commenting, dear Emu. As far as Prince Charles is concerned, yes, he probably lost a lot of credibility in the eyes of a lot of people. I feel for Diana, but I also feel for Charles. They just were not suited to each other for a long term relationship. Aunty UtaReply
elizabeth2560EditYou give a balanced view here on divorce. Are you still affected by your parents divorce even though it was many years ago and they have both passed on? Is it hard looking back on old photographs when discussing the family tree and your heritage and family traditions?Reply
auntyutaEditThanks for the questions, dear Elizabeth. The post World War II years were rather difficult for us. The divorce of my parents made everything probably more difficult than it should have been. But I knew both my parents always loved me. I felt I was a bit of a disappointment for my mum. I loved her, but I did not want to be like her. I developed my own character and I am what I am. No regrets. I mean my mum was a very capable, good looking woman. For a lot of things I did admire her a lot. That she did not want to have my father around, well, I do not blame her for this, She just had not affectionate feelings for him any more. I accept this and understand this even though I did not feel at all like this myself.Reply
elizabeth2560EditI think that it is a very big step in one’s own personal development to decide that you do not want to be like your mother. It is a fundamental step of your own character development. You have much integrity and kindness and being true to yourself has been an inspiration to me.
auntyutaEditYou see, Elizabeth, it was not that I did not love my mother. I loved her a lot. But I could not be like her. A much stronger role model for me was for instance my father’s younger sister. Her name was Elisabeth. I called her Tante Lies. I always wanted to be more like her. You are right, being true to myself, I find this very important. Thanks, Elizabeth.
“German and Austrian Christmas customs have spread throughout the world wherever Christmas (Weihnachten) is celebrated. From the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) to “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht“) and on to the Advent calendar (Adventskalender), people around the globe have adopted many traditions that began in the German-speaking world.”
The Christmas songs, that I remember from my childhood, have a special meaning for me. Some songs were very joyful, others more reflective, that is ‘besinnlich’. Besinnlich meant we became deeply and seriously thoughtful while singing these songs . This kind of singing appealed to me. Advent was the only time of the year when my family would sing some songs together. And it went on for four Sunday afternoons in a row. After the fourth Sunday of Advent some serious preparations for Christmas Eve started. We children were not included in these preparations. As children we therefore became highly impatient while we were waiting for Christmas Eve – “Heiligabend” .
“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,” and “O du fröhliche” were very popular songs during my childhood. (I was born in 1934.)
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, Alles schläft; einsam wacht Nur das traute hochheilige Paar. Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar, Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh! Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, Hirten erst kundgemacht Durch der Engel Halleluja, Tönt es laut von fern und nah: Christ, der Retter ist da! Christ, der Retter ist da!
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund , Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’. Christ, in deiner Geburt! Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816 Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818
Silent night, holy night All is calm all is bright ‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child Holy infant so tender and mild Sleep in heavenly peace Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar, Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia; Christ the Savior is born Christ the Savior is born
Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
O du fröhliche This very popular German Christmas carol has Italian origins. In 1788 the German philosopher, theologian, and poet Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) brought the melody to Germany after a trip to Italy. Originally a Sicilian fisherman’s song, the melody was used for the Latin hymn “O Sanctissima.” Around 1816 Johannes Daniel Falk (1768-1826) wrote the German lyrics for what soon became one of the most popular German Weihnachtslieder. The English version is known as “O How Joyfully.”
O du fröhliche O You Merry (Christmastide)
MELODIE: Sizilianisches Fischerlied – Johann Gottfried von Herder (1788) TEXT: Johannes Daniel Falk (1816)
DEUTSCH Johannes Daniel Falk, 1816O du fröhliche, o du selige, Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit! Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren, Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit! O du fröhliche, o du selige, Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit! Christ ist erschienen, Uns zu versöhnen, Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit! O du fröhliche, o du selige, Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit! Himmlische Heere Jauchzen dir Ehre, Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!
ENGLISH (lit. prose) See poetic version belowO you merry, o you blessed, Merciful Christmastide! The world was lost, Christ was born, Rejoice, rejoice o Christendom! O you merry, o you blessed, Merciful Christmastide! Christ appeared, To reconcile us, Rejoice, rejoice o Christendom! O you merry, o you blessed, Merciful Christmastide! Heavenly hosts, Exult your honor, Rejoice, rejoice o Christendom!
I published this blog in June 30, 2015. So what I publish here is a copy of that old blog. I do want to publish it again, so people that like to play Monopoly in its present form, may perhaps start thinking about it, that one could say that:
Monopoly Is Theft
Anyhow, as a game it is quite interesting and to this day a lot of people do like playing it. I did not have this game anymore for a number of years. Recently I had the opportunity to buy this game in a department store. I quickly decided to purchase it for myself in the hope that maybe in future I might have some visitors who might like to play it with me. Playing it again would bring lots of memories for me!
I just hope, some people might be interested enough to play it with me in the near future! Maybe around Christmas time? We’ll see.
So here is the copy now of my post from June 30, 2015:
The players at Table 25 fought first over the choice of pawns. Doug Herold, a forty-four-year-old real estate appraiser, settled on the car. The player across from him, a shark-eyed IT recruiter named Billy, opted for the ship and took a pull from a can of Coors. The shoe was taken by a goateed toxic-tort litigator named Eric, who periodically distracted himself from the game on a BlackBerry so that he “could get billable hours out of this.” The dog was taken by a doughy computer technician named Trevis, who had driven from Canton, Ohio, as a “good deed” to help the National Kidney Foundation, sponsor of the 25th Annual Corporate Monopoly Tournament, which is held each year in the lobby of the U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. On hand for the event, which had attracted 112 players, divided into twenty-eight tables of four, were the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mascot, Steely McBeam, who hopped around the lobby grunting and huzzahing with a giant foam I beam under his arm; three referees dressed in stripes, with whistles around their necks; and a sleepy-looking man, attired in a long judges’ robe and carrying a two-foot-long oaken gavel, who was in fact a civil-court judge for Allegheny County donating his time “to make sure these people follow the rules.”
I had spoken the night before with Doug, who won the previous year’s tournament, about his strategy for victory. “Well, last year I managed to get Boardwalk and Park Place, and then everybody landed on them,” he explained, chalking his success up to dumb luck. “What you have to do,” he said, “is get a monopoly, any monopoly, as quickly as you can.” I asked him if he knew the secret history of the game. He confessed that he did not.
The official history of Monopoly, as told by Hasbro, which owns the brand, states that the board game was invented in 1933 by an unemployed steam-radiator repairman and part-time dog walker from Philadelphia named Charles Darrow. Darrow had dreamed up what he described as a real estate trading game whose property names were taken from Atlantic City, the resort town where he’d summered as a child. Patented in 1935 by Darrow and the corporate game maker Parker Brothers, Monopoly sold just over 2 million copies in its first two years of production, making Darrow a rich man and likely saving Parker Brothers from bankruptcy. It would go on to become the world’s best-selling proprietary board game. At least 1 billion people in 111 countries speaking forty-three languages have played it, with an estimated 6 billion little green houses manufactured to date. Monopoly boards have been created using the streets of almost every major American city; they’ve been branded around financiers (Berkshire Hathaway Monopoly), sports teams (Chicago Bears Monopoly), television shows (The Simpsons Monopoly), automobiles (Corvette Monopoly), and farm equipment (John Deere Monopoly).
The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”
Magie called her invention The Landlord’s Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly. It featured a continuous track along each side of a square board; the track was divided into blocks, each marked with the name of a property, its purchase price, and its rental value. The game was played with dice and scrip cash, and players moved pawns around the track. It had railroads and public utilities—the Soakum Lighting System, the Slambang Trolley—and a “luxury tax” of $75. It also had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”
For close to thirty years after Magie fashioned her first board on an old piece of pressed wood, The Landlord’s Game was played in various forms and under different names—“Monopoly,” “Finance,” “Auction.” It was especially popular among Quaker communities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, as well as among economics professors and university students who’d taken an interest in socialism. Shared freely as an invention in the public domain, as much a part of the cultural commons as chess or checkers, The Landlord’s Game was, in effect, the property of anyone who learned how to play it.
Thousands of Monopoly tournaments are held in the United States each year: county tournaments, school tournaments, church tournaments, corporate tournaments, tournaments in basements, in boardrooms, in lunchrooms, in public libraries, and online. Every four or five years there are the big officiated tournaments—the U.S. Championship and the World Championship—sponsored by Hasbro, which hands out $20,580 pots to the winners of each. I missed the big tournaments—both were last held in 2009—and instead ended up in the lobby of U.S. Steel. I thought the venue fitting, as the corporation was the brainchild of supermonopolists Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan, the latter being the inspiration for Monopoly’s top-hatted, monocled, tails-wearing mascot, Rich Uncle Pennybags.
The emcee called the lobby to order, shouting into his microphone, “You have ninety minutes. Let’s play Monopoly!” Immediately, the men at Table 25 began rolling dice and frantically buying property as they rounded the board. Doug snagged Pacific Avenue (an expensive investment at $300), two yellow parcels, and several slummier properties. Trevis’s portfolio included two railroads and Marvin Gardens, the most expensive property in the yellow group. Billy held the ultrachic Boardwalk ($400). Eric got Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place ($180 each). These last are among the properties most coveted by competitors, because they are relatively cheap and frequently landed on, along with the other properties that sit directly downboard of the jail, where odds are the players will spend a lot of time.
Sixteen minutes into the game Doug offered Billy a trade. (“The propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” writes Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, “is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals.”) Land was already growing scarce, and as land becomes scarce in Monopoly—as in the real world—its market value rises, often beyond its nominal value. “This,” said Doug, holding up one of his yellow deeds, “for that,” pointing at one of Billy’s slum deeds, “plus three hundred bucks.”
Billy was unimpressed. “No, you give me three hundred bucks.”
“Give you three hundred bucks?”
“Cash is king!”
This in turn inspired Trevis and Eric to start haggling, with Billy and Doug interjecting to gum up the talks when their own interests were threatened. The table got loud. The parties offered, counteroffered, rejected all offers, sweetened the original offers, rejected the sweetened deals with greater aplomb. Doug heaved a great sigh. “We’re just gonna go around the board and around the board,” he said, “and collect our little money.”
“It’s gotta make sense for me,” said Trevis.
“This guy wants my left testicle,” Doug replied.
In what amounted to open conspiracy, Billy then told Eric that if they made a trade and each received a monopoly as a result, they’d share a “free ride”—no rent would be charged—when they landed on one another’s monopolies: a corrupt duopoly, in effect, targeting Doug and Trevis.
Doug shrugged as Eric pondered the deal, but Trevis was aghast. “You can’t do that—it’s against the rules.”
“Rules!” said Billy. “I’m gonna set my price.”
A referee, whistle around his neck, hurried over—the judge with the gavel had disappeared—to decide on the matter as the players barked at each other. “You can’t do that,” he said finally.
A few weeks before the tournament, I’d had a conversation with Richard Marinaccio, the 2009 U.S. national Monopoly champion. “Monopoly players around the kitchen table”—which is to say, most people—“think the game is all about accumulation,” he said. “You know, making a lot of money. But the real object is to bankrupt your opponents as quickly as possible. To have just enough so that everybody else has nothing.” In this view, Monopoly is not about unleashing creativity and innovation among many competing parties, nor is it about opening markets and expanding trade or creating wealth through hard work and enlightened self-interest, the virtues Adam Smith thought of as the invisible hands that would produce a dynamic and prosperous society. It’s about shutting down the marketplace. All the players have to do is sit on their land and wait for the suckers to roll the dice.
Smith described such monopolist rent-seekers, who in his day were typified by the landed gentry of England, as the great parasites in the capitalist order. They avoided productive labor, innovated nothing, created nothing—the land was already there—and made a great deal of money while bleeding those who had to pay rent. The initial phase of competition in Monopoly, the free-trade phase that happens to be the most exciting part of the game to watch, is really about ending free trade and nixing competition in order to replace it with rent-seeking.
Henry George was not formally trained in economics. At age sixteen, he shipped out of his native Philadelphia as a mast boy on the freighter Hindoo,bound for Australia and India, where he watched the crew threaten mutiny over their miserable working conditions. By the age of twenty, transplanted to California, he was working as a printer’s apprentice, a rice weigher, and a tramp farmworker. George was soon married and broke, caught up in a wave of unemployment on the West Coast, and by the winter of 1865 his pregnant wife was starving. “Don’t stop to wash the child,” the doctor told George upon the birth of a son that January. “Feed him.” Poverty turned his mind to economics, to the question of why poverty proliferated in a land of plentiful resources. Economics turned him to newspapers, where he imagined he might get paid for his ideas. Eventually, journalism brought him to live in New York City.
What puzzled George was that wherever he saw advanced means of production arise in the United States—wherever industry was built up and capital accumulated—more poor people could be found, and in more desperate conditions. It was for him a stunning paradox. “It is the riddle which the Sphinx of Fate puts to our civilization, and which not to answer is to be destroyed,” wrote George. “So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes . . . progress is not real and cannot be permanent.” In 1879, he published the book that made him famous, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth—The Remedy, which provided a sweeping answer to the riddle: land monopoly was the reason progress brought greater poverty. As American civilization advanced, as populations grew and aggregated in and around cities, land became scarce, prices soared, and the majority who had to live and work on the land paid those prices to the minority who owned it. For the laboring classes, rent slavery was the result. “To see human beings in the most abject, the most helpless and hopeless condition,” George wrote, “you must go, not to the unfenced prairies and the log cabins of new clearings in the backwoods, where man singlehanded is commencing the struggle with nature, and land is yet worth nothing, but to the great cities where the ownership of a little patch of ground is a fortune.”
From those little patches, primarily in New York City, had arisen the dynasties of the American nouveau riche: the Astors, the Beekmans, the Phippses, the Stuyvesants, the Roosevelts, and, later, the Tishmans, the Rudins, the Roses, the Minskoffs, the Dursts, and the Fisher and Tisch brothers. According to George, the sequestering of valuable land assets in private hands was itself the product of a system of property “as artificial and as baseless as the divine right of kings.” “Historically, as ethically,” he wrote, “private property in land is robbery. . . . It has everywhere had its birth in war and conquest.” This was, in fact, the original sin of Western civilization:
In California our land titles go back to the Supreme Government of Mexico, who took from the Spanish King, who took from the Pope, when he by a stroke of the pen divided lands yet to be discovered between the Spanish or Portuguese—or if you please they rest upon conquest. In the eastern states they go back to treaties with Indians and grants from English kings; in Louisiana to the government of France; in Florida to the government of Spain; while in England they go back to the Norman conquerors. Everywhere, not to a right which obliges, but to a force which compels.
George noted that many premodern tribes recognized no right of land ownership; the tribesman’s property was the bow and arrow he built with his hands, not the land he hunted on. Nor was such a right recognized under the laws of the Old Testament, in which land was “treated as the gift of the Creator to his common creatures.” Moses had, after all, instituted the jubilee, under which land was redistributed every fifty years, and the debts incurred against land were canceled—a tradition ended by Roman rule. Everywhere George reviewed the annals of the precapitalist world, he saw the “struggle between this idea of equal rights to the soil and the tendency to monopolize it in individual possession.”
By the nineteenth century, however, the “superstition” of “absolute individual property in land,” represented by the complex array of state-sanctioned deeds and titles, had become fundamental to the American legal system. It could not be crushed—nor should it be, said George. Land seizure and nationalization, he believed, would lead to tyranny. “Let the individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land.” George would not revoke the right to buy and sell property or to will land to one’s descendants. Instead he argued that society might leave landowners “the shell” of their holdings if it could “take the kernel.” As George wrote, “It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent. . . . In this way the State may become the universal landlord without calling herself so.”
Rent was the key. In line with classical economics from the time of Adam Smith, George defined rent as the unearned income owners derived from the rising value of land, meaning it was distinct from the labor that went into property in the form of improvements, the construction of homes and offices and factories, and the cultivation of fields. A community’s productivity was the invisible hand that caused land values to increase. The cabin in the woods became a prize when a mine opened up across the field, a road linked the cabin to the mine, a country store opened to supply the miners, more homes were built, a railroad came in, a town was born. The land under the cabin derived its worth from what society built around it. Its increase in value therefore belonged to society, and George said this value was to be assessed and taxed at market rates. This “single tax” on land and natural resources offered a reform of capitalism—whose self-destruction George believed it was his task to prevent—that “open[ed] the way to a realization of the noble dreams of socialism.” 
Georgism, as it came to be known, was denounced by wealthy landowners as the most radically lunatic notion of its time, and the single tax as more insidious than all the writings of Karl Marx put together. The Catholic Church ruled George’s thought “worthy of condemnation.” Yet within five years of the publication of Progress and Poverty, hundreds of thousands of Americans would come to believe in the gospel of the single tax. In New York City, the populist priest Father Edward McGlynn referred to George simply as “this prophet . . . this messenger from God.” Mark Twain proselytized as a Georgist, as did the philosopher John Dewey. “It would require less than the fingers of the two hands,” wrote Dewey, “to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers.”
Leo Tolstoy proclaimed that George would “usher in an epoch.” “The method of solving the land problem has been elaborated by Henry George to such a degree of perfection that, under the existing State organization and compulsory taxation, it is impossible to invent any other better, more just, practical, and peaceful solution,” wrote Tolstoy. “The only thing that would pacify the people now is the introduction of the system of Henry George.”
In 1886, the United Labor Party, fresh from the battles and boycotts of the first May Day, nominated George as its candidate for mayor of New York. His campaign offered a radical vision for the time: wherever railroads, telegraphs, telephones, and gas, water, electric, and heating utilities could be operated more efficiently at scale, as “natural monopolies,” the public would own them; transit in New York would be made free for all; city government would be responsible for social services; he would end child labor and mandate an eight-hour workday. The land-value tax would pay for his programs.
Though not a single major newspaper endorsed him, clubs were founded in George’s name in twenty-four districts across the city. Members financed his campaign, each contributing twenty-five cents, and George, in between sixteen-hour days of speeches and rallies, sat at headquarters rolling coins for distribution to his workers. The coalition he built with the ULP was big-tent, crossing lines of class, ethnicity, and religion that had long divided New York. Three days before the election, his supporters—merchants, lawyers, doctors, tailors, plumbers, cigar makers, brassworkers, Germans, Irish, Russians, Poles, Italians, Jews—gathered by the tens of thousands in lower Manhattan. They carried banners reading HONEST LABOR AGAINST THIEVING LANDLORDS, and at Tompkins Square, in driving rain, they chanted, “Hi! Ho! The leeches must go!” But George was defeated, amid allegations that Tammany Hall had engineered massive voter fraud to ensure his loss.
George returned to journalism, went on the lecture circuit, wrote five more books, and dedicated himself to spreading the word of the single tax. He has been credited with inspiring a generation of progressive reformers. William Jennings Bryan said thatProgress and Poverty “ought to be read by every thinking man and woman.” Samuel Gompers, Jacob Riis, Upton Sinclair, and Ida Tarbell read him and sang his praises. But George showed little interest in reform beyond the single tax. A believer to the end in Adam Smith, he denounced the socialists and labor organizers who were his strongest supporters, and, as one critic wrote, came to lead single-tax supporters “of intolerably dogmatic and doctrinaire spirit.” He refused to accept that unearned income might be gleaned from investments other than land, and thus he was accused of failing to confront the rising power of finance capitalism, which made money off of the socially created value behind stocks and bonds. By the time of his death in 1897, when 100,000 New Yorkers lined up to view his body in state, George’s “great idea” was already, as Tolstoy would lament in 1908, on the long road to being forgotten.
About a month before the Pittsburgh tournament, an amateur Monopoly historian and game collector named Richard Biddle invited me to the village of Arden, Delaware, to have a look at the first Landlord’s Game ever fashioned. Arden had been founded as a Georgist experiment in 1900, four years after a failed attempt to implement the single-tax system across the state. It was envisioned as a self-sufficient utopia on 160 acres of woodland, and it soon attracted artists, poets, actors, anarchists, and freethinkers. Upton Sinclair had a cottage there, dubbed the Jungalow. Ardenites were barred from “owning” their plots, instead purchasing ninety-nine-year leases on cooperatively held land. It didn’t matter whether the residents built mansions or shacks: they were taxed only on the underlying value of the land, often at very high rates. This revenue paid for roads, parks, a commons, playgrounds, and utilities.
Lizzie Magie visited the village not long after its founding, and brought with her an oilcloth mock-up of her Landlord’s Game, which soon became a pastime among residents. While at Arden, she built a board for the game with the help of a resident carpenter. Biddle spoke solemnly of this alpha board; he estimated that it could be worth a million dollars.
We met at the village green and walked a few blocks, where we found the owner of the board, an eighty-year-old retired autoworker named Ronald Jarrell, standing outside his cottage looking nervous. Apprised of our visit, Jarrell had earlier in the day gone to his safe-deposit box at the local bank to retrieve the board. We entered his living room, where, amid a collection of antique china, jade statues, and old dolls, he laid out the prized artifact on his coffee table. Jarrell’s three yapping poodles made it difficult to talk.
“It was the summer of 1903,” he said. “A woman was down visiting here—”
“Lizzie Magie,” said Biddle.
“I don’t remember the name,” said Jarrell, “but she had an idea for a game.” He told us his stepgrandfather, a Georgist carpenter named Robert Woolery, had grown tired of playing checkers at the general store and needed new entertainment. Woolery looked over the plans drawn up by Magie on the oilcloth and immediately set about making the board.
Biddle held it up and nodded his head approvingly. It was hand-painted and hand-carved out of the backside of a reclaimed pressed-wood crokinole board, and it smelled like an old shoe.
I had earlier looked up Magie’s 1904 rule set, which she produced several months before she and Woolery completed the original board. Oddly, it contained no rule about forming monopolies out of the property groups, nor did it mention charging players higher fees after they’d built houses or hotels (constructions that also didn’t exist in Magie’s original rules). Nor was there anything about Henry George, land-value taxation, or the evil of rent. If the game was designed to teach Georgism, it seemed Magie hadn’t quite thought out the lesson. Two years later, when the game was officially published,the rules had evolved: the business principle of monopoly was fully established, as was the Georgist alternative of cooperation. Theories abound as to how the changes arose; one holds that someone in Arden had pushed The Landlord’s Game in the direction of Henry George, and also in the direction of the Monopoly we know today.
I asked Biddle about the discrepancy. “Ask the Monopoly monopolist,” he said.
“Patrice McFarland. The Monopoly monopolist. She’d have all the answers because she is now the possessor of Lizzie Magie’s diaries. And a lot of other key stuff. But she isn’t talking.”
McFarland, I later learned, was a former exhibit specialist at the New York State Museum who in 1992 had received $25,000 from a Georgist organization, the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, to produce a biography of Magie. In the ensuing years, Biddle said, she had acquired, along with Magie’s diaries, a trove of early Landlord’s Game prototypes handcrafted by players in Arden and elsewhere. But she had never produced her book, nor, according to Biddle, had she been willing to share the information or documents she’d amassed. “She’s a tough player,” he said. “I once bid against her on eBay for my 1939 Landlord’s Game. Bid almost $10,000.” (I called and emailed McFarland several times to ask about her alleged Monopoly monopolism, but she never responded.)
With us in Jarrell’s cottage was Mike Curtis, an Ardenite who twenty years earlier had played a round of Magie’s original 1906 Landlord’s Game (one of his opponents, as it happened, was Patrice McFarland). The Georgist rules by which Curtis had played were known as the Single Tax set, and they went beyond having players simply pay rent into Magie’s “Public Treasury.” They also aimed to teach the shared ownership of public goods. Under Single Tax rules, when the amount in the treasury reached fifty dollars, the player who owned the lighting utility was forced to sell it, and thereafter the utility cost no money to land on, as it was now publicly owned. This process repeated itself with the Slambang Trolley, then with the railroads, then with the Go to Jail space, which became a public college that, instead of sending players to jail, provided extra wages at the end of the game. After that, each fifty-dollar deposit in the treasury raised players’ wages by ten dollars. A “win” in Single Tax, which Magie later dubbed Prosperity Game, occurred when the player with the least amount of money had doubled his original capital. “The Landlord’s Game,” said Magie, “shows why our national housekeeping has gone wrong and Prosperity Game shows how to start it right and keep it going right.” Curtis admitted that he didn’t think much of the game, pronouncing it “kind of boring after a while.” 
In the summer of 1971, Ralph Anspach, a game inventor and retired economics professor who lives in San Francisco, emerged from a crushing Monopoly defeat in his living room—his eight-year-old son had bankrupted him—and found himself considering the salability of a board game that was explicitly antimonopolistic. “My game would have to start,” he wrote in a self-published memoir, The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle, “where Monopoly ends, when the board is full of monopolies.” The goal of play would be to break them up, with monopolists fighting off trustbusters. The game Anspach created, Anti-Monopoly, sold 200,000 copies in 1973, its first year of production, and was on pace to top 1 million sales by Christmas of 1974. Parker Brothers, at that time a subsidiary of General Mills, was not pleased. The company threatened to sue Anspach for trademark infringement. Instead, he preemptively sued Parker Brothers—“a sort of buckshot maneuver,” his lawyer called it—on the theory that he could show the company’s Monopoly trademark was invalid.
One of Anspach’s first discoveries as he built his case was the existence of The Landlord’s Game. But he could not explain how Magie’s invention, with its promotion of socialized land and shared wealth, had been transformed into the proprietary commodity that made billions of dollars for Parker Brothers. The key to the mystery, he learned, was a radical socialist professor of economics named Scott Nearing, who taught at the Wharton School of Finance from 1906 to 1915. Anspach spoke to Nearing in 1974, when Nearing was ninety-one years old. The professor said he had learned to play the game around 1910, while living in Arden, then taught it to his students at Wharton in order that they might learn, in his words, “the antisocial nature of monopoly,” and in particular “the wickedness of land monopoly.” The students apparently taught it to their friends. It was around this time that the game became known as “monopoly”—denoted in lowercase, like checkers, chess, or dominoes. The game spread widely over the next several years, to the hometowns of Nearing’s students and to other universities. It would slowly lose its antimonopolistic message, however, as players came to the conclusion that Magie’s vision of Georgist redistribution was not nearly as entertaining as ruining one another.
By 1913, monopoly had made its way to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and four years later it arrived in Philadelphia. The economist Rexford Tugwell, a future member of FDR’s “kitchen cabinet,” remembered having played it in 1915. By the 1920s, camp counselors in the Poconos were playing it, as were students at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Harvard, Haverford, Princeton, and Swarthmore. During the early stages of the Depression, the game reached Indianapolis, where a Quaker schoolteacher-in-training named Ruth Hoskins played it. Hoskins soon traveled to Atlantic City and taught the game to two fellow Quakers, Jesse and Eugene Raiford.
The brothers were so taken with the game that they worked to improve it. Along with other members of the Quaker community, they changed the pawns to household objects: tie clips, hairpins, keys, thimbles. They changed the names and property values to reflect those of Atlantic City. Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues, slums in the Raifords’ hometown, became slums on the board; Boardwalk and Park Place, the carrefour of chic, became the most expensive deeds to purchase. The rules related by Ruth Hoskins stipulated that properties were to be auctioned when players landed on them; Jesse Raiford instead set the prices on the board. (This change later made the game marketable to children, who had difficulty understanding how auctions worked.)
The Raifords taught the game to a friend of theirs, Charles Todd, who taught it to its putative inventor, Charles Darrow. Sometime in 1932, Darrow copied the layout of the board, the rules of play, the property names, the deed values, and the Chance cards, and made his own version of the game. His only innovation seems to have been to claim the mantle of sole inventor. He would soon be assumed into the pantheon of American heroes of commerce.
The irony was not lost on Anspach. Before being monopolized by a single person working in tandem with a corporation, Monopoly had in fact been “invented” by many people—not just Magie and the Raifords but also the unknown player who gave the game its moniker and the unsung Ardenite who had perhaps aided Magie in advancing its rules. The game that today stresses the ruthlessness of the individual and defines victory as the impoverishment of others was the product of communal labor.
None of the information Anspach uncovered helped his case when it went to trial in 1976. The widows of Eugene and Jesse Raiford testified, as did seven other witnesses who claimed to have played monopoly as many as twenty years before Darrow marketed his game. Anspach even put Robert Barton, the former president of Parker Brothers, on the stand. Barton, who was pivotal in helping Darrow secure a patent for his “invention,” admitted under oath that he was fully aware of the game’s history and that he knew Darrow had not in fact invented it. The judge was unmoved. He dismissed Anspach’s complaint, ordering all unsold copies of Anti-Monopoly to be “deliver[ed] up for destruction.” Seven thousand of the games were bulldozed into a garbage dump in rural Minnesota, where officials from Parker Brothers oversaw the interment. 
After forty minutes of play, the game at Table 25 had stalled—or, depending on your view, was going along just fine, because no one had a monopoly and no one could raise rents. So Billy paid rent to Eric, who paid about the same rent to Doug, who paid to Billy, who paid to Trevis, who paid to Eric, who made a bad roll and briefly went to jail. Then Doug Herold landed on his third lucrative green property, allowing him to form a monopoly. He had enough cash on hand to build several houses, and one after another the players fell afoul of his outrageous rent hikes. Billy and Trevis handed over several properties in lieu of cash, giving Doug three monopolies. “You see,” he said, turning to me, “I don’t have to deal with these knuckleheads anymore.” There was no further need for trading, no need for the dynamism of the marketplace. He had done the work, built the houses, invested in the properties. Now he did no work, took no risks, made no investments. And yet wealth moved inexorably in his direction. When after ninety minutes time was called, Doug oversaw five monopolies and a wad of $10,293 in cash, more than half the money in the Monopoly bank. He was declared not only the victor at Table 25, but the all-around winner of the U.S. Steel tournament for the second year in a row.
I’d invited Richard Biddle to the tournament, and as Doug had started his run Biddle wandered off to watch the other tables. Every so often I could see him peering over the shoulders of the players, a pinched look on his face. He did not like what had become of Lizzie Magie’s invention. “My brother taught me how to play Monopoly when I was five,” he had told me. “It was pivotal in helping me understand the importance of lying, cheating, and stealing.” I’d asked him to bring along his reproduction of The Landlord’s Game, which he carried in a backpack. Earlier in the evening he had gingerly taken it out to share with whomever he could waylay. “This is the real Monopoly,” Biddle would tell the players, before attempting a sort of CliffsNotes explanation of what Lizzie Magie had in mind. The players nodded politely, their smiles freezing into nervous masks. “That’s very nice, thank you so much,” they said, and then they walked away.
 University of Missouri–Kansas City economics professor Michael Hudson has noted that property tax today functions in exactly the opposite fashion from George’s proposed single tax. The Federal Reserve Board is responsible for assessing the total market value of real estate in the United States, Hudson says, yet it routinely produces “nonsensical undervaluations of land.” In fact, the FRB mostly ignores land itself; instead, it considers buildings and capital improvements as the chief markers of value, basing its calculations on the historical cost of original construction and the replacement cost of structures. Land value is an afterthought. The amateur in the real estate marketplace need not read Henry George to know this flies in the face of common sense, the mantra being “location, location, location,” not “replacement cost, replacement cost, replacement cost.” Hudson has conducted some of the few authoritative analyses of the FRB’s sleight of hand, the tax losses that result, and how it benefits the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors, which together have lobbied the FRB to maintain its approach.  Curtis also didn’t think much of Arden’s Georgist experiment, saying it had degenerated into something of a failure. The leaseholders, he told me, had learned to game the system by electing land assessors who based their assessments on the town’s budget needs rather than the land’s real market value, and so they avoided paying taxes at appropriate rates. “To be frank,” he said, “the people in Arden today don’t give a damn about Henry George.”  Anspach twice appealed the decision, and in 1982 a California appellate court ruled in his favor, concluding that Parker Brothers had in fact committed fraud in the Darrow patent, and was thus under threat of losing its trademark. General Mills Fun Group appealed to the Supreme Court in 1982, backed by amicus briefs from nearly every major American industry group, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Trademark Association, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and the Committee on Trademarks of the Bar of the City of New York. The Court declined to hear the appeal. Anspach was nearly bankrupted, his house thrice mortgaged, his game business on the edge of ruin, his distributors unwilling to work with him because of a ten-year legal cloud. He was free, however, to continue selling Anti-Monopoly. In the past four years, he has sold 454,000 copies in European markets. Domestic sales, he says, have been comparatively small because Hasbro has used “its monopoly power to monopolize the Monopoly market” in the United State
I love early mornings. Waking up early always seems exciting to me. Here in Australia the nights are getting rather cold now as we are approaching winter. These days when I wake up at five it is still dark outside. Sometimes I think it is better not to get up straight away. So I may tell myself to stay in bed for one more hour or so. Occasionally I am still a bit tired and go back to sleep after a little while. But usually I stay awake the whole time, lying in bed thinking about what I plan for the day or perhaps saying a few prayers. Often I remember my childhood prayers!
The family I grew up in was not very religious. During my whole childhood I remember being taken to church only once. This was for a service on Christmas Eve in 1943. Lots of familiar Christmas songs were being sung then. I thought this was wonderful!
Now what about prayers? Strangely enough there are some childhood prayers that I often remember when I wake up early in the morning. Then I am that child again who was being told to say these prayers before going to sleep.
The first prayer I learned was just saying that I am small and my heart is pure with only Jesus in it.
When I was a bit older I learned another prayer. saying that I was tired, closing my eyes and asking the Lord to watch over my bed.
Mum also told me to ask God for the protection of all my loved ones. In the reciting of all the names there was always Dad included who was on the Eastern Front at this time of WW II.
Here are the prayers as I remember them in German:
“Ich bin klein, mein Herz ist rein; soll niemand drin wohnen als Jesus allein.”
“Müde bin ich geh’ zur Ruh schliesse beide Augen zu. Vater lass die Augen dein über meinem Bette sein.”
And I would say:
“Lieber Gott, behüte Mutti und Vati, Bodo und Peter, Tante Ilse, die Omi und Renate und alle die ich lieb habe.”
My Paternal Grandparents lived in Lodz, They were Josef Alexander and Hulda Spickermann and celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in November 1943. All their children with all their spouses and most of the grandchildren were present. Josef and Hulda had three daughters and three sons: Olga, Jenny, Elisabeth (Lies) and Edmund (E), Alexander (Oleg) and Ludwig (Luttek). I have a picture of the Golden Wedding with everyone in it. Here it is:
My father was the second son of Josef and Hulda. He married my mother, Irma Charlotte Summerer, on the 30th of September 1930. My mother was only nineteen at the time. Four years later, on the 21st of September 1934, I was born. In June of 1935 my parents travelled with me to Lodz (Poland) to visit Dad’s family there. My mother and I, we did not have our own passports. We were included in Dad’s passport as can be seen in the following picture.
1927 in Lodz: This is a picture of Dad’s sisters Olga, Jenny and Elisabeth:
In the above picture I am in the pram with my cousin Horst. There are also cousins George and Gerd, the sons of Tante Olga as well as cousin Ursula, the daughter of Tante Jenny. (Olga and Jenny were of course the older sisters of my father.) The picture is taken in the park of the Häuslers, Horst’s parents.
As far as I know we stayed in Lodz with Tante Lies (Elisabeth) and Onkel Alfred. I have several pictures that show me with their son Horst who was born on the 7th of February 1935. Tante Lies was about the same age as my mother. Whereas Onkel Alred was twenty years older than his wife. He owned huge properties. We always thought they were rich.
When I was six weeks old the grandparents, Hulda and Josef, came to Berlin for a visit, where they saw me for the first time. They were proud to have a grandchild by one of their sons. (Their other two sons did not have any children yet at the time). I think my twenty-three year old mother looks very pretty in that picture.
On the 9th of June 1938 my brother Bodo Alexander was born. He was born at home in our apartment in Berlin, Bozener Strasse. Here in this picture he is only a few hours old. I was thrilled to have a baby brother! I believed the ‘Klapperstorch’ had brought him. Mum’s sister Ilse was very excited about this addition to the family as well. Later on I always heard stories about how this home delivery took place. And I did sleep through all of it. When I woke up in the morning, Tante Ilse led me to the cot in the parent’s bedroom. And surprise, surprise, der Klapperstorch had brought a beautiful baby boy. There he was lying in the cot!
Here I am with Opa Spickermann at the ‘Reichssportfeld’ in June 1938 soon after the birth of brother Bodo. It was a time when Mum still had to stay in bed. Tante Ilse and her husband Adolf Schlinke owned a ‘Wanderer’ car. In that they drove Dad, Opa and me to the Reichssportfeld for an outing. Probably so Opa could see a bit of Berlin. Presumably he had come all the way from Lodz to Berlin to see his first born grandson by the name of Spickermann.
Dad, Granddad, Tante Ilse and little Uta, (I guess, Onkel Addi took the picture.)
The following is a reflectionon 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’.
Here is a conversation I had with Dad when I was about eighteen:
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 – – – –
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 starts with G. 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 keeping an eye on her.
Towards the end of September 1943 we left Berlin to live in the country. We moved to a place called the ‘Ausbau’, which meant that eventually ‘more’ was to be added to the building.. It was a simple rectangular red brick complex with several entrances around the building. There was no plumbing or electricity. The entrance for us ‘Berliners’ was on the left side at the front of the building. We had a cellar, a groundfloor and two upper floors.
Mum, my two younger brothers and I, shared a bedroom on the first upper floor. We also had a small kitchen and a living-room. I would sleep in the living-room when my dad came home on leave. Two maids, one Polish, the other Russian, shared two rooms on the top floor. All the rooms on the top floor had sloping ceilings. Our Polish maid was in her early twenties. Her name was Maria. She was very efficient and always rather serious.. The Todtenhausen Family, who lived on the groundfloor, employed Katja, the Russian maid, who was only eighteen and extremely fun loving.
My mum’s sister, Tante Ilse, also had her rooms on the first upper floor. She had a bedroom and a living-room. On the groundfloor, right underneath her upper rooms, she had a kitchen and a dining-room. She hardly ever used those downstairs rooms. Our friends from Berlin, the Todtenhausen Family, occupied three rooms downstairs, namely a kitchen, a living-room and a bedroom, the same arrangement of rooms that we had on the upper floor.
There was an additional larger room for storage under the sloping roof. The Todtenhausen Family and my Family stored in that room additional larger furniture which we wanted to save from the bombs in Berlin. — In that room Mum stored a lot of Boskop-apples during the cold season. They were neatly spread out on some straw. Come Christmas-time, other delicious food was also hidden somewhere amongst our stored furniture. It was very tempting for me to go exploring in that room! Mum noticed sometimes, that some food was missing. And I admitted, when questioned, that I had helped myself to some of the goodies. However I was never punished for doing such a thing. That shows, that Mum must have been quite tolerant. —
On the same upper floor right under the roof was a playroom, which my brothers and I shared with eight year old Eva Todtenhausen. There was another room next to the playroom where Frau Todtenhausen’s parents had stored some bedroom furniture. The parents were Herr und Frau Braun. They had a business in Berlin. (They sometimes stayed at the ‘Ausbau’ in that bedroom in order to be with their family away from the bombs in Berlin.)
Our toilets were “plumps-closets” some distance away from the house. Water for cooking and washing had to be fetched from a pump in the backyard. Fetching water from the pump kept both maids very busy indeed. For lights we had kerosine-lamps, for heating there were coal-fired stoves which could also be used for cooking. Everything was very basic.
Gradually some changes were being made. The first big change was that our landlord had electricity laid on. All the workers who lived with their families in the other part of the building, received the benefit of electricity at the same time. This certainly was a very welcome improvement for them.
The ‘Ausbau’ was built close to a dirt-track which meandered through wide open barley-, oat- and potato-fields. On the track it was a good half hour to walk to the next village. Bike-riding however made it a bit quicker.
Werner Mann, the owner of all those fields that went on for miles and miles, was an acquaintance of Tante Ilse. He was apparently quite rich and also owned extensive brick-works (Ziegeleien). It was said of him that he was a millionaire. He was our landlord, and he liked to spoil us. With no strings attached! Tante Ilse only had to voice a wish, and Werner Mann immediately did whatever he could to fulfill her wish. He spoilt us by constantly getting produce delivered to us: Potatoes, cabbage for making sauerkraut, wonderful treacle made of sweet-beets, and coal for our stoves.
Even I, as a nine year old, could see that sixty year old Werner Mann was hopelessly in love with Ilse. I also was quite aware, that she always kept him at a distance. He was happy to just be invited for ”Kaffee und Kuchen’ on weekends and to spend some time with all of us. He always came to visit on his bike. On his daily inspection tours of the workers in the fields he also went around on his bike. He owned coaches with horses, but hardly ever used those to go anywhere.
When we were invited to his place (which people called ‘Schloss’), he would send the coach with a coachman to pick us up. Once in winter when there was plenty of snow, Werner Mann sent a ‘Pferde-Schlitten’ (horse-drawn sledge). On this sledge we were wrapped up in blankets under a clear night-sky with the moon and lots of stars shining on us. It was unforgettable and one of the rare highlights in our otherwise pretty dreary country-life existence.
The place, where Werner Mann lived, did not look like a castle at all, even though people called it ‘Schloss’. It was not even a mansion but a rather large, but fairly plain house. There was a huge, fenced in veggie garden next to the house. I have seen the veggie garden only once. However I was very impressed by it, because it seemed to be so very large.
When we moved to the ‘Ausbau’, Ilse had already been divorced from Adolf Schlinke. It was obvious that Werner M. would have liked to marry Ilse. However, it never came to that. Ilse married Helmut Lorenz on July 20th, 1944.
CHILDHOOD MEMORIES CONTINUED
It was a big thrill for me to go exploring amongst the furniture in that big storage-room: and especially in the weeks before Christmas!
Mum used to store lot of goodies for the Christmas season. It was very exciting for me to find out what new things had been stored in that big room. I remember seeing huge chunks of nougat (a yummy hazelnut-paste) as well as heart-shaped marzipan-pieces. There was a pot with sweetened thick milk. Sometimes I dipped my finger into it to lick this wonderful sweet stuff! I also liked to eat a few of the stored raisins and prunes! Smells of ginger bread and apples: It made me feel that Christmas was something to be looking forward to.
Where on earth did Mum get all those things from? It was war-time, wasn’t it? We were in the midst of war! I knew very well where all this came from. The parents of Frau Todtenhausen had a distributing business. It was called ‘Backbedarf en Gros’. That meant they delivered goods to bakeries and cake-shops. Even in the midst of war deliveries of the above mentioned goods still took place! Of course there were shortages, but basically most things were still available.
Herr and Frau Todtenhausen, as well as Tante Ilse and Mum, all of them were good friends. Every Saturday night they came together for some card games. Eight year old daughter Eva and I were allowed to stay up late on those nights. For hours we were watching the adults playing cards, and at the same time we were entertaining ourselves with doodling on bits of paper. At around ten o’clock some cake and hot chocolate as well as coffee would be served. But the maids did not have to do the serving, They were already in their rooms at this hour. The cake was usually freshly baked, very fluffy yeast cake topped with delicious butter-crumbs and filled with a thick custard. Hmm yummy!
Herr Todtenhausen would stay in Berlin during the week, where he was employed by his parents-in-law. Being over forty, he was not required to join the German army. Herr Todtenhauyseb always brought some sweet goodies along when he came home from Berlin for the weekend.
During the summer of 1944 Herr Todtenhausen and Mum liked to go on their bikes to a neighbouring Nursery where they were able to trade sweets for fresh produce. Eva and I were often allowed to go along with them on our bikes. The sweets were traded for strawberries or cherries or gooseberries as well as peaches and apricots, and later on in the year for pears and apples. I remember the Boskop apples were still in season in late autumn. The owner of the nursery was a well-off looking middle-aged woman who was very fond of sweets and loved to trade her produce. At one time we found out that she thought Herr Todtenhausen and Mum were a couple and we girls were sisters. Laughing joyfully, Mum and Herr Todtenhausen explained, that this was not so.
Only once as far as I remember were we shown into the lady’s home. Herr Todtenhausen made complimentary remarks about the interior of the house. He said it showed off the owner’s good taste. I liked the lady’s house a real lot too. Our families used to have well furnished apartments in Berlin. But this modern looking villa in the midst of the nursery really was something else. My feelings were, I would very much like to live in a place like that. However we had to be happy with our accomodation in the Ausbau. To us children it was always pointed out, to be happy that we did not have to live amongst the bomb raids in Berlin. I’m pretty sure that by myself I felt that I’d rather live in Berlin, bomb-raids or not. I think to children bomb-raids usually didn’t seem as scary as to the adults. At the time we children had had no experience yet how absolutely horrible those bomb-raids could become.
In 1990, soon after the Fall of the Wall, I went with my family to have a look at the area where we used to be hidden away from the bomb-raids. We discovered that the nursery as well as the lady’s house had completely vanished. There was nothing left of the ‘Ausbau’ either!
In 1943, when we had lived at he ‘Ausbau’ only for a couple of months, Frau Todtenhausen delivered a healthy daughter in a regional hospital. The day after the baby was born, it may perhaps have been a Saturday or Sunday, Herr Todtenhausen and Eva went for the forty-five minute bike-ride to the Hospital. I was thrilled that I was allowed to go with them! The baby was on the tiny side and soon called Krümel (tiny crumb). Edith had a pet-name too. She was often called Honkepong.
As soon as Frau Todtenhausen came home from hospital, there was a nurse waiting for her to take charge of the baby. Herr Todtenhausen said something like: “Katja is a very nice girl, but I would not trust her with our new born baby. I am glad that Nurse is here to help my wife to look after our Krümel.”
Nurse used for herself the bedroom next to our playroom. Sometimes she sat with us children in the playroom. Since Christmas was approaching, she taught us how to make some Christmas decorations. I was very impressed, because I was nine years old and nobody had ever taught me anything like it! Nurse also made sure, we learned our Christmas poems. We had to be prepared to recite them to Santa on Christmas Eve!
Maria, our Polish maid, had been with us since before my little brother Peter was born. He regarded Maria as his ‘Dah-dah’, that is he always called her ‘Dah-dah’. By the end of January 1945 we had to flee from the ‘Ausbau’ as the Russians were approaching fast. We went to Berlin first and then by train to Leipzig to stay at Grandmother’s place. Maria remained in Berlin with her Polish fiancee, who was a butcher.
When we parted from Maria, little Peter had just turned three. Yet he must have missed his Dah-Dah for quite a while since she had always looked after him, and I am sure, he loved her very much and she loved him. Mum always trusted Maria, who was in every way caring and efficient at the same time. Mum was always impressed how quickly Maria did all the housework. Any dirty dishes were washed immediately. She was indeed capable of doing all the housework, and Mum was happy to let her do just about everything. An exception was the baking of a large cake on Saturdays, which Mum loved to do herself.
Maria always made some potato-salad for the weekend. I watched how she did it. To the peeled and sliced potatoes she added finely cut onion, some oil, pepper and salt. Then she poured hot vinegar-water over the potatoes as a finishing touch. The huge salad-bowl was placed outside on a shelf near the stairway so the salad could cool down. I often helped myself to some of the warm salad when nobody was looking, because I loved to eat the salad when it was still a little bit warm. It was the same every Saturday. I watched Maria preparing the salad and placing it on the shelf outside. Then it did not take long before I had a good taste of it!
Friday night was the night for our bath. Maria placed a small tin-tub on the kitchen-floor. She carried several buckets of water from the outside pump to the kitchen. Some of the water she heated on the kitchen-stove in an especially huge pot. I was always the first one to use the bath-water, then it was brother Bodo’s turn. Little brother Peter was always the last one. Some hot water was added for everyone, but still the water must have been quite dirty for little Peter after Bodo and I had had our baths!
When Maria first came to live with us, she knew very little German. However she was determined to learn German quickly. She liked to ask Bodo and me how to pronounce certain words. She also asked me how to write those words in German. Mum often praised Maria, that she was willing and able to learn quickly. This applied to everything she did. She was an amazingly efficient person. A ‘pearl of a maid’ people would say of her. Maria was a city girl. She came from Lodz, which was called ‘Litzmannstadt’ at the time. We had spent the summer-months of 1941 at Zokolniki (near Lodz) and that was when Maria was assigned to us as a help. Mum liked Maria and wanted her to come with us when we went back to Berlin. Maria told me later that she did not want to leave Poland. But she had not been given the choice to stay in her own country.
When Katja arrived, we could see that she was very different from Maria. She was a country-girl from Russia. She never learned German as well as Maria did. She could never be trusted to do all the house-work by herself. Frau Todtenhausen always had to supervise her and do certain things herself because Katja took too long to learn to do it properly. But we all loved Katja. She was always cheerful and full of beans. As a country-girl she did not know certain things that a city-girl had been brought up with. Maria took to instructing Kartja about certain things. I think they communicated in German. After they finished work in the evening, they had plenty of time to stay in their rooms together and keep each other company. Both girls always had to get up early. During summer, school-classes in the village started as early as seven o’clock. That meant, I had to get up at six o’clock to get ready for school. Mum never got up that early. But Maria always came down at six o’clock to start working for us. She often had to do Peter’s linen early in the morning, which I am sure was not one of her favourite tasks.
Since Tante Ilse was a single person, she was supposed to have a regular job. Everyone who was capable to work, had to work for the war effort! That meant Ilse had to prove that she had a proper job. Naturally Werner M came to the rescue again. ‘You can work for me in the office,’ he said. And office work she did, however not in the office, but at home. She did not even have to collect the work!
One of the workers, who lived in our complex, was given the task of handing over the sheets of paper to Frau Ilse Schlinke on his way home from work. When the paper-work was finished by Tante Ilse, he took the sheets of paper back to the office on the way to his work-place. How did he transport the papers? He simply fastened the bundles unto the back of his bike. This worker was Herr Fritz. He was a smith and worked for Werner Mann. A smith was always needed in a huge estate with lots of horses and farm equipment. Even though Herr Fritz was a qualified trades-man, he and his family lived extremely simple lives; indeed, he did not seem to live any better than an unqualified worker.
Herr und Frau Fritz had two sons; one was ten, the other one fourteen. The older one was quite talented. He built complicated mechanical things out of odd bits and pieces. I admired him very much. The younger son told Eva and me stories about the ‘Lamp Angel’ (Lampen-Engel) who was supposed to have kerosine-lamps in a straight line out in the country away from any built-up areas to distract bombers, who might accidentally have come to our countryside.
A few times I went with Eva and Bodo in search of those lamps. Yet we never could find any of them. Unfortunately the neighbour’s son, who had told us the story, was not willing to come along with us to show us where the lamps were. To this day, I really do not know, whether there ever had been any lamps!
Both sons of the neighbours went to Lichtenow village primary school, the same school that Eva and I went to. There was only one teacher for the whole school. The school had eight school-years. After year eight you had to leave and start work or learn a trade. Students who wanted to go to high-school, were supposed to enroll at high-school after finishing year four of primary school. By September 1944 I should have started high-school. However I had no chance to travel to high-school from where we lived. Mum said: ‘Since you skipped year three, it does not matter, if you repeat year four. Next year the war will be over anyway, and then we do not have to live here anymore and you can be enrolled in high-school. But I want you to go to a different village-school now and start again with year four. I made enquiries in Herzfelde. The primary school in Herzfelde is much larger then the one in Lichtenow. So this is why I’ve enrolled you in Herzfelde.’
I went to Herzfelde Primary for three months only. By the end of January 1945 we had moved to Leipzig to stay with Grandma. All schooling had stopped by then. We felt more and more, that it was very close to the end of the war.
During the warmer months of 1944 we did a lot of athletics at the Lichtenow school. There was running, high-jump and long-jump. There was also an athletics’ carnival in which only students who were ten years or older were allowed to participate. I was not quite ten yet, but they let me join anyway. I was good at running for my age. In all the jumps I was just average.
I had plenty of opportunity to practise high-jump at home. Herr Todtenhausen and his brother, who was at the Ausbau for a visit, set up two poles with a line to jump over. The line could be set higher or lower. It was set very low for Eva Todtenhausen and for my brother Bodo. The Todtenhausen brothers were both quite good sportsmen and could still jump astonishingly high, even though they were both well over forty.
I often thought that the afternoons at the Ausbau were boring. What was there to do for me? Not much. When the weather was fine, I liked to go for walks, always wishing, that the landscape were not as dreary. I longed for a variety of trees and the view of a lake or a river.
During the colder season we had sometimes real terrible winds. On the way to the outside toilets we had to turn around the corner of the house to walk to the shedlike building at the back. You had to be quite brave to turn the corner, when that gusty wind was blowing, blowing, blowing. Winds like that were unknown to us in the city. Well, the Ausbau was in open country area after all.
We had a warm lunch when I came home from school at about one. And after that in the afternoon there was nothing to do! Maybe a bit of home-work here and there. But this certainly did not take all afternoon. When we had to stay in the playroom because of bad weather, I usually read a book. I loved reading. I was glad I could borrow books from Frau Todtenhausen. She had dozens of books for girls, which she had kept from her own childhood and which eight year old Eva was not able to read yet.
Naturally my two younger brothers and Eva and I sometimes played together as well as talking to each other. Still I missed all my friends from Berlin. In Berlin I was always surrounded by many different children. We all lived in the same street; it was easy to see each other on a daily basis.
One Thursday during the summer school-holidays Mum came home from Berlin with excellent news. ‘Guess what?’ she said ‘I saw Rosemarie today! She is going to stay in Berlin for a few weeks, and I asked her, would she like to come and stay with you at the Ausbau for one week. I could pick her up next Thursday and take her back to Berlin the following Thursday.’
I cried with delight: ‘Oh, Mum, that’s excellent! I love to have Rosemarie here for a visit!’
The visit took place as Mum had planned. Rosemarie and I went for lots of walks . We had so much to talk about that we hardly noticed, how dreary the landscape looked. Once we went into the direction where the lamps of the ‘Lampen-Engel’ were supposed to be. However we never saw any lamps.
I felt a bit jealous, that Rosemarie was allowed to stay in Berlin for a little while during school-holidays. I could never talk Mum into letting me stay in Berlin, not even for a day. Mum always said, that it was too dangerous since there could be bomb raids day-time or night-time. I was not to be put into danger. And that was it.
During that summer of 1944 I learned to swim. We had summer holidays. On a hot day Bodo and I went on our bikes some distance past the Lichtenow school to an artificial lake, which people called ‘Bruch’. It was possible to swim in it. Dozens of people were stretched out on some grass near the lake or frolicked in the water. I went in up to where the water reached my chest. Then I tried to lie on my tummy reaching out my hands to touch the ground. After a while, I noticed my hands had left the ground and I was swimming in the water! What a thrill that was! Being nearly ten I was finally able to swim. What an achievement! Bodo had stayed obediently in shallow water. I could not wait to go to him to share the great news with him.
I remember I had to wear an old two-piece swimsuit of my mother’s which she had sewn together for me. Later on in the year Mum found in a shop in Berlin a proper swimming costume for me which she was able to buy with some coupons. I was given that swimsuit for Christmas. It looked lovely. There were some little orange pictures of girls with bath-caps all over the costume.
The swimming costume was a perfect fit and I was fantasising how I would wear it the following summer. Unfortunately I was never able to wear it since it got lost during the upheaval of moving to Leipzig. —
Towards the end of January 1945, when we were about to leave the Ausbau, Mum, Tante Ilse, Frau Todtenhausen, as well as Katja and Maria were busy all night killing all our rabbits and chooks and preserving the whole lot in glasses. We ended up taking quite a few of those glasses to Leipzig, where miraculously they survived the total distruction of our house during a bomb raid in the pantry next to a very strong wall. Not one glass was shattered! I myself though was not able to eat any of the rabbit- or chicken-meat, since from early childhood on I’ve never been able to eat this kind of meat. …
Before we left the Ausbau, all the furniture in the house was pushed together as much as possible. Some beds had been dismantled already. But we children were meant to get some sleep in spite of all the commotion. I was put with Eva in one room. The two of us were much too excited to sleep. We kept ourselves awake for hours singing all the songs we knew. Eva taught me a few new songs which I had not known until then. Yet I still know them now. One song was a song from Tirol about some young men who go looking over the fence to see a girl, the one who looks after the cows.
Ja wenn wir schaun, schaun, schaun
übern Zaun, Zaun, Zaun,
in das schöne Land Tirol –
Ja dann freuet sich die Sennerin,
ja wenn wir schaun, schaun, schaun übern Zaun.
Ja wenn wir gucken, gucken, gucken
durch die Lucken, Lucken, Lucken,
in das schöne Land Tirol –
Ja dann freuet sich die Sennerin,
ja wenn wir gucken, gucken, durch die Lucken, Lucken, Lucken …
In my memory sticks a meeting with a woman on a small farm outside Lodz, which was called ‘Litzmannstadt’ at the time. One day Grandmother wanted to buy eggs from the farm where she had been buying eggs for years. She took me along for the ride in the Pferde-Droschke (horse drawn taxicab). I cannot remember any other time, when I was allowed to go out with her. So this was really something very special for me. I was thrilled, that Grandmother had chosen me to accompany her!
Grandmother greeted the farm-woman in a very friendly manner and proudly introduced me, saying: ‘This is my grand-daughter, She is here for a visit from Berlin.’ The woman seemed very happy to see my grandmother. With a big smile she greeted both of us. Grandmother did not enter the small farmhouse, but handed the woman her very large basket asking her to fill it up please. The woman left and soon returned with the basket full of lovely large hen-eggs, about thirty of them. Then the women talked a bit more.
The farm-woman enquired about Grandmother’s family. She seemed to know, that Grandmother had many children. ‘Did you receive the Silver Cross for having had six children?’ she wanted to know. And Grandmother replied:’I did indeed receive a Cross, but it is the Golden Cross for eight children. My first two children, that were twins,died in infancy. All my other six children are alive and well..’ At that the farm-woman looked admiringly at my Grandmother and uttered a few words of congratulations for having received the Golden Cross.
Come to think of it, this conversation must have happened in German, otherwise I could not have understood a word of it. To me this woman probably seemed just like any other German woman living in Poland.
The eggs were beautiful. One morning we had some of those large, fresh eggs as soft boiled eggs for breakfast. Grandfather was there and two of his sons, one of them being my father. Someone made a comment how good tasting those eggs were. This did it. Fresh good tasting eggs like this, they had to be from a farm, and probably from that farm, where Grandmother always used to buy her eggs.
My uncle put his napkin down. Then the inquisition started. ‘Mother, where did you get these eggs? Did you get them from those Jewish people on the farm, where you always used to buy your eggs?’
Grandmother answered defiantly: ‘Yes, this is where I bought them.’
Uncle looked around, first at Grandfather, then at my Father. ‘Help me out here,’ he said. ‘Am I hearing this right? Mother had no scruples whatsoever hiring a Pferde-Droschke to go out to that farm and buying produce from a Jewish woman? And the Polish coachman very likely bearing witness to all this! My goodness, Mother, don’t you realise, this could put you into jail? Your whole family could suffer because of this. Our factory might be taken away from us. Think about it, Mother! Just think about it for one moment. Do you want to jeopardise our whole future for a few eggs?’
Grandmother looked very upset. I had the feeling, she could not understand, how buying a few eggs from a farm was supposed to effect the future of the whole family in an adverse way. Then my Father started to speak up. ‘Look, Mother,’ he said, ‘You have to understand, we do not make the rules. The authorities do. Since there is this rule, that Germans are not allowed to buy anything from Jewish people, we better live up to this rule, because if we ignore it, it might cost us dearly. You do not want your own family to suffer hardship now, do you?’
Grandmother was shaking her head, being close to tears of frustration. Her eyes often looked a bit teary anyway. Then Father said: ‘All we want, is, that you promise us, that you will not under any circumstances go out to that farm again. Will you promise us that?’ Grandmother nodded. And that was that.
Grandfather, who normally was very talkative, had not said a word through all this.
Weeping softly, she says defiantly:
‘I bought the eggs from a Jewish woman.
So what? Are you going to kill me for it?
Aren’t I free to buy my eggs from whomever
I want to buy them from? What does it matter to you,
whether the eggs come from Jewish, Polish, Russian
or German hens? Tell me, what does it matter to you?’
( This is, what Grandmother actually never said, but what she may have felt like.)
6 thoughts on “Grandmother Hulda buys Eggs”
catterelEditThank you for this, Uta – so many people outside Germany could never understand how or why the ordinary folk often went along with the anti-semitic laws of the Third Reich. It’s easy to stand outside and criticise,,and say “they should have resisted”, but as your Uncle pointed out, when your livelihood is at stake, you think of yourself and your own family first. I’m not condoning this – just aware that “He who is without sin should throw the first stone.” It was one of the lessons I learnt from living in Germany.Reply
auntyutaEditThank you so much for commenting, Cat. Peter and I just finished watching a TV Movie from Germany. It shows the life of one (fictional) person from 1904 to 1997. This woman, Sonja, who was born in 1904, had family connections with the famous Hotel Adlon in Berlin. Her life was very much shaped by what went on in this hotel because for a great part of her life she was employed there. Because of Nazi interference she lost her daughter and the Jewish father of her daughter. The way the Nazis are depicted is truly mind boggling. I reckon there’s no excuse for behaviour like this. It’s good when people are made to think about this.Reply
aussieian2011EditThanks for sharing that rather sad yet interesting story, I think there must have been many such incidents back in those dark days. IanReply
auntyutaEditI saw a Jewish friend of mine being taken away in a truck. He was about ten and I was a few years younger. I cannot recall any other incidents. But you are right, Ian, there must have been many incidents. There was a synagogue not far from where we lived. I think it got burned in 1936 when I was only two. I cannot say for sure that I saw it burning. But I have this feeling I may have seen the flames from where I was sitting in my stroller!
I thought today about my grandmother’s life. She was German but lived for her whole life in Poland, up to January 1945 that is when she had to flee with her whole family to Germany In 1945 she would have turned 73. When she bought these eggs, that would probably have been in 1940 when I was not quite 6 yet and grandmother would have been close to 68. Oh, she seemed to be so very old to me!
At the time grandmother was still doing a lot of cooking for her whole extended family. As I remember it, she would spend a real lot of time in the kitchen where she was being helped by two young Polish girls. This brings me to the subject of home help. I want to write about this another time. Actually, I think about this constantly, why on earth the average elderly woman in our society is these days not in a position to have some home help, usually not until she is very feeble and can hardly do anything herself anyway.
In Grandmother’s family everybody spoke only German to each other. But everybody was also fluent in Polish, and some could also speak Russian. I remember Grandmother would speak to the Polish girls Polish, not German. This is why I could understand hardly anything!
When you go to this post that I republished today. you find that I wrote something about how Maria, our home help did learn German very well:
It says in the second last paragraph: “When Maria first came to live with us, she knew very little German. However she was determined to learn German quickly. She liked to ask Bodo and me how to pronounce certain words. She also asked me how to write those words in German. . . .”