Once more remembering 1943/1944

Having read once more a few of my blogs on childhood memories, I came to the conclusion, it might be best if I tried to put all these blogs about my childhood as ‘pages’ together in the one place, so I could find them more easily when I wanted to look something up. It would make it easier for my children too to read up on my childhood. For now I plan to first copy the relevant blogs. I’ll probably need a few days or weeks for this. As far as possible I might refrain from putting anything else in my posts. Just as well, for ‘news’ items, as far as politics are concerned, usually do not give me much pleasure. And personal news, well, I could probably catch up with them at a later stage.

At the moment I collect the childhood memories rather randomly. Here is one about remembering 1943/1944:

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 ground floor 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 T. Family, who lived on the ground floor, 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 ground floor, 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 T. 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. T. 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 among 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 Edith T. There was another room next to the playroom where Mrs. T.’s parents had stored some bedroom furniture. The parents were Mr. and Mrs. B. and 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 kerosene-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 M., 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 M. immediately did whatever he could to fulfill her wish. He spoiled 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 M. 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 these to go anywhere.

Occasionally we were invited to his place (which people called ‘Schloss’), Then he sent a coach with a coachman to pick us up. Once in winter when there was plenty of snow, Werner M. 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 M. 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 her first husband. It was obvious that Werner M. would have liked to marry Ilse. However, it never came to that. Tante Ilse married Onkel Peter aka Helmut L. on July 20th, 1944.

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It was a big thrill for me to go exploring among the furniture in that big storage-room, especially in the weeks before Christmas! Mum used to store lot of goodies during 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 Mrs.T. 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.

Mr.T. and Mrs.T., as well as Tante Ilse and Mum were all good friends. Every Saturday night they came together for some card games. Eight year old daughterEva and I were allowed to stay up late on those nights. For hours we were watching the adults playing cards. At the same time we entertained ourselves with doodling on bits of paper. At around ten o’clock some cake and hot chocolate as well as coffee were 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!

Mr.T. always stayed in Berlin during the week, where he worked in the business of his parents-in-law. Being over forty, he was not required to join the German army. Mr.T. always brought some sweet goodies along when he came home from Berlin for the weekend.

During the summer of 1944 Mr.T. 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 Mr.T. and Mum were a couple and we girls were sisters. Laughing joyfully, Mum and Mr.T. explained, that this was not so.

Only once as far as I remember were we shown into the lady’s home. Mr.T. 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 accommodation in the Ausbau. To us children it was always pointed out, to be happy that we did not have to live among 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 these 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, Mrs. T. delivered a healthy daughter in a regional hospital. The day after the baby was born, it may perhaps have been a Saturday or Sunday, Mr. T. 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 rather tiny. I think this is why she was soon called Krümel (tiny crumb). Her given name was Ruth. Eva had a pet-name too. She was often called Honkepong.

As soon as Mrs.T. came home from hospital, there was a nurse waiting for her to take charge of the baby. Mr.T. 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 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 brother Peter had just turned three. Yet he must have missed her 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 worked. Any dirty dishes were washed immediately. She was indeed capable of doing all the housework. 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 these 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. Mrs.T. 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 Katja 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.

I mentioned in this post our landlord, Werner M.  He is here in this picture which was taken by Mrs. T. on Christmas Eve 1943.

Werner M. is on the left, on the right is Mr. T.

Tante Ilse is next to Werner M. together with cousin Renate. I am in the back with my doll.

The children in front are Eva T. and my brother Bodo.

Next to Mr. T. is Mum and Grandma Olga (Mum’s mum) is on the left next to Werner M.

Christmas Eve 1943

I won’t copy the comments I received to this post, only my replies to them. If you want to see the comments, please go to: https://auntyuta.com/2013/06/02/childhood-memories-194344/

Here are my replies:

I experienced this country life nearly seventy years ago. It was very different from life in Berlin. Thanks for commenting, dear Catterel.

I hope some of my descendants are going to find it of interest, Robert.

Well, Emu, the memory can be quite shady. Some things we remember, some things we forget. We always seem to remember holiday times better than other times for instance. I think lots of things that have to do with how I felt at the time did get stuck in my memory. Maybe as a kid I didn’t often have a chance to really talk about my feelings. This is why I reflected a lot during the hours when I was by my lonely self. This reflecting came naturally to me. Nobody did give me instructions how to do it. When someone made a comment to me that stirred my feelings in some way, I would probably reflect on this comment for hours later on and never forget it. As a kid I seem to have analysed what sort of feelings certain persons gave me.
Auntyuta.

Towards the End of World War II

In Germany in 1944 no single unemployed woman was allowed to remain without a job. However married women with children were not obliged to work for the war effort. My cousin Renate in Leipzig was in her last year of high-school. After finishing high-school you would get the ‘Abitur’ qualifying you for university studies. Renate had to finish school half a year early. She did get only a ‘Not-Abitur’. She had to finish with this ‘Not-Abitur’ because she was required to work in a munitions factory.

 Aunty Ilse, being a single person, 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 work-paper to Mrs. Ilse S. He did this when he came home from work. When Aunty had finished the paper-work , he took everything 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 F. He was a smith by trade and worked for Werner M. – – A smith was always needed in a huge estate with lots of horses and farm equipment. Even though Herr F 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.

Mr. and Mrs. F, 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 Edith 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 Edith and Bodo in search of these 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 Edith and I went to. 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 at the time. 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. Mt. T 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 Edith and for Bob. The T 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 Mrs. T. She had dozens of books for girls, which she had kept from her own childhood and which eight year old Edith was not able to read yet.

Naturally my two younger brothers and Edith 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 Rose-Mary 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 Rose-Mary here for a visit!’

The visit took place as Mum had planned. Rose-Mary 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 Rose-Mary 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, Aunty Ilse and Mrs. T 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 these 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 at 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 Edith 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. Edith 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 …

A Lucky Escape


My Family’s Reaction

After reading my account regarding the lucky escape from the bombs in 1945, two of my grand-children had a few questions. One asked, whether there had been a lot of noise, when the bombs came down, the other one wanted to know, which song little Peter had been singing, when we were bombed. And had the lights gone off?
Well, we always had some candles handy, in case the lights would go out. On this occasion for sure the lights all went out instantly. The noise was horrifying as the bombs hit us. It was such a terrific noise  that nobody could be in any doubt, our house had been hit this time. In the quiet that followed and before people started to move around to look for an escape, they did light a few candles.
Five bombs  had hit our building in quick succession. Immediately afterwards it was absolutely quiet. That meant, there were no more planes in the air. What if the last plane, that was around, just had to get rid of the last five bombs before flying back to follow  the other planes who were on their way back already?
As far as little Peter’s song is concerned, I think it was probably the song about little Jack who wanders off into the world and his tearful mother stays behind. After seven years the boy thinks of his mother and very quickly runs back home.

 For people who can read a bit of German,  here is the text
for the song about little Jack (Haenschen Klein):

 Haenschen Klein, geht allein, in die weite Welt hinein.
Stock und Hut stehn ihm gut, er ist wohlgemut.
Aber Mama weinet sehr, hat ja nun kein Haenschen mehr.
Wuensch dir Glueck, sagt ihr Blick, kehr nur bald zurueck.

 Sieben Jahr,  frisch und klar, Haenschen in der Fremde war.
Da besinnt sich das Kind, kehrt nach Haus geschwind.

              Five Bombs have to be dropped

“Damned, the chute is jammed!”
“Hurry up,  hurry up, we must go back!”

Finally the bombs are released: All five of them are dropped close together  in a residential area. The plane with three men on board  follows the other planes.  It is April 1945. Today most bombers make  it safely back to England. It is their lucky day.
The five bombs hit a house in Sophien Strasse in Leipzig. They ripped apart a solidly built five story residential building.The whole building is completely gone, except for the groundfloor: Bits and pieces of the ground-floor are still standing! Even some completely undamaged furniture can be seen somewhere on the ground-floor.

The rest is just loads of rubble near the road in the front and also in the back.  Where the entrance to the building used to be, there is just an immense heap of debris. It looks like nobody would have come out from under there, if this is where the entrance to the people’s air-raid shelter had been.

Miraculously everyone did come out from under all that debris. The cellar-rooms were not damaged at all. One of the cellar-rooms had a window out to the street, which was not blocked at all and people were able to get out through there.

A lucky escape indeed.