Some more Toddler Photos from the 1930s

Mum kept a big photo album with pictures of me. Growing up, I always liked to look at all these pictures. However, I remember distinctly that the following pictures annoyed me quite a bit. I felt awful that the pictures showed me being so very plump! When I was told I looked ‘cute’ I tended not to believe it. I was self conscious at an early age and mostly didn’t feel ‘cute’ at all. I still often don’t like my picture taken because I think I might look awful!

The adults in the pictures are my Mum, Aunty Elsa (Ilse) and Uncle Adi. The little dog belonged to Aunty and Uncle.

Childhood Memories

Mirrors

The little girl watches her Mum and her Auntie, who both sit in front of the mirrors in Auntie’s bedroom. The room smells of lovely perfumes and lotions. The women are dressed in identical light grey suits. The younger woman is the girl’s mother, the slightly older looking one is the mother’s sister.

The girl thinks, that Auntie is the more beautiful looking woman with her very long curly hair. In the three way mirrors the girl can watch how Auntie brushes her hair. Her chestnut-coloured hair is very strong and long. Auntie is brushing it slightly back so it stays behind her ears, showing off her very long blue earrings.

Oh, I love these blue earrings, thinks the girl. How beautiful they look on Auntie’s ears! Mum does not wear any earrings, because her ears are covered by her hair. Mum’s brown hair is very fine and much shorter than Auntie’s. So is my hair: Very fine and short! thinks the girl. She wishes she could wear her hair longer!

Both women wear identical three big rolls of hair horizontally on top of their heads. The front rolls cover the top of their foreheads, the other two rolls are rolled along behind the front roll. With their suits the women wear identical light pink angora wool tops. The girl watches how the women check that the three rolls are set in the right position. Then they spray each other’s rolls with a lot of hairspray. They both look into the mirrors, smilingly. They are very pleased with the way they look and the little girl is pleased with them.

(I was that little girl in the mirror story!)

In the little picture Auntie Ilse wears some long earrings which I admired so much as a little girl. In the other picture Mum’s three rolls on top of her head are seen to perfection! I’m fourteen in the picture and I’m happy my hair is nice long. My brothers in the picture are ten and seven.

…….

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Mum called me often ‘Mausel’ or ‘Mauselchen’, whereas Auntie liked to call me ‘Herzchen’ or ‘Liebling’. Dad sometimes said ‘Herzel’ to me, but he usually called me by my name.

Mausel is derived from ‘Maus’ (mouse)

Herzchen is derived from Herz (heart)

Liebling means Darling

Herzel of course also means heart

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My best Friend

From an early age on Cordula was my best friend. Her mum told me one day that in Latin her name meant ‘heart’, but not to tell anyone: Some children might make fun of the name! I did not want anyone to make fun of my friend. So I promised myself to keep the meaning of the name to myself.

In 1939, the year after my brother Bodo was born, Cordula had a little brother, who was given a name which according to Mum was very odd . His name was Tilwin. It turned out he grew up with very bright red hair. The children in the street teased him about his hair. Of course, Cordula would stand up for her brother as much as possible. For the most part I think Tilwin avoided playing with other children. However the children in the street still made rude remarks about his odd hair colour.

The apartment of Cordula’s family was above our third floor apartment, just two floors further up. I often went there by myself to play with Cordula. The family had a ‘roof-garden’ (Dach-Garten) above their apartment. It was about the size of their living-room, enclosed by walls and open to the sky. I remember how the sun came right into it. The floor was concrete and along the walls were garden-beds . Cordula was allowed to look after her own little garden-bed.. Once Cordula’s mum let me have a portion of a little garden-bed too! Cordula’s Mum and Dad were always kind to me. They made me feel welcome and included.

The Lepsius family had food that no other family had. For snacks we children were often given some kind of brown flakes and raisins. Sometimes we were given dates or figs. I loved this food! Mum thought it was strange to eat such things. In Mum’s opinion the Lepsius family was quite odd because they had lived in the Middle East for a while. Cordula’s father was an architect. Mum called him ‘the Hunger Architect’ (Hungerleider) since he seemed to get hardly any work in his profession.

The Lepsius apartment was sparsely furnished . There were a great number of shelves stacked full with books. These shelves went from floor to ceiling. Mr. Lepsius sometimes showed us books with colourful illustrations. He also told us stories. We loved one story in particular which had a funny ending. We demanded to be told this story again and again. Each time we laughed our heads off and Mr.Lepsius laughed with us. The story was about a beggar who knocked at the door of an apartment. A beautiful maid opened the door. Some time later the beggar knocked at another door in the neighbouring building. And the same beautiful maid opened the door! We found the astonishment of the beggar very funny. Mr. Lepsius explained to us, that the family had two connecting apartments across two buildings; that is, the wall between the buildings had been broken through to connect the apartments on that floor. This was actually where the family of Herr Lepsius had lived, when he was a boy.

Mr. Lepsius was old and bald. He was about twenty years older then his wife. Quite a few years later Cordula and I went to the same high-school, and we would always walk to school together. One morning I went up the stairs to see why Cordula hadn’t come down yet to go to school with me. I rang the bell. Mrs. Lepsius opened the door. She was in tears. She did not let me come in but went with me to the top of the stairs. She said: Our father just died; I haven’t even told Cordula yet. She looked at me with despair in her face and I did not know what to say. She hugged me and then she disappeared in her apartment.

……

At age thirteen my best friends were Cordula and Liselotte. We had formed a ‘circle’ and met each other several times a week. None of us had a boy-friend. That does not mean that we didn’t talk about what it would be like to experience romance. We felt talking about it was exciting.

One afternoon the three of us had our picture taken at a photographer’s. I still have this picture. Looking at this picture brings back memories how much at ease I felt then. Yet this Threesome lasted for a short time only. Cordula had already lost her Dad. All of a sudden her Mum died too. How upsetting for her! She moved away to live with her aunts in West-Germany. The departure happened so quickly that there wasn’t time to say good-buy. I felt shocked about it. Yet I sensed that there had been a need for the sudden departure.

The blockade of West- Berlin followed and I was air-lifted to West-Germany to live with Dad and Aunty Lies and her family. When I returned to Berlin I had no idea how Liselotte (Lilo) was doing because we had completely lost touch. She had left school in the meantime to take up a job. Quite by chance I once noticed her walking along the street arm in arm with a boy-friend. I cannot recall what she wore, but she looked very grown up to me. I never thought of approaching her.

I continued going to the same girls’ high-school. Many girls in my class were talking about their boy-friends. I did not have a boy-friend and did not have a clue, how on earth I could ever get to know some-one from the opposite sex. I stuck to day-dreaming. In my mind I fantasised about romantic meetings: I loved making up conversations with an interesting young man!

I had hardly any money to spend on clothes or make-up. I felt very inferior to other girls, who all seemed to be better off.

Uta and her friends 1947

I liked to keep my hair long and just a little bit permed. I was astonished and gratified when a girl in my class said she liked my hair-style. </p

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Some of today’s writing is reblogged and I did a bit of editing with it. I thought these different parts make sense if I put them together. Well, it’s writing by trial and error. I want to see whether it makes sense to any one. I’d love to get some input. Would this writing be of any interest to my descendants?

A Job at last

A Job at last

Mum had been caught buying bread for us in the Eastern Sector of Berlin. For this offence the GDR Authorities put her into jail. When she came back home after having been incarcerated for about a week, she was full of beans. She regarded it as a big joke, that she had been jailed for buying a loaf of bread for her children!

The GDR law was that West-Berliners were not allowed to buy anything with East-Marks. In East-Berlin there were special shops for West-Berliners, were they could buy everything with West-Marks. One West-Mark was worth four East-Marks.. This was the official exchange rate! It was therefore very tempting for Mum to change her West-Marks into East-Marks and go shopping in the Eastern Sector as though she was a DDR citizen. Bad luck, that she was caught doing so. She did not feel guilty for trying to buy some low priced food for her children. Wouldn’t any mother do that?

Be that as it may, my brothers and I had to cope for one week without Mum. Tante Ilse, Mum’s sister, who lived across the road, saw to it that we were doing all right. Her husband, Uncle Peter, thought it was hilarious, that our Mum was in jail. He said: “What if somebody asks me ‘and how is your sister-in-law?’ shall I answer, ‘oh, she just happens to be in jail for a little while’ ?” For Uncle Peter it was somehow unimaginable, that anyone in his family should end up in jail. It was something just never heard of.

It so happens, that during Mum’s absence I did get my job at the FLEUROP Clearing House in Lichterfelde. The Boss, Herr Liebach, was not concerned that I wanted to leave Commercial College before doing final exams.

He said: “To me it is not important, whether you did the exams or whether you’ve done any University study. There are some University students who would be absolutely useless in our line of business. I judge myself, whether a person can be trained to do the sort of work that is required here. For instance, if someone is moving very slowly and takes ages to get a certain file from the shelf, for a person like that I have no use whatsoever. If you start here, you start from the bottom. You have to go through all the different departments, so that you are well aware of what everyone does. Then my secretary is going to start giving you dictations. If you’re good in stenography and typing and are able to produce business-letters ready for posting, you may end up here as a stenographer/typist.

He went on: ‘The first three months are a trial period. You start with a monthly salary of sixty Deutschmark. If you do well, your salary goes up a little each month. After the trial period you may get the chance to be fully employed with a fourteen months salary per year. The two months extra salary are for Christmas and for your two weeks holidays.Later on you may get three weeks holidays per year. We have a forty-eight hour week, working from 7,30 am to 4,45 pm. Saturdays we finish at one o’clock

When Tante Ilse heard about the low starting salary, she was up in arms. ‘What is that?’ she said. ‘This guy wants to pay you so little? You know what is on his mind? He wants to get you into bed! This is what he is after, I tell you.’

Good Tante Ilse. I don’t know what got into her. I was sure, Herr Liebach wasn’t like this. And the low salary, I didn’t mind that at all, as long as I could start there and did get some training along the way.

However when Mum was back home and heard I was only going to get sixty Mark monthly, she said immediately that I could not work for so little, because I would have to give her thirty Mark monthly. This was how much she got as student support for me as long as I went to school. She depended on this money. I said I was definitely going to give her these thirty Marks. ‘And what about train-fare?’ Mum said. ‘You need money for the S-Bahn when you have to go to Licherfelde!’ – ‘Never mind, Mum,’ I said, ‘I can pay for that out of my salary too. Most likely my salary’s going to go up soon anyway. So don’t worry. I really want to have this job.’

Memories 1955 to 1959

In January 1956 I left Berlin to stay with my father. I stayed with him in Düsseldorf for three months only.

In April I returned to Berlin. Peter was unemployed at the time. I went to see the boss at FLEUROP to ask him for my job back. I felt great relief when he agreed to employ me once more.

From then on Peter and I saw each other on a daily basis. He usually waited for me outside FLEUROP at a quarter to five when my working day finished. Then we walked together all the way to where he lived, which took the best part of an hour. We had worked out, that we could have a meal together for five Marks and a bit. People told us a meal for two cost much more than this. We proved them wrong. We ate well and stayed within our budget. Amazing!

It did not take us long to come up with the idea to live together. We thought it would be terrific, if we could rent a room for the two of us. So we looked at rooms for rent. Disaster! Whatever made us think, anybody would take us in as a couple unless we were married? Like it or not, I had to stay at my Mum’s place in that tiny room which used to be the maid’s room; and Peter had to stay on his mother’s sofa.

In the summer of 1956 I looked for a place of my own again. Peter had gone to West-Germany to take up work in a coalmine. The previous year, when I had left home for the first time, I had rented a very tiny room. I had been nearly twenty-one then A year later, I ventured into the suburbs close to where my place of work was. The room for rent was a very large one in a single story house. The land-lady was very welcoming. She asked me, would I mind if her other lodger, who was a music student, was practicing her singing. I said, I wouldn’t mind that at all. This made the landlady happy, because she sponsored this student girl, who was only about seventeen and was happy to sleep on a small sofa in the kitchen. However, in the large living-rooms there was a grand piano which the girl could make use of. The landlady said to me, that there was a garden with a gazebo at the back and I could reach it from my room since my room had French doors to the garden. I said I liked this very much. Soon I felt quite at home in my new surroundings. But I missed Peter. Sometimes I sat in the gazebo reading his letters. He still worked in the coalmines of Meiderich, from where he wrote me daily . I tried to answer his letters promptly for I knew he was always waiting for an answer.

Peter returned to Berlin in November and we got married in December. Eight months later Gabriele was born. When she was born, we lived at Tante Ilse’s place. I got several weeks paid maternity leave. When I had to go back to work, Tante Ilse looked after our baby girl. Tante Ilse called her ‘Princess’ and looked after her as a mother would. When the sun was out, she liked to push Gaby’s cot out onto the balcony. She found it hard, to let me and Peter take over when we came home from work. To her Gaby must have been the baby she was never able to have herself. I remembered, how she loved to spend time with me when I was little. She tought me how to tie my shoe-laces. A lot of my toys were gifts from her. She felt like a mother to me.

Since the day we were married, Peter had employment in the dispatching department of a magazine. When it got very busy and certain deadlines were approaching, he was required to stay longer, sometimes even right through the night. I think, Peter did not mind that very much because he found the job interesting and challenging. Once he had to work continuously for twenty-four hours! That was at a time, when we had just been married and I had no idea, he might have to work longer. When he did not come home, I got very worried. I waited and waited. After a few hours I went down to a phone-booth and rang the office. I think the boss himself answered the phone. He told me about the overtime. Later on the whole office kept joking about it, how Peter’s newly married wife had to ring to find out about the overtime. Peter did then get explicit instructions to always ring me when he had to work longer. And the boss then got into the habit of asking him: ‘Did you ring your wife? Sorry, just wanted to make sure!’ Actually Peter had to remember to ring me at FLEUROP during office hours. There was no phone where we lived.

On the day we married we had moved to a room which was just a bedroom and extremely cold. There was a tall ‘Kachelofen” (tiled stove), which could be heated with wood and coal. The problem for us was, to buy coal you had to be registered, and we had not been registered long enough! For buying wood, you didn’t have to be registered. So we bought some of that. And the very kind store-owner, who sensed our plight, let us have a few ‘Briquettes’ of coal.

That winter the outside temperature dropped to minus fourteen Celsius or thereabouts. In our bedroom it must often have been close to freezing point. It was really, really cold! No wonder we longed to go to a warmer country such as Australia!

In Februar 1957 Tante Ilse became aware of our plight and invited us to stay with her in her apartment. Onkel Peter had left for the USA to get some military training in Florida. Tante Ilse said, she would be glad of our company and we would be very welcome to stay with her. I think, Tante Ilse was the first person, apart from Peter, who suspected that I might be pregnant. My father inquired about a possible pregnancy when we visited him over Easter.

After his training in Florida, Onkel Peter was received into the German Bundeswehr. He had to move to a Northern town of Western Germany. By the end of the year, Tante Ilse wanted to move there as well. Unfortunately we could not afford to take over her apartment in Berlin: It was too expensive for us! If you wanted to take over an apartment, you had to show, that you could afford the rent. Once you have won the rights to rent a certain place, you were allowed to sublet. It was such a pity that we could not afford the apartment!

My father wrote us, we could all stay with him, because his lodger was about to move out anyway, which made a room free for us. We were grateful for my father’s offer. In November, Peter left for Düsseldorf, where he found himself a job, which he started in January the following year.

Beginning of December 1957

Moving from Berlin to Düsseldorf

and sixteen months later to Australia

The train took us through the German Democratic Republic and then all the way to Düsseldorf. At the border our passports were inspected by the Volks-Polizei (People’s police). There were a lot of East-German people on board, because the train was an East-German ‘Interzonenzug’.

We were able to buy food and drinks in the dining-car. However we had to pay with West-Marks. If you were able to proof, that you were a GDR citizen, they let you do purchases with East-Marks. There was an East-German family in the compartment with us. The husband went to buy beer with East-Marks. When he came back, he offered to buy beer for us with his East-Marks. He said, he was willing to sell it to us for half the price of West-Marks that we would otherwise have to pay for it. Peter took up the offer. Luckily the VOPOs did not catch up on to that, otherwise we could have ended up in jail!

Peter had come back to Berlin to say goodbye to the family and to take me and Gaby to Düsseldorf. We boarded the overnight train. As far as I remember, Gaby was a very good baby and settled in well for the night. We even coped with the nappy business rather well. In those days disposible nappies were unheard of.

When, sixteen months later, we were on the boat to Australia with twenty months old Gaby and five months old Monika, we gave all the cotton nappies to our steward to take them to the laundry service. We were barely able to afford this nappy service. Yet we were not allowed to wash the nappies ourselves, even though there was a laundry provided for general use. Anyhow, the nappy service worked well for us. Luckily everything else on the voyage was free for us!

 Our Life in Düsseldorf

 In Düsseldorf Peter worked in a dispatching job once more. As a dispatcher he was on a monthly salary. The government provided two different medical insurances: One was for people on monthly salaries, the other one for people on weekly wages. Since Peter belonged to the insurance for salaried people, I, as his wife, could see with my second pregnancy a gynocologist, wo would not have accepted me as a patient, had I been in the other insurance. This gynocologist had very posh offices and I never had to pay for anything. Everything was paid for by the insurance. After the delivery they made me stay in hospital for nearly a week. This did not cost anything either.

For the time I was in hospital some very kind nuns looked after Gaby. They charged very little for that. When the weekend came and Peter was off work, he took Gaby home. I think he took a few days off after the weekend, so he could help me with the babies when I came home from hospital. I did not stay in hospital for a whole week. I insisted they let me go home early, since I felt all right to do so. The previous year, when I had Gaby, the policy of the hospital in Berlin had been to let mothers stay in hospital for ten days after a delivery.

Peter’s work was extremely low paid work. But we did not mind that. We lived rentfree and did not need to spend much on clothes. Food we could buy at a discount price just around the corner. My father loved to spend time with Gaby who became a very lively little girl. On Saturdays, when the babies were already asleep, Peter and I would go to a movie session. And Vati (my father) stayed behind, wishing us a good night. When we were very careful with the grocery purchases, we usually had enough money left for the movies, also to buy films for our camera, get them developed and pictures printed.

Memories from my Teenage-Years

I was seventeen, when a nineteen year old guy, who was in his final year of schooling, showed an interest in me. The way he talked and looked at me, I could not help but fall in love with him! We were friends for a few weeks, when my mother found out, his father owned a small flower-shop. In my mother’s eyes this made him some-one of very low standing and definitely not suited for me as a companion. My mother decided, she wanted to see the father in his flower-shop and made me go along with her.

The flower-shop turned out to be very small indeed. The whole family was gathered in the shop, when we arrived. There was the congenial looking father, who was of small stature. The mother was a tallish woman. I imagined her to be very resolute and practical in every way. I knew, that she was my friend’s step-mother. His mother had died, when he had been at a very young age. He had shown me a picture of her. He did remember her quite well and missed her very much! The photo showed a young, extremely friendly and beautiful looking woman. I could understand, how a boy would be fascinated by those soft features. The step-mother turned out to have rather harsh features. There was also a step-sister, a spindly looking girl of about ten. When she heard, what was going on, she said full of ‘Schadenfreude’: ‘Ah. so W . . . .    has been telling fibs again!’

Then W was called out. When he appeared from behind the shop, he looked small and embarassed, letting his head hang from having a bad conscience. I felt very embarrassed for him. Talking to the father, my mother made sure, that we two young people were never allowed to see each other again. The father said a few soothing words to me, trying to comfort me. He urged me, that it was for the best, if I listened to my mother.

I trotted back home with Mum, feeling very, very sad indeed. For the next few months my only friend remained my schoolfriend E H. Her father was Dr. H. He was a boss at TELEFUNKEN, E lived around the corner and I was allowed to visit her at night-time, whenever I felt like it. I also went on a few outings with her.

 A few months later, aged eighteen, I started work. Then in the spring of 1953 I met another guy, who I thought was very likeable indeed. When a year had passed, since I had seen W, I met him once more. He had done his ‘Abitur’ in the meantime and found employment in some office near Kurfürstendamm. He was telling me about Fax- machines, which he had to use.

When I told him about my new friend, he must have sensed, that I was not really interested in a friendship with him anymore, feeling already too attached to the other guy. We parted as good friends. However we agreed, it would be interesting to see each other again at the same place, which was the Bayrischer Platz, exactly ten years later, on the 30th June 1963. But by that time I was already married with three children and living in Australia. Needless to say, I never saw him again.

                                                        ———————–

I left high-school at intermediate level in the summer of 1950. Thereafter I lost contact with all my girl-friends, who went on to high-school to the end of year thirteen to get the ‘Abitur’, which would qualify them for university entrance. My choice was to continue higher education at a commercial school, which hopefully would qualify me for a secretarial position.

The best thing at that school was, that we read Goethe’s Faust. I was therefore able to get good marks in German. English was a good subject for me too. However in all the commercial subjects I was extremely unsatisfactory.

One day our class-teacher, Herr Gluschke, had had enough and talked to me under four eyes. ‘How come ‘, he said, ‘that you are good in all subjects, the other teachers teach, and in all the subjects that I teach, you’re far from good?’

What did I answer? Did I say, that the other subjects interested me more? Did I tell him, I found it hard to work anything out on a counting machine because I felt I needed a lot more practice on it? Or that I had problems remembering the required wording in answer to a set question, when we were not allowed to take notes in his classes and when we had no books whatsoever on the subjects he was teaching? I don’t know, what I answered him.

No wonder I was dead scared of the final exams. Rather than finish the second year of commercial schooling, I applied for a job which would enable me to get familiar with secretarial work. I looked up advertised jobs. In one of the ads they offered two beginners’ jobs for office work. Later I found out, that there were ninety-five applicants for these two very lowly paid jobs! And I was the extremely lucky person, who ended up with one of the two jobs!

Herr Gluschke, on hearing that I wanted to leave school and start working, happily wished me all the best for the future! I started work in the clearing house of FLEUROP/INTERFLORA on the second of January 1953 and stayed with that company for the best part of five years.

At the commercial school I had made only one close friendl: E H. And E did not finish school either. Her father, who was an executive at TELEFUNKEN, had seen to it, that she could start work for TELEFUNKEN in Spain.

Apart from some commercial English, we had also learned a bit of commercial Spanish at school, which came in handy for E. Of course in Spain it did not take her long to speak and write Spanish fluently. She became friends with a Spanish guy called Jesus. So E stayed on in Spain and I missed her. We kept writing each other for a while. I also saw her, when she came back to Berlin to visit her parents.

I also missed that guy, who’s father owned a small flower-shop. He had been telling me such wonderful stories! He also played songs on the piano. I loved it when he played the song about the lonely soldier at the river Wolga. He also knew some naughty songs. But I told him, I wasn’t so keen on those. He accepted that gracefully.

His name was W .  . .. I called him ‘Wölfi’: he called me ‘Schäfchen’. Schäfchen means ‘little sheep’. Of course, he only called me that, when no-one else was around. ‘Schäfchen’, he said it lovingly and understandingly, and I didn’t object! I must say, as compared to him, I really felt like a ‘Schäfchen’. He told me, he earned some pocket money as a piano-player in night-bars. So he must have been well aware of what was going on at night-time in a big city.

 Students in their final year of high-school, that is the thirteenth year of schooling (after having started at around six), those students in their final year were called ‘Abiturienten’. So W was an ‘Abiturient’, when I met him at a Spanish evening class. I had joined that class of the Workers’ Education to catch up on Spanish, for I felt the few hours of schooling at my school were not sufficent to get a proper footing in the language. Come to think of it, there would not have been a reason for W to join that class, for Spanish was not required at his school. He was interested in travel though. Maybe that is why he wanted to learn some Spanish.

It was the spring of 1952 I was seventeen and a half at the time and W was nineteen. When I told him, I had already learned a bit of Spanish at school, he asked me, could I help him with his Spanish. This showed me, that he was interested in getting to know me. He was allowed to visit me at my home. We still had a piano at the time. I loved it, when he played the piano.

Sunday nights I was supposed to sell news-papers. One Sunday night I skipped it, because I wanted to stay with W. That was a mistake, because Mum found out about it. She was outraged about my behaviour and started making inquiries about him. Something did not seem right to her. She had begun to smell a rat! And yes, she was right. W had been telling me and Mum quite a lot of fibs, For one, he did not want to admit, that his father was only a small shopkeeper. He thought, if Frau Dr. Spickermann knew about that, she would never agree to her daughter going out with him! So he told us stories about a rich aunt, who was his patron and who took him on travels to Italy and America. It was of course all phantasy! Naturally Mum thought, he could not be trusted anymore. There was not a thing in the world I could have done to change her mind. I still had feelings for him, but I had to suppress them.

I had started selling Sunday night newspapers at age fifteen. I needed a special permission from the police to do it, since fifteen year olds were not supposed to work late at night. But since I was nearly sixteen and looked much older anyway, I had no problem in getting permission to do it. I had to sell ‘Die Nachtausgabe des Montags-Echos’ (the night-edition of the Monday-Echo). It earned me a bit of pocket-money. Occasionally people would think I was a university student who was badly in need of money. These people would give me a generous tip, sometimes a five Mark note! Once a class-mate saw me selling papers in front of a cinema. I felt extremely embarassed that my class-mate had seen me selling papers. It was not the done thing for school-students to sell papers. University-students did it all the time, but not school-students.

When I started office work later on, I was paid an extremely low salary, Never the less, from then on I quit selling papers.

Pictures from 1938

My brother Bodo was born on the 9th of June 1938. I remember waking up in the morning and being told by Auntie Elsa that I have a little brother –  ‘ein Brüderchen’. He was beautiful! I saw him lying in his cot in my parents’ bedroom.I was overjoyed that this was my brother!

That same month my Dad’s father came to visit. Uncle Adi and Aunty Elsa drove Grandad, Dad and me to the Olympic Stadium  in their huge car. There were some pictures taken in the big square in front of the stadium. I look so very happy walking along with Grandad. Mum didn’t come along with us on that day because she had to stay with little Bodo. I think she kept still to her bed at the time. So it must have been soon after Bodo’s birth which was a planned home-birth. For years to come Aunty Elsa would talk a lot about it how it eventuated. She said coming home from seeing a movie at the cinema she noticed a hanky that had been placed on our balcony so it could be seen from the street. This was the sign, that the delivery of the baby had started and Aunty Elsa got very excited and rushed up to be with her sister. Apparently a midwife had been on call all the time and the delivery went on very smoothly. I never did get disturbed by it and must have been sleeping right through the night in the neighbouring room!

We already had a telephone at the time. To this day I remember our number! I was allowed to answer the phone. I was told to say: ‘Hier bei Dr. Spickermann!’ when answering the phone.

The picture with me beside Mum’s bed looking at Bodo in Mum’s arms shows that my parents’ beds had been seperated for the delivery of the baby. Normally these two beds would have been close together.

A few months later we had another visitor to Berlin: My cousin Ursula. The picture which was taken on our balcony shows Ursula holding little Bodo and me looking on.

And for good measure I’m going to add a picture of Grandfather and Grandmother from 1934 when I was a little baby.

The Beach at Graal/Müritz

During the summer of 1940 we were on holidays at the Baltic Sea. We had rented a small cottage. Auntie Ilse was staying with Mum, little Bodo and me most of the time. Our maid Gertrud was with us too. Dad worked during the week in Berlin and came to Graal only on weekends.

Two year old Bodo must have already been quite a walker. I remember that Dad took us for walks in the nearby forest where we would be looking for blueberries. These berries were quite delicious. We would eat them for supper with some sugar and milk.

The beach was not far from our cottage. We went there every day. A photographer had a shop close by. During the day he often took pictures of people on the beach. The following day he displayed the pictures in front of his shop ready for sale. I think people did not order to have their pictures taken. They bought them only if they happened to like them.

In my files I have two of these pictures. They are more than seventy years old now. I was reminded of these pictures when we went to an Australian beach the other day. In one of these old pictures you can see my father with my mother and Auntie Ilse. The women sit in their ‘Strandkorb’. These ‘Strandkörbe’ are very popular on all German beaches. They are popular still to this day. They are a good wind shelter. I think people usually place them in such a way that they can catch the sun. Mum and Auntie Ilse were always proud of their suntan.

Ute mit Bodo Graal Mueritz Sommer 1940

The other photo shows me with Bodo,  my little brother.

Childhood Memories

              The Spickermann Family and Uncle Alfred

Mum used to say: ‘Everyone in the Spickermann Family is useless except for one, and that is Grandfather. He is the only one who works hard and has achieved something. Everyone else in the family just likes to laze about, talking stupid things and not doing any work.’

I also remember Grandfather Joseph saying of my mother: ‘Lotte is a very good worker. Oleg should be very grateful for having such a good looking and hard working, smart wife.’

For Grandmother Hilda my Mum had absolutely no kind word. She thought that Grandmother should make a bit of an effort to keep up with Grandfather. And why could she not look after her appearance a bit better? Surely with the position that Grandfather held, she should attempt to be a bit more representative looking! Instead she let herself go and was just a housewife and mother. And why for heaven’s sake did she have to spend all morning in the kitchen when she had two maids to do the cooking for her!

I cannot remember whether Mum ever commented on the competency of Dad’s younger sister Lies, who single handedly would manage a large estate when her husband Alfred had had once again too much to drink and needed some time off for recovery. I seem to remember that in a way she admired Alfred for always being able to recover after some extensive drinking bouts. He was a very tall, strong man. Mum said: ‘He could drink a real lot before adverse health effects were noticeable. Then, when he felt he could not go on any longer, he stopped drinking altogether and lived for a while just on milk until he felt all right again.’

I remember several Spickermanns debating the tough fate their sister Lies had to suffer. How Alfred’s drinking habits effected the children, especially the eldest son Horst. All this happened when the Spickermann Family still lived in Lodz, which was called Litzmannstadt at the time. Horst would have been less than nine years old then.

As far as I know, Alfred ended up in the army before the end of the war. After the war he often talked about it how well he had been treated as a prisoner on the Island of Guernsey. He kept saying what a good life he had had on this island. It sticks in my memory that the family used to say of him being somewhat ‘anglophil’. When I heard this, I was wondering why on earth they called him this. I think I had enquired about the meaning of the word ‘anglophil’. I thought by myself why anyone could imply there might be something wrong with liking the English ways. I think I always was interested in the way other people lived. I am sure I could very well empathise with someone believing that the German way was not the only way worth living! Why shouldn’t you be able to like aspects of some other culture? It seems to me that this kind of thinking I must have developed rather early.

When Peter and I went on our first visit back to Germany, we saw Auntie Lies and Uncle Alfred, who were both in good health. Alfred died one year later at the age of ninety! Having cut down on his drinking in his later years, he none the less still enjoyed drinking a bottle of wine each day right to the end of his life.

Childhood Memories

                               Mirrors

The little girl watches her Mum and her Auntie. They both sit in front of the mirrors in Auntie’s bedrroom. The room smells of lovely perfumes and lotions. The women are dressed in identical light grey suits. The younger woman is the girl’s mother, the slighlty older looking woman is obviously the mother’s sister.

The girl thinks, that Auntie is the more beautiful looking woman with her very long curly hair. In the three way mirrors the girl can watch how Auntie brushes her hair. Her chestnut-coloured hair is very strong and long. Auntie is brushing it slighly back so it stays behind her ears and her very long blue earrings are in full view. Oh, I love those blue earrings, thinks the girl. How beautiful they look on Auntie’s ears! Mum does not wear any earrings, because her ears are covered by her hair. Mum’s brown hair is very fine and much shorter than Auntie’s. My hair is rather fine too as well as quite short, thinks the girl. She wishes she could wear her hair longer!

Both women wear identical three big rolls of hair horizontally on top of their heads. The front rolls cover the top of their foreheads, the other two rolls are rolled along behind the front roll. With their suits the women wear identical light pink angora wool tops. The girl watches how the women check that the three rolls are set in the right position. Then they spray each other’s rolls with a lot of hairspray. They both look into the mirrors, smilingly. They are very pleased with the way they look and the little girl is pleased with them.

                                                              ———-

I was that little girl in the mirror story. Mum called me often ‘MAUSEL’ or ‘Mauselchen’, whereas Auntie liked to call me ‘HERZCHEN’ or ‘LIEBLING’. Dad sometimes said ‘HERZEL’ to me, but he usually called me by my name.

My best friend’s Mum told me one day, that my friend’s name meant ‘heart’ in the Latin language, but not to tell anyone otherwise some children would make fun of the name. I did not want any-one to make fun of my friend. So I promised myself to keep the meaning of the name to myself. I’ll call my friend here just ‘CORL’. It’s a short form of her real name and the L stands for her surname.

The year after my brother BOB was born, Corl had a little brother, who was given a name which my Mum called extremely ‘odd’. I’ll call him just TL here. It turned out he grew up with very bright red hair. The children in the street teased him about his hair. Of course Corl would stand up for her brother as much as possible. For the most part I think TL avoided playing with other children. However the children in the street still made rude remarks about his odd hair colour.

The L-apartment was on the same side as our apartment, just two floors further up. I often went up there by myself to play with Corl. There was a ‘roof-garden’ (Dach-Garten) above the L- apartment, which was about the size of the L-living-room. There was no roof above the garden, but it was enclosed by walls the same as in a room. I remember the sun shining right into it. The floor was concrete and along the walls were garden-beds . Corl was allowed to look after her own little garden-bed.. Once Corl’s Mum let me have a portion of a little garden-bed too! Corl’s Mum and Dad were always kind to me. They made me feel welcome and included.

The L family had food that no other family had.. For snacks we children were often given some kind of brown flakes and raisins. Sometimes we were given dates or figs. I loved this food! My Mum thought it was strange to eat something like that. In Mum’s opinion the L family was a bit odd because they had lived in the Middle East for a while. Corl’s father was an architect. My Mum called him ‘the Hunger-Architect’ (Hungerleider) since he seemed to get hardly any work in his profession.

The L apartment was sparsely furnished in a way which my Mum found very odd. There were a great number of shelves stacked full with books. These shelves went from floor to ceiling. Herr L sometimes showed us children books with colourful illustrations. He also told us stories. We loved one story in particular which had a funny ending. We demanded to be told that story again and again. Each time we laughed our heads off and Herr L laughed with us. The story was about a beggar who knocked at the door of an apartment.. A beautiful maid opended the door. Some time later the beggar knocked at another door of an apartment in the neighbouring building. And the same beautiful maid opened the door! We found the astonishment of the beggar very funny! Herr L explained to us, that the family had two connecting apartments across two buildings; that is, the wall between the buildings had been broken through to connect the apartments on that floor. This was actually where the family of Herr L had lived, when he was a boy.

Herr L was old and bald. He was about twenty years older then his wife. Quite a few years later Corl and I went to the same high-school and we would always walk to school together. One morning I climbed up the stairs to see why Corl had not come down to go to school with me. I rang the bell. Frau L opened the door. She was in tears. She did not let me come in but went with me to the top of the stairs. She said: Our father just died; I haven’t even told Corl yet. She looked at me with despair in her face and I did not know what to say. She hugged me and then she disappeared in her apartment.