I’m surprised that Franziska isn’t in that birthday photo from 1947, when I turned thirteen. Dr Petzel used to give Franziska ‘preferential’ treatment because her father had a doctor title. I remember I used to climb with her and her younger brother on chestnut trees to pick nice ripe chestnuts. This must have been in autumn of 1946.
So Franziska is not in the picture. Gisela (16), Jutta (14), Lilo (14) and Irene (still 13) are in the picture from right to left.
Cordula had turned 12 on the 20th May of that year, whereas Eva would turn 12 in December of 1947.
There are four school-friends in the birthday photo. Gisela was already sixteen and seemed very mature to us. She had to do all the housework at home because her mother had died. Her father worked as a truck-driver. Gisela was an excellent reader. When a teacher had to leave the class for a while, Gisela was usually given the task to read something to us. Everybody listened to her reading. She was a very good a reader!
Second there is Jutta. I always loved her beautiful naturally wavy long hair. I think you can’t see it much in the picture. Where she lived, there was a perfumery in the basement. The scent of perfume was always quite overwhelming! After school I would often walk with my friends in the direction where Lilo and Jutta lived. We always talked a lot on the way. I think very often it was a lot of philosophical talk. When we arrived at the house where Jutta lived, we would not part straight away but keep on talking for a bit longer.
I think instead of taking fifteen or twenty minutes to walk home, I often took nearly an hour! The family’s daily program was such, that we couldn’t have lunch together anyway. The way I remember it, my classes in high-school usually lasted till close to 2 pm. But then we never had any afternoon schooling except when we wanted to learn something extra curriculum as for instance typing on a typewriter or stenography.
The third girl, Lilo (Liselotte), you may know already from some other blog. Cordula, Lilo and myself we had formed this circle. For a while we saw each other often and did lots of things together. We had studied in English a story about an English governess and her two charges. I made the story into a play. Lilo played the governess and Cordula and I we were the two teenage girls. We performed the play at home in English in front of an audience. This was great fun!
Lilo’s mum was a war widow. She had to go to work to sustain the family. There were three very much younger siblings. Lilo was often responsible for them when her mother was at work. They lived in what I would call abject poverty. I’m not sure whether I remember this right or whether I’ve been dreaming it, but I think some one from the church did at some stage give a helping hand to the family.
Right beside me in the middle of the picture is Irene. I remember her from my piano lessons because she had the same teacher that I had. I think back to one birthday party at Irene’s. I think we were only about four girls at the party, Jutta was one of them. Irene’s mother was a medical doctor. I think her father did not live any more. Her mother had a partner who looked rather scary to us. He was very much the artistic type. Everything about him looked a bit wild, his hair, the way he moved and talked. He came out to entertain us with some piano playing. I think he played well.
On the way to the bathroom I had to pass the bedroom of Irene’s parents. And the door stood open. The bed had been left in a wild state. Today I think this is quite natural that people don’t always make their bed straight away. Anyway at the time this was really something new to me. I had never come across something like this before, in the middle of an afternoon in an apartment where they had a kid’s birthday party! Not that it upset me, on the contrary, I found it rather interesting to see how there were people with totally different values to what I was used to. And after all, the door had been left open totally accidentally. I just knew this instinctively.
I think Irene went on to become a doctor like her mother. Maybe not a medical doctor. But she went to university, that’s for sure. At the class reunion meeting in 1980 I was told about a lot of class-mates what they are doing now. The meeting was held in Franziska’s apartment, and she had invited me to it because she had found out that I was in Berlin at the time. Only about half a dozen women were present. I had my youngest daughter with me who wasn’t quite two yet. At the last minute it turned out that Peter couldn’t look after her and so I had to bring her along to the meeting! They were of course rather surprised that I had such a young daughter. There was one woman present, who had a five year old son at home. Every body thought she’d be the last woman in the group to have another child. And there I turn up from Australia with an even younger child!
This picture was taken on the 21st September 1947, my thirteenth birthday. From right to left are:
Gisela, Jutta, Lilo, Uta, Irene, Inge (a friend of Eva’s), Cordula, Eva, my brother Bodo (9).
And in front my brother Peter Uwe (nearly 6) and Ruth (Krümel, nearly 4).
The following picture shows my high-school class of 1947. At the bottom from right to left you see Irene, Lilo, Uta, Ingrid, Gisela, Jutta, Else, Marianne. Behind Else in the second row from the top is Franziska. You can see she wears her hair in a roll on top of her head! Our class teacher, Fräulein Theissen, is the second one to the right of Franziska! The teacher was really much older than what she looks like in the picture. She taught English, which I loved.
Marianne is the one who came to Franziska’s class reunion meeting in 1980 and who had then a son of five years, whereas I had a daughter of not quite two! I think Marianne was born in 1934 the same as I. And they told me everyone thought she had her last child pretty late in life. They were all very surprised when she had another child. I wonder what they thought of me having a daughter at age 44.
In 1940 I turned six, brother Bodo was a cute two. I was allowed to invite all my friends to a birthday party, boys and girls. I was so fond of all of them. The older girls were both ten. One is my cousin Sigrid, the other my friend Sieglinde. I think Sieglinde’s brother, who is also in the picture, is only eight. The younger girl with the huge bow on top of her head is five year old Eva. (I mentioned her a lot in my blogs.) Apart from little Bodo there are adorable Jürgen and very friendly Heinz in the picture, who both lived in the same building where we lived. There was a huge chestnut-tree opposite, which still stands now. It grew a lot more over the years. I believe it is about as high as the surrounding five story houses!
In the photos we are gathered under this tree and also in front of one of the sides of our house. Tante Ilse’s gift to me for my birthday were two Käthe-Kruse-Puppen, a boy and a girl. Of course they had to be in the pictures too. And of course Mum took all the photos which she always did on our birthdays.
About two years later during summer we had a dressing up party. Mum took a picture of us on Tante Ilse’s balcony. I think my brother Bodo looks lovely in the picture dressed up in long pants. I wear one of Mum’s dresses. Friend Eva is in the centre of the picture. The lovely young lady in the long dress is my sixteen year old cousin Renata. My friend Sieglinde on the right side is twelve and friend Inge with the blond hair probably ten. I think I wouldn’t have remembered the dressing up party if I hadn’t this picture. Pictures like these are truly a great memory boost!
Das Mädchen mit der schönen Figur
(The Girl with the Beautiful Figure)
Mum liked to see the woman doctor who had her consulting rooms a few blocks down the road from where we lived. The woman doctor was always duely concerned about Mum’s heart condition. Mum used to praise her a lot for saying kind words to her whenever she visited. Naturally Frau Doktor would prescribe the right kind of medicine too. In other words she was a very praiseworthy doctor. Her waiting room was never short of patients.
Once Mum sent me to see Frau Doktor. I think it had something to do with my irregular periods. The doctor’s sister lived with the doctor on the premises. She was the one who always received the patients. She liked to talk and was friendly with everyone.
While I was waiting my turn, the doctor’s sister started to talk to me. It did not take her long before she told me, that she had been watching me walking along the street. She said I had caught her eye because of my very erect posture. She also mentioned that she always thought of me as ‘The Girl with the Beautiful Figure’. Was I, a fourteen year old, embarrassed by all this talk? – – –
My word I was!
In 1940 the enrolment for new pupils had been at Easter-time. I had not been allowed to go to school then because I was not six years old yet. (I turned six in September 1940). That means, when I was finally allowed to go to school, I was nearly seven., because in 1941 enrolments did not take place till September. In our school we had four first year classes: two boys’ classes and two girls’ classes. In each class were fifty children!
School lessons lasted for twice fifty minutes. There was a ten minute break (Pause) in between the two lessons. For me it was very important to be eating my buttered bread roll (Butterbrötchen) during that ‘Pause’. And when during the following year we sometimes had three lessons in one day, gee, that made me feel really grown up! I could not wait to have more and more lessons. I liked school that much!
On enrolment day my mother took me to school. I was given a large cone shaped bag that day. This cone shaped bag – Zuckertüte – was filled with sweets and fruit to sweeten the day. It is still the custom in Germany, that a child who starts school, be given such a bag. Of course, there are always pictures taken to commemorate the occasion!
My class was called 1 A and my teacher was a lovely elderly lady called Fräulein Anders. Rosemarie, a girl who lived a few blocks away from me, was in 1 B and her teacher’s name was Fräulein Bröde. We children would quite naughtily talk about her as ‘Fräulein Blöde’, which means ‘Miss Stupid”.
Rosemarie and I would walk to school together. We would have been shocked, if somebody had seen us being taken to school by an adult. No adult ever would have thought to accompany us on our fifteen minute walk to school. It was unheard of, that children could not walk to school on their own! Even when our school was evacuated to another school-building further away, we always walked to school on our own.
Here is the picture of me with my ‘Zuckertüte’ in front of the school!
Towards the End of Worldwar II and after the War
During my year at the village school in Lichtenow, I had become used to a very individual teaching style. This changed however, when after the summer holidays of 1944 I was enrolled in year four of the Herzfelde Primary School, and I found myself there in a class of about thirty girls.
In this class we spent most of the time doing reading, writing and arithmetic. We also learnt a few songs, especially ‘marching songs’. We had to know these songs because they came in handy, when we marched through town, which happened about once a week. We thought, it was great fun, when all the girls of our class marched along in rows of two, singing all the marching songs, which we knew so well. I believe this marching business came about, because we were supposed to have a bit of exercise to keep us healthy and fit. We did not have a sports’ teacher at the time, which meant, that sport as such was not on the curriculum. Of course we had our class-teacher accompanying us on our marching sessions through town and surroundings.
Once a week we were given dictation. Every spelling mistake was marked by the teacher, counting one bad point for every mistake and half a bad point for a punctuation mistake. The student with the least mistakes was seated at the top of the class. All students were seated according to the number of mistakes they made in dictation. The students who made the most mistakes were seated at the bottom of the class right in front of the teacher.
Thanks to the good schooling I had received in Lichtenow, I was able to spell quite well and usually ended up among the top three students in the class. I felt lucky in that regard. My handwriting however was terrible. Handwriting had always been my worst subject. Luckily for me, it was a separate subject and did not influence the marking of any other subject!
That the teacher praised students with the better marks, was nothing new to me. It was also generally accepted, that the teacher let the other students know, who was in the lower range in any subject. For instance, when we were writing a composition on a given theme, the teacher would collect the finished compositions and take them home to mark them. Once the marked compositions were handed back to us, the teacher discussed in front of the whole class, who had written a good composition; also whose composition was satisfactory, just satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
I went to the school in Herzfelde for about three months only. From that time on I had a preference for sitting in the back rather than the front of the class. When I went to high-school in Berlin later on, I always tried to get a seat in one of the back-rows. I was rather glad, that In high-school we were allowed to choose ourselves, where to sit. I used to pity the girls in the front-rows, who often had to suffer a lot of spitting out of the mouth of this very old German teacher, Dr. Petzel. The standard joke after an enormous spitting session was, that the girls in the front rows should put up umbrellas, when Dr. Petzel was talking!
Right through my childhood I was made to wear a roll of hair on top of my head, which hovered over the midst of my forehead. On my tenth birthday I was finally allowed to comb my hair to the side. Because of this, I felt, I was on the way to becoming a grown-up person.
So here’s the picture from my tenth birthday and another picture that was taken a bit after my 10th birthday. The other picture was taken when I was only about 8 and my friend Eva was 7.
Apparently Mum’s mother came from Leipzig to Berlin for a visit around Eastertime, when I would have been about six months. I think the dress I wear may have been knitted by Mum. Grandma volunteers to hold me up so I can show myself properly to the camera!
In the photo with Mum we see some Fruit, Easter-Eggs and Toys on the table.
The photo with Dad was also taken on Easter Sunday.
I was born in September of 1934. I was my parents’ first born child. They had married four years earlier in September of 1930 when my mother was 19 and my father was 26.
I show here a picture of my parents’ wedding day and a picture with me as a baby; my mum and the proud grandparents looking on! I think the grandparents must have been proud of the new addition because I was the daughter of ‘Oleg’ who everyone said was their favourite son. At the time the grandparents had already two grandsons by one daughter and a grandaughter by another daughter.
Before and After the War
Extracts from my Memories
In 1942/1943 my friends in Berlin and I had often contemplated what life might be like, once we had peace again. Our dreams for the future were very basic. We all wanted to get married and have children. We all wanted our husbands to have occupations that would enable us to live in comfortable houses. My friend Siglinde and I were for ever drawing house-plans. There would be at least three bed-rooms: one for the parents, one for two boys and another one for two girls. Yes, to have two boys as well as two girls, that was our ideal.
Before we married, we would finish school and go to university and our husbands would of course be university educated. In peace-time we would be able to buy all the things we had been able to buy before the war started: Bananas, pineapples, oranges and lemons; all this would be available again! Somehow we knew, we were only dreaming about all this. We had no idea, what would really happen, once the war ended.
I turned eight in September of 1942. Most of my friends were around the same age. My friend Siglinde however was four years my senior, the same as my cousin Sigrid.
After I started high-school, some time after the war had finished, Cousin Sigrid made a remark, that put a damper on my wishful thinking. Sigrid had noticed, that I got very good marks in high-school. So she said in a quite friendly way: ‘I see, you’ll probably end up becoming a Fräulein Doctor!’ This remark made me furious inside. It sounded to me, that once I embarked on becoming a ‘Fräulein Doctor’ I would have no hope in the world of acquiring a husband and children. ‘Who in their right mind would study to achieve a doctorate and miss out on having a husband and children?’ I thought to myself.
Mum, Tante Ilse and Uncle Peter loved to read romance and crime fiction. Most of the books they read were translations from English. Mum and Tante Ilse loved Courts-Mahler, Uncle Peter liked Scotland Yard stories best. They all had read ‘Gone with the Wind’. Even my father, who boasted, he never read any novels, read this one.
I read ‘Gone with the Wind’, when I was fourteen. My father’s sister Elisabeth, on hearing this, was shocked, that my mother let me read this novel. According to Tante Lisa, I was much too young to read something like this. However some of my girl-friends read this book too. They all loved Rhett Butler. About Scarlett the opinions were divided. Personally I did not care for the way she treated Melanie. I thought by constantly making passionate advances towards Ashley, she showed total disregard for Melanie’s feelings. Rhett adored Melanie. He showed her great respect as a person with a noble character. In contrast, he was well aware that Scarlet was anything but noble. Often he found Scarlett’s irrational behaviour highly amusing. Ashley treated Scarlett in a very gentleman like way. Not so Rhett. This impressed my friends. They all admired Rhett! I think, I admired Ashley more. –
Mum and Tante Ilse borrowed books from a lending library. A middle-sized novel cost one Deutsche Mark to borrow for one week, a real big novel cost two Marks. In secret I once read a translation of ‘Amber’. Fascinating stuff this was.
When I read ‘Amber’, I was probably thirteen. I read it only, when I was by myself in the apartment, which happened often enough. I was able to consume the whole big novel without anybody noticing it. I knew, Mum and Tante Ilse had read the book already, because they often talked about it, how good it was. But the book was still lying around at our place. There were a few more days before it had to be returned to the library. I found out, that Amber was a fifteen year old country-girl, who went to London. The time was the seventeen hundreds. Because of her beauty, Amber was able to make it in the world. She had lots of lovers. She always made sure, that her next lover was of a higher ranking than the previous one. That made it possible for her, to climb up the social ladder. – Well, this is about as much as I still remember from that novel.
During the first years after the war we lived like paupers. Still, I realized – maybe a bit to my regret – that there was a big difference between a desperately poor girl from the country and me, desperately poor city girl from a ‘good’ family. I knew then, whether I wanted it or not, I had to put up with an extremely low standard of living for some time yet. And I mean by ‘low standard’ not the low standard that everyone went through during the adjustments after the war, but a standard, where it was necessary for us to get social services payments!
Was I out to enhance my appearance in order to catch a prosperous male as an escort to take me out to fun-parties and adult entertainment? No way! Something like that was just not for me. I felt I was plain Uta who was never invited to go out anywhere with anyone.
Was I really that plain? I wonder. Up to age fourteen I may have had some chances with the opposite sex, given the opportunity. However by age fifteen I had put on so much weight, that I felt to be totally unattractive. I was right, because no attractive male ever made an attempt to woo for my attention, not until I was about seventeen and a half that is. But even then things didn’t change much for me. I honestly felt like some kind of a social freak during most of my teenage years.
Here is a photo which was taken in 1948 with Mum
and my brothers, who were 7 and 10 years and I was 14.