As I probably mentioned in one of my earlier posts the family of my father was a rather large family. My father had five siblings! His younger sister Elisabeth was about the same age as my mother. My mother and father had three children, Elisabeth and her husband Alfred had also three children. We children were similar in age. I was born in 1934, our cousin Horst six months later in 1935; my brother Bodo was born in 1938 and our cousin Karin one year later in 1939; my brother Peter Uwe was born in 1941 and our cousin Udo one year later in 1942.
This means Cousin Udo is the one who turned 70 in September 2012. Peter Uwe and his wife Astrid had told me they were going to drive to the Stuttgart area in time to be there for Udo’s birthday celebrations. And they invited me to come along with them. It would give me a chance to meet up with a lot of our grandfather’s descendants, who would all come to celebrate Udo’s birthday. This was the time when our cousin Renate (our mother’s niece) had just had a severe stroke and it looked bad. Renate’s daughter sent me emails and kept me up-to-date about Renate’s condition. I had the feeling, in case that Renate should die, I should aim at going to her funeral rather than travelling with Peter Uwe and Astrid all the way to Stuttgart. Then I did get the news that Renate had died in a hospital in Munich. She was to be cremated in Munich a few days later when there was to be an urn-burial near where she had lived.
I blogged about it how Peter and I travelled by train to Munich. This meant I could not travel with Peter Uwe and Astrid. They were not very happy about this, because they had already booked accommodation for the three of us. Anyhow, what has all this to do with Saturday, the 10th November 2012? Well, at the time we were still staying with Peter Uwe and Astrid att their house in Mecklenburg/Vorpommern. On this Saturday they suggested we could all travel to Stralsund to meet Uwe, our cousin’s son, as well as his family.
Of course Astrid and Peter Uwe had met the whole family at Udo’s birthday party. Uwe has a wife (I forgot her name now) and four lovely children. To have as many as four children is nowadays rather unusual for a German family in Germany. But anyhow we met them all at their family home in Stralsund. I was very impressed what a lovely well organised family they were. We arrived at lunchtime and they invited us for lunch. Astrid had baked an apple-cake and had mentioned on the phone that she would bring it along. On the way to Stralsund we stopped at a super-market to buy a few sweets for the children and flowers for the lady of the house. Some of the children helped to set the table. They had a huge table in a huge living-room area. Their apartment had very high ceilings and I think about five bedrooms. They lived in a building which was maybe one hundred years old but wonderfully restored and looked as good as new.
The apple-cake was served as a desert with coffee. Uwe had an appointment after lunch and had to rush off. But during lunch we had a really good conversation with the whole family. All the children participated in the conversation too, which impressed me very much. The way the conversation went reminded me a bit about my grandfather in Lodz. I found Uwe was as good a talker as Grandfather had been. And he would draw everyone into the conversation as well. I really enjoyed observing this family and how they related to each other. Alas, we could stay with them only for a very short time. We pointed out that we were about to explore Stralsund a little bit. They gave us good advice, where to go and what would be of interest to see.
Stralsund is situated at the Baltic Sea. Peter took some harbour pictures and some pictures of the beautifully restored buildings in the midst of town. I took some pictures too, but they got lost when my computer crashed. Nobody thought of taking any photos of this lovely family we had been visiting. This I regret very much. But my pictures got lost anyway. There are quite a few pictures that Peter took and I am going to publish them in my next blog.
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.
Charlotte tells her story to her niece Renata. Daughter Uta is listening in the background.
Charlotte: ‘You have no idea, what things I had to do to find our furniture!’
Renata: ‘I’ve heard, there was a Russian soldier who wanted to kidnap you.’
Charlotte: ‘Too right. This Russian, who came along in a jeep, saw me walking along the Chaussee. He stopped and pointed to the seat beside him and then pointed straight ahead. He looked friendly enough. I felt very tired after a long day trying to find out, where all our furniture had ended up. I thought this Russian was just a guy, who wanted to help out a tired looking woman. So as naive as I was, I hopped into his car. Before I got in, I pointed into the direction of the next village and asked him, whether he was going to Herzfelde. – H e r z f e l d e? I said repeatedly. The Russian nodded his head. He was very young and friendly looking. When he took off with me, his face broke out into a big smile. It did not take long, when he slowed down a bit. I looked to the side and then it dawned on me, he wanted to turn off into a side-road, more like a track really. I could see a lot of trees in the distance. So I thought, that this was, where he wanted to take me. In a split second I made a decision. He had just turned the corner, when I jumped out of the moving jeep and ran back to the Chaussee as quickly as possible. Then I was walking along the Chaussee, where quite a few cars were going in both directions. My friendly Russian came back to the Chaussee, yet he did not bother to invite me into his jeep again!’
Renata: ‘An amazing story. You are so brave, Tante Lotte!’
POSTSCRIPT: I cannot remember the exact circumstances when and how Mum told this story. My cousin Renata is a few years my senior. That Mum told her niece Renata the story in this way is my invention. However it could have happened this way. That Mum was nearly kidnapped by a young Russian soldier, this is definitely true. Herzfelde is a small town east of Berlin. Our furniture had been stored at a place called ‘Ausbau’ as I had told in earlier blogs. Some of the neighbours had helped themselves to some of our furniture after the war and had taken it to different places in the area. I have no idea, how Mum managed to recover most of it and get it transported back to Berlin.