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.