In Love with Leipzig

This is a copy of one of my earlier blogs!

“I found an interesting contribution about the German city of Leipzig.

http://blog.goethe.de/meet-the-germans/archives/179-In-Love-with-Leipzig.html

As a ten and eleven year old in 1945/46 I did get to know a bit about this city. Sure, when we first moved there to stay at grandmother’s place, the war hadn’t finished yet and we experienced quite a few bomb raids.

As I told in another blog, one bomb raid in April 1945 turned out to be disastrous for us. This was probably the very last bomb raid that Leipzig had to endure, because soon after the American troops together with some Canadians occupied the city. When the Canadians moved through neighbouring streets to lay out some cables, we kids were watching them. We were impressed by their appearance. They were all very young looking, tall and lean in immaculate uniforms. We welcomed the foreign troops.Them being with us meant, we wouldn’t be bombed any more. From now on we could sleep in peace!

We were a family of six. Having lost our home in the bomb raid, we applied for accommodation for our family. We were given a flat in an area where the buildings weren’t damaged at all. We were assigned an apartment that had  three rooms plus kitchen and bathroom. Had grandmother been just with Renate she would not have been able to get an apartment  of this size. Only families of five or more were assigned accommodation with that many rooms! So we were lucky again. Grandmother stayed in this apartment in Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse for many more years. She died in 1957.

About Leipzig I remember the ‘Ratskeller’, where we had a few times a lovely meal. I always thought it was something special to eat out somewhere. But I loved Grandma’s cooking too. Like magic she always produced excellent meals even when there was not much food available. She was a great one for improvising. And never ever was any bit of food thrown out. She always pointed out to us, to throw away good food, was a sin. This kind of thinking still sticks with me today!

I also  remember the Thomaner Church in Leipzig and the Thomaner Choir. I believe the journalist who wrote the blog about present day Leipzig is from England and lives in Berlin now. He went for a visit to Leipzig and ended up loving this city. If ever I have a chance to visit Germany again, I plan on paying Leipzig a visit together with Peter, my husband, and Peter, my brother. If you are interested in finding out more about Leipzig, please look up the above link.”

Last year during our visit to Germany we did not forget that we had wanted to visit the city of Leipzig. We  actually went there for a day visit. We had in our minds to search for  the grave of my paternal grandfather who had died in 1947. After a lot of searching we were able to locate his grave site. We made some pictures which I published in a blog. Leipzig seems to be a thriving city these days. We would have liked to stay there a bit longer. But we had to go back to Berlin the same day.  The Main Leipzig Railway Station (Hauptbahnhof) has been very modernised. A huge modern shopping center is located within its premises.

Grandmother Hulda buys Eggs

                            Probably a Slighly Fictional Story

In my memory sticks a meeting with a woman on a small farm outside Lodz, which was called ‘Litzmannstadt’ at the time. One day Grandmother wanted to buy eggs from the farm where she had been buying eggs for years. She took me along for the ride in the Pferde-Droschke (horse drawn taxicab). I cannot remember any other time, when I was allowed to go out with her. So this was really something very special for me. I was thrilled, that Grandmother had chosen me to accompany her!

Grandmother greeted the farm-woman in a very friendly manner and proudly introduced me, saying: ‘This is my grand-daughter, She is here for a visit from Berlin.’ The woman seemed very happy to see my grandmother. With a big smile she greeted both of us. Grandmother did not enter the small farmhouse, but handed the woman her very large basket asking her to fill it up please. The woman left and soon returned with the basket full of lovely large hen-eggs, about thirty of them. Then the women talked a bit more.

The farm-woman enquired about Grandmother’s family. She seemed to know, that Grandmother had many children. ‘Did you receive the Silver Cross for having had six children?’ she wanted to know. And Grandmother replied:’I did indeed receive a Cross, but it is the G o l d e n Cross for having had e i g h t children! My first two children, who were twins, died in infancy. Over the following years I had six more children, who are all alive and well. It counts as having had eight children.’ At that the farm-woman looked admiringly at my Grandmother and uttered a few words of congratulations for having received the Golden Cross.

Come to think of it, this conversation must have happened in German, otherwise I could not have understood a word of it. To me this woman probably seemed just like any other German woman living in Poland.

The eggs were beautiful. One morning we had some of those large, fresh eggs as soft boiled eggs for breakfast. Grandfather was there and two of his sons, one of them being my father. Someone made a comment how good tasting those eggs were. This did it. Fresh good tasting eggs like this, they had to be from a farm, and probably from that farm, where Grandmother always used to buy her eggs.

My uncle put his napkin down. Then the inquisition started. ‘Mother, where did you get these eggs? Did you get them from those Jewish people on the farm, where you always used to buy your eggs?’

Grandmother answered defiantly: ‘Yes, this is where I bought them.’

Uncle looked around, first at Grandfather, then at my Father. ‘Help me out here,’ he said. ‘Am I hearing this right? Mother had no scruples whatsoever hiring a Pferde-Droschke to go out to that farm and buying produce from a Jewish woman? And the Polish coachman very likely bearing witness to all this! My goodness, Mother, don’t you realise, this could put you into jail? Your whole family could suffer because of this. Our factory might be taken away from us. Think about it, Mother! Just think about it for one moment. Do you want to jeopardise our whole future for a few eggs?’

Grandmother looked very upset. I had the feeling, she could not understand, how buying a few eggs from a farm was supposed to effect the future of the whole family in an adverse way. Then my Father started to speak up. ‘Look, Mother,’ he said, ‘You have to understand, we do not make the rules. The authorities do. Since there is this rule, that Germans are not allowed to buy anything from Jewish people, we better live up to this rule, because if we ignore it, it might cost us dearly. You do not want your own family to suffer hardship now, do you?’

Grandmother was shaking her head, being close to tears of frustration. Her eyes often looked a bit teary anyway. Then Father said: ‘All we want, is, that you promise us, that you will not under any circumstances go out to that farm again. Will you promise us that?’ Grandmother nodded. And that was that.

Grandfather, who normally was very talkative, had not said a word through all this.

GRANDMOTHER’S QUERY

Weeping softly, she says defiantly:

‘I bought the eggs from a Jewish woman.

So what? Are you going to kill me for it?

Aren’t I free to buy my eggs from whomever

I want to buy them from? What does it matter to you,

whether the eggs come from Jewish, Polish, Russian

or German hens? Tell me, what does it matter to you?’

( This is, what Grandmother actually never said, but what she may have felt like.)

Easter Photos from 1935

 

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.

 

From my Childhood

 

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.

 

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.

After the War (1945)

 

When the front in the east broke down, my father discharged his driver and he discharged himself. He ‘organized’ a bike for himself and started cycling towards Leipzig in civilian clothes.

 

 He arrived in Leipzig in the very early morning hours and went straight to Sophienstrasse, believing us to be there at grandma’s. What a fright he experienced, when he saw the bombed out place with a huge pile of debris, where the entrance should have been! He cried and cried, because he thought, we were all dead. It was still a bit dark and he could not see clearly. Next thing he thought, he ought to enquire at the police station, whether anyone in that cellar of Sophienstrasse 20 had survived the bombs.

 

To his relief he found out at the police station, that everyone in that cellar had survived! They were also able to provide him with our new address in Leipzig, which was the place of grandma’s sister. That meant he did not have far to go to find us. I remember, waking up that morning, where Mummy was already awake, sitting up and talking to Daddy, who sat at the end of the bed!

 

The Americans, including the Canadians, were still in Leipzig. I cannot remember, that there had been any fighting in the area before the Americans came. The Canadians I had seen first. They were all very tall, very slim looking guys, probably only around twenty years old. They moved through a neighbouring street in their jeeps. Some soldiers were walking close to the jeeps, extending cables along the road.

 

Some German civilians stood around, watching our ‘occupation force’; they were clearly amazed, how good-looking, fresh and young those soldiers appeared. They did their work in a non-hurried, casual way, here and there throwing some friendly glances towards young and old people, who stood watching them. To us, this meant, the war was over.

 

In this beautiful spring weather we could look hopefully to the future again. Since my grandmother’s old apartment had been destroyed by bombs, and since her family of seven needed accomodation, she was allocated an apartment after only a few weeks waiting time. The new apartment was in a different part of town, not so close to the city any more, but still close enough for walking to the city centre.

 

I cannot remember how all the furniture, which Grandma had saved from the ruins of her apartment, got to the new place at Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse. But I know for a fact, that every piece of furniture had been set up in the new place. The residential buildings were only on one side of Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse, the other side of the street was a nature strip along a canal.

 

We kids went for lots of walks with Dad along this beautiful nature strip during the upcoming summer months. As far as I remember Mum never came along for these walks.

 

In June 1945 the Russians replaced the American occupation force in Leipzig and the Americans moved to Berlin. It so happened that our apartment in Berlin was from then on in the American Sector of Berlin!

 

What sticks to my memory is how contingents of Russian soldiers marched through the streets of Leipzig, singing loudly. The had marvellous voices!

In Love with Leipzig

I found an interesting contribution about the German city of Leipzig.

http://blog.goethe.de/meet-the-germans/archives/179-In-Love-with-Leipzig.html

As a ten and eleven year old in 1945/46 I did get to know a bit about this city. Sure, when we first moved there to stay at grandmother’s place, the war hadn’t finished yet and we experienced quite a few bomb raids.

As I told in another blog, one bomb raid in April 1945 turned out to be disastrous for us. This was probably the very last bomb raid that Leipzig had to endure, because soon after the American troops together with some Canadians occupied the city. When the Canadians moved through neighbouring streets to lay out some cables, we kids were watching them. We were impressed by their appearance. They were all very young looking, tall and lean in immaculate uniforms. We welcomed the foreign troops.Them being with us meant, we wouldn’t be bombed any more. From now on we could sleep in peace!

We were a family of six. Having lost our home in the bomb raid, we applied for accomodation for our family. We were given a flat in an area where the buildings weren’t damaged at all. Our flat had three rooms plus kitchen and bathroom. Had grandmother been just with Renata, the two of them had not been able to get a flat of this size. Only families of five or more were assigned accomodation with so many rooms! So we were lucky again.

About Leipzig I remember the ‘Ratskeller’, where we had a few times a lovely meal. I always thought it was something special to eat out somewhere. But I loved Grandma’s cooking too. She always like magic produced excellent meals even when there was not much food available. She was a great one for improvising. And never ever was any bit of food thrown out. She always pointed out to us, to throw away good food, was a sin. This kind of thinking still sticks with me today!

I also  remember the Thomaner Church in Leipzig and the Thomaner Choir. I believe the journalist who wrote the blog about present day Leipzig is from England and lives in Berlin now. He went for a visit to Leipzig and ended up loving this city. If ever I have a chance to visit Germany again, I plan on paying Leipzig a visit together with Peter, my husband, and Peter, my brother. If you are interested in finding out more about Leipzig, please look up the above link.

OUR LUCKY ESCAPE

 

Some of my children know a bit about our lucky escape in 1945. In case they want to find out a bit more about it, I am now trying to write down whatever I do remember.

During the last war years we had stayed away from Berlin, living east of Berlin in a desolate country area. With the Russians fast approaching at the beginning of 1945, my mother decided, we would move to grandmother’s place in Leipzig, rather than go back to Berlin to our apartment which we still rented. We children were never allowed to visit Berlin during the years of the bomb raids.

From the beginning of February 1945 my mother, my two brothers and I stayed in Leipzig with grandmother and cousin Renata. As I remember it, there were frequent bomb raids. We were used to the sound of the sirens and having to stay in the cellar for hours at a time.

After Christmas, schools had not opened any more. We played a lot in the surrounding streets with other children. But we were never allowed to stroll very far. In case of an alarm , we had to be within the vicinity of our cellar. For us children this was just part of every day life. My brothers were three and six years, I was ten years old. The winter was very cold, but we still had enough to eat, were dressed warmly. In the kitchen there was always a fire going in the oven for cooking and for hot water. In the bedrooms we had enormous feather-beds to keep us warm.

There was talking about that this bloody war was soon to end. We sure were looking forward to this! I cannot remember ever having been scared or thinking that anything bad could happen to me. Or to my family. To us children it seemed rather entertaining to be sitting in the air-raid shelter. Many people congregating as soon as the sirens went off, was extremely exciting! We did get to know everyone, who lived in that tall five story building. The adults would talk to us children, asking us questions, just being friendly.

And we would listen to the adults talking to each other. I remember that I always found it interesting to listen to adult conversations. And sometimes all of us would sing a few songs. I loved the singing of songs! When we could hear bombs hitting somewhere in the neighbourhood, it never seemed very close to us. This meant we were all right. Often my three year old brother entertained everyone by singing solo. They were cute little children’s songs. People always encouraged him to sing more songs because they loved his singing.

In April there was another bomb-raid. We had a relaxing time with everybody in the cellar. It was a long lasting alarm, went on for hours. Since it was in the middle of the night, mum wanted us to go to sleep. We were able to stretch out a bit on our makeshift beds. But I don’t think we were able to go to sleep that night. My brother Peter was still singing his songs when several bombs hit us. This time there could be no doubt that the bombs had fallen right on top of us since the noise was absolutely deafening! My six year old brother Bodo started crying. I felt so sorry for him. It was terrible seeing him being so horribly scared. I said to him he needn’t be afraid. Soon everything would be over.

I was right. It did not take long at all. All of a sudden, it was very quiet. Then some people started moving, investigating, whether we could still get out. Our main exit was full of debris. Impossible to get out there. There was a bricked-in escape to the cellar of the next door building. To make use of this escape, quite a few bricks would have to be dislodged. Then someone shouted that the window, that led from the cellar to the footpath in one of the adjoining cellar-rooms, was not blocked. It was easy, to get out through there!

A sigh of relief went through the crowd. My brother Bodo was not scared any more either. My brother Peter had never been scared at all. People said, this was because he had still been too little to understand. Later on, we found, that the building had been hit by up to five bombs. Right to the ground-floor,  everything had been torn away. Miraculously, a lot of the ground-floor was still standing. This was my grandmother’s apartment! My grandmother was able to save some of her furniture together with all our belongings. A lucky escape indeed.

                     

                     

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

                     CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

I remember vaguely a conversation which took place on our balcony in Berlin soon after Easter 1946. I know for certain that at the time Dad was still with us and that Mum had made friends with a lady from the neighbourhood who had established herself as a manicurist. The name ‘Julia Gratz’ is my invention.

The following conversation is more or less made up by me. I only remember for sure that this lady talked to Mum about ‘Gone with the Wind’. I am also pretty sure that this lady was very courteous to Dad and treated him with much respect. It is also true that I had just returned from Leipzig and was about to start school in Berlin. It is also true that I had to catch up in English and that an older school-girl volunteered to give me private lessons. I also distinctly remember that all of us were sitting on the balcony and that it was balmy spring weather.

As a writing exercise I tried to write the following in the third person.

                            BERLIN, SPRING 1946

Eleven year old Uta has just returned from her grandmother’s place in Leipzig. Her parents, Charlotte and Alexander, sit with her on the sunlit balcony.

Also on the balcony is a voluptuous blond woman. Her permed hair is well set. Her fingernails are excellently shaped. Her nail polish is of a pink colour. Her name is Julia Gratz. She has just finished doing Charlotte’s fingernails. This is how she earns a living in this black-market time. She is well spoken. She likes to talk to Alexander, trying to flatter him with ‘intelligent’ questions.

Julia: ‘What do you think, Herr Doctor, is there any chance at all that we get our proper jobs back? How long is it going to take before we recover from Germany’s disastrous downfall?’

Alexander: ‘I am sure it is going to take several years. I only hope that Germany is not going to be made to pay enormous amounts in reparation as was the case after World War I. But since we have been totally defeated, we basically have to accept, that the other countries can do with us as they like.’

Julia (turning to Charlotte): ‘I’ve just been reading GONE WITH THE WIND. I have enormous admiration for Scarlet O’Hara, how in the midst of having lost everything due to the war, she shows courage by sewing herself a dress out of some curtains. She does not want to look poor, when she goes to see Rhet Butler, who profited from the war and is very well of.’

Charlotte: ‘Yes indeed, this shows enormous courage. It reminds me, that I dismantled our old flag and used the material for sewing a colourful blouse. In times like this, you have to use whatever you can, to get by.’

Julia (talks to Uta, who had been listening intensely):

‘Uta, how do you like it to be back in Berlin? You must have missed your mum, when your mum was already in Berlin while you were still staying with your grandmother in Leipzig. Tell me, for how long did you go to school in Leipzig?’

Uta: ‘Actually between January and October schools had been closed in Leipzig, which means I’ve been in high-school since October last year. Cousin Renate gave me and Bob a few lessons at home while the schools were still closed. In October I was then straight away admitted to second year of high-school.’

Julia: ‘So now that you’re back in Berlin you start school here after the Easter break?

Uta: ‘That’s right. However I found out that I’ll have to catch up in English. It seems, here in Berlin they are much further ahead in English. I have been enrolled for the second year of high-school. They said, they want to give me a try and see whether I can keep up with that year.’

Julia: ‘I’m sure you’ll be able to make it. Maybe some-one can give you some private lessons to catch up in English?’

Uta: ‘Yes, I was told, that a girl, who is three years ahead of me, is willing to give me some lessons at her home.’

Julia: ‘It sounds like this may be the perfect solution for you. I wish you good luck!

Uta: ‘Thank you very much, Frau Gratz.’