My Friends in 1947

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.


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.’