Childhood Memories

I publish here a copy of something I had published already in May 2013. I did get some very interesting comments to this post at the time. So I copied all the comments and my replies as well. Some of my new blogger friends might want to have a look at it and maybe some of my older blogger friends also would like to have another look. 🙂

This now is what I published in May 2013:

‘I have now two pages about my childhood. One is just “Uta’s Early Childhood”, the other one is “Uta’s Early Childhood, Part II”. In the Part II I inserted today some pictures about my sixth birthday in 1940 plus one picture from summer of 1942. All these pictures were taken during the war, World War II that is, when we lived in Berlin, Germany.

Did we suffer during the first years of war? I don’t think so. Except that my father had moved away from Berlin. He became the manager in grandfather’s furniture factory in Lodz, Poland, which since the German occupation in 1939 was called Litzmannstadt. My father had grown up in Lodz. His family had lived in Lodz since the early 1800s, when this part of Poland belonged to Russia.

My father had studied in Leipzig, Germany. In 1930 he had married my mother in Leipzig. During the early years of their marriage they had for the most part lived in Berlin. Sometime during the early war years my father had some disagreements with some Nazi people he worked with in Berlin. I think he didn’t voice his disagreements publicly. Had he done so, he may have ended up in a concentration camp!

In the end he was allowed to remove himself from Berlin. As I said he became then the manager in grandfather’s factory. My mother typically chose to stay with us children in Berlin. We only went for some visits to “Litzmannstadt”.’

Submitted on 2014/10/15 at 9:49 am | In reply to auntyuta.
Just now I did re-read this whole post and all the comments. As Peter says, between “Will” and “Reason”, “Will” will always win. I think this is because most people will their emotions let their thinking rule. Well, this is the way it is, this is what humans are like.

To come back to how children experienced the Nazi area in Germany, one book, that deals with this, comes to mind. I read it only recently. It is set in a small place near Munich in southern Germany. I lived near Berlin and in Leipzig during the last years of the war. So I have no experience what life was like for children in Bavaria during these war years in Nazi time. However what Markus Zusak tells us in his historical novel THE BOOK THIEF sounds absolutely believable to me.

In the next comment section I post some details about the book from Wikipedia.

auntyuta
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Submitted on 2014/10/15 at 9:30 am
THE BOOK THIEF

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the novel. For the film adaptation, see The Book Thief (film).
The Book Thief
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak book cover.jpg
1st Edition front cover
Illustrator Trudy White
Cover artist Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Country Germany
Language English, German
Genre Novel-Historical Fiction
Publisher Picador, Australia; Knopf, US
Publication date
2005(Australia); 14 March 2006 (worldwide)
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 550

The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak.[1] Narrated by Death, the book is set in Nazi Germany, a place and time when the narrator notes he was extremely busy. It describes a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents, the other residents of their neighborhood, and a young Jewish man who hides in her home during the escalation of World War II. First published in 2005, the book has won numerous awards and was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks.[2]

berlioz1935
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Submitted on 2013/05/21 at 11:05 am | In reply to Robert M. Weiss.
Robert, you are spot on with your overall view of history. I always say, that the 2. WW was a continuation of WW I as it was finished in an unsatisfactory way. Meaning, nobody was thinking about the future. Versailles was a disaster. A much better solution was found at the end of WW II. The Germans, at the end of WW I, were hoping that Wilson’s 14 Points would be adhered to.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Points

As a result “The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles”, as you say, let to the rise of Hitler.

You say further “By borrowing heavily from German mythology, Wagner, the concept of the ubermensch, Hitler instilled in the young a burning pride in Germany’s future. Hitler was also influenced by Schopenhauer’s “Will to Power”. This idea is the subject of a book. “The Jew of Linz” by Australian writer Kimberly Cornish

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jew_of_Linz.

Cornish has been criticised too, but I found it an interesting read on a certain view point of history. Schopenhauer stipulates, that in a contest between “Will” and “Reason”, “Will” will always win.

berlioz1935
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Submitted on 2013/05/21 at 10:27 am | In reply to The Emu.
The disagreement with the Nazis was on two levels: personal and about the conduct of war.

Personal: When Hitler came to power he joined the party as a “good” public servant would. Later the life style of his wife could have headed for divorce. This was intolerable for the Nazis and they asked him to discipline his wife or he could not remain a member of the party.

Contact of War: After the Sportpalast Speech

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sportpalast_speech

in which Goebels called for “Total War” to be waged. Uta’s father was of the opinion that it was pure propaganda. As an economist he could see that many mistakes were made and the German industry and population were not put on a war footing. He criticised the use of forced labour and called for the utilisation of German women in industry. Only 33% of women were working. Working women was an anathema for Hitler.

He wrote a Memorandum to Hitler and for his effort was hauled in front of Martin Bormann, secretary of Hitler, who advised him not to insist on sending the Memorandum to Hitler. Instead they sent him to the “Ostfront” because he was a Russian speaker.

This is the stuff novels are written about. A lot of what we know is only bits and pieces. Adults did not talk to children about it. Later, yes, but not all came to light.

auntyuta
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Submitted on 2013/05/21 at 7:59 am
Thanks for this very insightful reply, Robert.

” . . . . nationalism has been responsible for many wars.” This is a known fact. Still, leaders don’t want to learn from this and continue to promote it.
Will there ever be a time when mankind can live in peace without any wars?
Maybe if there’s an outside threat we’ll then be acknowledging our common humanity.

So he marched to the death camp with his children . . . . . I wonder how many children were with him.

Is it that the Nazis rigorously went to eliminate everything that seemed foreign to them?Do a lot of people to this day have an innate fear about this what doesn’t fit into their view of the world?

I think not many people are interested in understanding the historical process. They are just interested in how they see their own little world, which is an island surrounded by things that frighten them. Does this lead to fundamentalism? Can fundamentalists live peacefully together with non-fundamentalists or other fundamentalists? If they don’t want peace, what do you do? Eliminate them? Every religion teaches you not to kill unless you are attacked. So for instance Talibans want to kill us. So we are allowed to kill them. Aren’t we? No objections to killing Talibans. Too bad if a few other people get killed along the way. And so it goes. No wonder I need prayers to stay sane. Because the historical process goes on whether I like it or not.

Robert M. Weiss
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Submitted on 2013/05/21 at 3:00 am
Janusz Korczak was offered an opportunity to escape from Poland, but he did not take it. Instead, in 1942, he marched with his orphan children to the death camp of Treblinka…. No doubt people in great psychological need follow cults, and often utilize unhealthy coping mechanisms. What happens with countries brings matters to a larger scale, and nationalism has been responsible for many wars. The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, the rampant unemployment, and other factors went into the cauldron of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s genius was to work with the young people, and gain their support in actively supporting the Third Reich and its goals. By borrowing heavily from German mythology, Wagner, the concept of the ubermensch, Hitler instilled in the young a burning pride in Germany’s future. Hitler was also influenced by Schopenhauer’s “Will to Power”, the incendiary speeches of Bismarck, and the methods of American advertising… History is composed of a series of reactions and counter reactions. Perhaps one day we will succeed in isolating the variables responsible for the vagaries of history, and gain a more precise understanding of the historical process.

catterel
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 9:02 pm | In reply to auntyuta.
HiI Uta – yes, no, yes. I’m writing a memoir that gets added to sporadically, but haven’t published many old photos from that time. Maybe I should!

auntyuta
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 3:10 pm | In reply to The Emu.
“The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the American program to aid Europe, in which the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. . . .”
Ian, this recovery program helped Germany enormously after WW II. Whereas what happened after WW I was a terrible disaster for Germany. The result was that the Nazis came to power!
The disagreements my father had with the Nazis had to do with the war. But sorry, I cannot recall properly what my father said about it. Anyhow the way I remember it, my father was objecting to the way the war was conducted. I think he moved to “Litzmannstadt” towards the end of 1940. This for instance would have been long before Pearl Harbour!
For a great part of 1941 we stayed with the grandparents in Poland.
By August 1941 we were back in our apartment in Berlin (without my father of course). In September 1941 I started school. I was then aged seven already! My second brother was born in October 1941.
My first school reports say my father’s occupation was “Betriebsführer” (Manager).
He was born in 1904. During the first war years he was regarded as being too old to be conscripted. But by 1943 his year, that is men having been born in 1904, were being called up for military duties. After some training my father was made straight away to be an officer. He was sent to the Eastern front.
He came back from the war with his health ruined. For many years after the war he suffered from these health problems without getting any support from my mother I might say. But his sisters and the sisters families as well as his mother who were all refugees from Poland, well everyone in his extended family supported him to the best of their ability. Eventually he did recover and was able to get full employment. At about 1949 my mother got a divorce from him. In the 1950s when he was gainfully employed again and his health had improved a lot, he asked my mother to marry him again. She refused.
He married his secretary in 1959. In 1966 he died of prostate cancer.

The Emu
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 11:37 am
Very interesting Auntyuta, to read of your background in those years, virtually a first hand account and must be recorded and handed down into your family and put into book form.
It intrigues me as to the disagreement your father had with the Nazi;s, maybe you could elaborate on this Auntyuta.
A great historical reading.
Emu aka Ian

auntyuta
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 7:58 am | In reply to catterel.
Hi Cat, do you write a lot about your early childhood and do you have pictures of that time published? Do you find you cannot disclose too much about people who are still alive? It’s great for your kids to be told by you what life was like in the 1940’s and 50’s.

auntyuta
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 7:46 am | In reply to Robert M. Weiss.
Hi, Robert, I have the feeling what you say about Hitler may be absolutely right. My generation (after all I was only a child during the Hitler years) on the whole has learned not to trust people like this.
Aren’t there certain people around in certain countries who somehow are able to get followers when clearly if they only started thinking a bit for themselves maybe they couldn’t be followers? Sadly people in general go more by their feelings and what’s in it for them rather than thinking about the consequences of their support. Aren’t most people selfish? If something is promised that advances them they go for it, don’t they?
I guess Janusz Korczak was a remarkable educator, right? I think you mentioned him in one of your blogs. But I can’t recall any details. Did he for instance survive the war years? Did he have family? It is of course admirable if people stand up for what they believe in.
The best example where protests by a lot of people resulted in an immense change happened in the Eastern part of Germany. The fall of the Iron Curtain, which for years and years looked rather impossible, all of a sudden was possible in a rather peaceful way. That it went ahead peacefully was thanks to some noble people who restrained themselves from interfering.
War and Peace, War and Peace, maybe this is the fate of mankind for ever and ever. Didn’t Orwell say, some people when they say peace mean war? Our previous Primeminister Keating here in Australia used to fight a lot in parliament. His attitude was it was better to fight in parliament rather than attack each other in the street.

Robert M. Weiss
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 2:24 am
Many people at that time didn’t voice their opinions openly. Janusz Korczak, the Polish educator, did. He walked through the streets of Warsaw wearing his Polish army uniform, and was put in jail for his efforts… I continue to be amazed how the Germans could have supported such a madman as Adolf Hitler, which he clearly was. He misused Darwinism, Nietzsche, and never followed his main tenet: to produce children for the Fatherland. Perhaps he knew that that he was the most misbegotten cross and handicapped person of them all.

catterel
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Submitted on 2013/05/20 at 12:10 am
Yes, do please write about your childhood. It was so different then, and personal memories make it come alive for our children and grandchildren. My early life in England (1940’s and 50’s) seems like tales from a distant planet when I reminisce to the kids!

auntyuta
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Submitted on 2013/05/19 at 4:36 pm
Hi Diana, thanks for the comment and welcome to my blogging. I read your about page and am interested in what happened to you when you turned forty. I remember, a long time ago when I turned forty my life seems to have undergone some kind of a change.
A lot of the subjects you write about look very interesting to me. I want to do some reading of your blogs pretty soon.
Cheerio, Aunty Uta.

Holistic Wayfarer
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Submitted on 2013/05/19 at 1:51 pm
Keep writing. That was a fascinating era — and we are just so comfortable these days. We don’t appreciate what our parents and grandparents endured to sustain the basic things we take for granted.

Maria

This is a pass-port photo of Maria.

This Polish girl was “zwangsverpflichtet” in the year 1941 when she was in her early twenties. During the summer of 1941 we spent our holidays in Zokolniki quite some distance outside of Litzmannstadt (Lodz). Mum wanted to have a maid. I think this is when Maria was sent to us. Mum liked her straight away because she was very efficient and able to do all the housework to Mum’s satisfaction.

In August of 1941 we moved back to Berlin. Mum wanted Maria to come with us. Later on she once told me she didn’t really want to leave Poland but she had to go with us to Germany: She wasn’t given a choice, meaning she was “zwangsverpflichtet”!

Maria was very intelligent. Very quickly she picked up quite a bit of German. And she was always keen to learn more! In 1944 when I received my Poesy Album, I asked Maria to write something in it. This is the verse she chose:

‘Sei deiner Eltern Freude,
Beglücke sie durch Fleiss,
Dann erntest du im Alter
Dafür den schönsten Preis.’

The meaning of this is something like this:

‘Be the joy of your parents,
Make them happy by being diligent,
Then you’ll be greatly rewarded in your old age.’

And she stuck one of her pass-port photos into my album. After nearly seventy years I still happen to have it!

Childhood Memories

I have now two pages about my childhood. One is just “Uta’s Early Childhood”, the other one is “Uta’s Early Childhood, Part II”. In the Part II I inserted today some pictures about my sixth birthday in 1940 plus one picture from summer of 1942. All these pictures were taken during the war, World War II that is, when we lived in Berlin, Germany.

Did we suffer during the first years of war? I don’t think so. Except that my father had moved away from Berlin. He became the manager in grandfather’s furniture factory in Lodz, Poland, which since the German occupation in 1939 was called Litzmannstadt. My father had grown up in Lodz. His family had lived in Lodz since the early 1800s, when this part of Poland belonged to Russia.

My father had studied in Leipzig, Germany. In 1930 he had married my mother in Leipzig. During the early years of their marriage they had for the most part lived in Berlin. Sometime during the early war years my father had some disagreements with some Nazi people he worked with in Berlin. I think he didn’t voice his disagreements publicly. Had he done so, he may have ended up in a concentration camp!

In the end he was allowed to remove himself from Berlin. As I said he became then the manager in grandfather’s factory. My mother typically chose to stay with us children in Berlin. We only went for some visits to “Litzmannstadt”.

Uta’s early Childhood

I published this post about the book ‘Unser Kind – Our Child’ about one year ago. I wanted to reblog it today but came up with some major difficulties.

UNSER KIND’ – OUR CHILD , this is the title of a book Mum used for recording notes about my development. Here are some of the notes:

“Uta was born on Friday, 21st September 1934, at 19 hrs and 55 min. in Berlin-Schöneberg. Her birth weight was 3200 g, she was 51 cm in length.

Friday, 5th October 1934, Uta 14 days old. This is the day when she was outside for the first time. She had her first solid food on the 23rd December. She enjoyed eating biscuit with orange juice. On 2nd April 1935 she drank out of a small cup all by herself.

On 27th February 1935, Tante Ilse’s birthday, she wore a dress for the first time. She congratulated Aunty with some violets in her hand. When Uta was four months old she raised herself up into a sitting position for the first time. She could already stand quite well when she was six months. She was ten months and two days old when she took the first two steps all by herself. She could climb one step by herself at twelve months without holding onto anything.

Her first tooth appeared when she wasn’t quite seven months old yet. At twelve months she had six teeth at the top and two at the bottom. These teeth appeared one after another without any problems. On the 20th of March Uta wore ‘Schuhchen’ (little shoes) for the first time.

On the 24th of March 1935, a Sunday, she was baptised in the ‘Kirche zum Heilbronn’ by Pfarrer Wiligmann. Uta’s first words were “wau, wau”. Later she said “Mama” and then “Papa” and “Buh”. With “Buh” she meant ball.

She had three small pox vaccinations, because the first two weren’t successful. (Unsuccessful on 12.5.36 and 24.10.36. Successful vaccination on 13.4.37.)”

Here now is what Mum wrote on the 26th of September 1935: “Uta likes children a real lot. She wants to play with every one. She loves to play in the sand. – When I take her out she always likes to stand up in her pram and she smiles at every one. People always take notice of her. When Uta was ten months old I took her on a bike-tour. She was placed in a basket-seat which was fastened to my handle-bar. We went along the Promenade of Münster. It started raining a bit. Because of this she ended up with a bit of a cold.

She was eleven months when she was for the first time in an outside water, the Aasee of Münster. The temperature was 24 degrees (Celsius). Uta went across the German border into Poland when she was nine months. This was her first major trip. Destination Lodz.

For Uta’s first birthday we were still in Münster. Sissi and Teo were our guests. Uta loved all the presents. All day long she played with her toys.”

And there’s a list of all the presents I received, from Aunty in Berlin, from Grandma in Leipzig and also from the grandparents in Lodz. I think the photo further below was taken around my first birthday. It shows I was still quite bald!

<a href=”https://auntyuta.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/uta-before-her-first-birthday.jpg”><img src=”https://auntyuta.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/uta-before-her-first-birthday.jpg&#8221; alt=”” title=”Uta before her first birthday” width=”490″ height=”469″ /></a>

<a href=”https://auntyuta.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/sept-1935-uta-1-year-old.jpg”><img src=”https://auntyuta.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/sept-1935-uta-1-year-old.jpg&#8221; alt=”” title=”Sept. 1935, Uta 1 year old” width=”490″ height=”672″ /></a>

 

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.)

Cousins, Aunties and Uncles

Passport from 1935

In June 1935 my parents traveled with me to Lodz, which was in Poland. My father did get a passport for this trip. This one passport was not just for himself, but also for his wife and infant daughter!

I suppose we traveled by train from Berlin to Lodz. I’m sure the journey would have taken something like twelve hours. In Lodz we stayed at the house of Aunt Elisabeth (Tante Lies) and Uncle Alfred. Tante Lies was my father’s younger sister. She was the same age as my mum.  Their son, my cousin Horst, was only four months at the time and I was nine months. I had three older cousins in Lodz. They were Georg, Gerd, and Ursula (Ulla). You can see them with little Horst and my little self in one of the pictures.

Ursel, Gerd, and Georg with Horst and Uta (Ute)

June 1935
Uta 9 months

Alfred and Lies in their park in Lodz
with Charlotte and Alexander and babies Horst and Uta
30th June 1935

Elisabeth, my father’s younger sister,
with Baby-Son Horst about Jan.1936

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.

Grandmother Hilda buys Eggs

                            Probably a Slighly Fictional Story

 

I said that as a child I did not get to know any Jewish people. Yet this is not quite true. In my memory sticks a meeting with a woman on a small farm outside Lodz, which was called ‘Litzmannstadt’ at the time. Only I did not know then, that this woman was Jewish.

 

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.)