My Education in 1944

The village school in Lichtenow had only one teacher. That was Herr Grosskreuz. His wife, Frau Grosskreuz, came to the school on Wednesday afternoons to teach the girls needlework. Under her guidance I learned to knit socks with five needles. I also learned how to mend socks. Mending socks was called ‘stopfen’. I was taught, how to fill in a hole with a beautiful woven pattern. I probably could still do this kind of work today, only these days one hardly ever finds any holes in socks: It shows how the quality of socks changed over the years!

Every day, including Saturdays, school finished at lunch-time. The only afternoon session for girls was Wednesdays. I did not mind having to go back to school after lunch on that day. I often arrived early in Lichtenow for the afternoon class, stopping at the teacher’s house on the way, where I was always welcomed. I loved to play with daughters Christa and Gerlinde. Christa was the same age as I and had skipped year three together with me. Gerlinde was two years younger. There was another three year old daughter, who was called ‘Püppi’. Püppi and baby-son Hartmut were very sweet. I enjoyed very much visiting the teachers’ family.

The Grosskreuz-family lived in a modern one family home, which stood on a large block of land away from the village. In the village itself were ancient, small farmhouses with huge sloping straw-roofs. People said, the father of Frau Grosskreuz, who was the mayor in a neighbouring small town, had seen to it that the Grosskreuz family could live in style in a modern home.

Why was Herr Grosskreuz not called up to join the army? It seemed to me that he was probably past forty. And besides, he had a slightly crooked leg. It was good, that we were able to have a man-teacher in Lichtenow, so that he could look after all the boys and girls, aged from six to fourteen, which meant that eight different school-years were given lessons in the one class-room!

Later on when I attended school in Herzfelde, I found out that the whole school was run by women. Presumably all male teachers had been called up to fight in the war, the same as had been the case in my school in Berlin.

Aunty Ilse often invited me to sit with her in her cosy living-room, which had extremely comfortable seats upholstered in an expensive velvety red material. Aunty kept an eye on my attempts at knitting and darning of socks. This is how I received a great deal of practice and encouragement. (When I was still very young, Aunty always praised me for doing little pieces of cross-stitch embroidering for her birthday. I felt very proud then that I could give her something I had made.)

When Aunty Ilse started doing office work for Werner M, she sometimes let me help with checking additions of huge columns of numbers. From then on I always found additions easy to do. Aunty must have thought that I was good at checking additions because she asked me again and again to do it with her. I willingly obliged. I loved to do things together with her for I felt very peaceful in her presence.

Mum and Grandma (Omi) and later on also Uncle Peter pointed out that Ilse was a bit of a scatter brain. Once Uncle Peter remarked, that he did not know, how his wife ever was able to get a driver’s license. To me Aunty Ilse seemed rather calm as compared to my nervous and highly strung mother. Mum’s nervousness constantly upset me, even though I usually tried not to show it. As far as I know, I always tried very hard, not to lose control of myself —

Mum had a large roll of hair across her forehead and two more rolls parallel behind it on top of her head. She made me wear one huge roll of hair right on top of my head, which would constantly slip unto my forehead and annoyed me a great deal. One of the first verses, when I started learning English, was:

‘There was a little girl,

who had a little curl,

right in the middle of her forehead.

When it was good,

she was very, very good.

But when it was bad,

she was horrid.’

I imagined, I was very much like this girl!

On my tenth birthday I was finally allowed to discard the nasty roll. It made me feel really grown- up. Best of all was, that I never again had to wear this terrible roll!

Here I am with Eva T in the Zoo Gardens of Berlin in 1942
Here I am with Eva T in the Zoo Gardens of Berlin in 1942
21st September 1944, my guests on my tenth birthday.
21st September 1944, my guests on my tenth birthday.

I, the birthday girl, at the front, the following three girls are my school-friends from Herzfelde, the next girl is Christa Grosskreuz, then follow Eva T and Gerlinde Grosskreuz, and last but not least my six year old brother Bodo.

Eva had a ‘Poesy-Album’. I thought it was a great idea to get family and friends to write a little verse in such a book and possibly add a photo as well. Mrs T found out that I would very much like to have a ‘Poesy-Album’. She said: ‘I believe I still have a spare album amongst my things in Berlin. I’ll ask my mother to look for it. When she finds it, I’ll give it to you.’

Eventually I was given Mrs T’s album. I regarded it as a very special gift. After sixty-five years it is still in my possession. Looking through it, I find that my father wrote something in it for me on the 16th of April 1944. This shows me that he must have been with us on leave at the time. What he wrote, makes a lot of sense. In his writing he points out that in the long run true luck comes only to the efficient person. Therefore he urges me, to be diligent and ambitious. However I should at all times hang unto my peace of mind!

I look at that page which he seems to have written the way it came into his head. One word is crossed out, another word misses several letters. I wonder, whether he made mistakes because it is a first draft or whether he was upset about something when he wrote it . . . .

I like the passport-photo that he stuck next to his writing. This photo was probably taken before he joined the army, well before he turned forty. Oh, my father was still very healthy and good looking then!

Childhood Memories

 

 

Towards the End of Worldwar II and after the War

During my year at the village school in Lichtenow, I had become used to a very individual teaching style. This changed however, when after the summer holidays of 1944 I was enrolled in year four of the Herzfelde Primary School, and I found myself there in a class of about thirty girls.

In this class we spent most of the time doing reading, writing and arithmetic. We also learnt a few songs, especially ‘marching songs’. We had to know these songs because they came in handy, when we marched through town, which happened about once a week. We thought, it was great fun, when all the girls of our class marched along in rows of two, singing all the marching songs, which we knew so well. I believe this marching business came about, because we were supposed to have a bit of exercise to keep us healthy and fit. We did not have a sports’ teacher at the time, which meant, that sport as such was not on the curriculum. Of course we had our class-teacher accompanying us on our marching sessions through town and surroundings.

Once a week we were given dictation. Every spelling mistake was marked by the teacher, counting one bad point for every mistake and half a bad point for a punctuation mistake. The student with the least mistakes was seated at the top of the class. All students were seated according to the number of mistakes they made in dictation. The students who made the most mistakes were seated at the bottom of the class right in front of the teacher.

Thanks to the good schooling I had received in Lichtenow, I was able to spell quite well and usually ended up among the top three students in the class. I felt lucky in that regard. My handwriting however was terrible. Handwriting had always been my worst subject. Luckily for me, it was a separate subject and did not influence the marking of any other subject!

That the teacher praised students with the better marks, was nothing new to me. It was also generally accepted, that the teacher let the other students know, who was in the lower range in any subject. For instance, when we were writing a composition on a given theme, the teacher would collect the finished compositions and take them home to mark them. Once the marked compositions were handed back to us, the teacher discussed in front of the whole class, who had written a good composition; also whose composition was satisfactory, just satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

I went to the school in Herzfelde for about three months only. From that time on I had a preference for sitting in the back rather than the front of the class. When I went to high-school in Berlin later on, I always tried to get a seat in one of the back-rows. I was rather glad, that In high-school we were allowed to choose ourselves, where to sit. I used to pity the girls in the front-rows, who often had to suffer a lot of spitting out of the mouth of German teacher Dr. Petzel. The standard joke after an enormous spitting session was, that the girls in the front rows should put up umbrellas, when Dr. Petzel was talking!

Right through my childhood I was made to wear a roll of hair on top of my head, which hovered over the midst of my forehead. On my tenth birthday I was finally allowed to comb my hair to the side. Because of this, I felt, I was on the way to becoming a grown-up person.

So here’s the picture from my tenth birthday and another picture that was taken a bit after my birthday. The other picture was taken when I was only about 8 and my friend was 7.

 

My Education in 1944

The village school in Lichtenow had only one teacher. That was Herr Grosskreuz. His wife, Frau Grosskreuz, came to the school on Wednesday afternoons to teach the girls needlework. Under her guidance I learned to knit socks with five needles. I also learned how to mend socks. Mending socks was called ‘stopfen’. I was taught, how to fill in a hole with a beautiful woven pattern. I probably could still do this kind of work today, only these days one hardly ever finds any holes in socks: It shows how the quality of socks changed over the years!

Every day, including Saturdays, school finished at lunch-time. The only afternoon session for girls was Wednesdays. I did not mind having to go back to school after lunch on that day. I often arrived early in Lichtenow for the afternoon class, stopping at the teacher’s house on the way, where I was always welcomed. I loved to play with daughters Christa and Gerlinde. Christa was the same age as I and had skipped year three together with me. Gerlinde was two years younger. There was another three year old daughter, who was called ‘Puppi’. Puppi and baby-son Hartmut were very sweet. I enjoyed very much visiting the teachers’ family.

The Grosskreuz-family lived in a modern one family home, which stood on a large block of land away from the village. In the village itself were ancient, small farmhouses with huge sloping straw-roofs. People said, the father of Frau Grosskreuz, who was the mayor in a neighbouring small town, had seen to it that the Grosskreuz family could live in style in a modern home.

Why was Herr Grosskreuz not called up to join the army? It seemed to me that he was probably past forty. And besides, he had a slightly crooked leg. It was good, that we were able to have a man-teacher in Lichtenow, so that he could look after all the boys and girls, aged from six to fourteen, which meant that eight different school-years were given lessons in the one class-room!

Later on when I attended school in Herzfelde, I found out that the whole school was run by women. Presumably all male teachers had been called up to fight in the war, the same as had been the case in my school in Berlin.

Aunty Ilse often invited me to sit with her in her cosy living-room, which had extremely comfortable seats upholstered in an expensive velvety red material. Aunty kept an eye on my attempts at knitting and darning of socks. This is how I received a great deal of practise and encouragement. Earlier on, when I was only about four,  Aunty would praise me for doing little pieces of cross-stitch embroidering for her for her birthday. I felt very proud then that I could give her something I had made.

When Aunty Ilse started doing office work for Werner Mann, she sometimes let me help with checking additions of huge columns of numbers. From then on I always found additions easy to do. Aunty must have thought that I was good at checking additions because she asked me again and again to do it with her. I willingly obliged. I loved to do things together with her for I felt very peaceful in her presence.

Mum and Grandma (Omi) and later on also Uncle Peter pointed out that Ilse was a bit of a scatter brain. Once Uncle Peter remarked, that he did not know, how his wife ever was able to get a driver’s license. To me Aunty Ilse seemed rather calm as compared to my nervous and highly strung mother. Mum’s nervousness constantly upset me, even though I usually tried not to show it. As far as I know, I always tried very hard, not to lose control of myself —

Mum had a large roll of hair across her forehead and two more rolls parallel behind it on top of her head. She made me wear one huge roll of hair right on top of my head, which would constantly slip unto my forehead and annoyed me a great deal. One of the first verses, when I started learning English, was:

‘There was a little girl,

who had a little curl,

right in the middle of her forehead.

When it was good,

she was very, very good.

But when it was bad,

she was horrid.’

 

I imagined, I was very much like this girl!

On my tenth birthday I was finally allowed to discard the nasty roll. It made me feel really grown- up.  It was bliss that never again I had to wear this terrible roll!

Eva Todtenhausen had a ‘Poesy-Album’. I thought it was a great idea to get family and friends to write a little verse in such a book and possibly add a photo as well. Mrs Tostenhausen found out that I would very much like to have a ‘Poesy-Album’. She said: ‘I believe I still have a spare album amongst my things in Berlin. I’ll ask my mother to look for it. When she finds it, I’ll give it to you.’

Eventually I was given Mrs T’s album. I regarded it as a very special gift. After sixty-five years it is still in my possession. Looking through it, I find that my father wrote something in it for me on the 16th of April 1944. This shows me that he must have been with us on leave at the time. What he wrote, makes a lot of sense. In his writing he points out that in the long run true luck comes only to the efficient person. Therefore, he urges me, to be diligent and ambitious. However I should at all times hang unto my peace of mind!

I look at that page which he seems to have written the way it came into his head. One word is crossed out, another word misses several letters. I wonder, whether he made mistakes because it is a first draft or whether he was upset about something when he wrote it . . . .

I like the passport-photo that he stuck next to his writing. This photo was probably taken before he joined the army, well before he turned forty. Oh, my father was still very healthy and good looking then!