If you’ve read The House on Schellberg Street you may remember a scene where the teacher Hanna Braun invites her girls for coffee and cake. The war has ended and life is slowly getting back to normal but there are some things that she feels she must tell the girls about. What about Renate? And Sister Kuna, about Father Maxfeld and about Elfriede Kaiser?
Elfriede Kaiser I have made up. Sister Kuna, Father Maxfeld, and of course Renate really existed.
Elfreide, like Renate, does not know she is Jewish until just before she has to travel. However, unlike Renate she doesn’t travel to the relative safety of England. Her parents hesitate about sending her too on the Kindertransport. Then it is too late. They flee to Holland instead but in the end that does not help.
I’ve had to go back to Renate’s original letter to her classmates in 1980. And yes there is enough there for me to build up the stories about Sister Kuna and Father Maxfeld.
I need to include these stories in my novel about the round robin letter. They offer a sharp contrast to the innocent bubble that the girls live in. I hope the novel will show that they can’t help being naïve.
So, I’ve had to delve back into my original documents and of course, as well as finding what I needed in order to be able to continue my story I’ve been side-tracked into reading much more. In particular was the whole Renate’s letter to her friends – four sides of closely typed A4, her original attempt of telling her own story – in fact, I’ve based part of the opening scene of my first book on this- , and her friend Hanno Schäfer’s reply to her letter.
It’s good to go back to the primary resources occasionally and remind yourself of where all the ideas came from in the first place.