Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Blood Laws Blutschutzgesetz

These were invented in 1935. They determined whether  you were Jewish or not. here are some examples:

If your parents and grandparents were all German - you were safe - you were German.

If your parents and grandparents were all Jewish, you were not safe.  You were definitely Jewish.

If you had two grandparents and one parent who was Jewish you were a Mischling of the first degree. This applied to Renate. She had two Jewish grandparents and a Jewish parent. Her mother and her mother's parents were Jewish It didn't matter that her grandparents had converted to Christianity. They are Blut - bllod laws. 

Interestingly some orthodox Jews welcomed these as they gave a solid definition of who was Jewish.         

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Steiner School is evacuated

Renate gets to live at the seaside. The whole school is evacuated. However, the beach isn’t necessarily a place you would want to go. These children have braved it however. Here is a picture of what it looked like:

Here is an excerpt from The House on Schellberg Street:
She took a deep breath and felt the sea air fill her. She was aware of her body getting stronger.
Eva took a deep breath too. “Hmm,” she said. “It is so wonderful to breathe this fresh air. And listen.” She cupped her ear. “No noisy bombs and sirens.”
“Will you keep your voice down?” hissed Frau Edler. “You with you über-Yiddish accent. You’ll give us away.”
What on earth did Mutti mean?
“If they recognise us as being Yiddish,” said Eva, “surely they’ll realise that we hate Herr Hitler as much as they do.”
“Not so much of the us,” said Frau Edler. “I am certainly not Yiddish. I am married to a respected German Catholic, my parents were Lutheran and my mother is still Christian. The whole family has never spoken anything but Hochdeutsch.”
“You’re still Yiddish,” said Eva. “Jüdische Deutsche. Yiddish.”
“You don’t really care what people think do you?” asked Renate. 
“Of course not,” said Frau Edler. “But you see … we never got permission to be so near to the sea. There wasn’t time to get the extra paperwork done. So I think we should be a bit careful.”
“So, why didn’t you say when Mrs Williams suggested coming here?” asked Renate.
“Your mother could see you really needed some fresh air,” said Eva. “And with the two of us to prop you up …   Mrs Williams wouldn’t have had time to do that.”
Renate suddenly remembered that she had meant to like being English. If she didn’t they’d won, Herr Hitler and his lot. But could liking being English include breaking the rules sometimes? She remembered how Sergeant Clarkson had said that these particular rules were a bit daft. That was a good enough reason to like being English, wasn’t it?
And there were Mutti and Eva as well, being naughty, going to the seaside when they shouldn’t.

What was it like for Renate being at the seaside?
The whole of Renate’s school was evacuated together but the children lived with separate families. What were the advantages and disadvantages of this?
Note: German children were also sent from the big towns to the countryside. However they all lived together. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?       

Monday, 16 October 2017

Living in London 1939-1945

Although Renate was tucked away in Minehead for much of the duration of World War II, she did spend some time with her mother in London. She was also constantly worried about her mother who was in danger of being bombed by the Allies.
What do these pictures tell you about what it was like?


They came just after dark, and somehow you could sense from the quick, bitter firing of the guns that there was to be no monkey business this night.
Shortly after the sirens wailed you could hear the Germans grinding overhead. In my room, with its black curtains drawn across the windows, you could feel the shake from the guns. You could hear the boom, crump, crump, crump, of heavy bombs at their work of tearing buildings apart. They were not too far away.
Half an hour after the firing started I gathered a couple of friends and went to a high, darkened balcony that gave us a view of a third of the entire circle of London. As we stepped out onto the balcony a vast inner excitement came over all of us-an excitement that had neither fear nor horror in it, because it was too full of awe.

And what Renate imagined:
It was screaming at her urgently now. She had to get out.
Where were Mutti and Eva? 
Already down in the shelter?
There wasn’t time. 
She would have to shelter under the table.
They were really close. 
They’re dropping the bombs now, she thought. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Enemy Aliens

There were three types:
A’ - to be interned.
‘B’ - to have restrictions placed upon their freedom
(a ban on travelling more than five miles, owning cameras
or large-scale maps)
‘C’ - dubbed friendly and to remain at liberty.

Both Renate and Käthe Edler were defined as Enemy Aliens, Class B. This meant that they did not have to be interned. They were allowed a certain amount of freedom but they did have some restrictions. They couldn’t travel more than ten miles away from home without special permission, be out after a curfew of 10 p.m. or be near the coast or a munitions factory without special permission. However, this permission was usually granted. Renate really did have a similar incident with a bike to the one in the story.

Renate did not become an “enemy alien” until her sixteenth birthday.

A Class A alien was considered a danger to the state and was interned. This included some of the people who had originally come on the Kindertransport, which is slightly puzzling as many refugees were classified as C – no threat at all. However, several male internees later joined the British forces.

Perhaps it was because Renate and Käthe considered themselves German rather than Jewish that they were not given complete freedom.     

Food for thought:

Why do you think the rules about what Enemy Aliens Class B could do were made?
How might these rules have affected someone like Renate?
How might it have affected her mother?  (She lived in London for much of World War II.)     

An extract from the novel

It had got complicated. Now that she was sixteen she had become an enemy alien proper. She had obtained the permission to be near the sea – with the school being so close to the beach they had to allow that. She’d also got special permission to be more than ten miles away from home when she needed to report to the police station - the nearest one was ten and a half miles from them. But she’d forgotten to ask for special permission to stay out after ten tonight. It had been too late to cycle back to the police station and Mrs Williams was out with the truck.
“It doesn’t matter,” David had said. “We can go to the seven o’clock showing and we’ll be out by just after nine. Then as long as we pedal reasonably fast, we’ll be back just before ten. And before you ask: yes, it’s less than ten miles away. Nine and three quarters actually. I looked it up on the map. It’s the other end of town from the police station.”  

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A German childhood 1925 – 1938


Most of the girls in the first book of the Schellberg Cycle were born as the hyperinflation in Germany ended. Some of the older girls in the story would have experienced this. Just imagine what it must been like having to turn your father's wages into goods the moment he came home from work. Families would buy some fresh food, certainly, but there would also have been lots of pickles, canned and bottled foods along with salted meat and fish.

Happy days in Nuremberg?

Renate spent much of her early childhood in Nuremberg. Certainly she had more vivid memories of that than of Jena where she was born. Nuremberg was then and still is a bit of a fairy tale place. It has a magnificent castle and is the home of the world's largest international toy fair.     

However, when Renate and her friends were younger it was also the home of the infamous Nuremberg Rallies. Thousands of people would march into the grounds that then echoed with Hitler's charismatic rhetoric and the "Sieg Hiel"s which don’t sound all that different from the Daleks' "Exterminate!"

Hitler's policy 1933

He wanted to take charge of education. He sought to mould young people into perfect Germans.

"My program for educating youth is hard … weakness must be hammered away. In my castles of the Teutonic Order, a new youth will grow up, before which the world will tremble. I want a brutal, domineering, fearless and cruel youth. Youth must be all that. It must bear pain. There must be nothing weak and gentle about it. The free, splendid beast of prey must once again flash from its eyes…That is how I will eradicate thousands of years of human domestication…That is how I will create the New Order.”

The first Waldorf school

In England, we know them as Steiner schools. They still exist and there are now many worldwide.

Steiner specified four conditions for the Stuttgart school:
  1. that the school be open to all children;
  2. that it be coeducational;
  3. that it be a unified twelve-year school;
  4. that the teachers, those individuals actually in contact with the children, have primary control over the pedagogy of the school, with a minimum of interference from the state or from economic sources.
This is so very different from what was going on in other schools in Germany. It eventually had to be closed down but opened again after World War II.  

Renate only experienced the Stuttgart school through her grandmother. However, she went to a Steiner school in England.

Germany does not have many private schools but it does tolerate the Waldorf schools. Many of the teachers who now work in these schools are very skilled artists.     


The Bund Deutscher Mädel. An organisation for girls.
Renate actually left Germany before she had to join the BDM. It became compulsory for girls aged 14+. The uniform was very smart and must have been a joy for the girls who lived through the hyperinflation of the 1920s and the depression of the 1930s which hit Germany even more than other European countries.

It was a little like our scouting movement to start with but the emphasis soon shifted to making the girl into homemakers. There was some subtle indoctrination. The girls in the book have been taught to value camaraderie and duty.

This post and the next few relate to the Discovery Packs I am creating for the Schellberg Cycle Workshop