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               

Monday, 17 July 2017

The House on Schellberg Street as a play script

I'm now about half way through creating the first draft of this. It's my first attempt at a play and I think this is very much a first draft. I worry a little that it may have a few too many scenes and some tricky set changes, though I see it on an abstract and minimalist stage.

There is a fairly large cast but there are many minor parts that can be covered by a chorus.

Might it work better as a radio play?

All to be looked at and all up for debate.

In any case, it is intriguing how the narrative translates into dialogue and a few stage directions. Inner monologue from the novel is replaced by acting in the play.

The voice that speaks to Renate at the end of some scenes I'm giving to an actor who actually comes on as a Nazi officer. The same actor must play the benign border official in one of the final scenes.

Today I wrote the scene where Renate looks for him but in the novel doesn't see him. In the play he comes on stage but does not speak. I've posted that scene below. Let me know what you think.


ANNE , CHRISTINE, CHORUS  and THE HAIRDRESSER  are in a bathroom. RENATE is sitting in front of a mirror. Her eyes are closed and she has her hands over her eyes.  Her hair has now been cut into a modern bob. She has a towel around her shoulder. There is hair on the floor.

CHRISTINE:  There, you can look now. Open your eyes.

RENATE takes her hands away from her face and looked in the mirror. She gasps.

HAIRDRESSER: You do like it, don’t you?

GIRL 1. It looks really lovely. Don’t you think so, Renate?

ANNE:  Will you cut mine like that?

HAIRDRESSER: Yes, of course. But maybe you’d better come to the salon. She looks down at the hair all over the bathroom floor.

CHRISTINE. Oh, don’t worry about that. We’ll soon clear it all up.

HAIRDRESSER You’re really lucky that you have such a nice natural wave. It will be easy to keep it like that. You’ll just need to set it each time you wash it.

CHRISTINE: You’re not saying much, Renate. Don’t you like it?

RENATE: Of course I do. It’s lovely.

ANNE: It makes you look really pretty.

HAIRDRESSER: Well, I’m glad you’re pleased.

NURSE: enters centre stage. Goodness.  She looks first at the floor and then at Renate. Girls, you need to finish up now. And tidy up this mess. Renate needs to get some rest.

CHRISTINE: Oh, we’ll do this very quickly. Do you have a dustpan and brush?

NURSE: Follow me. She hesitates as she goes to exit centre stage and turns back to Renate. It makes you look so English. It really suits you. THE NURSE and CHRISTINE exit centre stage.

RENATE looks back at her reflection. Then she looks around. The lights dim and the other girls freeze. The NAZI OFFICER appears briefly stage left but he doesn't speak. RENATE stares at him. He blinks then exits again stage left. Lights come up again fully.

CHRISTINE: enters centre stage. Still admiring yourself? Come on girls.  She hands the dustpan to Anne and the brush to GIRL 1. Let’s get this cleared up before matron has fifty fits.

RENATE: Thank you for thinking of this.   


Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Tin Shed Experience

The summer is warming up and it’s pleasant chatting in the little courtyard between the two main parts of this fascinating and unusual little museum.

You won’t find neatly labelled exhibits here nor lengthy descriptions of historical events. Rather, you are left to browse and if anything catches your eye you can find out more by asking co-owner Seimon Pugh-Jones or a volunteer guide.

It’s all 1940s material and therefore fascinating for me of course. There is even an Anderson shelter in the garden.

For me personally the most interesting is the 1940s’ tin cottage, also in the garden. I spend a while in there and can really imagine what it would be like to live there.

We chat for hours, and the guides also chat to the two other visitors. It’s quite difficult to get them to take our money. I find a seat in the shade.

Finally Seimon pops his head out of the main exhibition area. “Are you all right there?” he asks. “Do you fancy a cuppa? I was just going to put the kettle on.” It’s that sort of place.

I tell him all about the Schellberg Project. “That sounds interesting,” he says. “Send me some material.”

So I’ve spent much of this week putting together a small pack consisting of some general information about the project, some extra information about the girls’ letters scans of three of the letters with their transcripts and translations, and one of the board games from the school pack. I’m also going to send him a copy of The House on Schellberg Street.

The Tin Shed also has a performance space. Some fascinating events have taken place there and more will take place in the future. If you’re ever near Laugharne do check out this intriguing little museum.  Details here.      

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The five stories - or is it six?

The five stories – or is it six.

Here they are:
The House on Schellberg Street.
This is about Renate leaving Germany, coming to England on the Kindertranpost and making changes in her life. It is also about the people she left behind in Germany – her grandmother, her best friend Hani and her other friends     

Clara’s Story:
This is the story of Renate’s grandmother. Her life might be construed as a tragedy. Or was it?  She remained ever hopeful and it was largely thanks to her that a school for the disabled managed to survive the Holocaust and World War II.

Girl in a Smart Uniform
Two girls who are at first love their BDM uniform and are a little in love with the Nazi regime have to make some difficult choices that leave them having to leave their home.

Facing the Fürher
Käthe, Renate’s mother is quite feisty. She is one of the first women to study at the university in Berlin. She chooses particle physics and studies under Einstein. She is the first woman to get a driving license in Jena. The she comes face to face with Hitler in a most bizarre situation.

The Round Robin
A group of German girls write letters in exercise books and send them on to each other.

I’m currently taking a break from writing these and writing a fourth book in my Peace Child series. This is a young adult / new adult science fiction series. They’re curiously similar, actually.

In fact, as well, a sixth Schellberg hovers in my mind: Helga’s Story. But who is Helga?

Can you guess the links between the books? Let me know via the comments box or the contact form. Prizes offered!