Monday, 19 September 2011

A teacher becomes just another adult

One of the clearest bits of handwriting to read in my collection of letters is that of the class teacher Hanna Braun. She actually uses a modern German spelling, in particular for the ß. At the time of writing, she would have been making significant spelling mistakes. She also abbreviates “habe” to “hab” and follows prepositions and verbs by “‘s” rather than “es”. She has now started addressing the girls with the polite second person pronoun, Sie, Ihnen etc. though still calls them by their first names. This is diametrically opposite to what my husband does when working for IBM Germany. There, they use the familiar second person but only ever surnames.
Hanna Braun is no longer a teacher but keeps house and works in an office as part of her war work. She enjoys her home and appreciates it when she sees the people who have to live in a guest house without their own kitchen or cellar because they are working away from home. Odd, that she is no longer a teacher as all the menfolk are away. But perhaps this is because she has always taught in slightly quirky independent schools which the Nazi regime has now closed. She asks the girls to give more detail about their daily lives and the ins and outs of what they have to do at work. That would be useful to me also. I’m not sure, though, that she is not being a little cautious. If this little collection of letters had fallen into the wrong hands they could have been quite dangerous for those writing it. She expresses a joy at doing work that will help the nation, even though she does not enjoy the work. She suggests that one of the girls, Hanna, might keep the first volume – or even burn it, as everyone has read it. This is a rather strange suggestion coming from a teacher - teachers normally like to preserve history. She immediately expresses the wish that God may look after them all. Is this some sort of hint? Is she asking for practical details in order to steer the girls away from filling the letters with too many judgements? Or could it just be that the letters are getting too formulaic?
Each one starts off with a greeting and an expression of joy about receiving the “round letter”. Then the writer marvels at the achievements of others and goes on to say how happy they are in their work, which they describe briefly. They congratulate each other on or commiserate about any life-changing events, then wish everybody all the best of the future. Occasionally a hope for peace is expressed.
Well, we shall see. News of the Nuremberg bombings is creeping in more often now.

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