Here are some descriptions of some places mentioned in the story or mentioned in the letters written by the real German girls. It is worth considering these places, both as they were then and as they are now, as this gives a greater sense of what it might have been like for these young girls growing up in Nazi Germany.
A real puzzle is that Hitler constantly argued for more Lebensraum - “ living room” for Germans. Yet they had many wide open spaces. It was also quite difficult sometimes, for those who lived in the countryside, where bombs were scarcer and food more plentiful, at first at least, really to realise that they were at war.
This is the southern part of the area known as Swabia. It is easily to travel there form Stuttgart and Nuremberg. In the 1940s it was a popular area for walking holidays. It still is now. There are also several ski resorts.
In English, this is often known as Lake Constance. It is a huge lake on the Rhine and surrounded by holiday resorts. It is situated where German, Switzerland and Austria meet. There are three islands in the lake:
The Chiemsee is a large freshwater lake in Bavaria. It has several islands in it, the two most important being the Herrenchiemsee and the Frauencheimsee.
There are many opportunities for recreational activities on and around the lake and the islands.
It came from the primeval Thetis Sea which once covered almost half of Europe.
Dinkelsbühl is a beautifully preserved medieval town situated in western Bavaria on the Wörnitz River. It has old walls and towers. You can walk round the old walls. In 1962 “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” was filmed there. Immediately after the war Dinkelsbühl became a camp for displaced persons. Most of the town was taken over to provide this facility. See the report by M. John Sklepkowycz.
The Americans arrived on 21 April 1945.
Dinkelsbühl is often referred to as the smaller neighbour of nearby Rothenburg.
Feucht is situated south west of Nuremberg. Its name comes from the word for spruce. It ahs many small lakes nearby and plenty of opportunities for fishing. It is still a vibrant market town today.
The name literally means “Fish stream”. There are several places called “Fischbach” in Germany. There is also one which is part of Nuremberg.
This is an area of forest which provided the backdrop to many of the girls’ stories. It is in the extreme north-east of Bavaria and links to the Thuringian forest. It is about 30 miles (50 km) long. The slopes north and east toward the Salle River Its highest point is Mount Döbra (2,608 feet [795 m]). Along the centre lies the watershed between the Main and the Saale basins and between the Rhine and the Elbe systems. The main city is Hof, to the east. Kulmbach, Kronach, and Bayreuth are to its west. It provides good recreational walking terrain. Today it is also popular with cyclists, though you would need a well-geared bike to cope with the hills.
The trees in this forest are mostly deciduous. The rivers from here eventually flow into the Mainz.
This is a well-known tourist spot and would also have been very familiar to the German girls as a place for a weekend outing. It is on the border with Austria. The two towns maintained a separate identity for many years and in many ways are still separate but now form one official identity.
It was used as a base for the 1936 Winter Olympics. An Olympic ice stadium was built in Garmisch.
Both towns are still good bases for skiing holidays and are surrounded by fantastic mountain scenery.
Göppingen is near to Stuttgart. A civilian airport was built there in 1930 and was taken on by the Luftwaffe in 1936. American barracks were later built there. The barracks were closed in February 1992.
Hasenbuck is a recreational spot high up just outside Nuremberg. It has a railway station.
This is found at 20 Schellberg Street in Stuttgart. Because Clara Lehrs was considered a victim of the Holocaust a “Stolperstein” has now been laid near the house. These small cobble-sized copper memorial plaques are put near the home of a Holocaust victim. The word literally means “stumbling-block” and the plaques are meant to make you pause and think for a while.
Persuaded by her elder son, Ernst Lehrs, Clara Lehrs decided to settle in Stuttgart and she and Ernst built a house together: 20 Schellberg Street. She sold her jewellery to pay for the house. They received some help from her older brother and a friend of the family.
Ernst Lehrs had become an anthroposophist and was involved with the Steiner School movement. Clara Lehrs had had some doubts but building the new house had helped to crystallise her thoughts. The house was used to board children from the nearby Waldorf School and also as a meeting place for the anthroposophists. They moved into the house early in 1928.
After February 1934 Ernst Lehrs was no longer allowed to teach, as he was non-Aryan. He moved to England. His mother decided to stay out of loyalty to the children.
Karl Schubert taught a Special Class (severely disabled children) within the Waldorf School. In 1938 the Waldorf School was closed by the Nazis. Clara Lehrs immediately offered Haus Lehrs to this class. The authorities seemed to tolerate it even though the children who visited this class were as undesirable to the Nazi regime as the Jews. Potatoes in Spring offers an explanation and the story is based upon one that Renate James (nee Edler) used to relate to show that Stuttgart was a special place:
A school operated in hiding. The Home Guard were ordered to clear it out but they refused. The Hitler Youth were then commanded to do this. They also refused. Then it was the turn of the BDM girls. They daren’t refuse: the Nazis were getting impatient. So, the girls set fire to the cellar where the class took place, but not before they had rescued all the children and all of their books and learning equipment. The school continued openly immediately after the war. She never told us which school that was. It seems likely that it was the school in Haus Lehrs.
In 1939, Clara Lehrs, renamed Klara Sarah Lehrs by the Nazis, had to sell the house. She sold it to Emil Kühn, a friend of the family and the Chairman of the Waldorf School Organisation. She was able to rent a room within the house until 1942.
The school for the disabled children continued at 20 Schellberg Street after the war. It finally moved to a new home in 1969.
The Isar Valley
The Isar flows though Bavaria. It also flows through Munich.
Killesberg parkThe Killesberg Park is a small park in north Stuttgart. It borders the city’s fairground The park dates back to the horticultural show of 1939. Before the show, a large area of the park had been a quarry. It was transformed into a park with exhibition sites for the show, and has remained, hosting horticultural events on a regular basis, including the Bundesgartenschau, the National Garden Show.
Thousands of Jews were gathered here and transported to concentration and / or death camps in 1941 and 1942.
Kitzingen in the Main / Franken region. It was badly bombed on 23 February 1945. A military flying school was set up there in 1936. This was taken over by the Americans in 1945. The US Army finally left the base in 2005.
Kronach is a town and an area in Bavaria. It is surrounded by the Frankenwald. It is another small and historical town with interesting architecture. Its walls are complete. The fortress there was used as a prison during World War II and Charles de Gaulle was imprisoned there. It was the birthplace of Lucas Cranach the Elder. Three rivers flow together in Kronach. Many festivals take place there throughout the year.
A popular place for climbing.
Michael Hall School Minehead
In September 1939 the Michael Hall School, a Steiner School, moved to Minehead. Minehead was a typical English seaside town in those days and the children could enjoy fishing, swimming and walking along the beach. The students were billeted with local families. The school was housed in a big old house.
Mostviel was the place in the country where the Wilhelm Löwe School would take the girls for summer school. Normal lessons took place but in a more relaxed way. There were plenty of opportunities for nature study and long walks in the Bavarian countryside. The girls also benefitted as normal from spending some time at a residential centre. They were accommodated in an old farmhouse.
Neuendettelsau is 20 kilometres southwest of Nuremberg.
The North Station. More than 2000 Jews were deported via this station between 1941 and 1945. It had always been a station for goods trains. There is now a memorial to those people who were murdered during the Holocaust who were deported via this station.
This is a key place in the story.
- It is where Reante grew up until she left for Englan ehen she was 13 ½.
- It is where the big rallies were held, inlcuding for the Hilterjugend and for the BDM.
- It was here where the new laws were introduced in 1935, the Blutschutsgesetz and the Reichsbürgergesetz, which made Renate stateless.
- And it was here after the war that many of the Nazis were brought to justice.
The Nazis were very fond of Nuremberg. They thought it was an ideal German town and for that reason chose it as an administrative centre. Hitler commissioned his favourite architect, Albert Speer to construct the big rally grounds. Hitler always stayed in the Deutscher Hof Hotel, near the station. From there he could watch all of the troops march to the rally ground. A special balcony was constructed for him at the hotel.
The main square was renamed the Adolf-Hitler-Platz from 1933-1945.
Nuremberg was severely bombed. A particularly bad a attack was on 2 January 1945. The features in one of the girls’ letters: Sabine, 27 January 1945. Even by 1947, much of the city lay in ruins. Raids took place on:
29 August 1942
26 February 1943
9 March 1943
28 August 1943
30/31 March 1944
3 October 1944
2 January 1945
20 February 1945
16 March 1945
5 April 1945
The twins’ aunt and uncle in their story lose their home in one of the raids. Over 6,000 people lost their lives in the raids on Nuremberg.
Karl Von Piloty (1826 – 1886) was a famous Munich painter. The Piloty School often means a particular group of artists. However, it would be perfectly reasonable to name a school after Piloty. Some letters written by real German girls (not the ones in the story!) kept referring to the Piloty school and it soon became clear that this was a school that specialised in teaching girls household duties. To this day, such a school exists – though it no doubt also teaches boys today – on Piloty Street in Nuremberg.
This is where Clara Lehrs lived for a short time after she had to leave Stuttgart and before she was transported to Theriesenstadt. It was traditionally the home of a huge Jewish community. It lies on the Neckar and today is a pleasant rural small village on the edge of the Black Forest.
There is one scene within the Hani strand of the story where Clara is living in Rexingen and is visited by Hani Gödde and her mother.
In 1938, several Jews left form there for Palestine and established a community in what has now become Israel. Many Jews were rounded up in 1941 and transported to concentration or death camps.
A monument in the village shows when groups of Jews left. August 1942, the date when Clara Lehrs left, is mentioned.
Rexingen is home to one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Baden-Württemberg.
Another pretty little place with plenty of opportunities for recreational activities. It is 25 kilometres tot eh South of Nuremberg.
Although in Austria, not Germany, this would have been a place to visit for many of the German girls. Charlotte goes there with her father shortly after her mother’s death. They both need some time out. (Charlotte 18 August 1943)
Salzburg is a town of churches – 19 are listed on many of the tourist web sites describing the town. Charlotte and her father spent quite a lot of time looking at various churches in Salzburg.
Like Oxford, Salzburg is a town full of spires. It is also a town full of bells and music.
It also has a cathedral which boasts four organs and creates a surround sound experience when all four are played at once. Mozart was the organist there for two years and he was also baptized there.
Allied bombing destroyed 7,600 houses and killed 550 inhabitants. 15 strikes destroyed 46 per cent of the city's buildings mainly around Salzburg train station. American troops entered Salzburg on 5 May 1945. However, much of the city survived.
This would have been another favourite recreational place for the German girls. They are sometimes referred to as the Slate Alps. There is forest land, lower hills, lakes, streams and the bigger mountains such as the Grossglockner in the area. Charlotte (Charlotte 18 August 1943) did not attempt to climb this on their short holiday. They decided to tackle mountain climbing another time.
This is a lake, and a town named after the lake, in Bavaria. It is a popular place for cures. It is about 42 kilometres south east of Munich and is about 800 metres above sea level. It is a good base for walking, water sports and in the winter, skiing. The lake is considered to be one of the most important in Germany. The girls could certainly have had a good holiday here even during war time and would probably have spent their time swimming and hiking.
Schwabach is a town that today has about 40000 inhabitants. It is close to Nuremberg. A river of the same name runs through the town. In 1500 the Schwabacher font was invented and used in many religious works.
It was bombed in 1941.
In 1980 it received the European Union prize for Cultural Heritage.
The Spessart is a low mountain range in north-western Bavaria. Würzburg is nearby. It is designated as a Naturschutzgebiet – a natural area that is protected. It was and still is a favourite place for hiking. There are many small vineyards along the Main.
It is quite a fairy tale land and rumour has it that this is where Snow White lived. One of the many trails is named after her.
Another is called the Donkey Trail. This takes the route of the donkey caravans which transported salt from the medieval salt works at Orb and Fulda to the shipping ports along the River Main.
The Starnbergersee is Germany’s fifth largest fresh water lake. It is 25 kilometres south west of Munich. It is the nearest of the big lakes to Munich. It is therefore the most popular lake with people from Munich.
The Roseninsel – Rose Island – is quite a romantic spot for day trippers.
Steiner School Streatham
The Michael Hall Steiner School was first located in Streatham. It was then evacuated to Minehead during World War II. After the war, it was relocated to Kidbrooke Park, Forest Row. The school was opened in 1925 in Streatham and was called the New School.
Stuttgart is an industrial town so was an interesting target for allied forces. It was attacked on:22 November 1942
11 March 1943
15 April 1943
6 September 1943
8 October 1943
26 November 1943
21 February 1944
2 March 1944
16 July 1944
5, 10, and 12, September 1944
19-20 September 1944
9 December 1944
January 28 1945
Stuttgart was saved to some extent by its shape. It was not an easy target because of the way it is built on seven hills. However, it did not escape damage.
Another beautiful little spot, surrounded by woodland. It is in Bavaria and roughly 284 kilometres south-west of Berlin.
Würzburg is situated in the north of Bavaria. The Main River passes through it. It is the centre of an agricultural area noted for its vineyards.
Its Romanesque church was severely damaged during the war in the bombing of 16 March 1945. 5000 people were killed.
There is a university there where Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered X-rays.
Much of the town’s architecture is rather grand.
This is 2962 metres above sea-level. It is jsut south of Garmisch-Patenkirchen. It was first conquered on 27 August 1820. Now, three cable car systems take you to the top. At least one of them was already in existence in 1943.
Although you do not need to know a lot about climbing technique the route to the top is still quite tough. The way up starts on a quite gentle footpath. Higher up, you actually need to use crampons.
The summit is high enough that you might get a headache or feel light-headed up there.
It can be very cold up there. On 26 May 1943, it was -6C. Within the same month the temperature went up as high as -6 C.
Have you visited any of these places?
What is your impression of them?
Have you visited any of these places?
What is your impression of them?