Abitur This is roughly the same as our A-Levels. It is still used in Germany today and is the qualification you need for getting into university. Our AS / A2 system makes our A-level even more similar to the Abitur. Today, Abitur students take a mixture of main and basic courses. This has hardly changed since the 1940s. Our A-levels only came after 1944. The Abitur then was very much like it is today.
Adventskranz - This is a Christmas wreath that sits on a table. At coffee and cake time, between four and five in the afternoon, in Advent, the candles are lit. On the fourth Sunday before Christmas, one candle is lit. On the third, two, and the second three and on the last all four.
Apfelkuchen – Apple cake
Apfelstrudel – apple pastry – lots of apple and a very thin pastry. The pastry should be so thin that you can read a newspaper through it.
Arbeit macht frei work makes you free. These words were displayed over the entrance to many of the concentration camps.
Arbeit macht nicht frei The voice in Renate’s head adds a “nicht” – work doesn’t make you free. She is working really hard at this time but all of the work does nothing to make her feel any better about her lack of identity.
BDM – Bund Deutscher Mädel This was the main youth movement for girls aged 14-18 and it was compulsory. They wore a very smart uniform. They did many activities the same as the Hitlerjugend and similar to our own guide movement. There was also some Nazi indoctrination involved.
Bienenstich – literally “bee–sting”. A sweetened pastry, covered in nuts, and filled with vanilla cream.
Blutschutsgesetz – this was one of the race laws passed in Nuremberg in 1935. It was made in order to keep the German race pure. It forbade marriage between Jews and Germans. It also defined being Jewish as having three or more Jewish grandparents. If you had two German grandparents, as was the case for Renate, you were Mischling. Mischlings were also not allowed to marry Germans.
Christkind – literally Christ child. He delivers the Christmas present son Christmas Eve.
Dachfest When the roof goes on to a new house a party is held in celebration.
Das Deutsche Mädel The magazine produced for girls 14-17 in the girls’ equivalent of the Hitler Youth.
Eintopf Literally “one pot”. In English we might say casserole or stew.
Ersatz – this was a substitute for coffee that was made of ground hazelnuts. The word literally means “substitute”.
Fasching – the time before Lent begins. From the Thursday before Ash Wednesday until the Tuesday, everyone enjoys themselves. In the northern half of Germany, where this time is known as Karneval, there are even more celebrations. Everyone wears fancy dress and there are many parades. Children collect sweets thrown from the floats. Sometimes, the floats are used for commercial promotion.
Führer – literally leader. This was Hitler’s nickname.
Gasthaus Pub, guest house, hotel. It doesn’t translate exactly.
Gauführerin a regional leader (female)
Ghettowache a guard at the camp. Often these would be other Jews. There would also be military guards.
Giftpilz Poisonous mushroom. This is the title of a picture book produced for children which portrayed the Jews as undesirable
Hilfsklasse special class. This was originally housed in the Waldorf School in Stuttgart but became independent even before the school was forced to close. Clara Lehrs agreed to host it in her home on Schellberg Street. It stayed there until it moved to bigger premises in the 1960s.
Goetheanum the world centre for the anthroposophist movement. It is a very distinctive building as was the original. It is named after the German playwright Goethe.
Gymnasium – roughly equivalent to our grammar school, though a higher percentage of the German population attend. These days there is a three part secondary education system in Germany and the Gymnasium is for the smartest students. In Renate’s day there was a type of middle school system: students left basic education at 14, either leaving school completely or going on to a grammar school or a vocational school.
Hauptbahnhof Main station
Heiliger Abend -Christmas Eve. In Germany, presents are exchanged on this evening. For younger children, the parents decorate the tree behind closed doors and ring a little bell when it is done. The children enter the room and find the presents stacked up under the tree. The Christkind, the Christ child, has brought the presents. Saint Nicholas visits on his saint’s day, 6 December, and fills the shoes that have been left out with goodies.
Heimwehr – This was the equivalent of our Home Guard. Younger and older men, and those who were unfit for normal military duty, or involved in other essential war work, used to fit Heimwehr duties around their main job. There was some training.
Hitlerjugend This was the main youth movement for boys aged 14-18. They did many activities the same as the boy scouts. There was also some Nazi indoctrination involved. It was also a training ground for the SA and the SS.
Jungmädel This is the organisation for girls aged 10-13.It literally means young lasses.
Kaffeeklatsch This is the slightly mocking name for a group of people, usually mainly female, who meet to gossip over coffee.
Kaffeetisch – another word for Kaffee und Kuchen, though possibly with more of a sense of occasion.
Kaffeetrinken drinking coffee in the afternoon. This is usually accompanied by delicious pastries.
Kaffee und Kuchen – a German afternoon ritual, involving coffee and cake, a little like our afternoon tea.
Käsekuchen This is a cheese cake made with quark.
Kinderlandvershcickung – literally “sending of children to the countryside” children in some of the big heavily bombed cities were evacuated. However, they were only rarely billeted to individual families as British children were. Most of the time they went to camps especially designed for them. Here, they had fun, received education, were looked after well, physically – and received a lot of Nazi indoctrination. Other children, who did not need to be evacuated, were sent on long holidays with the BDM and the Hitlerjugend and received their portion of fun, education and Nazi indoctrination. The Kinderlandvershcickung existed since the end of the 19th century and had originally been formed in order to get city-bound children into the fresh air.
Kindertransport Just under 10,000 Jewish children were brought to England by train from Germany. Many of them never saw their families again. Not all of them were well-treated though some grew up to become English. The British only wanted to help the children. They felt they couldn't offer homes to whole families. There was too much poverty and unemployment in Britain and giving too much to Jews would spark antisemitism here.
Kriegshilfsdienst – this followed the Reichsarbeitsdienst, (RAD) and was training for war work. This included sorting the post for the troops, air traffic control, work in munitions factories, working on farms – a little like out land girls – and looking after children on the Kinderlandvershcickung. After the year was completed, some of the girls acquired permanent jobs in similar fields They were required to do war work.
Kristallnacht This took place during the night 9-10 November 1938. Hani remembers seeing the aftermath of it during the morning of 10 November. She recalls this when her BDM leader is talking about the enemies of the state – the Jews. Kathe and Hans Elders’ divorce papers indicate that Kathe left the family home of 15 November 1938. We know that this was not true. Yet it seems a reasonable date to use as this would have been a few days after the Kristallnacht.
Kristallnacht is sometimes translated into English as “The Night of the Broken Glass”. Shops and businesses belonging to Jews were ransacked by SA and SS personal and civilians. The Police condoned it. Synagogues were set on fire and whilst fire crews prevented the fires from spreading to neighbouring buildings- so long as they belonged to Aryan Germans – little was done to put these fires out.
The trigger of the attacks was the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew in Paris. Ernst vom Rath was considered to be quite a mild Nazi who had in fact resisted anti-Semitism. This seemed to add insult to injury in the Nazi’s eyes. The Jews were already having quite a hard time under Nazi rule: the 1935 Nuremberg Laws had already taken many of their rights away. The event on 9 November 1938 is well named. It was a night of broken glass – Kristall – but it also crystallised the Nazi attitude. It is often named as the beginning of the Holocaust.
One international reaction to the Kristallnacht was the setting up of the Kindertransport.
Krug jug, pot, specifically here one that holds salt
Landschulheim – a type of hostel in the countryside or by the sea where school groups can spend some time.
Lebensborn project Single mums were actually encouraged as long as the mother and father were both good Aryan Germans. The Lebensborn homes offered good accommodation and medical care for expecting mothers and small babies. High-ranking officers were offered young girls to seduce and impregnate.
Lebensraum – literally, “Living Room”. Hitler wanted more space for Germans. He’d worked out that Germany was overcrowded. This seems odd, as even today there are vast unpopulated spaces such as in Bavaria where the German girls lived. Also rather puzzlingly, at the same time the Lebesnborn project was started. This aimed to increase the German population. These two initiatives seem at odds to each other. However, the Nazi regime sought to populate the world with first class Aryan humans.
Lebkuchen a type of gingerbread, often covered with a thin layer of icing. A much harder version of this,
Printen, exists around Cologne and Aachen.
Luftwaffe the German air force
Maultaschen – literally mouth pockets. Big squares of pasta stuffed with a meat mixture. There are several different recipes. These are popular in south Germany.
Mischling – a Mischling is a person who has two Jewish grandparents. They are too Jewish to be considered German but not Jewish enough to be considered Jewish. This was determined by the Blutschutzsgesetz that was established in Nuremberg in 1935. This left many people, including Renate, without a clear identity.
Mutti – mum, mummy
Nordbhanhof the north station. Several transports to the concentration and death camps left form this station in Stuttgart. It has now been shut down and a memorial has been built.
Oberleutnant First Lieutenant
Oberst a high military rank, similar to group captain or colonel
Obersturmführer - this rank, in both the SA and the SS is the equivalent of first lieutenant.
Oma – grandmother, granny, nana
Pumpernickel The ultimate in black bread. It is made from coarsely ground rye.
Quark - curd cheese. You can get this in England now sometimes. In the 1940s it was unheard of. It makes much better cheese cake than ordinary cream cheese.
RAD Reichsarbeitsdienst Literally the Reich’s Work Service. Young women had to work for one year for the Reichsarbeitsdeinst. If they had been to one of the schools where they learnt how to do housekeeping they only had to do half a year. The girls would go to camps and live in barracks. They were then taught a variety of skills including household management and childcare. This was in line with the Nazi ideal of producing efficient mothers. After six months, the girls might have an outside placement, perhaps helping on a farm, helping a family that had over five children or helping at a hospital. They might have also been kept at the camp to help teach other girls. They would then go on to their Kriegshilfsdienst
Reichsarbeitsdienst Literally the Reich’s Work Service. This was created in 1934 to help to reduce unemployment. However, as the war progressed there was plenty of employment especially for the men. At the time of our story it was mainly a training programme for women and got them ready for the later Kriegshilfsdienst though men involved still were used on major projects such as the construction of motorways.
Reichbürgergesetz This defined who was and who was not a German citizen. Jews and some other groups of people could not be German citizens. They were subjects – and this included being subject to the laws of the country. Certain privileges only open to German citizens were denied them.
Romanisches Café a well-known Berlin café, frequented by artists and writers. It had simple furniture and food. It had to shut down during the Nazi era. A Romanisches Café still exists in Berlin today though it is nothing like the one that Clara and her friends used to visit.
Rundbrief – literally the “round letter”. The round robin letter the girls sent to each other. They sometimes call it the class letter.
Schul Within the Jewish community in Rexingen this was a mixture of ordinary lessons and religious instruction.
Sekt sparkling dry white wine made by the champagne method
shomer a shomer would attend a Jewish wake and help watch over the corpse. The shomer’s job is to protect the Jewish faith in all sorts of circumstances. Oddly, although Clara Lehrs had been Christian for some time she employed some of the Jewish rituals at her husband’s funeral.
Spätzle – long, flat egg-rich pasta, a little like flattened spaghetti. They are very popular in south-west Germany, near Stuttgart.
Sprudel / Sprudelwasser sparkling water
Stammtisch The table in the pub reserved for the locals. Sometimes a particular club will reserve a “Stammtisch”. It literally means “root table”. So it is for people who have their “roots” in the area. Just as Kurt does, people often refer to the pub as the “Stammtisch”. It’s a little like we say “the local”. German pubs aren’t like ours really and they weren’t back in the 1940s either. They are just places where you can get food and drink and will often have hotel facilities. See “Gasthaus” above.
Stollen – a yeast-based cake, a little like a fruit loaf. It contains dried fruit and often has marzipan in the middle. It is eaten at Christmas.
Sturmmann – literally storm trooper. The lowest rank in the army, equivalent to our private.
Sylvester – New year’s Eve. Saint Sylvester has his saint’s day on 31 December.
Tschüss – “bye”
Tiergarten Literally “animal garden”. This is the name of the zoo in Berlin. It was designed in the 1830s and was in Berlin before many of the other green places in the city.
Untergauführerin Deputy area leader.
Vati dad, daddy
Wiener Kipferln small crescent-shaped vanilla-flavoured biscuits. These are usually eaten at Christmas.
Zwiebelkuchen – a type of onion quiche, usually eaten in the autumn.