Wednesday 21 December 2011

Das Deutsche Mädel 1933-1942

This is the magazine that was produced for the BDM. The BDM History site has several copies of this available online, as well as many other primary resources and much other useful information.
Basic Content
At first glance, the magazine has much to recommend it and could be considered of equal merit to the type of text produced for the scouting movement. Typically in each issue there are:
  • Articles about nature
  • Impressive photography, though it is always black and white
  • Articles about extraordinary women
  • Features about craft
  • Instructions about household tasks
  • Reports from other BDM members – always presented anonymously
  • Reports about young women at work
  • A special section for the Jungmädel (girls 10-14)
  • A story (usually suitable for younger readers)
  • Articles about women from other countries  
  • Recommended books
  • Advertising - aimed at young women and rather emphasising the housewifely duties
This seems quite innocent at first and we might even be surprised that the publication partly looks outwards.
Changes during the war
As soon as the war started the publication became thinner. It used to go up to 40 pages.  After September 1939 it was rarely above 26. Before the war there were regional editions.  As the war started a single issue was produced for all parts of Germany.
More sinister aspects of the publication
Every issue started off with some Nazi rhetoric and encouragement to perform duties.  I noticed too in the girls’ letters that I have that the words “duty” and “camaraderie” are used a lot. These also appear in the magazines. These seem worthy qualities, but it does rather depend on in which context the girls are encouraged to perform duty and in which circumstances they are encouraged to show camaraderie.
The Nazi rhetoric gradually becomes more pronounced and takes up more space.  Also, in later editions within this range we see more and more pictures of the rallies and the sporting events. There is a subtle suggestion that weakness will not be tolerated.
The girls appear to be liberated: they are given much encouragement to work outside the home and be independent form their families. However, the advertising reinforces the homemaker role. The girls are being encouraged to be housewives to the Fatherland.
The recommended books support Nazi idealism.
Parents are encouraged to support the advertisers who are in effect sponsoring the magazine.
As the war progresses, the magazine produces a series of articles about the nature of the English. In some ways these are quite respectful – the English are seen as being very tolerant.  However, it soon becomes clear that tolerance is not a quality the Nazis admire and we are rather mocked for it.
Some examples
The cover of the October 1936 is rather ominous and there are six pages of photographs of the Nuremberg rallies.
January1937 quotes form the new race laws that were passed in Nuremberg in 1935. The concept of the young women being part of a work force becomes important here and there is an article about nursing skills.  
September1937 seems to emphasize the place of women in the home.  
June 1938 brings much information about the rallies and strengthens a link with Spain.
October1939 is a much shorter magazine and the photography does not seem so good.  
March1941 recommends that girls concentrate on school in the mornings, BDM activities and families in the afternoons, and confirms that all camps should take place in holiday times. This would actually promote “Nazification”; by now all schools taught Nazi ideology and the girls would also be encountering it in their “free” time.      
October1941 brings a startling change of font for many of the articles though some of the old script is still used for one or two articles.   

Wendy Whitworth “Journeys, Children of the Holocaust Tell Their Stories”

Wendy Whitworth “Journeys, Children of the Holocaust Tell Their Stories”
This is another collection of survival stories written by Holocaust victims. This time, the stories have been written in such a way that upper primary children will understand.   
Some of the account verified what I had already concluded or what I had worked out by writing about it. For example:
Ruth Barnett – didn’t realise that she was Jewish until she was nine. She left Germany when she was three. Renate was 13 when she found out. Renate was still living in Germany at the time. Ruth was already in England.  
Harry Bibring – couldn’t speak English. His journey was very similar to Renate’s.      
John Fieldsend experienced difficulty getting into bed. He found an English bed very strange, just as Renate did on his first night at the Smiths’.  
Ellen Rawson was also seasick on the boat.  
Trude Silman was evacuated just after she became a refugee just as Renate was.  
Lisa Vincent – also left Nuremberg. Like Renate, she had a Jewish mother. She only became Jewish because of the Blutschutzgesetz.    
Again, this makes me question the effectiveness of the Kindertransport:
Only 10,000 were saved – out of five million i.e. 2% of the Jewish children   
Only 5% of Kinder were reunited with their parents and even many of those had a fairly unhappy time.
Could we have done more? Could we have done something different? At least we can say we tried.     

Hani, 10 February 1939 - deleted scenes

Trying on the uniform

“It will look very smart once you’ve got it on properly,” said Rikki. “You just give me a shout when you’re ready and I’ll help you get that neckerchief straight. Get that right and you’ll look really good. Especially as I’ve ironed every single crease out of it all.”
Rikki let herself out of Hani’s bedroom.  Hani stared at the skirt and shirt laid out neatly on her bed. It would look quite smart, she supposed. But only if it fitted her properly. It would certainly look good on some of the slimmer girls. She was glad, actually, that her uniform was navy-blue and white and not the ugly brown that the boys had to wear.  She touched the skirt. Actually, the material felt a bit softer that what she’d had to wear when she was in the Jungmädelbund.

The inauguration ceremony

But we must also give this warning:” he said. There was something in his tone that suggested he was coming to the end of his speech. Thank goodness! “If you do not stand together, but become disunited, if you are not loyal, but disloyal, if you do not work and are cowardly, you will fall into terrible chaos and Germany will collapse. God will have no home in Germany any longer.”
 Why should he single out the Germans?      
The young man was still speaking. “….It is therefore our holiest duty to fight to our last breath anything that threatens or endangers the life  of our people. God will decide whether we live or die.”
Hani joined in with the others. “This we pledge.” I just don’t get it, she thought. What’s the point of doing anything if God is going to decide in the end what happens? It doesn’t make any sense. None of it does. 
“We want to be free from all selfishness.
We want to be fighters for this Reich
Named Germany, our home.

Renate’s first day at English school - deleted scenes

This scene was too long. I have taken several chunks out:

Before she set off 

The next day, though, when she got up, she felt sick.
“My mother’s made some eggs and toast,” said John. “And there’s some tea.”
Mrs Smith waved her over to the table, but Renate just shook her head. Even if she opened her mouth to speak, she knew, she would actually be sick. Her stomach was doing gymnastics and her legs felt as if they were going to give way at any second. 
Mrs Smith ran one of the hard-boiled eggs under the tap. She bundled it and a sandwich made of the strange white bread they seemed to like here into a brown paper bag. Then she took a pan off the stove and poured some water over the back of a spoon into a glass, and stirred in a spoonful of sugar. She cut a slice from a rather dry-looking lemon and dropped it into the warm water. She handed the glass to Renate and smiled.
Renate carefully took a sip. It was good. The sharpness of the lemon cut through her nausea and she could feel the sugar giving her energy. The wobbliness in her legs faded a little. But it didn’t slow the time down. It was cool enough to drink in no time and before she knew it, her uncle was there and they were on their way to the Tube.
“It’ll take quite a while,” said Uncle Rudi, once they were on the Underground train. “So you can sit back and relax.”
Time did a double take. It seemed to go slowly. Yet it seemed no time until they were climbing on to an overground train.  
How can everything seem so normal? thought Renate.
What seemed only like a few minutes later they were walking up a wide avenue. 

Reaction to Headteacher

He was so different from Herr Glaser, the young Headteacher who had run the school in Nuremberg. He always dressed in shabby trousers and a worn-out sweater.

Reaction of classmates

They didn’t take that much notice of her at first. They seemed more concerned about why Mr Brown was there. Some seemed to be trying to impress him and others seemed wary and looked as if they were trying to behave well.
“Good morning, boys and girls,” Mr Brown called to the class. Then he shouted something at people who had just arrived. They all sat down at desks. There was one left over where she was standing. Miss Thompson nodded and Renate sat down there. Mr Brown waved and made his way out to the classroom.

Cutting scenes and edit 4

Edit 4 is really supposed to be about whether the timeline works. These days, I actually tend to address that at the planning stage. However, this time I was still looking for a sort of balance. Was each of the three story threads jogging along smoothly? Did they dovetail well?
As my writing progressed, I noticed, I’d been presenting small vignette-like scenes. Two chapters, however, stuck out as being much too long:
The one where Renate first goes to her new school.
The one where Hani attends her BDM inaugural ceremony.
For Renate, I’ve cut out all of the anticipation and the journey to school, and then some of the first interactions between her and her new class. For Hani, I’ve cut out her trying on her new uniform and some of the details of the ceremony. I’ve managed to retain these elements, however – I hope – by including short phrases elsewhere in the narrative.
These passages were well written and they did give useful information. But they didn’t fit with the overall tone of the book. As usual, also, they had been quite useful in allowing me to understand more about the story. They will have a purpose on the web site and this blog. They will give more information about the apprehension that Kinder felt about almost every aspect of life in England and about the content of a BDM inauguration. They will also reflect on that important part of a writer’s practice: killing off darlings.                

Thursday 15 December 2011

Stephen Smith “Remembering the Kindertranposrts”

This is a book I picked up at the Holocaust Centre simply because I liked the look and the feel of it.  It is in picture book format with far more text than is normal. It is the story of three Holocaust survivors, Steven Mendelsson, Vera Schaufeld and Lisa Vincent, who came over on the Kindertransport. It is aimed at young people though is a perfectly acceptable read for adults as well.  
All three of them were roughly the same age as Renate when she came over. Lisa even came from Nuremberg.
The accounts seemed particularly moving. Perhaps this is because these particular survivors make the effort to get down to the child’s level.
They mention much that is now becoming extremely familiar:
The gradual changes that came after the Nazis came to power.  
How it became particularly frightening in 1938
How they wore lots of clothes because they could pack so little in their tiny suitcases.
They wore “labels like you might put around cattle” said Lisa (11). Ironic that by wearing cattle-labels now they were avoiding cattle-trucks later.     
The white bread that seemed more like cake.
The enemy alien experience: you were treated like an enemy because you were German but you were only in England because you were persecuted by the Germans.
So much irony!
Some of the pictures are heart-breaking. There are a few photos but most are paintings by Hans Jackson. He fled Nazi Germany as a young man in 1939.     

Three Ways of Dealing with Necessary Foreign Words

I’ve used quite a few German words in Potatoes in Spring. I haven’t translated them because I consider that they don’t translate exactly.
Interestingly, I’ve read two other books recently that are also set during World War II. Robert Mucahmore in The Escape has chosen to use footnotes. His stories are always extremely exciting and fast-paced.  Possibly showing the meaning of the words would have slowed the pace down too much.
Emma Craigie in Chocolate Cake with Hitler has chosen to translate her words literally into English, including all titles and place names. She says on page 202 that she does this “to give a sense of their meaning to Helga”.
I’ve chosen a different method in my novel. I’m influenced here by Caroline Lawrence and the way she introduces Latin words’ meanings by contextualising them the first time the reader meets them, providing a glossary in case the reader has forgotten the meaning when they meet the words subsequently and expanding even further on a web site.
I spent considerable time deciding which to do. As a fluent speaker of German, I find retaining the original German intensifies the atmosphere. As this a story of emotions, that seems appropriate.
Readers may find the German words a little more exotic. That in turn may give them a sharper sense of the conflict that Renate feels. Also, my protagonist is slightly older than Craigie’s so it’s possible the readers will be and may also have a little German. One of Muchamore’s main characters does speak German well, so understands much of what the German officials say to him.
I’m certain I’ve made the right decision this time. It will be interesting to see what the editors think.