Tuesday 26 January 2016

A Missunderstanding 30 January 1939

 “You will be fine,” said John. “Absolutely fine. You’ll learn very quickly once you start school. Your uncle said you learnt Italian really quickly?”
“That was different,” wailed Renate. “We’d had lessons at school and then we only had to speak it to the skiing instructor. Tomorrow I’ve got to be able to understand everything in school.”
“And I’m giving you lessons,” said John. “It’s all around you all the time. The school is, thank God, anyway, exactly like the one you were going to go to in Stuttgart.”       
“Except that they all speak English,” muttered Renate.
“So we should practice now,” said John. “Come on, we shall speak English. Tell me everything you see!”
It was an unusually warm day for January. There were ducks and even swans bobbing along happily on the Thames. Renate could hardly believe that the trees and the birds and the bees were going on as normal – in fact better than normal – despite  all the strange things that were happening to her. The sun made the water sparkle and you could see the reflections of all the tall buildings quite clearly on the water.
“Come on, then,” said John slowly in English. “What can you see?”
“Ich kann eine,” Renate started. She didn’t even know how to say “I can”.
“I can,” John said slowly for her.                        
 “Well, I can see a bridge, Tower Bridge,” said Renate carefully.“And Big Ben. Zhe-” She really did have trouble with “the”. She paused, took a deep breath, and placed her tongue firmly between her teeth. “The Houses of Parliament in London- the capital of - the United Kingdom.”
Mrs Smith nodded and smiled. She muttered something to John. He laughed.
“My mother thinks you sound like a tourist book,” he said.
 “What can you see on the river?” he asked, switching back to German. . 
“I can see some boots, and I can see a bugger,” replied Renate.
“What?” asked Mrs Smith.
A gentleman who was standing next to them cleared his throat and frowned at Renate.
“I can see a big bugger,” repeated Renate, looking sideways at the man, wondering why he seemed so hot and bothered.
“Well, really,” he muttered and hurried away.
“Bugger?” asked John. “Where did you learn that word?” he added in German.  You mustn’t say that. It’s a really bad swear word.”
“What have you been teaching her?” asked Mrs Smith.
“What do you mean?” asked John, ignoring Mrs Smith’s question.
“Look, bugger,” said Renate, pointing at the large craft which was slowly making its way upriver.
“Dredger,” said John. “That’s a dredger.” He laughed. “Of course. You’re trying to say the German word the English way,” he added in German.
“Oh, I’ll never get the hang of this stupid language,” moaned Renate, blushing bright red. “They’ll all laugh at me tomorrow.”
“They won’t laugh,” said John. He translated for his mother.
Mrs Smith gave her a huge hug. She said something which Renate could not understand, and shook her head violently. 
“They’re going to be nice,” said John in German. “But you’ve got to see the funny side of it. That man thought you were calling him a very rude word.”
He explained to Mrs Smith. She put her hand over her mouth and went very red. Then her eyes twinkled and suddenly she was laughing. 
 “Go on, laugh,” said John. 
Suddenly Renate found herself giggling helplessly at the thought of the gentleman’s face. And laughing made her feel better. Perhaps tomorrow would not be so bad after all.   

Sunday 3 January 2016

Hani, 10 February 1939

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.”
eve in the God that loved everybody?  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.