Thursday 31 March 2016

Renate at school

“Still no news from Doctor Edler?” Mrs Smith asked Mutti that morning.
She had moved into the little attic room above the Smiths’ flat a few weeks before. Uncle Ernst and Uncle Rudi had left so they really were alone in England now.
“Oh, I don’t need him,” Mutti replied. “I am a woman of independent means. I look after myself. After all, he shouldn’t mix with the Jews.”
But Renate missed her father and she knew Mutti did too. She’d heard her crying sometimes at night. She felt like crying herself sometimes. School was all right, though, except that still no one spoke to her. Not even the teachers. She really would have so liked some proper English friends. Nobody was unkind, but nobody seemed to want to include her in things.
Even school life couldn’t be peaceful forever. Miss Thompson did at least know all about Renate, even if she didn’t quite know how to be with her. When she arrived at school that day, there was no Miss Thompson, but Mrs Barlow who taught English to the pupils in the Upper School. Miss Thompson had ’flu apparently.
“Oh!” she said when she saw Renate. “I didn’t think … well … I thought maybe you wouldn’t be taking part in this lesson.”
On the blackboard was a detailed picture of an angel speaking to a young woman.
Some of the others had come in by now and had started to stare at Renate.
“I mean, doesn’t your mother mind you learning these things?” asked Mrs Barlow.
What did she think? Her mother had been a scientist, for goodness sake. She didn’t believe in all that stuff. Neither did her father for that matter, and she wasn’t so sure herself, either, though it was quite nice sometimes to believe that there was a god who looked after you and cared for you. Angels were a nice idea as well.
But if they were going to bring up now that she was Jewish… It was bad enough that they all knew she was German. She didn’t want to be different. She wanted to be the same.
“We don’t believe in all of that, really,” she said, very aware that her German accent had returned and was stronger than ever.
One or two of the others were crowding round now, staring. What did they think? She was just ordinary, wasn’t she? Just like them really, or at least, just like her friends back in Germany.
“You can sit out if you want to,” said Mrs Barlow.
Renate looked at the board. That angel really was beautiful and the girl he was talking to looked not much older than herself. She didn’t know what to say.
“Why shouldn’t she do this lesson?” she heard one of Christine’s friends whisper.
“I think perhaps she’s Jewish,” she heard David reply.
Renate turned to face them. David looked away and Christine blushed. How did they know? How did they know and what did it matter? She wasn’t really Jewish. She was German, and she was trying to learn to be English.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Ordinary life for German girls in 1939

Dear All,
I think this is such a good idea, and it is so good to share everyone’s news. Yes, I’ve been enjoying the winter, too. I’ve been ice-skating every evening with my brother and his friend Thomas. Thomas is such a good skater. He’s also showing me how to do some ice-dancing moves. That’s something I would really like to take up seriously, I can’t afford to go to the big rink in town and take lessons, so I’m hoping the cold will hold out.
Still, if the snow does melt, I can start training again for the area athletics championships. Herr Schmidt is going to train me again this year, even though his activities with the Hitlerjugend are keeping him very busy. He actually doesn’t think he will be called up for the army because of the injury to his leg, though he does think he might be called upon to train some of the soldiers. He thinks he’ll be able to do that near here, so he’ll still be able to go on with my training. Just why are so many people joining the army now? It seems that they can’t get enough through military service.
Well, Georg will be doing his military service soon. Mutti seems to be really worried about it, and yet when Günter did his five years ago, she didn’t fuss.
Father says I must work hard at my sport, but that also I should remember the duties of a young woman. He tells me how proud he is of my mother – always working hard for the family, making lots of lovely homemade food and doing her duty by going to church. I think I’d find that all a bit dull, really, and I’m glad it will be a while before I have to be a good German house wife.
Well, I’ll finish now. I look forward to hearing from you all.


Tuesday 29 March 2016

From Hani's story

It seemed to take forever to walk up the stairs to the main lounge. Her mother didn’t look back once, and it reminded Hani a bit of being shown into the dentist by Herr Schröder’s assistant. She never looked at you nor did she ever smile. At least mother smiled occasionally, but obviously not today.
“Sit down, Hani,” said Herr Gödde. “We need to talk to you about Renate.”
“She’s not ill, is she?” cried Hani. “What does the telegram say?”
Her mother raised her eyebrows and mouthed something at Hani’s father. He nodded. Frau Gödde put her hand to her mouth and handed Hani the telegram.

Renate unable to come stop chicken pox stop

Hani felt the relief as a great stone being lifted from her chest as she read the telegram. Renate was ill, but it was nothing much. So she would be coming soon – when the spots had gone. She couldn’t very well go on a train all covered in spots.
“Well, she will come when she’s better, won’t she?”
Her parents didn’t answer. They just frowned. Why were they so bothered? It was just chicken pox, wasn’t it?
It was only later, when she was back in the garage room turning the telegram over in her hand and looking sadly at her cosy den, that she remembered. They’d both already had chicken pox. Here, when they were seven. You were only supposed to have chicken pox once.
Suddenly the winter had lost all its charm.

Monday 28 March 2016

From Renate's story:

She felt like skipping but thought that perhaps she was a bit too old. Nothing could spoil this day, though. Not even the huge swastika on the fence opposite.
The house was oddly quiet when she got back: no wireless; her father was not arguing loudly with the newspaper like he usually did; and Wilma was not singing in the kitchen. She could hear her mother and father talking softly but urgently in the dining room. The usual smell of strong black coffee and warm bread greeted her as she went into the room, but the coffee cups were empty and the rolls were still in the basket. Both of them jumped when they saw her. They stared at her, then looked at each other and then back at her. Her mother looked straight into her eyes and opened her mouth to say something. Her father looked away. Then she noticed her mother’s lip wobbling as tears formed in her already red eyes.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Renate’s first day at English school

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.