Thursday 20 February 2020

That sense of duty

I noticed when I was studying the letters from the Wilhelm Lőhe School that two words occurred quite often: camaraderie and duty.  Now, I’ve made one of the girls also notice the word “duty”.

All of these girls will have attended the meetings and training sessions of the BDM, the girls’ equivalent of the Hitler Youth. They would have thereby been indoctrinated.  This organisation at first glance seems much like our scouting and guiding movement. Young people are taught many useful life-skills, wear a smart uniform and get involved in a lot of outdoor activities. 

However it becomes a little more sinister, especially for the girls. They are to grow up to become useful women. Women were expected to be content with the bringing up children, working in the kitchen and going to church.  The latter may seem odd as the girls’ school was closed because it was a church school and did not teach Nazi values. Perhaps church was just a way of keeping the women occupied. 

Big families were encouraged, so that more Aryans may be born.  

The Lebensborn initiative was sinister. Women were encouraged to have good Aryan babies.  Single mothers were more than tolerated- as long as the father was a respected Nazi officer. Fantastic maternity homes and homes for young mothers were built. These became breeding centres. 

The BDM magazine again looks just like a scouting magazine – until you start looking at the book reviews. As the years went by, they changed from recommending outdoor activities to providing more and more articles about home-making. 

BDM girls were encouraged to think for themselves and not just think as their parents had thought. However, that thinking was encouraged to be anti-Semitic and over patriotic. Young girls aged 14-17 were encouraged to alert the authorities about anyone in their family who was thinking “wrongly”.  

The girls I am studying don’t seem that different from the young British women who lived through World War II. Our women worked in munitions factories, became land girls and took on many of the jobs that the men who had gone to war had left behind, including ones in middle management. The German girls had to do their RAD (compulsory work experience) and then war work. They had lived through hyperinflation and the depression which was worse in Germany than here because of the constraints put on the nation after the Great War. They were very young at the time of the hyperinflation but it would still have affected them and they lived with parents damaged by it.
Of course they wanted their country to be great. Why wouldn’t anyone want their own country to shine? 

In my latest novel, Erika, one of twins who have to run their father’s factory after he dies suddenly, and Frau Schmitz the secretary there, come up with their own version of what doing duty means. It is about being aware of the needs of others. And if that leads to Germany becoming great again, so be it.              

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Inventing inventions

Twin girls in my fifth book in the cycle have had to take over the running of their father’s factory when he died suddenly of a heart attack.  Was his heart perhaps broken because of the war? 

In the original documents I’ve read that inspired this cycle of books there were twins girls who lost their father.  They did have to take over the running of the factory. But there was no more information about that. 

So, I’ve had to use that third tool that historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction writers often have to use: the imagination.  But it is used in a very specific way.  What happens to these characters given that they live in these very specific conditions? 

What did this factory make, in fact? The father did not have to go away to fight so what he manufactured must have been important to the war effort. I decided it was spectacle frames and cases. My mother’s war work was at such a factory.  

I also have my girls attend a reunion with the students from their last school. I created a girl with a broken arm. She’d slipped awkwardly in a cow pat whilst working on a farm. One year I broke my arm badly in June only to break the other own but a little less severely in November. A bum bag and a little cross-body handbag became the norm so I could carry all of the personal essentials around.  
Well, bum bags didn’t exist then. But the enterprising young lady had fixed a small bag to her belt. This gives my twins the idea that they could make something similar to offer to the troops.  In fact, as small metal pouch that can be attached securely to a belt would be just right for those soldiers fighting at the front. They could keep personal effects in there. 

I then even have a soldier writing home to another family singing the praises of what the girls call the snappy pouch. 

Fortunately as they’re largely built on the design of the spectacle case they only have to retool a little.
Does such an object exist? I’ve not found it yet but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. This third way often uncovers something we have met before but have long forgotten.  Or it helps us to think the way that the people were writing about may have thought. 

In the case of the twins I’ve used this to third way to uncover what it’s like for them working in a man’s world, or having to give orders to people older and more experienced than them how they’ve been able to dress for business and shorty I’ll be using it to find out what it would have been like learning to drive back then.    

Image by PixArc from Pixabay