A photo of my mother with her five children
My mother was a strong woman. There is no doubt about that. Looking back, I would often wonder how Mother managed to take care of me and my siblings. That was no easy task especially during the difficult times during and after World War II. She did all those without our father, who was drafted into the army and was missing after the war.
Born in 1905, Mother was also a child when the First World War started and hard times befell Germany. She managed to live through two horrific wars and survive despite the scarcity of food and money.
Mother’s father was a carpenter and he owned a furniture factory which manufactures grandfather clocks, while her mother was a seamstress. Mother used to tell us a story about how difficult it was during those days. Since her father was the breadwinner, he will need to eat something nourishing so he can continue to work hard. So, if her mother was able to buy a fish, her father would eat the fish and the children got to lick its tail to flavor the potatoes they ate. Not very appetizing is it?
After WWI, the people managed to rebuild their lives. Mother became a seamstress and a children’s clothes designer. She got a job working in a company that manufactured apparel. The owner was a Jew. One day, her father’s factory burned down. It was the second time this had happened in a period of a few years, and the family faced more hardship. Arson was suspected, but they never found out who did it.
Decades later, as I was reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I recalled my mother’s story and I came to realize something. Mother has done the forbidden. She had worked in a factory owned by a Jew, and as a result, her father’s factory was burned down. Of course, her parents never made the connection because they were honest, peaceful people.
You have to remember that the political propaganda against Jews were on an all-time high during the decades following WWI. The Nazis actively discouraged Germans from entering Jewish places of work.
In January 1945, Mother’s life changed forever. Germany was at war and she had to take care of five young children without the help of her husband. Mother would fight for our survival. And later in life, I found myself fighting for my own peace of mind.