Return to My Mother’s Life

Frankfurt 1945

MOSAIC #47

I had asked my mother who still lived in war-torn Berlin, to come and live with me and my little son in Fürstenhagen. The building and the apartment where she lived had been heavily damaged by bombs. Most of her furniture had burned and life in Berlin was hazardous because of frequent bomb attacks. It was a b1essing that she did come and help me to manage the primitive country living to which neither one of us was used. Without my mother’s help, I don’t know how I could have managed the many tasks inside and outside the house that needed to be done. Fortunately, my mother, in her mid-fifties, was still in very good health and she managed most of the inside work that needed to be done to keep us going from day to day. Surely, to see her little Nicolaus grandson grow up around her gave her joy and reason to go on living and working. But most of the time she was in a subdued mood ever since she became a widow at age 45. But she also worried a lot about her daughter Annelies who had married this Nazi “Helmi” and Mother did not know what happened to her.

After 1945, the end of the war, Mother moved with me and my little son to Frankfurt where we lived first in Niederrad at Egelsbacher Str. 2. The war was finished but, of course, living conditions were far from normal. The cities were in ruins and Frankfurt was no exception. Tens of thousands of people had no house or even apartment of their own to come home to. Emergency laws were enacted and anyone with a spare room was obligated to rent it out to someone who needed it. We were assigned to an apartment where an old lady had lived for years and who now could keep for herself only her kitchen, one room plus her bath. In this apartment we three people were given two other rooms and we had the use of a tiny room with nothing but a toilet and a wash basin. And in another room of this apartment a mother and her grown son had to live. With them we shared the use of the tiny toilet. In order to be able to cook, we put in a wood-burning stove whose funnel (chimney) had to be led out of the window of the room that formerly was a living room. I slept in this room and my little son also had his small bed in there. Mother had her bed in the adjoining much smaller room.

In Frankfurt I first got a job as director of the “Hilfsstelle für Rassisch Verfolgte Christen,” a temporary organization of the church. Pastor Fricke was in charge of that project. This organization distributed (for a limited time) bags with vital groceries that were sent from other churches in the USA. The recipients were people who were Christians but had Jewish ancestry and for that reason had been persecuted by the Nazis.

After this job I became Dr. Kogon’s secretary. Kogon was one of the editors of the “Frankfurter Hefte,” a magazine for culture and politics. Kogon had spent several years in concentration camps and wrote a book, “Der SS-Staat” which made him famous.

Kogon made it possible for me to get a US sponsor which enabled me and my son to emigrate to the United States.

While we lived in Frankfurt, Mother’s physical condition deteriorated gradually and one day she suffered a severe stroke. The doctor transferred her to a county home first in Frankfurt and later, after she got a bit better, to a home in the countryside. Before leaving for the US, I visited her with my son and we said a tearful good-bye. Mother died in Weilmünster at age 69 on December 9, 1957. She is buried in Weilmünster.

MOSAIC #48

It was in 1941 – I believe – when all schools were closed in Essen because the constant air raids and bomb attacks made it impossible for children to get to school on time or at all. And, certainly, the same applies to the teachers. Moreover, it was impossible to keep children’s or teachers’ attention to any subject any time of the day. School was interrupted constantly by bomb attacks and German FLAK (Luftabwehrkanonen) — counter attacks by the German air forces.

This was the year when my son, Albrecht Martin Nicolaus, was born. His first name, Albrecht, was given in honor of his father, who had already passed away. His second name was given to honor his father’s father, who passed away a few months after his grandson’ s birth.

When I moved to Fürstenhagen in the summer of 1943, my baby had slept through many nights spent in bomb shelters, fortunately totally unaware of the mortal danger in which we lived from hour to hour. During the day, as long as I was able to come to work at Krupp’s Historical Department, his needs were well taken care of since I was given all the time I needed to feed him, change diapers, or play and talk with him. But there were no other babies or toddlers with whom he could talk and play.

Unfortunately, this did not change much after I moved to Fürstenhagen. There was only one little girl, a neighbor’s daughter, with whom he could play for a while until the neighbor decided that it was not a good idea to let his daughter play with the child of a non-Nazi.

Not many ready-made toys were available to my little son but this did not pose a loss to him because he constantly made toys for himself out of scraps of paper or pieces of wood or cardboard, twigs, pine cones -anything would do to raise his inventiveness and fantasy.

When we moved to Frankfurt after the war in the fall of 1945, he first went to a Kindergarten which he liked a lot, then to an elementary school. In those years I had to work full time and my son came home to my mother who took care of him until I came home in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, working overtime was expected from everybody and no extra pay was offered or demanded. This meant that my son missed his Mom coming home earlier a lot, and some times he wrote little poems expressing his feelings.  Unfortunately, I no longer have these little poems.  One result of being by himself and without the company of peers was that he played a lot by himself and invented new things. I remember that at the age of seven he made a newspaper he called “Die Welt” (The World), a paper with 8 pages with all kinds of invented events.

A few years later he invented a mouse trap with a bell mechanism that always went off when a mouse had entered the trap.

It made me very sad that my little son had to endure so many lonely hours but it could not be helped since I had to work for a living. However sad the reason, the situation may have helped him to learn to rely on himself which in turn was of great help when later growing up in American society.

I had to wait for seven years until I finally got the visa to emigrate to the United States. I had almost given I up hope that this would happen, but then finally I had my son take a few private lessons in English. But the bit of English he learned was of little use in Brooklyn N.Y. where we first found a domicile. However, he learned very fast and at the end of the first school year he had an A in English I and kept it up ever since.

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