Return to My Mother’s Life

To My Grandchildren


I want to tell you, my grandchildren, how life was in those days after World War I in Germany for my family and millions of others.

First of all, we were very fortunate because our father – the only breadwinner in the family – was at all times fully employed (until the Nazis fired him because he worked for a Jewish-owned company).

Mother stayed at home and was always, always present when we children came home from school. She was the first in the family up in the morning, fixing breakfast for the children and for the husband, and last for herself, after everyone was off to school and work. Then she took care of the household. First she started to get the beds made, which meant that the bulky feather beds were lifted up to be aired while the windows were opened.

While the beds were aired out, she washed the breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink. Yes, there was cold and hot water. Then she made her bed, her husband’s bed and the two children’s beds. Anything on the floor or anywhere else that did not belong there, she picked it up and put it in its right place. She took the mats in front of the beds, took them to the balcony and shook out the dust (if any) into the garden area below.  Then she dusted every piece of furniture in her husband’s study (the so called Herrenzimmer) a rather large room with desk, bookshelves, a sofa and several easy chairs.

Then she took care of the “Damenzimmer,” the lady’s room (which is not what it sounds like to American ears, it is not a toilet for ladies!) As the man of the house had his study, so did the lady of the house have her own room: there was a white shelf for flowers and plants, not just a plain shelf but a tier of several upper and lower tiers, covering most of the width in front of the window’s white muslin curtains. In the lady’s room there was a desk (much smaller than in the man’s room) and a chair in front of it.

And there also was, of course, a sewing machine on a console, non-electric at that time, with foot pedal to keep the machine going. Mother used this sewing machine almost constantly. She made most of our clothes and she repaired all our clothes and kept them in good shape.

It seems hard to believe for you nowadays but she also repaired my father’s white shirts that he wore to work. When the cuffs were worn out, she took them off and turned them around and she did the same with the white collars on my father’s shirts.

You ask: Why? Your father had a very good position as one of the leading engineers in the company – you should have had the money to simply buy new shirts when the old ones were worn out.

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