Guest Blog: Familien Buch Part 1

Way up in the Pennines, Andrew and Carol Oldham, aka Pig Row has embarked on creating a wartime garden.  ‘Pig for Victory’, they are turning back the clock to 1943, growing the vegetables their grandparents would’ve grown. We’ve never met face to face; we’ve offered each other support, made each other laugh, sent plants. We’ve enjoyed communicating via Facebook, Twitter and of course catching up with all of the latest news of their wartime plot online. This is all easy and enjoyable as we have two great passions in common, gardening and Victorian walled gardens, more on that later! In one of our many conversations, we talk about the fact that my father is German; I wonder aloud, it would be interesting to know if my German grandparents and great grandparents had their own wartime garden, what was life like for them during the war? Andrew leaps onto this idea and suggests I write a guest blog!

The family book from WW2 Germany.

I have a copy of a very special book; German families during Hitler’s rule had to record a ‘Familien Buch’, a complete record of a family’s life in Nazi Germany.

My father was born in the midst of Hitler’s rule and the outbreak of the war.  The first page says, ‘Who are you? Where are you going?’ There are many quotes from the Führer himself, Himmler and Goebbels, talking of the importance of the purity of Aryan blood.  Imprinted onto most of the pages is the ‘Third Reich Eagle’ of the RDF - along with swastikas.  I am in the middle of translating ‘the book of our family’, written by my grandmother who I never met, with my very ropey German, the help of online translation tools and my wonderful father. A lot of my father’s memories of the war are painful, this is all still too recent and atrocities occurred on both sides. My grandmother, Erika’s handwriting records information of our family going back six generations. There are photos of my great, great, great grandparents and of my own grandparents on their wedding day. My grandfather Werner, a Dental Surgeon, is proudly shown in his SS uniform emblazoned with swastikas, they settled into married life in Uelzen.  Each family member has their own section in the family book. Erika records the arrival of her first son, my father; Thilo born on the 23rd April 1940 in Müttergenesungsheim Steinhöring, the very first Lebensborn home established by the Nazi’s to ‘improve’ the German race. The date of my father’s birth was a disappointment to my grandparents as they had planned and hoped for my father’s arrival to be on the 20th April, Hitler’s birthday. By right he would have become my father’s godfather with a certificate and gift of money at birth, annually repeated and bringing prestige for our family. My father’s name giving ceremony was carried out in the Nazi fashion of the time, being placed naked on his back on top of a raised table in front of a large picture of The Fuhrer surrounded by swastika flags and a bare sword placed over the length of his body.

How women with post-natal depression in Germany in WW2 were victims of genocide.

As a member of the SS offices, my grandfather qualified for a family start-up loan of 1,000 RM (Reichsmark) designed to enable the recipients to raise a family in the best possible conditions whilst the husband took part in the war effort. On the birth of a child, one quarter of the loan would be written off; four children would wipe the total amount clean. My grandparents went on to have another boy one year later, followed by a girl in 1943. This is when things started to go very wrong for my young father and his siblings. Since taking the officer loan, the goal posts had been moved by Himmler in 1943 and they now had to produce four male children in order to get the loan amount reduced. My grandmother was greatly affected by both this decision and the birth of my aunt and began to suffer from post natal depression, a condition not recognised at the time. She was taken to the nearest hospital 20 miles away in Lüneburg, my great grandmother Kork took charge of the three children all under five years old with my aunt being only eight months old at the time. On the 19th February 1944 my grandmother’s brother Martin, received a phone call from the hospital informing him that my grandmother had passed away. How could this have happened? She seemed healthy although upon investigation with neighbours, it would appear she was struggling mentally. My great uncle informed my father a few months before he passed away himself in 1996, that he had been asked to identify my grandmother’s body at the hospital in Lüneburg. When Uncle Martin was led to my Grandmothers hospital room, he requested a few minutes to be left in private with his sister. He was suspicious as to how she had died so suddenly. When granted he quickly examined her and found needle marks in her left, lower arm confirming his suspicion that she had been given a lethal injection. My grandmother’s death certificate records death from Diptheria and Pneumonia a standard phrase used for termination due to ‘economic planning reasons’.  We now know, this was common practice at this hospital where thousands of mentally and physically ill children and adults lives were terminated by their own people.

More from Emma Davies on her family history this evening at 7:00PM.