heidersdorf - part 14
June 06, 2007

Posted by BDMHistorian

Please note that this is the very last chapter of the book "Summer days in Heidersdorf" by Suse Harms, which was originally published in 1939. If you want to read the whole book from the beginning, chapter by chapter, you will want to start with the beginning, which is found here.

Chapter 14
Ellie and the Bees

Now the last day at camp had dawned, the very last. In the morning the Jungmaedel had gone to the forest for the last time, to all the places they had come to love over the last three weeks: to the meadow with the yellow flowers, to the fox den and the swallow nest. The young swallows, whose small eggs they'd found on the first day, had left the nest in the meantime. Only one of the young lay dead on the ground below the nest.

"It was too weak," said Kathrin. "Only the strong animals stay alive in the forest." And then she'd told them about the hundreds of acorns that an oak tree dropped each year, from which only rarely grows a new young oak, from the butterflies and ants, from deer and rabbits. "Those that are weak and sick will be eaten by the others, or returns to the soil and turns it fruitful. But the strongest and best stays alive and keeps the species going."

"It's kind of the same with people where the strongest and best always get their way," Inge said and Kathrin had nodded. "Yes, among people, too. Only those who are strong get their way and can fulfill his tasks in life. It's good if you know that you're still a Jungmaedel."

Then they spoke about other things, and most of them had not given this matter any other thought. Of course you had to stand straight and strong in life, after all, that's what you were Jungmaedel for. That was nothing you had to think about.

Only one of them always returned to her thoughts on this matter through all the happy songs on the way home and through the especially good good-bye meal. That was Ellie. She walked through the hostel garden by herself during free time, even though she could have gone to throw the javelin with Shorty, or to visit the little chicks that had hatched yesterday with Irm. She could have also finished the book that she'd borrowed from the hostel library.

But Ellie didn't feel like any of those things. She kept having to think about what Kathrin had told her in the morning about the strong and the weak. Everyone belonged to the strong, Irm, Christel, Inge, Shorty… that was clear. They were all good at sports, swimming, running, they were always happy, and everyone liked them, everything they did went well.

But herself, Ellie? Maybe she really did belong to the weaker if she was so clumsy that everyone laughed about her, if she always tired right away on runs, and if she was excused from swimming? "You're a funny Jungmaedel," Shorty had told her. Back then Ellie had only been angry but now she thought tiredly: "Maybe Shorty is right!"

But then she threw her head back. "No, no, no," she said loudly into the afternoon silence. She was a Jungmaedel just like all the others. She would prove it to them, she decided.

She had reached the furthest corner of the garden in the meantime where the beehives stood that belonged to the youth hostel. She had always avoided going back here, but today she paid no attention. But suddenly, she stopped and listened. Above her, there was a strange buzzing, and when she looked up, she saw a busy brown grape hanging from the lowest branch of the old pear tree -- a swarm of bees.

Ellie backed away with a little scream and was nearly ready to run off, when she remembered. "It's a big loss when a swarm of bees flies away," the den mother had said the other day. So someone needed to tell her that there was a swarm in this pear tree that was getting ready to leave. It had to be caught again.

As fast as she could, Ellie ran back to the building and shook the locked kitchen door. "Den mother, Liese," she called, "Hurry up, the bees are swarming!"

Nothing moved inside. Did the den mother not hear her, or had she gone out? "Liese, Liese!" she yelled again, as loudly as she could, but everything remained quiet. Ellie ran around the house. Maybe they were in the shed out back? Carefully, she opened the door to the dark room which smelled of wood, honey, and fresh wax.

Nobody was here, either. Only the tools needed for keeping bees were there. The honey centrifuge, the racks for holding honeycombs, the grey smock and the protective hat, the gloves, and there -- in the corner -- the sack with which bees were caught. "Liese!" Ellie called again but she no longer believed anyone would come.

With a quick look she saw that the brown tangle in the pear tree had started to move. Many more bees than before were buzzing around the solid center of the swarm. Certainly, they would leave soon if nobody was there to catch them.

Suddenly she had a thought that scared herself. Should she maybe…? The tools were there, and she had even seen how it was done once. You just had to hold the sack underneath the swarm, and then cut the branch they were sitting on. Then they were caught. "It's a great loss when a swarm of bees leaves us," the den mother had said.

Ellie returned to the garden preoccupied with her own thoughts, and watched the pear tree from a sizable distance. The buzzing sounded very angry and she remembered that her mother had once told her just seven bee stings could kill a horse. And she wasn't even a horse, just a Jungmaedel.

"Exactly," Ellie suddenly said loudly to the garden. That she hadn't thought of this sooner! A real Jungmaedel would catch the swarm. Shorty would've most likely done so, and so would Irm.

Now there were no two things about it anymore for Ellie. She quickly got a garden chair and pushed it underneath the pear tree. Armed with the sack and pruning shears, Ellie climbed up. For a second, she had to grit her teeth as she placed the sack underneath the swarm of bees. So many bees were flying around, sat on her arms, and -- ow, now one had actually stung her! It wasn't pleasant, but not nearly as bad as her mother always told her. Ellie blew some air onto her arm and raised the pruning shears toward the branches.

"Ellie, Ellie," a voice suddenly called behind her, "Stop! Have you gone nuts!" -- Liese! -- Did she have to turn up just now that Ellie was almost done! Ellie just turned her head shortly: "I don't have time now, you can see that I'm catching the bees!" -- "Get over here right now! Do you want to chase off the whole swarm?" This sounded so angry that she had to listen immediately. Upset, Ellie jumped off the chair and ran, sack and shears in hand, to Liese who was walking down the garden path carrying a large watering can. "You're an idiot," Liese continued, "how are you going to catch a swarm if you don't water the bees first so they'll sit still. This way, they'll just fly off, and they'll sting you, too."

Ellie turned red and quickly hid her arm behind her back. But Liese had already seen the large red welt. "You see," she said, "What do you meddle with things you don't know anything about, anyway? How did you get the silly idea to catch our swarm?"

"Well," Ellie said, "Just so." How that had actually been, she couldn't tell her now that everything had gone so wrong. Silently, Ellie watched how Liese carefully wet the bees down, and then safely cut the branch. "There it is," she laughed when the hive plunged into the sack, "Good that we've caught it."

Then she took Ellie to the kitchen garden and cut a fresh onion for her. "There," she said, "put that onto your arm. Then it won't hurt anymore. Is it bad?" -- "No," Ellie said so shortly that Liese looked at her in surprise. She couldn't understand that you don't really feel like talking if you wanted to do something good and right and realized that it had once again only been a load of nonsense.

With a thick, red welt on her arm, Ellie appeared back with the others. She was quiet this afternoon but nobody could quite figure out what had happened…

In the middle of the night, Irm awoke. From the bed across she heard a quiet sounds. Listening, she lifted her head. Someone was crying? She listened intently; it didn't stop. "Ellie," Irm thought, "of course, her again! Crying in the middle of the night -- who does that!" Angrily, she rolled over. Don't listen. It wasn't her business, anyway.

But she couldn't go back to sleep. Of course it was comfortable and easy to pretend that she didn't hear anything, but it was -- and now she knew -- also very cowardly, absolutely cowardly. With a jolt, Irm sat up. "Ellie," she said quietly. On the other end, it got quiet. Ellie seemed to have stuck her head underneath the covers.

Carefully, Irm slid to the ground at the foot end of her bed and climbed up to Ellie. "What's going on?" she asked quietly. Ellie sobbed: "You're all so different, you can do anything! But me -- everything I do goes wrong!"

Irm pulled her nightgown to cover her naked feet and sat on the edge of the bed. She sat still and waited, because she had the feeling that this was something she shouldn't ask questions about. Then Ellie told her about sports and swimming and the mess with the bee hive, and Kathrin and the right of the stronger. "But if everything I do goes wrong, then I'm one of the weak ones, Irm!"

Irm didn't quite know what she should answer to this. She'd never thought about such difficult things, much less talked about them. Ellie really was very clumsy, she couldn't deny that, but….

"But you're so brave," Irm suddenly said quite earnestly. "And it's not true at all that that doesn't count for anything if things go wrong. The other day on the beach, I could tell you know you were going to get sick, but you still went on the trip and made it all the way to the end. And with the bees -- well, I wouldn't have done it, you know, and not because I would've been too smart, but because I wouldn't have dared."

Ellie lay quietly for awhile. She had stopped crying and seemed to be pondering the whole thing. "It wasn't anything special," she said then. "I was scared, too. But you can steel yourself."

"That's exactly it!" Irm was suddenly happy and sure again. "You belong to the strong ones if you can steel yourself!"

"Really?" Ellie lay quietly for awhile again, then she asked: "Do you really mean it? You're not just saying that because you want to make me feel better?" -- "I swear with a handshake!" Underneath the covers, Irm searched for Ellie's hand. Ellie pressed it hard. "I'm so happy," she said, "and I like you a lot!"

Irm nodded. But there was nothing useful you could answer to that. "As long as you're back to normal now. And besides, I'm getting cold feet," she said finally. Ellie laughed: "If you have a cold tomorrow, I'll get you cough drops," she said happily when Irm climbed back into bed. "I'll take you up on that," Irm replied. "Good night!"

Then she sat on her sleeping bag with her knees pulled to her chest for a bit. The trees rustled in front of the window, and behind the forest already stood a small red shimmer, and a finch started to sing his first morning song. Irm listened to the calm breathing of the sleeping Jungmaedel. Tomorrow, others would be sleeping here and she'd be back home and tell her mom about Heidersdorf. Mom would have her mending basket in front of her, she listened best while she was mending. And even though Irm would've never admitted to it yesterday, she could feel it clearly now: she was looking forward -- really looking forward -- to returning home.


Heidersdorf - part 13

Posted by BDMHistorian

Chapter 13
Casper on the Goose Meadow

"This time next week, we'll already be back home," said Shorty who was laying next to Irm in the grass and chewed on a long blade of grass. "Horrible. I don't even want to think about it." -- "Next week already?" It seemed to Irm as if it had only been yesterday that they'd gotten out of the train at the small station. She couldn't imagine how her vacation was going to continue without the others, without Kathrin and Liese, without Tramp, and especially without the woods, the fields, and the lake.

"It'll be so boring, later," and Shorty nodded. Only Ellie had a different opinion. Quickly, and a bit defiantly, she said: "I'm looking forward to going home. I'm looking forward to seeing my mom, and our garden plot, and in general -- I kinda like being by myself."

"Of course you would!" Shorty looked at fat Ellie through her cool grey eyes rather condescendingly. "You'll be glad if there are no more logs to climb across, and no more barrels to crawl through. Laying around the garden all day, and at most watering the plants a little, that's more something for you. A funny Jungmaedel you are!"

"Oh, leave her alone and don't annoy her all the time," Irm wanted to say. Ever since the boat trip she was looking at Ellie differently from the others. But Ellie had already jumped up and now stood angrily and with clenched fists in front of Shorty who recoiled in surprise.

"You take that back, you, immediately!" she yelled. "You always think you can do anything you want with me. But I have my honor, too!"

Honor was something each Jungmaedel generally took quite serious. But you didn't really talk about it, and if you looked like Ellie when you did -- a lobster red little ball -- and if your sports shirt had come undone from your pants in back so that it was fluttering in the breeze like a little flag, then it was hardly more than laughable. Irm hid her head in the grass, her entire body was trembling with suppressed snickering. Shorty, however, laughed: "Ellie, just like doing theater!" But Ellie didn't hear her. Silently, she stuffed the shirt corner back in and then ran off.

"Now she's really mad," Shorty said startled. "I didn't mean that. I think, I've just been very horrible to her." Thoughtlessly, she pulled out a new blade of grass to stick in her mouth, but then she tossed it aside and ran after the other girl.

Five minutes later, both of them returned, apparently in peaceful conversation. Irm also pretended like nothing had happened, but the good mood was still gone.

So all three of them were glad when Christel and Inge appeared with an important message. Tomorrow they were going to have a large village festival with a camp circus, games for the village children, and a parade through the village with colorful paper lanterns. But especially, they were to bring Christel's Casper dolls. "Well, you know!"

Of course they knew. During the entire time at camp, everyone had always hurried on the way to bed in the evening, so that on the back of Christel's bed, they could relive the day's events through Christel's Casper Dolls each night before Kathrin came to wish them a good night. The role of Kathrin was always played by the devil's grandmother, and the crocodile stood in for Tramp.

"Kathrin said, she's not going to have anything to do with the Casper theater," Christel explained excitedly, "Because the dolls are mine, I should make sure that I do something proper. I'm supposed to come up with a piece, and pick a place where we can put it on. I'm allowed to pick whomever I want for help and we have the whole afternoon to prepare. The others are already putting together paper lanterns. And posters have been put up since the day before yesterday. But I'm sure it's really hard to find a suitable place. Won't you help me?"

"Marvelous!" Irm and Shorty were excited and even Ellie jumped up from her seat in the grass with surprising speed. "We'll first see the village elder, maybe he can give us a field to use," Inge suggested. But the village elder was not interested in their plan at all: "I won't have you tromping through my fields -- what are you thinking, girls!"

But with a look to Inge's clueless face, he then suggested that there's the goose meadow, which isn't used on Sunday afternoons. Goose August could be rather strange at times, and you couldn't tell how he'd react, but after all, asking didn't cost them anything.

It didn't sound like a very good solution but Irm thought, he had such a nice son, so he couldn't possibly be a horrible person. And so it was that Goose August found himself surrounded by five laughing and eagerly chattering Jungmaedel who tried to convince him that his goose meadow would be the proper place to have a village festival.

In general, he didn't seem to be opposed to the idea, as Christel soon realized. But he only wanted to know where the spectators were going to sit, and when he heard they were supposed to sit in the grass, he scratched his head. There was lots laying around the goose meadow, he said, which was okay for the geese but not quite proper for the Sunday best of the spectators.

Christel quickly looked around. Hm, Goose August wasn't entirely wrong. But were they supposed to just say no to this nice location? But Karli, who'd appeared just at the right time, had the solution. "We'll just sweep it away," he explained behind his father's back and winked at Irm. "If the old broom maker's woman will lend us a couple of her huge brooms, we'll be done with that in no time."

Sweeping it away! Of course, what a great idea! When the geese had been driven home that night, Karli and five Jungmaedel got to work on the meadow. It wasn't a bad job, especially since it gave them a chance to think about what they were going to do tomorrow. After all, it wasn't enough that the Casper dolls looked nice, they also had to talk and act.

Of course they could've made fun of camp life, but when Inge started on that, Irm and Shorty made a gesture that suggested an incredibly long beard. So that wasn't going to work.

"Karli, what do you think?" Shorty finally asked in despair. After all, Karli had already made another good suggestion today. But this time, he just shrugged. First, he couldn't think of anything, and second, he still had a lot of hard work to do that night -- he had an essay due for Tuesday and that didn't write itself, either.

"An essay! Well, of course…" Shorty was entirely understanding. "What do you have to write about?" Karli told them the fairytale about the beautiful maid Kunigunde who had been living below the Knuppel mountain on the other side of the village for hundreds of years, waiting for prince charming to free her. "But nobody has found her yet, because whoever wants inside the golden catacombs first has to fight death and the devil and defeat them."

Christel was quite surprised how eagerly Shorty was about this story and how she kept asking about all the details. After all, what business of hers was Karli's essay? But when Shorty suddenly stopped and leaned onto her broom and explained, "That's what we'll put on tomorrow," even Christel understood. That was a great idea already! Casper as prince charming, freeing the princess Kunigunde from her spell! He had to defeat death and the devil -- with a trick, of course, because after all, he was Casper -- and then ride into the catacombs on a white steed.

"I just have to draw the horse," said Christel, but Karli disagreed. "I'll make the horse," he said, "You city girls don't really know what a horse looks like. I can draw. Tomorrow morning, I'll cut it out from cardboard for you."

"But real quick," Irm said, and Karli didn't really take that badly. When the six parted from each other in front of the church, the outline of the play had been decided. With a sigh of relief, Christel went to bed that evening. Things would go well, that much was certain.

The Casper theater on the goose meadow turned out to be a great success. Even Willem, the horse driver from the manor house, who was generally critical of everything, said that he didn't enjoy a village festival this much in a long time, and Stine from the farm next to the church had brought a whole basket of homemade poppy cakes, which she gave to the Jungmaedel because it had been so nice.

Christel herself had lots to criticize, however. In particular she didn't find that the Princess Kunigunde had not been gentle and noble enough. It definitely wasn't right that she'd greeted the knight Casper, who reached her catacombs after braving many dangers, with the words, "Man, I've been waiting for you forever!" Shorty blushed because she'd played the role of Princess Kunigunde. But the village elder thought that wasn't a big deal. After four hundred years of enchanted imprisonment inside a dark mountain, even a princess could loose some of her manners.

In the evening they held a parade with the colored paper lanterns. Their path snaked through the entire village, and when they passed the schoolhouse, the teacher stood on the steps and laughed and waved. "Well, Karli," he said when he saw him pass carrying a blue paper lantern with a yellow moon on it, "still out this late? Is the essay done already?"

"I'll write it tomorrow, teacher!" -- Karli felt very brave within the protection of the many Jungmaedel -- "And besides, the Princess Kunigunde has been freed already. The story is no longer right." -- "Then you'll just have to add the correct ending," the teacher called after him, and Karli, 20 steps away already, called bravely back, "Will do, teacher!"

Then he gave Irm, who walked next to him carrying a fire red lantern with a blue heart on it, a shot in the rips. "Well, that's the first essay in my life that I've had fun with."


Heidersdorf - part 12

Posted by BDMHistoria

Chapter 12
Eva from the Settlement

When the Jungmaedel passed the housing settlement, Irm sometimes remembered that Jungmaedel Eva wasn't good for anything. How strange that something like this could even be said about any Jungmaedel. Irm gave this some thought. There really were some girls who weren't really good for anything. Fiedler's Renate, who sat next to her at school, was one of those. If you made any suggestions, she made a bored face and said, "Och, that's no fun," or, "Och, I don't want to do that." But there were no such girls among the Jungmaedel. They usually had a weak heart or were otherwise underdeveloped and therefore couldn't join the service and it was best if you just left them to their own devices.

But Eva from the settlement wasn't one of those. Definitely not. Irm had sat across from her when Hanne had read the letter from Norway. Eve had looked as if she could imagine everything real well and was no longer in Heidersdorf but really up there in the North. Christel seemed to have noticed as well. She later told Irm: "It's a shame we don't know Eva very much." But that's where it had ended. There was so much going on in Heidersdorf to be occupied with.

Irm trotted happily across the open field that lay between the housing settlement and the village. It was a big honor that she was allowed to go buy the colored paper needed for the village festival next week. She had to go all the way to the next village, which was a long walk. "Be careful so you don't wrinkle up the paper," Liese had called after her. Irm carried the roll of paper so carefully as if she had something very valuable with her.

Suddenly she saw that many people were standing in front of the first house of the village, who were talking animatedly. She could hear one woman from a long way off. She had an ugly, shrew like voice and seemed extremely angry.

Irm wanted to pass quickly. She didn't like it when people were screaming at each other, even though Shorty had said the other day, "A bit of argument in the street is fun, too." But then she suddenly heard a clear, upset voice: "No and no, and I'm not showing it. I don't have to!"

Anxious, she stopped. If that wasn't Eva from the settlement! What did all those people want with her? "The brat stole -- she climbed across my fence, just look what she's got in her pockets!" yelled the shrew like voice. "That's what you get when you let the scum from the city settle out here! First they dig themselves in and then they steal you blind!" That was the young woman who'd been hanging up her laundry when Irm had talked to her on the first day.

She was one to talk! Especially since she was so excited about the city and the people there, and found life in the country to be so horrible. But she had no time to think more about it. "Show me what you've stolen, or I'll beat it out of you!" the woman attacked Eva again. But the girl looked at her defiantly. "I'm not showing anything and I didn't steal anything! -- But I did climb the fence," she added after a pause.

"You see!? And what was it you did in our garden? You're lying," the woman started in again and the whole circle of people closed in on Eva.

"How cowardly, so many against just one," shot through Irm's head, and then: "Someone has to help!" With two steps she stood in the middle of the circle and right in front of the yelling woman. "Jungmaedel don't steal or like," she said and stood next to Eva. "Nobody can say that about us!"

"Just look at that brat! These brats are getting more and more rude. No child would've talked like that when I was young!" A fat woman carrying a woven basket on her arm interjected.

It was horrible. Irm just now realized how hard it was to stand up to a circle full of grown ups as a Jungmaedel. But bravely, she started again: "Just tell them what happened, Eva, you didn't do anything bad." Eva looked at her and seemed to be thinking. But then she shook her head and pursed her lips.

Maybe the whole affair would have ended badly, had not the old man whom Irm had helped to peel the poppy seeds, come down the road. "What is going on here?" he asked angrily, "All the womenfolk are standing around here, stealing the day from our good lord God."

"Other things were stolen here," the woman with the shrew like voice started again, and the young woman who wanted to go to the city told him the whole story.

"Lookie there," said the old man. "You're all quite quick to accuse someone. But you neither saw her do anything, nor are you missing anything. But you have to stand here and talk. -- You should be ashamed. Come here, little girl," with this, he took Eva by the hand and looked at Irm. "And you can come, too. You're the one who was running after her dog like a wild woman the other day. You don't look like one who'd steal or anything like that, either. We'll go our way and let the women stand and talk."

He took Irm on one hand and Eva on the other, and walked out of the circle which opened reluctantly. But nobody was yelling anymore. Because the old man was the oldest farmer in the village, and what he said was done.

"So," he then said when they were out of earshot, "and now you'll tell me why you were in that garden." -- "She's not saying anything!" Irm was all worked up. But to her big surprise, Eva opened her hand, in which lay gleaming black corns. "Seeds," the old man said surprised. "What about them...?" He waited.

"They were on the compost heap." Eva hesitated a bit. "The woman threw them out, she said the stuff grows like weeds. You couldn't get away from it. But we don't have any flowers at home. Not a single one. Only vegetables. Mother says that we don't have enough money to afford flowers. But I would like to have flowers. Lots of them, like in our Jungmaedel garden. For three days I've passed by the house. The plants were still on the compost heap. Nobody wanted them and they were turning all yellow. Then I climbed across the fence and took the seeds."

"Hm," the old man said and Irm thought, he wasn't quite happy with what Eva had done. "Why didn't you go to the house and ask for the seeds? That would've been the best thing to do," he then said. But Eva shook her head. "No," she said, "that woman always says we're beggars and poor folk because we only have a housing settlement and not farms. I couldn't have asked."

"So, is that what she says?" You couldn't tell from his words how he felt about that, but it didn't sound like he was angry with Eva.

"Come to my house tomorrow," he said when they were standing in front of the wide gate next to the school that led to his farm. "You can have as many seeds as you want. Your garden should bloom, too, little girl. But you need to come through the gate, not across the fence. " -- "May I? Oh, thank you," Eva stammered and had turned all red from surprise and happiness. The old man just mumbled something to himself, then nodded to her in a friendly way and went through his gate.

Smiling, the two Jungmaedel looked at each other. "He's alright!" Irm said. Eva took a deep breath, as if a heavy burden had been taken from her, and trotted so happily and relieves down the road that Irm had to think, "And the girls say that Eva isn't good for anything!"

At the edge of the village, where the path to the youth hostel branched off from the main road, Eva suddenly stopped. "Listen, Irm," she said, "You have to promise me something. You can't tell the girls in the village about this. Or they'll laugh about me. I don't want that!"

Irm promised, but with a bit of uncertainty. Things had to change between Eva and the Heidersdorf Jungmaedel. But by herself, she couldn't be any help. She would have to talk to Kathrin about this. But after all, Kathrin was not a girl from the village.

Kathrin didn't say much but when Irm went back to the others later, she was convinced that things would be put right.

And they did, when Irm saw the village girls walk to their social evening a few days later, Eva was in the middle of them, her arms hooked to the girls next to her, and laughing across her whole face. It wasn't quite proper walking to their service hooked together by the elbows; in Berlin, the girls would have laughed at them for it. But in Heidersdorf they might not know this, and after all, it was the most important thing that Eva was now a real part of them!


Heidersdorf - part 11

Posted by BDMHistorian

Chapter 11
Family Stories

Hardly anyone had noticed in the woods that the sun had set and the sky had grown darker. There was so much to see and talk about. There were flowers nobody knew, a fox den, a huge ant hill, and foresters who were cutting down a tree. Only at the edge of the woods they saw that a blue-black sky stood over the moor, which looked quite suspiciously like there was going to be a downpour. "Let's go, quick time!" Kathrin said. "Who runs the fastest might make it to the house dry."

What? It was not even five minutes to the youth hostel! But Christel nodded understandingly. She'd once visited Grunewald with her parents, at Krummen Lanke. When they'd gotten out of the subway, it hadn't rained -- not even a single drop. It had only been four minutes to the restaurant. That's what the sign at the station said. "And suddenly, it started! You can't even imagine how bad it was. You know, it ..."

But Christel didn't get any further because now it started in real life, and the Heidersdorf rain was guaranteed to be just as thick as the Berlin rain. "You don't need to tell us the rest, we know," Irm laughed when she started to run along the path, through the grey wet curtain that suddenly covered the forest and the youth hostel so that you could barely see anything.

The den mother clapped her hands over her head when she saw the wild hunt tearing into the hostel. Water ran from hair, arms and skirts and formed small puddles on the stone floor under the overhanging roof. "Devil, devil!" Kathrin said and shook the water off herself. She always said that when something appeared half serious and half funny to her. "Now we'll need to hang all the Jungmaedel onto the laundry line until tomorrow morning." But everyone else didn't think this was a very good idea and they agreed that only their wet things should hang on the clothing line under the roof, and their shoes, stuffed with newspaper, should stand in the kitchen to dry. The Jungmaedel themselves were to put on their sweat suits and come down into the day room. "Make sure to towel your hair dry," Kathrin called after them. "And hurry up! We'll sit and tell our family histories!"

Irm got a bit of a fright. She hadn't thought about this at all. There was a specific to do about family stories. After Inge's nice ghost story from the other day, they'd been reading more and more from the Heidersdorf palace chronicle. There were many nice stories in there. Some that were funny but also really serious ones. Some about brave men and intelligent women from the von Halden family.

"Such a duke has it well," someone said back then, "at least there's interesting stuff going on in the family." -- "There's lots to tell about your families," Kathrin had said then. At first they'd thought Kathrin was kidding, but she was serious. And then they'd agreed that they'd take one afternoon to tell stories about their families.

But Irm had forgotten all about that, and now she couldn't think of anything. While she towel-dried her hair and re-braided her hair, she thought. What was there to tell? Aunt Agathe and uncle Helmut weren't interesting at all, and there wasn't much to tell about the grandparents either. Well, and the cousins? Irm sighed. What boring relatives she had!

Most of the others didn't fare any better. Only a few were among them who were laughing happily, they already knew what they would tell. Interestingly enough, among them was Lotte Peters who was normally so quiet that you didn't notice her at all. Her parents had a farm in the Lueneburger Heide, and Lotte lived in Berlin with her aunt to attend school there.

Downstairs in the day room, Liese had meanwhile put a fire in the fireplace. The birch wood crackled, and sometimes whole groups of sparks flew out at them. It was beginning to get really comfortably warm already, and the Jungmaedel sat around the fire in a semi-circle. Now they could get started, it was just right for telling stories, thought Irm.

There were a lot more great stories than Irm had expected. A whole parade of old gentlemen and ladies passed along, with dignified long beards and pompadours, and clattering knitting needles. About nearly all of them, they were laughing, but in a way that they were still well liked, that they were a part of oneself, and that one generally was even a little proud of them.

There was Ellie's great-aunt Sophie, who was a right old maid and extremely suspicious and always expected the worst of people. One day, she was visiting Ellie's grandparents. They were having dove for lunch and Ellie's grandmother, who knew aunt Sophie well, found the largest and fattest dove and put it onto the old lady's plate. Silently, aunt Sophie reached for knife and fork and started to work on the bird.

Suddenly, her face lit up -- yes, aunt Sophie was actually smiling. "Dear Amalie," she said to grandmother's horror to the whole table, "You thought that was an old one -- but it's an especially nice, young, tender..." Yes, that was aunt Sophie...

Or the stories about Inge's grandparents, who were on their first trip to the Harz mountains. It was said to be so nice there and after all, they could afford it. There was no shortage of money.

So the grand journey was undertaken in Sunday best, with umbrellas, travel bags and many lunch sandwiches. The next day, around quitting time, the neighbors came to ask how the old grandparents liked their journey to the Harz. Grandmother liked pretty much everything -- Harzburg, the castle mountain, the restaurant where they'd had coffee.

But grandfather shook his head: "That's what it is," he said. "That we've spent so much money on this. If I'd sat outside my door and watched Schulten's Christian work, that'd have given me much more pleasure than this trip." -- And grandfather had not gone on a trip since.

Lastly, it was Lotte Peter's turn to tell a story. "But it's nothing to laugh about," she said. "Our farm is in the Lueneburger Heide. It looks just like the farm houses in lower Saxony always look in the pictures. Except it no longer has a straw roof. Two years ago, father replaced that with a tile roof. He said it's more practical and also looks nice.

When they redid the roof, they also redid the spackling on the building. In the process of that, they realized there was something written on the large beam above the main door. The writing had been painted over, so nobody had noticed it before. The letters were really fancy. But dad could read it anyway. It was a saying that was carved there, "Gott die Triuwe, aller Werlte Trutz." Dad said it means, "Be true to God, no matter what the rest of the world says." He said that fits well to old Bernd Peters.

Bernd Peters is our oldest known relative. His name is first on the family tree that hangs in our living room. It was him who built the farm in the first place. And then dad told us the story of Bernd Peters.

He'd lived during the time of the Thirty Years war and had been a captain to one of the many dukes that existed in Germany back then. One day, they were told the Swedes were coming. So the duke called Peters to him and said, "I know that you're a brave and courageous man. Therefore, I'm ordering you and fifty men to guard the road that leads through the moor and not let any enemy pass. It's for the Kaiser and country. Do you understand, Bernd Peters?"

The captain shook the hand of the duke that was offered in an almost surprised way. Why would he speak about things that go without saying? -- For three days, Bernd Peters held the road with his men against the Swedes. It was not too difficult because to the right and left of the road were swamps and the Swedes did not know the area.

Then, in the third night, came a messenger from the duke, ordering him to clear the road. The duke had negotiated a peace with the Swedes. Bernd Peters remembered the words, "for Kaiser and country" and thought this was a trick. In the middle of the night, he rode through the forest to the city to get the real orders.

There he was told that a peace he really been brokered, and that the duke was not to be disturbed because he was holding a banquet in honor of the Swedish negotiator. The citizens sat in the bars and were celebrating as well, because their land was now free of worries and war.

"What about the Kaiser? What about the country?" asked the captain. Then they shrugged and said, "The Kaiser's far away. And the country? Where's that? It exists only in the minds of idiots and big children. The country is dead. Everyone should see that he survives himself!"

So the captain rode back and in the morning, his men gave up the road and let the Swedes pass.

But Bernd Peters put in his resignation to his duke the same night. The document is still in the archive in Osnabruck today. In it he wrote that he followed orders like he was required to as an officer. Then he asked to be relieved of his duty: ... "because I have sworn an oath to the Kaiser and the country, and such an oath cannot be broken without compromising my honor."

That was the end of the document. We all know it by heart because we're so proud of our ancestor Bernd. Then he moved to the Lueneburger Heide. There was only heath and moor back then, and if someone wanted to settle there, he was welcome to. Nobody asked where he'd come from or who he was.

There, Bernd peters built our farm. It's still there today and the family still lives there today. For three hundred years, the farm was given from father to sun. And the inheritor's last name was always Bernd. My big brother, too. It can't be any other way."

Proudly and seriously, Lotte stood in front of the fireplace. The fire lit up her face and her bright hair, and she had such a defiant look on her face that you could well imagine Bernd Peters had looked the same way.

"That was very nice," Kathrin said and nodded to Lotte. "Thank you very much." She'd not said this to anyone else, but nobody else had told such a great story, either. It was quite alright this way.

"There's so much going on with the family," Irm said when she walked next to Christel to the dining room for dinner. "When I get back home, I'll ask Mom about everything. Strange that I never thought of this myself!" But Christel was hardly listening. She was preoccupied with her own thoughts. "I want to draw Bernd Peters, standing in front of the citizens," she said and reached for the pocket of her sweat suit. Her colored pencils were clattering inside.


Heidersdorf - part 10

Posted by BDMHistorian

Chapter 10
There's Mushrooms Today!

Whenever the Jungmaedel walked to the lake to swim, they were amazed by the amount of mushrooms that grew in the woods. And suddenly, there was the thought: "We should have mushrooms with dinner sometime." It wasn't quite clear who'd thought of that. But now, the Jungmaedel wouldn't let it go again: "Kathrin, when are we finally going to have mushrooms?"

Not that the food at camp wasn't good! Quite the opposite! It was "great, great" like Shorty always said, and sometimes she added, "Gustav should see this!" But handpicked mushrooms -- that would be so much better!

But the den mother shook her head about this plan: "And who'll make sure you know your mushrooms and don't bring me any that are poisonous? No, no, you can forget about that!"

Kathrin could understand that. She herself didn't know mushrooms that well, and even Liese, who usually knew her way around the fields and woods so well, said a little embarrassed: "No, I've never had much interest in mushrooms. It's a bit of a shame, but that's what it is."

So the whole great plan had to be let go. How bad. But then the den mother had the saving idea: "If Mother Castorp from the Wiesenhof would help you look -- she knows every mushroom from 10 feet away. That would be entirely different."

At least that was a bit of hope! The Jungmaedel knew Mother Castorp well; she always nodded toward them when they passed the Wiesenhof. Maybe she'd really join them to look for mushrooms. That would be wonderful!

Mother Castorp sat in the warm sun on a bench in front of her house and knitted a long grey stocking when the Jungmaedel, lined up in rows of three, marched up the road and stood in front of her garden gate where they sang the song by way of greeting. They knew that Mother Castorp especially liked this particular song.

She immediately stood up, put her stocking to the side and shook hands with Kathrin: "How nice of you to come visit this old woman. But," she winked at Kathrin, "it's not quite without a reason, is it? What's up? What do you want form me?"

Kathrin blushed a bit. Mother Castorp always saw through everything! But then she told her about the Jungmaedel, the mushrooms, and the den mother … "and now, it would be wonderful if you could go looking for mushrooms with us, Mother Castorp."

Mother Castorp didn't mind at all. She even nodded quite contently. "Good, good", she said, "it's right that you pay attention to such things and that you'll pick what the good Lord puts in front of you. It doesn't always have to be yellow boletus, yellow chanterelles and button mushrooms. The whole forest is full of good ones, too. You just have to bother to learn which ones they are. But city people don't do that anymore."

Kathrin had to laugh a bit, because Mother Castorp never really had anything nice to say about city people and wherever she could find a reason to pick on them, she did. But her Jungmaedel were an exception, even though they were from the city as well. And they were quite proud of that exception, too.

Mother Castorp was ready to take the Jungmaedel out on Saturday afternoon. Kathrin didn't have to spend a lot of time asking. It turned out to be a beautiful, sunny afternoon when they met up with Mother Castorp at the Wiesenhof, carrying six large baskets. On Thursday and Friday it had rained heavily and in the alleyways were still large puddles; everything smelled fresh and like wet leaves.

"The right mushroom weather," said Mother Castorp at the edge of the forest and laughed happily. "Now you just need to make sure not to pick the wrong ones. Listen up…"

The hundred Jungmaedel edged closer expectantly. Mother Castorp already held two mushrooms. Strange, and none of the Jungmaedel had seen even a single one yet. "So," Mother Castorp said and raised her right hand, "This one is a boletus, and this one," the left hand followed, "is an agaric." With this, they showed them how you had to look underneath the mushroom's head to see whether there was an area covered in rounded gills or ones that looked like the leaves on a half-opened books. "All of the boletus kind are edible," she said. "There's only one that's poisonous and it doesn't grow in this area at all. With the agaric mushrooms, you must be careful and only take the ones you truly know; yellow chanterelles, for example, like the one I'm holding in my hand here."

The Jungmaedel nodded eagerly. Looking for mushrooms was pretty simple after all. The den mother would be surprised by what they'd be bringing back. Then they divided into groups of five Jungmaedel each and spread out throughout the forest. After an hour, they'd meet back with Mother Castorp and give her the mushrooms. "I want to check each one, just to make sure there are no bad ones in the mix," she'd said.

Some had secretly found this very unnecessary. After all, they now knew what they were looking for. But it soon turned out that it wasn't quite as easy, and Mother Castorp had to answer a whole bundle of questions when they were all back together.

Inge had a whole handful of reddish-brown mushrooms. "They're so pretty and they're all boletus," she said, "but when you touch them, they turn black. Maybe they're poisonous after all?" -- Mother Castorp said, "You can eat them and the black coloring makes no difference." Happily, Inge put her find into one of the large baskets.

Then Ellie pushed to the foreground embarrassedly. "I haven't found any boletus at all, so I ended up picking these." She unpacked a couple of golden yellow mushrooms that looked like bath sponges, and a lot that looked like little white balls. "Cockscombs and puff-balls," Mother Castorp said. "Well, they're not the best mushrooms but with all these others, they'll taste just fine."

Christel's bag was so full that when she came up, a large amount of mushrooms spilled into the grass no matter how careful she was. "They're really strange, the ones I've found," she said. "They are not boletuses but not agarics, either … rather, they have little thorns. Well, I don't know if they are any good." - Mother Castorp said, "They taste quite nicely, but you have to peel the skin because it's very bitter."

A few very brave girls had dared to agaric mushrooms. "Honey fungus" is what Mother Castorp called the yellow ones with bent bottoms that grew on tree trunks. "Milk mushrooms" she said were the others. You had to throw those away because their juice was very bitter and it would ruin the entire mushroom dish. Then there were scaly Habicht mushrooms, a few brought yellow chanterelles, and Shorty had found some yellow boletus.

"You did really great," Mother Castorp nodded. "Now you need to go help the den mother clean them all, or she won't be done until tomorrow morning!"

Of course! That would be the main fun! In the evening, they all sat around their large mountain of mushrooms, each holding a knife. And again hey went through the names of all the new mushrooms they had gotten to know.

"I now know them all," Irm said pleased to Ellie who sat next to her. "When I go into the forest at home with my mom, we'll go pick mushrooms there, too. -- Cane mushrooms," she added after a pause. "I don't quite trust myself with the others, after all."

"And your mother is going to believe you that you know the mushrooms?" Ellie looked surprised. She had to think for a long time about Irm's quick, "Of course -- why not?" She thought about her own mother and could only too well hear her voice: "You're much too young! One can't go by what the children say!"

Did the other Jungmaedel have mothers like Irm, and was this why they were so different from her, Ellie, so much more self-reliant and self assured? Preoccupied with her own thoughts, she cut one mushroom after the other and put them into the large bowl. A lot had to change, at home too, if she wanted to be a Jungmaedel like the others. She'd have to prove to her mother that she was not "little" anymore, and that what she said could be trusted. But sometimes it was easy to be "little" and to let the grown ups think for and worry about you. But the other thing was much better. Strange that she only realized this now, in Heidersdorf. Ellie sighed a little and Irm looked at her in surprise and wondered why Ellie wasn't saying anything.

But then Irm forgot all about Ellie and Ellie forgot all about her worries. Because Shorty had laid the largest of all mushrooms, the parasol mushroom, across her shoulder like an umbrella and wandered around the circle in a dignified way: "I am the Princess Parasol, and you're all my subjects. You have ten minutes to come before my throne and give me your treasures."

In a long row they then walked to the kitchen where Shorty's throne was the kitchen table, and where she accepted the treasures, which were presented to her on plates and in bowls, with a gracious smile, until the den mother chased the entire group from her kitchen: "Enough now, if you want to eat before midnight!"


Heidersdorf - part 9

Posted by BDMHistorian

Chapter 9
"Winds blow, Ships sail..."

The camp chronicle in the day room had grown by a picture again, but this one was twice as big as the others to make sure it was known it was especially important. It depicted the departure of the Americans. In a big black car stood Maud, holding Nurmi the giraffe in her arm, which had been festively given to her as a goodbye present; Mr. Pitt waved his plaid travel cap; the Jungmaedel waived with their handkerchiefs, and in the foreground was Kathrin with a huge white envelope on which was written, "For the Heidersdorf Jungmaedel" in red writing.

There was something special about the envelope. Mr. Pitt had given it to Kathrin in the last minute, before climbing into his car. Afterwards, Kathrin had opened it in front of all the Jungmaedel and inside was -- a brand new 100 Mark note!

A hundred Mark did the Heidersdorf Jungmaedel suddenly have at their disposal, and they could use the money in any way they wanted. "We'll go on a trip for that," Kathrin said and after lots of detailed and excited conferences, it was decided that it would be best to take a trip to the Baltic. None of the Jungmaedel had ever been to the see and it wasn't too far, especially not for people who had that much money. The Heidersdorf train made a straight trip to the sea.

And so, one morning, they had gotten on a train -- and now they'd arrived. They stood on the very front dune between the thin grass and looked with awe onto the wide blue water, the smoke from a ship at the horizon, and the surf which rolled with white foam tips onto the beach.

They let the warm sand run through their fingers which was so fine, white, and clean, and listened to the monotone sloshing of the water that followed them everywhere -- to the fishermen's houses, to the nets hung up to dry, to the boats that lay on the beach with rolled up brown sails. You could swim here, too, and Shorty had even found a dead fish. But it looked gross, so they buried it in sand.

But the best was yet to come. With a real fishing boat they were going to head onto the sea, and Inge was already playing all the sea shanties she knew on her harmonica. "The sea's a bit rough today," said the fisherman when Kathrin was talking to him about the price. "The li'l ones are gonna get seasick, Miss."

But he was wrong about the Berlin Jungmaedel! "Us, seasick? No way!" they explained so energetically he had to laugh: "Well, then let's go. But no more than half an hour for the trip!" -- Okay then, half an hour. Good. Twenty Jungmaedel at a time fit into the boat, so five trips had to be made. The first three times, Liese wanted to be on board, the last two Kathrin.

The others had meanwhile come up with a great challenge. They would inspect each boatload that returned carefully. If someone had gotten seasick, she was a no-good coward and would be laughed at. So now it had become a matter of honor to be seaworthy. Shorty was already in line for the first trip. She stood at the bow of the boat, beaming. "To the lords of the see! Long live piracy!" she sang loudly and slightly off key.

Irm was part of the second boatload. The first trip had already turned and was getting closer already. Then she felt someone tug on her skirt. It was Ellie. "I want to go with you," she said.

"You?" Irm wasn't exactly thrilled. Ellie was guaranteed to not be seaworthy. She always did badly no matter what. Irm remembered the sports festival they'd held on a Sunday morning for the Heidersdorf farmers, and the relay around the lake. Irm's group would've won, if it hadn't been for the fact that Ellie had been impossible about the bin that was to be crawled through, so that she took three times as long as anyone else. For the spectators, that had been great fun. For the participants -- no, Ellie should be in another boat!

But as if she had guessed what Irm was thinking, Ellie started, "You don't need to think I'll get seasick -- I won't!" -- "That's what you say!" Irm was upset. Ellie could get really annoying. "But you can't know for sure!" -- "Can too," Ellie said so serious that Irm was surprised. "I know for sure, and you can trust me!" -- "Hmmm," Irm thought. Maybe Ellie did know. "Then hurry up," she said, because the boat was just now anchoring on the pier.

It turned out to be a great trip. The boat danced atop the waves for a bit, then it was so deep down that you could only see the waves. The wind was so strong, it nearly took your breath, the sun glistened on the top of the waves, and white seagulls circled the boat.

Only when the boat turned around for the trip back, Irm thought to turn around and check on Ellie. She was sitting quietly on her spot and looked extremely pale. Irm slid from her seat and sat next to her on the narrow bench. "So now you're sick after all," she said a bit condescending. "No," Ellie said with unusual pep. "Not at all. What makes you think that? -- Let's join in the song, shall we?" Just then, the others had started a song.

"You can't fool me," Irm thought, but she liked that Ellie was able to pull herself together so well. -- But when they got closer to the beach and hit the heavy surf, Ellie suddenly leaned deeply over the side. But when she came back up, she was very pale. After all! "Is it bad?" Irm asked sympathetically. But Ellie grit her teeth: "Is what bad? What do you want? Don't look at me like that!" -- And then she sang like the others, "Winds blow, ships sail far into a foreign land…" and stomped the rhythm to it with her feet.

"She's quite alright, that Ellie," Irm thought. She looked around. None of the others had noticed a thing. And she would make sure nobody else would either. -- Through a row of waiting and nosy Jungmaedel they walked ashore. "Ellie," Shorty squeaked, "I bet she's seasick!" -- "No," said Ellie. -- "No," said everyone else, too.

She was very pale, but everyone only noticed just now. But she'd sang along with them and had been having fun. Honest.

Shorty was still not quite convinced. "Listen," she said to Irm, "that can't be true. Especially since she's looking like that." -- "You heard yourself what everyone said," Irm said shortly. "And besides, I was sitting next to her the entire time -- I'd have noticed." -- "Strange," Shorty shrugged, but she left Ellie alone and that was what was important.

The next two trips, Kathrin went along. "Irm," she said when the Jungmaedel walked into the boat one after the other, "you need to watch Tramp for me. I can't take him on the boat and I think he'd like staying with you best."

Irm was very proud. She even thought it wasn't necessary when Kathrin leashed Tramp. He's stay with her; after all, he was real friendly and even wagged his tail a bit. But as soon as the boat left land, Tramp was no longer interested in any friendship. He made a great jump into the water to swim after Kathrin. Irm had to grab his collar or he'd have knocked her off her feet.

He looked angrily at her from the corner of his eyes and growled quietly. That was meant to mean: "Let me go, can't you see I have to run to Kathrin!" -- "You can't go now," Irm said. "You have to stay here with me, and we both have to wait for her to get back."

Tramp seemed to give in to the unavoidable. But he stood completely still on the beach and waited. Every wave that hit the land sloshed across his paws. Actually, he couldn't stand that at all; he found the sea quite scary because he'd gotten a nose full of salt water at his first attempt at swimming. But now nothing mattered to him. He didn't want anything other than being where Kathrin was.

"Tramp," said Irm, "Don't be so stupid. They'll be right back, really, you can trust me." Tramp usually understood everything he was told, but now he didn't listen at all. Irm pulled him back onto dry land by the collar and sat down in the sand. Then he sat down, stuck his head deep under her blue Jungmaedel skirt, and didn't move again. Inge and Christel came near and talked to him. Shorty petted him. But he didn't even wag his tail. Everyone felt sorry for him but there was nothing they could do.

When the boat turned around out there and started to come closer, Irm stood up. She took the dog by the leash and walked behind the dune with him. He shouldn't be happy when Kathrin came back snow, since she was just about to go off again.

Tramp trotted along, but his ears hung sadly -- both of them, this time -- and he had his tail tucked between his legs. Irm walked between the dunes with him until she thought it was about time the last trip was over. Then they slowly walked back to the beach. When they'd reached the pier, the boat was just docking. Tramp suddenly stood stock still, both ears standing up, then ripped the leash from Irm's hands and ran howling loudly to the beach.

When Irm reached Kathrin, who was talking to the fisherman, Tramp was jumping up on her, around her, turned around himself, and did all sorts of other weird things out of joy. Kathrin petted his smooth head and patted the fur so that he squeaked happily. All the fear of the last hour was forgotten, but he didn't leave Kathrin's side for the rest of the afternoon.


Heidersdorf - part 8

Posted by BDM Historian

Chapter 8
A Visitor from America

Irm lay behind a thick juniper bush in the clearing and watched the edge of the forest opposite her. That's where the "spies" had to pass if they wanted to smuggle their message to Kathrin. You had to pay careful attention during such games if you didn't want anyone to get the better of you. "Five disguised spies will be bringing an important notice from the train station to the youth hostel. They can use any path they'd like except through the village. You have to try and catch them." That's what Kathrin had told them.

If you only knew who the five were. If Inge was one of them? Irm hadn't seen her since lunch. Shorty was part of the "police". She lay behind the next corner of the forest. Irm adjusted the branches she'd tied to her skirt as "camouflage". They hid her white blouse quite well.

There was movement in the clearing. Irm searched the area, then laughed quietly. It was only a couple of rabbits that was hopping through the clearing, stopping here and there to nibble on the small birch trees.

But then -- an obvious red spot appeared at the edge of the forest. Of course, someone was walking there! It couldn't be a farmer's wife or a girl from the village. They didn't wear such bright things. Carefully, Irm crawled closer. The person on the other side didn't seem to be in a hurry. Step by step, the figure wandered along the railroad tracks. Irm could see now that the person was wearing a red blouse and a black and white plaid skirt. On her head, she was wearing a scarf with a visor like Irm had seen car drivers wear before, and across her shoulder hung a camera on a leather strap.

Aha, someone was disguised as a tourist. But Irm wasn't fooled. She saw straight through this disguise! She'd gotten as close as 20 meters. The other girl was facing the other way. Now she only had to catch her. Irm jumped up, ran the last bit across the clearing and grabbed the other girl by the shoulder. The girl turned with a scream and Irm stared into a completely unknown face.

"Oh," she said and let go. "Oh," said the other girl, too. They both laughed. "Who are you?" asked the stranger in English. Irm shrugged her shoulder helplessly. She knew the girl was speaking English, but she couldn't understand her. "Who are you?" the other tried in German. Oh, she knew German -- how wonderful! "Irmgard Wagner, Obergau 3, Berlin," Irm said quickly. "Maude Pitt, Chicago, United States," said the other girl. "What's "Ober-Gau"?"

Irm looked at her helplessly. How was she supposed to explain that? Meanwhile, an older gentleman carrying a large bouquet of wildflowers had stepped into the clearing. "Pa," the girl from America called, and then followed it with such an amount of chatter that Irm was amazed that anyone could speak so quickly and so much in such a difficult language. "You're a Hitler-Girl, aren't you?" The gentleman spoke excellent German with a slight foreign accent. Irm breathed easier. At least you could make conversation with this "Pa".

"Do you have a camp here?" asked Mr. Pitt and Irm told him about Heidersdorf, the youth hostel, and the hundred Jungmaedel. -- "So, so," the American seemed happy with the explanation. Then he said laughing: "And what are you doing here? Are you pretending to be a Christmas tree?"

Only now Irm realized her "camouflage" was still sticking from the waistband of her skirt. She pulled the twigs out and threw them into the clearing. "We're in the middle of a game. I'm actually supposed to catch a spy, but there's nobody here." All of a sudden, the game didn't seem that important anymore, especially since instead of the spy, she'd caught two real life Americans!

"Listen, girl," said the gentleman after a brief pause. "I'd love to see your camp. Do you think that's allowed?" -- "Of course!" Irm felt quite like a hostess. "We'd be happy to have you." That's what Elfi's mother had said once, when the shopkeeper's wife had asked to visit her garden plot. The foreigners should see that the Berlin Jungmaedel knew how to behave properly.

Mr. Pitt laughed a bit and said something to Maud, who ran cheering into the woods. Then you could hear the starting of a motor and a heavy black Mercedes with red upholstery pulled into the clearing. "Awesome!" Irm wanted to burst out, but then she realized that that wasn't good manners. So she stayed quiet.

"Also," Mr. Pitt said as he got in the front with the driver, "get in the back, girls, and we'll drive to the youth hostel." -- "My pleasure," Irm said and wondered why Mr. Pitt was laughing again. She felt quite elegant on the wide leather seat, but she was even more proud that the rich American was driving a German car.

The game was a tie. The spies and police both had forgotten their task when Irm pulled up with the two strangers in the black car. Mr. Pitt got out and shook hands with Kathrin. "Excuse our intrusion," he said. "I'm visiting for the first time since the war to see the new German. A lot has changed -- for the better, it seems. If you don't mind, I'd like to visit for a few hours. I'm very interested in the youth of today's Germany."

"Of course," Kathrin side. "I can give you a tour of the hostel, the sports field, and the other buildings together with the den mother. We'll be having dinner in half an hour. All the Jungmaedel will be here by then. We'd love to have you stay for that."

Irm was surprised. Kathrin didn't talk different from how she normally talked at all. She talked to the rich American in exactly the same way she talked to any other person. But suddenly that seemed quite right. She wouldn't say stuff like "my pleasure" or such nonsense anymore, just to seem well-mannered.

Inge, who took English in school, had taken Maud upstairs to the day room. With much laughter and use of sign language, she explained Christel's drawings, which had increased in the meantime. A particular impression to Maud made the giraffe, Nurmi, who was standing on a low closet in the corner. Maud picked the colorful, long-legged plush animal up and hugged it, and didn't let go until it was time for dinner. "Nurmi" had to sit next to her plate and watched the dinner guests.

The social evening would be under direction or Mr. Pitt, Kathrin said. The Jungmaedel waited excitedly. Now they'd hear about America, about the skyscrapers, right oil barons, and maybe even Indians. Or did they no longer exist?
But it turned out completely different. "I'd like to tell you what it was like when I was in Germany last time," Mr. Pitt began. "It was nearly 20 years ago. A horrible time for your country, but especially you, who are growing up in the new and happy Germany shouldn't forget it.

It was just after the Versailles Peace Accord. Germany had to agree to give away or destroy all remaining war materials. I belonged to a commission that watched over this in Germany.

They could use me well because I was an officer, but I was also an engineer, so I was an expert. It wasn't a good task. As an officer, I was embarrassed to humiliate a brave, but beaten enemy; and as an engineer, I was against the senseless destruction of valuable instruments, in which Germany was leading the field than and now.

The comrade who was ordered to help me took things easier than I did. He belonged to the kind of people who can't tell the difference between political and personal enemies. He hated everything Germany from the very bottom of his soul. So he never felt anything unusual about the unworthy task.

I clearly remember one evening in our quarters in a middle-German town. We had returned from a patrol through the barracks. The machines we were looking for, and whose numbers were unknown to use, hadn't turned up.

Then a man reported to us. Klepke was his name, I've not forgotten it in 20 years. With an oily voice and much to do, he told us that he was a pacifist, absolute pacifist. He wanted to truly help destroy any of the war materials that were around, and wanted to help us, the former enemy. We stayed cool and expecting. That's how they all started.

There was an engineer here in town who had five of the machines we were looking for hidden in his laboratory, Mr. Klepke went on. He knew that from a reliable source. He pulled a sticky notebook from his pocket and gave us the numbers of the machines. Indeed, they were the ones we were looking for. We noted down the name and address of the engineer, paid the reward, and let the guy go. Dealings with those kinds of people were the worst part of our task. But you couldn't get around that.

The next morning, we went to search the laboratory of the German engineer. He checked our papers coolly and let us in. There was something in his manner that suggested he used to be an officer. Upon entering, I had given him my short apologies for the intrusion, which I found to be proper even toward the enemy, but the German had said briefly, "No matter, you're just doing your duty. Go ahead and search."

We searched the rooms, instruments, storage closets. Nothing. My comrade was cursing and wanted to leave already. But I hesitated. The German was an engineer; he would be hiding the machines in a way that others might not think of; maybe he would -- and now I had a thought: he might've used them as part of his arrangement in his laboratory. "I'd like to see your experimental lab," I said. His eyes glistened briefly, but otherwise, nothing gave him away. "Please," he said calmly.

Within a half hour, I'd found three of the machines that I was looking for, but I couldn't find the others either. I gave the order to destroy them in the courtyard. The lab helper carried them downstairs.

I didn't feel right doing this. And it wasn't even so much the destruction of thousands of Marks worth of material. But each engineer has a love for the wonders of fine mechanics. It was a little as if I was killing something living. How senseless this was, this war during peacetime.

Downstairs in the courtyard, the lab helper turned the machines into a heap of rubble with a few bangs of a hammer. I could only be amazed by the calmness of the German who was watching. Then we went downstairs to check it out. "Well done," said my colleague and turned to leave. I wanted to follow him, but a slight detail on the first machine had me take a second look.

I saw something that seemed quite amazing at first look. Even though the machines were smashed, the hits had been chosen so carefully that only the unimportant parts had been damaged. The actual piece was still intact. It was a work for days, maybe just hours, to put them back into usable condition.

"But that's..." I protested. "Excuse me?" Cold and hard the gaze of the German hit me. I saw that he knew exactly I'd seen through his last try to rescue the instruments. But he took this blow, too, with a kind of arrogant pride that I could only admire.

"What's the matter?" my comrade called from the gate. "Something wrong?" I hesitated briefly. Then I turned quickly: "Everything's alright," I said, "we can go."

The tenseness in the face of the other man immediately loosened. He bowed his head. "Thanks, comrade," he said quietly. His eyes were no longer hard, they only looked tired and sad. I could understand him -- oh, how well could I understand! Dependent on the pity of an enemy officer ... Well, that was 20 years ago when Versailles hung over Germany."

The American fell silent. It was so quiet in the room that from outside, you could hear the quiet knocking of the moths that were flying against the lit-up windows. Then Kathrin stood up. "We'll take the flag down," she said.

Quieter than usual, the Jungmaedel went to bed. Nobody was in the mood to laugh or talk. Irm lay awake for a long time, looking up to the ceiling on which the cross of the window frame reflected as a dark shadow. "Germany," she said to herself. How often had she said the word, superficially, but it did give everything you did its real purpose. Even the life of a Jungmaedel. Germany.


Heidersdorf - part 7

Posted by BDMHistorian

Chapter 7
A Jungmaedel Garden and a Flower Village

One morning, there was a poster on the door of the youth hostel. Shorty had seen it first, and then all Jungmaedel stood to read what was written on it. There was a big red arrow at the top, pointing toward the village. Below that stood in nice printed handwriting:

"If you think you're the only Jungmaedel in Heidersdorf, you're wrong. We're here, too. But you have to come look for us. This afternoon, starting at five o'clock, you must follow the red arrows. Then you'll find us. The Jungmaedel of the village."

Awesome! That was a real invitation. Excitedly, everyone spent the early afternoon getting ready for the visit. Each Jungmaedel put on a fresh, clean blouse and brushed her skirt again. No insignia or sleeve triangle with the text "Ost Berlin" was missing from anyone. The Jungmaedel of the village should see that the Berliners knew what was proper!

Then, the hunt was on. The red arrows were found easily enough. They were stuck to fences, building walls, and trees; and pointed into the village, past the church, and back out the other end. But now what? They didn't see anything for a long time. Kathrin wanted to turn around already because she thought they'd gotten lost, when a small girl in a white blouse and blue skirt popped from the ditch at the side of the road and started running down the road in front of them like a little weasel: "C'mon, they're all down there!"

"Well, at least we're going in the right direction," Kathrin laughed. They'd just reached a low picket fence that surrounded a small garden when things started to get very lively on the other side and a whole row of laughing Jungmaedel faces appeared. "We welcome the Berlin Jungmaedel to our summer home," they chorused. Then the garden gate was opened and the Jungmaedel from Berlin were let in festively. "Our Garden," Hanne, the leader of the village girls, said proudly.

The Jungmaedel from the city were amazed. It was wonderful what the Heidersdorf girls had created. The path from the gate led to a large seating circle that took up the entire center of the garden. It was overgrown with moss. The rest of the garden was covered in flowers - field flowers and garden flowers, but also beans and peas and even potatoes. "We find they have nice flowers, too, and they're free," Hanne said.

The Berliners were excited. "And this garden belongs to you? You've planted all of this yourself?" - "Of course," the others said with an air of superiority. "It was a lot of work, too, you know. At first, it was really hard to get the seeds and plants, and especially the fertilizer. After all, nothing will grow from nothing - you probably know that, too, even though you're from the city."

The girls from the camp listened eagerly. Particularly those whose parents had a garden plot were understanding. "But now, things are much better," Hanne continued. "The whole village is starting to enjoy our garden. Everyone brings us seeds, plants, and offshoots, and the people at the manor have even donated a whole wagon load of fertilizer. But the work's still down to us. But for that, we have the prettiest meeting place you could imagine."

Everyone nodded in agreement. It really was beautiful here. Only Elli wondered, "But what happens if it rains?" - "A little rain won't hurt us," said Hanne. "We're not going to melt. And if it's too bad, we'll meet at the schoolhouse just like we do in winter. But we don't like it as much. We've tried to build a roof from shelter halves but it wasn't enough. The rain got through all the nooks and crannies."

Meanwhile, everyone had found a place to sit in the circle, partially down on the moss and partially along the "wall" along the edge. It was as if they had always known each other when Kathrin pulled out her accordion and played the song about the "red, red poppies", and everyone joined in as if they'd always sang together. There were many songs they all knew, but some that only the Berliners or only the Heidersdorfers knew; but it was lots of fun to learn from each other.

Only one girl sat a bit away from the rest of the group. She joined in when they sang songs, but when everyone was chatting with each other, she sat quietly and watched the clouds pass by. She was also the only one of the girls who wasn't wearing the proper uniform, but who was wearing a brown skirt with her white blouse.

"Who is that?" Irm asked quietly of the girl sitting next to her. "That? Oh, that's Eva from the housing settlement down the road. She hasn't been with us long, and she's not really good for anything. She always keeps to herself. I think, she's also really poor."

Strange - Irm didn't know whether there were any Jungmaedel in her group who were "poor" because they didn't talk about such things. Irm looked back over to the girl in the brown skirt again. But it felt like it wasn't quite right to do so, even though she didn't know why.

Hanne had now gotten up and pulled a white piece of paper from her pocket. "We've invited you today because today is a special day," she said. "Because we just got a letter from Berte. That's our last leader. She now goes to university in the city and wants to become a doctor. She is on vacation right now and traveling to Norway. The letter is so great, we thought, we should read it to you. But for that, you had to come to our garden, or it just wouldn't have been right."

Then Hanne went to read the letter that Berte had sent to her Jungmaedel: "Dear Jungmaedel, I experienced something great today and it reminded me of you and our garden. At first, things started off quite boring. "Six hours layover", said the second mate at first when we'd anchored on the little island in the Vesteraalen. But that's what it's like when you're traveling aboard a freight ship to Norway. Wherever it's beautiful, we only stay a short time, and on the most boring fishing villages, we spend lots of time to take on freight: mountains of reeking fish that we didn't want to see ever again after the first couple of times they were loaded.

A little upset, we were walking aimlessly along the beach. Everywhere there's grey rock with sparse bits of grass, the grey sheds of the fishing companies, and four or five reddish-brown fishermen's houses. And that's all there's to see. We found some flat, smooth stones and skipped them across the water. But that's not really anything to do for long period of time.

Finally I suggested we should hike inland a little bit, but the others weren't so sure about that. Nothing would look any different there, either. But the captain said we just needed to walk in the right direction. "Down the road and then take the first path on the right. After about an hour, we'd get to the flower village." - "A flower village?" - "Yup - well, that's what we call it, because it's the only village here that has flowers. Very nice ones and a lot of them, too."

Of course, now we had to see for ourselves. The road went on through brownish heather and bilberry plants. Then the footpath led through a small forest, across a brook, and then it was uphill, more and more uphill.

"Just watch," one girl said, "now we'll get to a pass and behind that, we'll get to the village." We were getting more and more anxious with anticipation. Then we finally stood at the top and looked down into the valley on the other side. About three hundred meters below us was a small blue lake, surrounded by lush green fields. And there was the village, too. Brownish-red wooden houses, like everywhere in Norway, and the white stone church and on a hill, a little outside the village, a larger building - probably the school. Without planning to do so, we started to run, and ran down the small path until we reached the first few buildings.

The flower village. - There we stood on the wide village road, and saw before us the windows of the small houses, each of which had a flower pot or several small colorful flower pots on a blue, red, or yellow painted windowsill. Fuchsias grow here, geraniums and hanging carnations, almost like at home. Except the colors were even more vivid. Slowly, we walked along the empty village road. The people must've all gone to bed already. They were used to the bright light summer nights, after all.

Finally, we stood on the small hill where the only larger building of the village, the school, lay. There, we stopped in surprise. The entire hill was one big colorful bouquet of flowers. One row of flowers grew next to the other, even up the building walls. All the garden flowers we have in summer were blooming together.

For a long time, we stood before this like before a miracle. Then one girl finally said, "But that can't be real, we must be dreaming." Then we hear a quiet, clear laugh behind us. Behind a large amount of flowers, a form stood up slowly - an old woman in a grey dress. The strange thing about her dress was the belt. On small ribbons, many little bags were sewn to her belt. Each bag had a little symbol embroidered on it.

"Why are you standing out there?" the woman said in German. "Come inside if you like my garden. I'm Miss Senta, the teacher."

With a great old-fashioned key she unlocked the gate. "Just don't laugh at my gardening dress," she said, pointing to the bags. "I'm collecting seeds at the moment. It's just the right time for that Tomorrow, when she sun's shining again, they'll be falling. And we need the seeds. We can't spend a lot of money on growing new plants."

A few minutes later, we sat around a small round garden table amidst the flowers. We could not hide our surprise that the beach was so empty while things were so different here, and immediately started to talk about that.

The old woman nodded toward us. "I know," she said. "The landscape along the beach always looks the same. It was that way when I got here forty years ago. I came from the blessed green countryside at the foot of mountains, and when I saw the place where I was to spend my whole future life, I nearly despaired. This village looked like everywhere else - heather, bilberry, and bitch trees. Nothing else."

"You'll get used to it," the pastor told me. "You get used to everything. It's just that way here, and you'll have to adapt." But I didn't want to adapt. I was young. I needed beauty and joy. How was I supposed to live and work in this? It was a bad time back then." - Miss Senta looked into the evening for a bit. Then she continued: "My mother wrote that I should come back, there would certainly be another post for me somewhere. But I didn't want to. I felt it was cowardly, like fleeing from my problems.

My father could understand me better. One day, he sent me a packet with seeds. They were for flowers that need very little and grow almost everywhere. I put the seeds out and, which nobody had expected, they grew. They grew wonderfully. It might be because the village is situated in such a protected valley, or because of the fruitful moor ground that has never been tilled before, I don't know. But after two years, my garden had grown so much that the fisher women stopped to look whenever they passed, and the girls asked me for flowers when they got ready for the village dances. Then I started trying more difficult things. Three times, I worked at a nursery during vacation. Then I started to build my own green house and my own fertilizer beds. The whole village started to get interested in my hobby. So it was easy for me to get help. Then I added tending to flowers to my curriculum. You should've seen the boys and girls, how they cared for their flower beds in the school garden and how proud they were when they could carry their flowers home in self-made flowerpots for their homes' windows! -

But that's a long time ago now. The little boys and girls are now the fishermen and women of the village. There are some among them who've almost forgotten how to read and write again. But what they've learned in my garden, they remember. And that's how our village became the "flower village"..."

I couldn't help myself after that. I had to tell her about Heidersdorf and our Jungmaedel garden. Miss Senta listened intently and I could tell that she was excited for us. "People who like flowers always get along," she said.

And now comes the best of all. When we were ready to leave, Miss Senta held me back and put a small parcel in my hand. "For your Jungmaedel," she said. It was a whole box full of seeds. I'm sending it along with this letter. When I come visit during fall break, we can start to plant a lot of it. I'm really looking forward to it. Berte."

"There are the seeds," said Hanne and pointed to cigar box that was divided in many different compartments. Each compartment was labeled neatly with the name of the plant. With a bit of awe, the girls looked at the seeds that had traveled such a long way. They felt almost jealous of the Heidersdorf garden. But maybe the Berlin meeting places could be used to grow flowers as well, on the windowsills, in flower pots. Why not?