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Translating My Mother’s Letters to Tante Irene

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For Mother’s Day I thought I would take the time to translate some of my mother’s letter to Tante Irene. My aunt sent them to me in 1972 when I was working as a vicar in Berlin. They have some poignant details in them that show the untold sacrifices endured by a mother. First the information upset me too much to deal with. But now that I am more mature, I’ve returned to her letters. As my father would say, “These are stories that took place in life because we had not died yet.” (Geschichten des Lebens die im Tode nicht mehr vorkommen.) Of course there is much more flesh than my mother put onto the bare bones of the events that she relates to my aunt in her letters. Those will have to await my mother’s long book she wrote about our family’s experience through the war.

Tante Irene transcribed and typed the letter from Gruenberg, 7/19/1925  and most of the one from Vegesack of 9/4/1945. The other letters are almost all in old German script, which made them much more difficult. Only after I deciphered them could I translate them.

As of May 1, (Philip’s Birthday), I have now finished eight of her letters. In the old German script words look so very different from what you would expect. I have to return to some words twenty times and then I suddenly recognize them!

An envelope addressed to Tante Irene in Bad Godesberg, containing many scraps of paper, because my mother evidently lacked stationery, is in Roman handwriting script. Interestingly enough, when she tells about almost dying, she unconsciously reverts back to the old script.  Tante Irene typed up the words from most of these scraps of paper from Vegesack, along with my mother’s first letter of 1925, when she was first leaving for America.

But in the envelope, there is also one undated four page letter that she sent from America just before Christmas in 1955. It took me all day to decipher the old script it was written in. It is marked page II and page I must be lost, just like the very first entry about her wedding. The first page folded into four quarters is lost and only the second exist, and we break into her letter in the fifth quarter.

Last of all I entered what she added to Rudolf’s letters from Ambridge, PA to Tante Irene. They are short remarks about sending her folks in Germany postage stamps that they are collecting and pictures of Ruth and Esther newly born. They are highly significant, because the handwriting in her first letters is so contained and precise, while her writing in my father’s Ambridge letters shows excruciating suffering. In one case she writes upside down over the salutation. Her world had been turned upside down. Things did not go very well. For example, the case of the six beautiful  spoons she describes in her first letter. They invited people from the congregation to the parsonage for dinner and when they left, all six spoons were gone!


Written by peterkrey

April 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm

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