Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Lutheran Confirmation March 1950

March 1950 in Haltern am See  in Germany.  I was  14,5  years old then.  A perfect picture and a memorable event...Here is the story about it....
My parents, my sister and I had left the Russian occupied zone in 1948. At that time there were already controlled travels in place to keep the population there instead of having them leaving and living rather in the British, French or American occupied zones.  I was short of dying of malnutrition in 1948. We crossed over into the British occupied zone in Bebra. We had my aunt living in Kassel, which is nearby. After I had gotten my  meal with milk and Raisins from her  ( which I devoured because I did not have any protein since 2 years), she made an appointment with her doctor to have me checked out. I looked like I would not make it much longer and I was fainting very often. Sure enough - the doctor said he would have given me 2 more weeks of hunger, then I would have died.  

I continued seeing a doctor in Haltern am See, where my father had found work in a sawmill. He had left the Russian occupied zone earlier to find work and a home for us.  Under the doctor's supervision, I gained half a pound of weight every day until I looked like a "normal" girl of my age. My sister is 4,5 years younger than I and she had other health problems caused by malnutrition. She had facial paralysis and stomach problems and her bones are in bad shape to this day, getting more and more prominent in her advanced age now. We had 2 small rooms under the roof.  That was basically what we had in fall 1948 - a roof over our heads. I had no shoes, no clothing - only what I was wearing. When I started to go to Elementary School again in Haltern, I was wearing house shoes which were given to me by our landlord. My mother was altering them with some bands to hold them together to make them wearable. The dress I had was altered already so many times....

My confirmation in church was scheduled for March 1950.  In fall 1949 my mother and I started to visit the two shoe stores in town to look around. At that time businesses had just started to buy inventory, the selection was still scarce. My outfit had to be black  - that was the problem....after so many "dark years" people were looking for more colorful clothing and shoes. One store promised to order shoes in black in prospect of all the other girls who would need them.
What about the black dress? My aunt Else, who was sewing fine clothing for me when we still lived in our hometown Koenigsberg in East Prussia,  came to my rescue. She and her parents ( my grandparents on my father's side), lived near her sister Charlotte in Kassel. She came via train with her sewing machine and the best black dress my grandma had owned and had salvaged by wearing it as one layer of clothing when we all had to flee the Russian WWII front in the east.  She was taking the dress apart and putting it together for me. As you can see. the dress turned out to be wonderful. The fabric was silk, shiny on one side and matted on the other, so I had a matted black dress with shiny trimmings. And a shiny black bow was holding my braids together behind my head....
The New Testament I had to have in my hand during the ceremony I received from the church and the handkerchief I had to put onto the book underneath my thumb came from my aunt also...

But there were other small problems....

One day my mother took me aside and told me that my parents could not buy me anything as a gift nor bake a cake for me. I knew that, my father made little money and my mother was working some hours in housecleaning or dishwashing in a restaurant. That work paid more in food leftovers and second-hand clothing than in money.  I was fine with that, no problem for me.  

Shortly after that conversation  we heard the doorbell  and a woman was asking to come up the stairs and talk to us. She identified herself as a women from a church group which took care of charity matters.
She put a bag of flour, a bag of sugar and a pound of butter on our table to help out with a cake. My mother started to cry. ...And then the lady lifted a small package out of her tote and gave it to me and explained to me that this was a gift from the people from America for my confirmation.  
Then I started to cry.....The package hat 4 big letters in black stamped onto it:   C.A.R.E.
It contained writing paper, 5 pencils, 5 color pencils, an eraser, a bag of peppermint candy and five of the most wonderful "girly"handkerchiefs  I ever have seen - to this day, I might add.  That package was more exciting to me than the entire confirmation ceremony.  

All Americans who are reading this blog now:   My sincere and heartfelt Thanks!  

 I liked the choir singing, the director was my teacher Mr. Benfer who also played the organ on normal Sundays. My parents and I were joining the choir. New friendships developed and more laughter and fun entered our days....


  1. A story that warms the heart, that's for sure. ^_^

    1. Thanks so much, Henrik, for visiting and commenting!!