This photo was taken in 1939 or 1940 in Germany. This is my father’s family. That’s him front and center – the only one of his siblings to carry the darker, Spanish genes of his mother.
His mother waited until she was in her early 30s to get married and start a family. She had a career. But then she fell in love with this lummox in the Luftwaffe uniform, or he fell in love with her — or maybe they fell in love with each other. Anyway, they got married.
Shortly after this photo was taken, the little girl, Marlis, my auntie, died of diphtheria. This is the only photo I’ve ever seen of Marlis and I only just got this a couple of weeks ago from my uncle. (The babe in arms).
While the family was still grieving the loss of poor little Marlis, the lummox in the uniform went and got himself killed in some war-related incident.
So then my grandmother was alone with 3 young boys to raise in the middle of a war. No one has been able to tell me exactly how she managed it. Her career had been as a designer in a fashion house, so I can’t imagine there was much call for that at the time, but I would think probably her sewing skills kept her earning something.
She did end up having to send the 2 older boys away to Kinderlandverschickung (KLV) camps in rural areas of East Prussia, which were designed ostensibly to protect children from the ravages of war in urban areas. (The link also includes a heart-warming KLV propaganda film)
My dad never talked much about those times much. I understand he spent time at at least one wonderful place and at least one horrible place. And from what I’ve read, some of those places were pretty Lord-of-the-Flies by the end of the war, in that all the adults had been called into service, leaving the camps to be run and managed by teenagers.
My dad did somehow come away from those years with a love of farming. After the war, he went through the motions of training for a career in the city, but as soon as he could, he ditched it, immigrated to Canada and became a farmer.
Except for the baby, all the people in this photo are now dead.