Once upon a time … well, at the beginning of World War II, there was a young girl. She was called Elfriede, lived in Mannheim, and had a job she didn’t like in an office she didn’t like at all.

Her mother Johanne had a militant mind and liked to stand at her living room window telling to the passers by the latest Nazi crimes. She knew about that because her husband, an electrician and radio technician, had assembled a radio set which enabled her to listen to the forbidden enemy broadcasts in French and English. She had had quite a good education and had learned several languages but that is another story…

I never knew her for she died two years before I was born. That's why today I want to write down everything I have learnt about her since my childhood.

My maternal grandmother Auguste Ottilie Johanne Meyer was born Dec 2nd, 1887 in Rathsdamnitz near Stolp in Pomerania (now Poland). She was the fourth child of Maria Heinrich August Meyer "August Maria" for the family) from Cologne and his wife Katharina Margarethe Sulzer from Gauangelloch in the Odenwald region, near Heidelberg. How she, a country girl whose father was an innkeeper and butcher, and he, who came from an upper middle class family, came together, is a matter of speculation. I suppose she liked his looks, and he liked her dowry which was very substantial. The family talked about those two only in whispers, for their marriage ended suddenly during the 1890ies and my great-grandmother would have killed anybody daring enough to mention her former husband. Why, when and how they split up, is one of the goals of my ancestry research, and will hopefully be the subject of yet another story. They married in 1881 and must have gone almost at once to America whence they returned in summer 1883.

In the story about the 8th May the Americans came off quite badly. That’s why I thought I would write something much nicer about the American Occupation Forces.

My mother’s brother Heinrich, dubbed Heini, had got engaged at Christmas 1939 to Lotte. She was a very good roller and ice skater, skating judge and charter member of the MERC (Mannheimer Eis- und Rollsportclub), which is now mostly known for its ice-hockey team. Elfriede, my mother, skated there and her father, “Papa Lenz” was also a charter member and stop watch man. Heini dropped in now and then (he was a rower), and so the engagement came about.

You know by now how I got it but !....I had to live with it, and that wasn’t always easy. The name really was too exotic in post-war Germany, in a generation of Inges, Heides, and Monikas. Nowadays we are inured to that kind of thing but at the time people were looking for a sort of phonetic memory prop. And what was closer than “cotelette” meaning a porc chop?

It was mortifying! The chaffing was started by some dear cousins when I was about three, and went on in school right up to my A-levels. It got slightly better during my college years. Well, I survived as you can see, and finally that name turned out to be an advantage. Why? Because I married a Frenchman , of course! But that, you know, is another story or rather a serial, to follow up…

The War is over ! Joy and relief throughout the Allied Nations but also in Germany.

50 years later this day was celebrated by many solemn commemorations and impressive speeches broadcast on the radio and on TV.

When I told my father,atched some of these celebrations, he said: « Oh, well, I’ve got some different memories there. We swam across the Elbe that night, Fritz and I. Didn’t want to be caught by the Russians, you see…We had rigged up a kind of raft with the sides of our truck (Dad had been a radio operator on the Eastern Front) and the inner tubes of the tyres. We put our kit and the boots on it – the guns, of course, had already gone into the river – and then swam alongside the raft. Everything was fine until Fritz got a cramp in the le on the phone, that I had wg. He tried to get onto the raft, but from the narrow side, the bloody idiot, and overturned the whole contraption. Our things went down, of course, and we arrived on the other side, in our birthday suits, where the Americans were already waiting.

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