Monday, June 3, 2013

Their mothers, their fathers

A three part ZDF German public TV series about WWII has been making headlines and spawned the usual follow on shows, such as a talk show. The series was "Our mothers, our fathers" (our translation).

We hear is was a fast paced, not too sentimental, more "American style" show.
And we did not watch it.

We do not do German radio or TV.  They are like RTE (the national Irish broadcaster) with a lot more money and a lot fewer ideas.

Instead, we would like to tell the story of a woman, whom we will call C., born around 1940 in a big German city.

We met her mother a few months before she passed away.  C. had just been released from mental hospital. It had been her second or third time as an in-patient. This time, we had been the ones who had called the doctor.

Her small apartment was overflowing with filth, and the two kittens she had asked us to let her have, were not doing well. Not only were they malnourished, they also did not have a clean litter box.

When she consented to admission to the mental hospital, we took some time to clean her place and to find a new home for the cats.

Slowly, a more detailed picture of C. and her life began to emerge. Such as, she had been on medication for psychiatric issues for a couple of decades by the time we first met her.

The authorities had taken away her driving license. The Germans will do this if you are on some kinds of psych meds.

We worked our way through the mountains of garbage and clothes over several weekends, piling up full garbage bags outside next to the trash container.

In spite of our support, the landlord terminated her lease. She could have fought this on the grounds of illness but she decided not to.

When she was released after four weeks, she finished cleaning and getting rid of stuff and told us she was moving in with her mother who lived in the same town.
As we moved what little belongings she had into her mother's apartment, the photos struck me.

There were four or five photos of an unbelievably pretty woman on the living room wall. They were old black and white photos of her mother, who was now over 80 years old, frail.

The old lady was mostly confined to her bed, and I remember her lively eyes. She had never worked after having her only child C. She became a widow at the end of the war and received a good pension.

For the next few months, C. lived with her mother and cared for her. As C.'s health improved, she opened up some more. She began talking about her father.

The man had been the police chief of a large city during WWII. He had been a Nazi party member. One of those who could not see life continue when the defeat became apparent.

He killed himself at his desk with his service weapon.

That same day, C.'s mother took the little girl out in the woods for a stroll and gave her something to drink. Then she finished the bottle of poison.

They woke up twelve hours later.

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