Sunday 13 June 2021



Part II: 1906-1916

1906 – My sister Mimi (her real name is Wilhelmina) has a friend in Borbeck.  She talks about marrying him soon.  My mother Julie, née Kaufmann of Geldern, is a very modern woman and she told us exactly what she experienced during the night after the wedding celebrations.  I think I will never marry.  Mimi is different, she already looks forward to it.


1907 – We are preparing Mimi’s trousseau but we are sad because they don’t want a big celebration and would like the equivalent in cash instead to build up my brother-in-law’s shop.  Every three or four years, the number of Borbeck’s inhabitants doubles.  Mimi is very capable in the store, so our parents have agreed [to give them the money].


1907 – Mimi and Alfred have married.  All of Bocholt congratulated us, and Mimi lives now in Borbeck.  We all miss her a lot.  She always has good ideas and our shop developed/expanded? a lot because of it.


1907 – My dear mother has died.  I cannot believe it.  She was sick only for a few days and in the morning we found her dead in her bed.


1914 – Since Mimi’s wedding I work at the store.  The clients like to be advised by me, I speak almost exclusively [in the] “Platt” [dialect].  Four years ago my sister Mimi had a child. She was named Julie after my mother.  I hope the little one does not only have my mother’s name, but also her intelligence and happy nature.


1914 – August – Max and Paul, my two younger brothers enlisted voluntarily in the military service.  Bertold, my oldest brother, also talks about enlisting voluntarily.  Everybody is enthusiastic, and it is the general belief that we will soon have peace again.

 I can’t believe it yet, but wish it from the bottom of my heart. I myself feel like a traitor and will register with the Red Cross as a nurse.


1915 - I have now been a nurse for over half a year.  After receiving very superficial training we were sent out to different hospitals.  I work here in Bottrop, one kilometer from the Rhein-Herne-Kanal.  The only good thing about that is being close to Alfred and Mimi in Borbeck.

            Everything is disorganised, we don’t have any anaesthetic, not enough beds.  Every day they bring more injured soldiers.  They are even in the corridors, right on the stretchers on which they were brought in.  The doctors also cannot help them.  They are mainly students who don’t have any experience yet.

            A paramedic asked me urgently to remove a bullet from his leg.  His inguinal gland was very swollen, his veins like blue lines.  He himself described to me what exactly I had to do.  He was to be tied down, and we were not to listen to his screaming.  I actually managed to grasp the bullet with tweezers, and there was only insignificant loss of blood.  After 14 days he was healthy enough to leave our so-called hospital.

            Later I often dared to undertake such operations, also in the presence of doctors who then found that I had more skillful hands for such operations, than they.  The paramedic could not thank me enough for saving his life.


1916 – I am still working in the military hospital, I often work two days and nights in a row.  Then I lie down for an hour on the floor of our so-called surgery room and sleep deeply.

            All those poor men scream for me.  Sometimes it helps when I place my hand on the often feverish forehead.  To calm them all down in the evenings, I suggested slowly saying the “Our Father” together, then each man can think about his loved ones.  After ten minutes we say the same prayer together again.  Then I asked for quiet and for each man to sleep or try to sleep.

Translated from the German by Susi Lessing. The original text is at

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