Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The list: number 19

Als Ich Deutsche War by Christabel Bielenberg

My grandfather was my hero.  He didn't do anything that would be considered as heroic, like save 
lives or invent a cure for a dread disease or anything like that.  But to me he was wonderful.  Rooting around in my mother's papers (when I was about ten - everyone did that, right?) I found a card with 
my grandfather's name on it ... It was dated 1915, at the start of WWI, and said 'Discharged from the army.  Unfit to be a soldier.'  Well, I was shocked and immediately had to confess to my mother that I had been looking through her things!  The explanation - that my grandfather was only 15 at the time and had lied about his age - only made me worship him even more!  It was worth the telling off for being nosey.  
In WWII he was a miner and therefore didn't fight, but after the war was over he went to Germany for 
a couple of years and lived in Berlin during the blockade.  He learnt German very quickly and, apparently, when I was born decided I would be a linguist!  He was always telling me tales about 
his German friends and this my fascination with Germany began.  
Both my grandparents taught themselves Russian.  (They were communists.) I can remember seeing notebooks filled with incomprehensible scribbles. There were three columns: Russian Cyrillic, Welsh, English.  So when I was at Grammar School, I was of course learning Welsh and French and Latin, which were all compulsory; then, thanks to my grandfather, German and Russian.  
But back to the book... I'm really interested in German history, especially of the Second World War. And I really can speak and read German but always need practice.  So I read the book in German.  It's about a British lady who marries a German, lives in Germany, and then when the war breaks out finds herself caught between the two countries and cultures.  Her husband was one of the brains behind the  assassination attempt on Hitler.  This book charts their lives through the war, and how an English lady coped as an alien, trying to give her children a normal anti-Nazi life in a war-torn country.  
At the opposite extreme I have just read A Nazi in the Family by Derek Niemann, another fascinating insight into those times.

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