With a tear in one eye and laughter in the other I am looking at my almost packed suitcase. One more sleep and I’ll be on the way home. I had a wonderful three week “Kur-Holiday” in relaxing Bad Woerishofen with daily concerts morning, afternoon and evening, long walks in the forests listening to cuckoos and song birds and after a few kilometers a stop in a place offering the most fantastic meals or cakes… early mornings are busy with treatments, between 4 and 5 AM a wrapping or hay-pack (called the morphine of the Kneipp cure) in bed, an hour later an alternate rinse or bath for arms, legs or back, whatever the doctor ordered, after that twice a week a massage or reflex zone treatment for feet up to the knee, bedrest after that for an hour, breakfast (no chance to lose weight – unless you are on a type of fast) a 3-course noon meal at 12.30 and a lighter evening meal at 6 PM. I always needed a nap… did I have time for shopping? Yes and no, not enough. Shops close over noon hours, are not open after 5.30 or 6.00, Saturdays they close at 12.30 and only once a month are open Sundays. I want to come back next year, God willing to give me good health for traveling. Wanna come?
Children naturally love water. Playing in the bathtub and not wanting to get out, running around in a summer rain, jumping into puddles and squishing the mud between their toes, wading or sitting in play pools and, best of all, building sand castles running back and forth at the ocean and screaming when mom says “It’s time to get out of the wet bathing suit…” Yes, – mom is right. The nerve endings for detecting the “cold” when it’s too cold have not developed in the skin of children yet. They can take the cold water for a long time, even to the point of turning “blue”. It’s probably nature’s way to protect them but it is also detrimental for their health.
Look at this happy picture of grandfather and child. There is nothing better than cold water to cool down on a hot summer day. Running cold water from your toes up your legs (always start on the right foot, it being the farthest spot from the heart) is wonderfully refreshing. Using a garden hose to do this is even better. What happens in the body?
Warm or hot days make you feel lazy. Why? Because your blood pressure sinks and your energy level declines. The cold water on your legs helps to increase the circulation to the upper body by pushing more blood out of the legs, – to put it simply. It clears your head and you can even see better. Try it!
See – Healing with Water
It was a bit cooler today, we had some rain last night. By far not enough here in Bavaria while they had heavy thunderstorms in other parts of Germany. During the morning, after my water treatment and massage, I packed up some clothing I don’t need anymore and went looking for a Salvation Army container to donate it. I saw a Red Cross shop, just looked in for curiosity sakes. I could not believe a) the quality of their donated offers, and b) the prices. 2.00-3.00-5.00 or 7.00€ for really GOOD stuff. If I ever come back, I’ll travel without a suitcase, get what I need, donate it at the end of my trip and be worry free on my way home.
But, now I need to tell you about that afternoon. After a healthy noon meal and a little nap I took my Nordic Poles and wandered off. I got myself a kilometer counter. I seemed the only person walking through still blooming meadows, quiet forest as the birds were resting during the midday heat. Coming by a Hunter’s restaurant I decided not to stop for their fantastic cheese or apple cake. I rested on a bench for a while, feasted my eyes on the beauty surrounding me and checked my km counter. It said 3.7 kilometers.
After another 3 km I arrived at the “Kurpark”. I was drawn to a bench in the sunshine, occupied by a big elderly gentleman with a bright red sweater, his pretty little brown dog next to him. For an unexplainable reason I stopped and commented on the dog. I am a bit of a dog nut, and this was one I could have fallen in love with. I heard a sad story about it, how it was born in Spain in a garbage pile with three others, the mom went out scavenging for food, came to nurse and went off again. The dog babies were very afraid and shy, but this man and his wife decided to rescue one. They picked a little boy and called him Carlos. Carlos liked me, sniffed my hand but did not lick it. We just sat there next to and looked at each other. Then Carlos decided he had enough sun, got down, the man let the leash out and Carlos settled in the shade of a nearby tree.
Now, as you can guess, the man asked me if I lived in this town. When I told him about my home in Canada, he was amazed that I still spoke perfect German without an accent. I mentioned that I have a book reading next week.
“Oh, on Tuesday in the Gugger Hause and you are Mrs. Roeder.”
I exclaimed, “How do you know that?”
“I happened to see a poster yesterday and decided to be there. My name is Roeder as well.”
Can you imagine that the next half hour was taken up with ‘what, where, when etc.’ – and how that little dog had made me stop to experience something so totally out of the ordinary.
I needed to share this with you!
The hated Wall came into existence on the 13th of August 1959 – a huge surprise in the morning. It was the best kept secret. NOBODY had any knowledge of the plans for it. It divided the great city of Berlin into East and West, and cutting families from families, in many cases even along the center of a street. The ‘Fall of the Wall’ was a another surprise in 1989 as hundreds of thousands marched and the East German Police put their guns down and watched helplessly as the wall was stormed. I watched the happening on TV and thought it was a trick film as people climbed the wall and started dancing on it. Secure gates were broken down and East and West people hugged, laughed and cried and couldn’t believe that no shots were fired. Finally, in June 1990, every effort was made to remove the hundreds of miles of the hated monster. Lots of souvenirs were sold after the “Fall of the Wall” in 1989; thousands of people hacked and picked and took parts home as a reminder of the terror it has caused. I know two people who showed me their treasure, a little piece of the wall. Thousands of people all over the world have a piece and it is impossible to track them all down.
Berlin did not destroy all of it. An ‘Open Air Gallery’ has attracted artists from all over the world to create their art on long parts of the wall. Many places in Berlin now have memorials, one is called ‘Parliament of Trees against Terror and War’ – an imaginative creation by Ben Wagin, using sixteen trees and fifty-eight original wall parts. Tourists visit those places and take photos. There are more memorials: the ‘Mauer Park’ and the ‘Topography of Terror,’ an original part of the wall with Hinterland and Death zone, another one with the tower used by sharpshooters. The Berliners are maintaining these reminders to show the world what has happened here. It is a warning to be vigilant and not let it happen again.The Berlin Wall was built to keep people “in” since they were escaping by the thousands each day. I was one of them.
But not only the Berliners kept relics and built memorials. A commission from Japan came in 1990 and bought two parts for a Museum Village honoring the saving of German Seamen in 1873.
The most extensive collection of the wall is found in the Newseum in Washington D.C. The CIA in Langley, Virginia also displays three relics, and another three are gracing the Garden of the UN Main Office Building in the USA.
Winston Churchill coined the expression ‘The Iron Curtain’ in 1946. His granddaughter, Edwina Sandys, a wellknown sculptor, incorporated eight wall pieces in her ‘Freedom Memorial.’
South Korea was encouraged by the ‘Fall of the Wall’ that a unification is possible. They have five relics of the Berlin Wall in their Theme Park in Uijeongbu, representing the dream of their own ‘Unification’ with North Korea. Right now it is a very timely dream, and we hope it comes true soon. The leaders of both countries shook hands across the border and had long friendly talks.
You will find a piece with personal graffito of the Berlin Wall in Kingston, Jamaica, next to the Military Museum. It was a gift from the city of Berlin to the sprinter Usain Bolt after he ran a world record during the Berlin World Championships in 2009. Amazing that many years after the ‘Fall of the Wall’ a relic of it is still a precious and welcome gift.
It is interesting how a piece of the wall came to be at the Vatican: The Italian businessman Marco Piccinini obtained a segment during an auction in Monaco and gifted it to Pope Johannes Paul II.
Last but not least, the City of Berlin presented a piece of the wall to the Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela when he was released after twenty-seven years in prison. Due to Nelson Mandela, the Berlin Wall is represented in Kapstadt, South Africa.
My personal experiences happened before the wall was built. I escaped the East in 1955. My parents had a close call the day before the infamous “Wall” was put up overnight and saw the light of day on August 13th 1959. My parents tried to escape on August the 12th but did not make it. (see my book “We Don’t Talk About That“) Our family was divided for fifty years. It was interesting to see the new generations struggle with the new reality. The younger people in East and West had a difficult time understanding each other. During those fifty years of communist indoctrination in the East, a lot of brainwashing had taken hold.
We don’t want more walls! The only one we can accept and appreciate when traveling is the Great Wall of China.
For the last few days, I have been contemplating the fact we have an Easter Bunny and not an Easter Chicken? Doesn’t it make more sense in regards to laying the eggs? But now I know it is not about laying the eggs – it’s about delivering them!
The idea of Easter goes back to the Pagan times. A festival about the Spring Equinox was celebrated, long before Christianity, in the Northern Hemisphere. The Spring Equinox is the day when dark and light are identical, in other words, night and day are of the same hours. The festival was about the renewal of life. The word ‘Easter’ is based on the Goddess Eostre, the “Goddess of Spring and Renewal.” Eggs were the symbol of new life; rabbits are the symbol of fertility. Did you know that a rabbit can get pregnant again before the developing babies are even born? I found another interesting tidbit: For their first-time, a rabbit can get pregnant like the Virgin Mary: It can deliver babies and still be virgin.
Another fact I have often wondered about is the changing date of Easter. This was decided by the Nicae Church Council in 325 AD. They determined that the Easter Festival should always be on the Sunday following the full moon after the Spring Equinox. This is a time between March 25th and April 25th. (Explained by Professor Cusack on Wikipedia)
The name for ‘Easter’ derived from the Jewish Passover in most European countries:
It is Pascha for Greece, Pasque for Italy, Paaske for Denmark, Paques for France.
The Anglo-Saxon English speaking countries retained the name Easter based on the Pagan Goddess Eostre, while Germany calls it Ostern. With the advent of Christianity, the ‘old stories’ about the renewal of life, especially the reclaiming of life by Jesus Christ established Easter as we know it today.
The Easter celebration was brought to America by the German and Dutch immigrants to Pennsylvania during the 17th century. The painting of Easter Eggs started in the Middle Ages in the East European countries. They developed the egg-painting to a fine art. During my childhood, we tinted eggs while boiling them with herbs or flowers, or put our pride in painting blown out eggs with pretty little pictures. These decorated eggshells would be hung on pussy willow or forsythia twigs for a table center.
With the advance of commercialization during the 18th and 19th century, the first sugared eggs were produced in Germany, followed by the English Cadbury company offering chocolate eggs and even chocolate bunnies. Hallmark postcards with Easter Greetings appeared at about the same time.
The decoration of the Easter eggs is still practiced in East European countries, especially in Ukraine. The absolute “Top Egg” would be the Fabergè Egg, today worth a mint and mainly kept in Museums and a limited number in private collections. The Royal House of England has three in their possession. The House of Fabergè, during the years between 1885 and 1916 had produced about fifty very intricate eggs for the Tsar of Russia. Two a year were ordered as Easter gifts for his mother and his wife. Fabergè also filled orders by other wealthy families. Many of these eggs had small gifts inside, portraits or, in a few cases, even animals, decorated with precious stones. The last two eggs the Tsar ordered for Easter 1917 could never be delivered because of WWI. The Russian Revolution put an end to the luxury life of the Romano family. The whole family was executed. The Bolsheviks had no use for these treasures and sold them to whoever gave them money. Of the fifty Faberge ̀ eggs in the Tsars possession, only forty-three of the “Imperial Eggs” have survived. So it was believed. One was bought at a flea market by a scrap dealer in the US Midwest in 2014 and was almost melted down for its intrinsic value of about $500.00. Luckily, the man Googled it, found a news item about it, flew to England to a Fabergè specialist and could never believe his luck: It was the third Imperial Egg ever made in 1887 and was estimated to be worth 33 million dollars.
Talk about laying (finding) a “Golden Egg”!
Wow! This blog post relates to a recent e-mail I received from Bob Pickles, the WW I history writer. But first our history:
On June 21, 2014, Bob Pickles wrote a review of my memoir ‘We Don’t Talk About That.’
“Giselle Roeder’s book is a vital piece of the jigsaw of suffering in World War II (& representative of civilian suffering in all conflicts). It could well have been a story of the tragedy endured by Jews, Gypsies or Polish intelligentsia perpetrated by the Nazis. If it (the book) were not so harrowing, it should be desired reading in schools & given the same historical, literary importance as “The Diary of Anne Frank.” To be read alone with a strong drink perhaps. – (it is) A fine testament to the unquenchable spirit of survival & hope with the help of a few ‘angels’ along the way.”
This is just an excerpt from his review. Reading it gave me goose bumps. I thanked him with all my heart and this started an occasional e-mail exchange. He was not happy with the ending of my book – so he has been encouraging me to write a sequel. He is not the only one. Many of my readers keep asking. A now ninety-year-old lady, who bought and gave away fifty-seven copies of my book, begs for the continuation to read before she dies.
A few months ago Bob Pickles asked me for help with translations of German expressions for the newest book in his series of WWI, “The Foster Family in the Great War.” I happily obliged. Since I didn’t know many of the profanities soldiers might have used I had asked several German-speaking writer friends. One was Elisabeth Marion, a WWII history writer. Her most famous book is “The Night I danced with Rommel.” Bob Pickles was happy with my translations. I thought nothing of it, I love helping someone. Anyone!
A few days ago I received a surprising e-mail from Bob:
Hi Giselle, just to let you know my latest (8th) WW1 novel is published on Amazon as both a paperback and as a Kindle edition. Entitled “Vimy” – a novel of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry’s attack on Vimy Ridge 1917 – I have dedicated it inside to you.
If you “Look Inside” the book on the sample on Kindle, the parts you kindly translated into colloquial German are found in the first few chapters.
Wow! A book by Robert S. Pickles, a serious UK history writer, dedicated to meee? Never, ever did I think any book would ever be dedicated to me.
I’m tickled pink – I tink I’m pickled. Thank you, Bob Pickles. I will recommend your book to the Canadian Legion; I would think a number of the Canadian veterans will also be tickled pink to read about the Princess Pat’s Light Infantry role at Vimy Ridge.
Once upon a time, there was a small village in the eastern part of Germany called “Stresow.” A church with a cemetery surrounding it and a pub was built in the center. Those two places were also the centre of any social life of the hard-working farmers. Since women were not allowed in the pub, they would meet after church in the cemetery during their task of taking care of the graves to visit with each other and chat. To this day, the graves are planted with flowers in German cemeteries and each family tries to have the best-looking one.
Many years went by. After WWII in 1945, the states of East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania, about one-third of Germany were ceded to Poland. The German inhabitants had ten minutes to get out of their homes where they had lived for generations. My own family was amongst the millions evicted, and so was the family of my cousin Joachim. With only the clothing on our back and with what we could carry, we were three weeks on the road to nowhere, slept in barns when lucky or under the stars. (the full story in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”)
I have never been back to my birthplace but my cousin Joachim has. Poland belongs to the EU, and visits are possible. Joachim has been back several times. He only lives about seventy kilometers away while I live on another continent. Joachim made friends with the Polish family who now lives in his father’s house. He had the most incredible experience in 2006. A friend of his Polish friend is a teacher in the neighboring town of Bad Schoenfliess. He is in charge of a museum and was happy to show Joachim two rooms dedicated to the “German Time.” There are photographs of Joachim’s family and his ancestors as well as of my parents and other families we know. Joachim was amazed.
The most significant surprise was a folder he was given with old handwritten documents, letters, and newspapers of the years from 1871 to 1896. They had been contained in a ‘Time Capsule” buried when a new church tower was built in 1896 after the old church tower had collapsed. Nobody could read any of these documents since they were written using the German Süterlin letters. Joachim was able to read them. There was a list of twenty-four farmers living in Stresow in 1871, including Joachim’s great-grandparents. Two pastors serving the small community between 1871 and 1896 had written an account of life during those years. Joachim was able to re-write the most critical documents. Photographs of the old and the new church tower were included in the time capsule.
What an exciting experience for my cousin Joachim!
The same year he had another surprise coming. In 1945, when the family was evicted and had to leave within ten minutes, his grandmother had stuffed one hundred-forty-five photos into his school satchel with a change of underwear. These photos had been picked up out of the mud after the Russian invasion. I had picked ours up from the pile of manure in the middle of our yeard. They represent the only memorabilia of our life from before 1945. During the long walk, Joachim, his grandparents, and his mother had a chance to stay in a house for two nights. Joachim and his two small sisters played with the six-year-old son Robert living there. They looked at the pictures. Joachim’s satchel was forgotten when they left, and his grandma always lamented as long as she lived about the loss of those treasured photos from home. She died and never got over the loss.
Almost sixty-one years later, the ITS, a search service connected to the Red Cross as well as churches, found Joachim’s sister Marianne. She had looked for and listed their dad’s name many years ago. Now, with the Internet, it had been possible for the previous six-year-old Robert, at sixty-seven years old, to find the family who had stayed with them in 1945. Robert had kept the photos in a box in his attic all those years. During a project to add on to his house, he came across it and started searching for the kids he had played with in 1945.
Joachim phoned Robert and made a reservation to visit the next day. The newspaper in Joachim’s hometown got hold of the story, and I have in my hands a copy of the one-third page with a photo of my cousin holding a photograph of himself and his two sisters. A large one at the bottom is of ten men, the artistic biking club with Joachim’s father and uncle in their sports uniform. Needless to say, Joachim in his eighties and the former little Robert in his late sixties, are now close friends.
Joachim exclaimed when he first related this story to me:
“You cannot pay for something like this. To get your lost treasure back after sixty years is absolutely miraculous.”
It is interesting for me, the writer, to see the results of the e-book promotion from March 4th to March 10th, offered by Smashwords:
FREE ‘sales’ of my book “We Don’t Talk About That” = 15
FREE ‘sales’ of my book “Forget Me Not” = 4
FREE ‘sales’ of my book “Ein Mensch von Gestern” = 3
It will be even more interesting to see if the giveaway FREE is creating real sales. I like to thank all my faithful Facebook and other social media friends for sharing my promo-blog and saying a few words about my books they have read.
Three of my books in e-book format are FREE only at Smashwords from March 4th – 10th.
To access the sale follow these links:
We Don’t Talk About That:
Forget Me Not:
Ein Mensch von Gestern:
Could a man, hated as much as he is, have ever been a lover? Could he have been tender or passionate? Could there have been a time when he was just – shall we say, an ordinary man? How can someone, who was painting many beautiful pictures of flowers, landscapes, people, and architectural buildings, even caricatures, be such an evil person? Or is there an answer to the question how did he become one? I was curious, and so I started digging into his personal past.
He was born the son of the second wife of his father, a government employee in Austria. His mother was his idol and greatest love. To the end of his life, he never got over her passing. He never finished high school. For a time he was taught by nuns. He was absolutely fascinated by the topic of the Richard Wagner operas and the mystery of the Germanic sagas. He wished to be ‘Germanic’ when still a young teenager. There was a beautiful girl his age he admired, but she was not interested. He loved to paint and hoped to be admitted to the Art Academy in Vienna. When he applied, he was told that his paintings are not good enough. He lacked the necessary talent for art, but his architectural drawings were acceptable, and he should consider becoming an architect. He left Vienna, deeply disappointed. He also left Austria, moved to Munich and made a simple living by selling his art.
He joined the German army and fought in WWI. He was wounded, got decorated and came back to Munich as a Corporal after the war. A new party, the ‘Worker’s Party’ attracted many of the surviving soldiers, officers, and generals, who felt cheated by the loss of the war. They claimed the outcome had been ‘fixed’ by the socialists and communists and they declared the Treaty of Versailles as unfair, and would, in the long run, lead to another war. Ranting and raving in the beer halls they tried to find a way to fix the world problems. By chance, Hitler attended one of the meetings and knew that this was the platform for his ideas to make Germany great again.
It seems that up to this point women did not play a part in Hitler’s life. Within a year, he became the leader of the Workers Party, renamed it the NSDAP, the National Socialist Democratic Workers Party, attracting even more people, especially wealthier and aristocratic men. They started to invite him into their homes and the rumors of him having love affairs with older women, especially actresses, added to his allure. When he became daring and tried to overthrow the Bavarian Government, to put one of his new friends in charge, he was arrested and put in prison. He defended himself with speeches that became famous throughout Germany. He wrote his book “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) while in custody, outlining his plan to rebuild Germany. Incredibly, that book is still in print and translated into several languages.
Years after his release, he moved into a place called “The Berghof” in the alpine mountains. He invited his half-sister to be his housekeeper. She had a daughter, Geli, a happy, outgoing teenage girl at seventeen years of age. Hitler was bewitched by his half-niece. He deeply loved her despite the fact that he was twenty years older. He spoiled her, he never left her side, even went window shopping in Munich with her or had bodyguards for her when he was not around. Geli liked the young chauffeur who was at her disposal and Hitler fired him. Geli felt imprisoned and begged to be allowed to go to Vienna to take up singing lessons. Hitler bought an apartment in Munich to spend more time with her and keep her under tight control. They had separate bedrooms with connecting doors. Hitler was obsessed with his niece. He later declared that she was the only woman he ever truly loved.
During this time at about age 40, he met the young assistant and model of the official photographer of his party. Eva Braun, who was 17, more worldly, wore makeup (which he hated) and smoked of which he did not approve. They went on walks together, and he was intrigued by their conversations. Eva started to frequent the small restaurants he went to, watched him and seems to have become a stalker without his knowledge.
One night Hitler had a terrible row with Geli. He went to a meeting in Nuremberg. Geli locked herself in her room and shot herself with his pistol, according to historians the same one he used in 1945 in the Führerbunker to shoot himself. Hitler was called back from Nuremberg and was devastated by Geli’s death. She was, by now, 23 years old. He fell into a deep depression; he was suicidal. Two party people stayed with him to prevent him from killing himself. He did not attend Geli’s funeral. But, after weeks, when he visited her grave, he had come back a changed man. He was brooding, dark, aggressive, and hateful. Meanwhile, his rise within the party continued. Many influential people supported him and his ideas.
When Hitler was 37 years old, he had met another young woman, Maria Reiter, who was only sixteen, and it was she who fell in love with him. When she realized it was a hopeless infatuation, she hanged herself but was cut down by a relative in time and lived. I think it was she who later married, and when her husband got killed in WWII, Hitler sent her 100 red roses.
There was another young woman, Unity Mitford, a member of the Fascist party of England. She came to Berlin, admired him greatly, tried to get close to him but also realized that he was only mildly interested in her because of her connections. She shot herself in the temple, survived but was brain damaged. Hitler paid her hospital bills and arranged her transport to Switzerland where she was picked up by her family and brought back to England where she later died of her injuries. Some historians claim that she had born him a son, but it has never been confirmed.
One of the most beautiful women in Germany, the actress Renate Müller caught his eye. She had a Jewish boyfriend and was asked to give him up. She refused. The boyfriend disappeared and she went into hiding in a mental care home. She jumped to her death from a window to escape SS men who came for her.
It seems to me, checking into his love life, that Hitler liked young women. He could mold them, control them, and keep them away from getting involved in his political life. He stated there were only two women he admired and respected: One was the pilot Hanna Reitsch, and the other was the Film Director Leni Riefenstahl. Women have no place in politics, he said. Loving this man proved fatal.
The German people had absolutely no idea that Hitler had a female companion living with him: Eva Braun. It was revealed after the war. Only the people in his inner circle knew her; she was hidden from any public appearances. Even she had tried twice to take her own life. Apparently, there are some heartwrenching letters in a museum somewhere, along with the pistol that Geli used to shoot herself, and Hitler used to end his own life after marrying Eva Braun when he realized that all was lost and the Russian army was closing in on the Bunker. Eva was his companion for thirteen years, she never left him, and as his wife took a cyanide capsule sitting next to him on a sofa.
Hitler had always claimed he could not enjoy the happiness of marriage since he was married to the German people and their welfare. He made sure he appeared to be a celibate man. He believed that all German women were in love with him and he could not disappoint any of them.
I discussed this side of Hitler’s life with Alison Donaghey of DominoThinking.com in a recent podcast which can be found here: https://dominothinking.com/radio/.