After we lost everything in the bombing of Bremen, Mutti sent us to her family in the country. She was from Ost Friesland, to the west of Bremen. Her brother, Alderk, owned the family farm at Stapelmoor, which he inherited from their parents. I never met my grandparents, as they died before I was born.
My brother and I were separated. He went to Onkel Alderk on the family farm. I stayed with my favourite aunt, Tante Thelke, at Stapelmoor, which was within walking distance of the family farm.
Tante Thelke was 15 years older than my mother. Mutti was the second youngest in her family. Tante Thelke owned a little pub and a small holding with a couple of cows, pigs and chooks which meant she was self-sufficient. I had been here many times during the war, so this was like my second home. I loved staying there.
I slept with Tante Thelke in her large single bed. Her husband slept in the other big single bed. It was autumn and we kept warm in the feather blanket.
She had just lost her youngest son in the war. As a five year old I did not notice her sadness. She treated me with love and as a companion. I loved her in turn.
She was not a very good housekeeper so I did the dusting in the family room. I spent hours looking through her sewing basket with all the little bits and bobs it contained. She had so many beautiful buttons and appliques that are sewn onto clothing to decorate.
I was never hungry while on the farm. There was plenty of food.The only downside was the old food had to be eaten first. They preserved their own meat. This meant the meat might sometimes be rancid as it had to be eaten before fresh meat was brought out.
Life here was peaceful and quiet. There were no bombing raids and no air raid shelters. I played with Tante Thelke’s grandchildren. Given the age difference between Mutti and her sister, Tante Thelke’s grandchildren were my age. They lived in the same village. Their parents, my cousins, were the caretaker for the village church, the Dutch Reform Church – we were very close to the border with the Netherlands. Actually as Freslanders the culture and identity crossed the borders of Germany and the Netherlands.
Despite my cousin being the church caretaker and a regular church goer, the rest of our family were not devout and we did not attend church regularly, only on major festivals, like Easter and Christenings.
I stayed a few months with Tante Thelke until Mutti found a place that we could be together.