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Today's quote:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

My family tree is more like a bonzai

My parents in Berlin in 1948


I blame two wars - the World War from 1939 to 1945, and the domestic family war which led to my parents' divorce in 1952 - for not having much of a family tree; in fact, the only "branch" there ever was and which I climbed were my grandfather's knees shortly before he died in the early 50s.


Moi in der Augustastraße in Berlin in 1948


I was a less-than-welcome "Peter-come-lately", born at the end of the war - after my "big brother" (1932), and three sisters (1934, 1940, and 1942) - in what was then the Russian-occupied "Ostzone" which in 1949 became the "German Democratic Republic". We had already escaped the "Workers' Paradise" the year before, during the Berlin Blockade, and joined the long queue of destitute refugees in West Germany waiting for anything, including housing. Back in the East, my father had been a "Volkswirt" (economist) with his own large entry in the telephone book; in the West we didn't even have a house, let alone a telephone.



For the first two years we lived "on the edge" in an unheated metal shack without toilet, kitchen, electricity, or running water, literally on the edge of town, that town being Braunschweig in the more benignly British-occupied Lower Saxony from where I eventually emigrated.

That was still fifteen years away. In the meantime, it was an ongoing battle for adequate housing, enough food, and warm clothing. Nothing like today's claimed "poverty" sitting in front of a flatscreen television; that was real hunger and cold nights and shoes with cardboard soles.


My first day at school in 1952


If this photo is anything to go by, things must've got a bit better by the time I entered school in 1952. Not that schooling ever interfered with my education: all I ever did were the compulsorary eight years of "Volksschule" (primary school), after which even the few Deutschmarks I earnt as an articled clerk helped to keep our bodies and souls together.


"Mein erster Schulgang" - My first day at school / Wouldn't it be fascinating to
know what happened to those forty-one eager faces in the past seventy years?


Ask me about geometree, symmetree, and treegonometree, but not about my family tree which is more like a bonzai which is like Chinese foot-binding except it's applied to a tree. Like foot-binding, my family tree kept me hobbling along for nineteen years until I hit my stride in my adopted new home Australia.

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