The Diary

And now I am all alone

Dedicated to my beloved daughter Lotte and written starting from the day of my son Walter’s call up on 10 December 1940

10 December 1940

And now I am all alone. For today they have taken Walter away as well. In spite of the fact that over and over again they reassured him, “You are the Second Reserve. You will not be needed”. But after six months war and a second medical Walter became First Reserve, that was supposed to be a long way away from call up as well. Nevertheless I feared the day would come. The boys answered my unspoken fears. “No mother, it will be ages before we are called up”, said Röbi. “I would be the first and only yesterday I reported to the Wehrmacht and they told me I still would have time, you can start your new semester, we do not need you now. So relax mother, until we will get called up, the war is over and Walter will not be called up ever.”

And so they both continued with their studies, Walter at the University and Röbi at the Academy of Art. Walter began to study law in Cologne, for Bonn got shut down after the war started. Röbi was Professor Junghans’ youngest and brightest pupil and everyone who has seen his work considers him to have a great future. If only the war, this unhappy war were over. Darling, when should this be happening? God alone knows the answer and he has given man a free will. Soon the holidays came, August came again and already we had had a year of war.

It was almost  a year since you and I had said goodbye to one another, so bitter and hard for me to bear and how often have I asked myself the question: When will I see my beloved daughter again, if ever? Sometimes things seem so bitter and black that one sometimes imagines it can never get better, that these two peoples may never again love and respect one another. But what then? What would happen to us, will I ever see Lotte, my beloved child, again. At the moment of our parting all love of life left me and in the months that followed only Röbi’s sense of humour and Walter’s undiminished optimism and spirit and my sense of duty kept me going.

Nevertheless in spite of their best efforts I could not be happy. Duties filled up most of my time and gradually the small and large restrictions to our lives increased and now one can only get things with coupons, even clothing coupons. There are no shoes and my sons usually have only one pair of shoes thanks to the meanness of the “old man” who never considered these things important and even before these crazy times started I always had a terrible battle to get things for you and the boys.

There are substitutes for everything, even toilet soap. It is dreadful stuff and it has to be used for washing clothes as well. There is no coffee and little butter. There is too little to live on, but too much to die. Fat and meat are becoming scarcer. And so on, and so on. We had not stored potatoes as we had been assured that there were plenty, then came a severe frost and all the potatoes that had not gone rotten went to the military.

What could one do? Very little really and potatoes are so important to be able to feel full. So I had to think about how I could get some. There was nothing in the city. Not for nothing had I spent years walking in the countryside and I had made friends there. They had to help me and so I often went from door to door to beg them to sell me what they could spare. Sometimes I failed. Sometimes I succeeded. Usually I paid with money but sometimes I had to trade.

And so I searched through my things and took the farmers gifts and then I got eggs, potatoes, fruit and sometimes poultry. One week after another I walked into the Bergische Land to lonely farms getting what I could and slowly the winter passed. I often got enough to give to others who were suffering. Mostly I helped the Reinemanns. Bully often went with me and we carried the potatoes in our rucksacks. Bully, her mother and I have formed a close friendship and during the week I often went to visit them. We opened our hearts to one another and shared our sorrows and so we were able to comfort one another.

In spring there were more eggs and so I bought all I could. I preserved any left over. I never did believe what they always said, “The war will soon be over. After our stunning victories the Tommies will soon give in.” No, I have never believed that and sadly I was right. Suddenly it was different and they said, “The war is going to last longer after all”. And so it was and then it was summer. I went into the woods and found comfort in the solitude. I usually went alone. Röbi went once in a while. His enchantment with the woodland soon evaporated! Walter was keener and came with me sometimes, but then I was alone again.

Then it was harvest time and I picked blueberries and bottled them for the winter. How often as I walked through our deep, glorious German woodland and thought and thought more about how wonderful it would all be if people wanted it. But we do not want it and it will never be perfect as long as man exists. I was able to help my friends with my blueberries and soon it was autumn. One day followed another and no news from you. In the evenings we waited for our friends from the other side of the Channel, and so it went on. During the holidays Walter worked in a holiday job and Röbi was mostly at home studying. He painted some lovely pictures of me and I was happy to have both boys with me.

Biba has been gone for ages but calls to see us when he is on leave. He is a dear boy. Karl Floeck has been in the thick of it since the war began. He was already a soldier before the war began. Herr Forschbach has been a soldier for some time. All my friends from the walking group have been called up, have suffered a lot and all want the same thing. That is that it will all be over soon.

Liesel got a position with the army and then Bully had to leave too. Our evenings and afternoons spent together with her mother when we shared joy and sorrow, did our embroidery, exchanged news and discussions about the evil times all passed, but not the war. Autumn was passing and it was time to prepare for winter and we did everything in our power to get ready for it.

Then came what I had feared most. Röbi was called up. He got orders to be ready on October the fifth. That was almost unbearable for me. I would have borne anything else and I asked myself over and over again, “Why? Why must this be?” I thought back to my own dear mother who asked the same questions and said to me, “You will never have the pain I have suffered because after the Great War, they said Never ever war!” And we all believed it.

And now? I cannot bear to think about it. If I had ever thought that this sorrow would come to mankind again I would never have allowed you to go to England and even though you have met your dear husband there I would have done my best to prevent it. It is too hard to bear this uncertainty, to think of my beloved child over there with exactly the same worries as we have here. Not to know if we will ever see one another again. Dearest Lotte, it is terrible.

Now back to Röbi. Before he went he had had several commissions and had earned himself quite a lot of money and could have earned more. Life never works out as I would choose it and Röbi was torn from his work. He had to go. We bought him everything he needed from his money. Vests, socks, briefcase and a very nice watch. Then came his departure.

It was very very hard. Walter took him. I could not accept it and it was a long time before I did. Röbi went into a cavalry division and it was not long before he had an accident. During a drill he fell and damaged his knee cap and had to go to hospital. After he was better he had to return to duty and soon he had another accident. He fell off his horse and was dragged with his foot in the stirrup. The conclusion was that he went to hospital again where he remained for some time with both legs in plaster having dislocated both knee caps!

He cannot go on active service anymore and I hoped they would let him come home. I soon had that idea knocked on the head. Röbi was hardly released from hospital when he was declared unfit for active service but capable for garrison duties. That was it.

Then came another blow, Walter’s call up papers. In spite of everything, like many mothers who had clung on to their sons I had no choice. And so on the tenth of December Walter had to go as well. Dearest child what can I say. It was very hard and I had to accept that as well. I often think of the days with you in England when I said that if war came it would be worst of all for mothers. You thought differently. “No. It will be harder for me.”

Well darling, I can only say with absolute certainty now that it must be terribly difficult for you living in a foreign country, to worry about your loved ones at home, not to be able to say anything, to hear nothing from home. But, Lotte, my beloved child, when one’s children are taken one after another to different corners of the earth knowing and yet not knowing what is happening and always wondering, will I ever see them again. I think this is much much harder to bear especially when there is no end in sight. Nevertheless I try with all my strength to cling to the hope that there will soon be an end and that we shall all be reunited.

My darling it is hard for everyone. Now that I am alone I have taken up English lessons once more. I have two English teachers. Two young people, one an Englishman about your age. I tell him my troubles and he tells me his. He was dying to get home to his parents, praying that it will soon be over so he can come back. The other teacher is an American engineer, studies here and lives in South Africa. He is the youngest son and has heard nothing from his beloved parents for over a year. You see, everyone has troubles and everyone hopes this terrible time will soon be over.

So now darling I have brought you up to date, painting with a broad brush to give you a picture of our lives. One cannot put all the detail on paper and I do not want to. I only want you to be clear when you read this letter of how we have lived and how we have thought of you daily, often hourly, and how often we fear for you. It could be that we may never see you again and this person or that may bring these words to you one day.

And so on the tenth of December 1940 I have begun to write all this down on the day Walter was taken away, in the hope that one day we can relate it all to one another together. If not, darling, it will not have been my choice but God’s will which we have no choice but to obey.

Notes by Clare Westmacott: Biba was Röbi’s best friend. Karl Floeck was a neighbour’s son. Liesel and Bully were friends of my mother Lotte. See also „People and Places“ in the Introducktion

12 December 1940

Today I got a letter from Röbi and a card from Walter. Walter wrote that he thinks of me a lot and will send a long letter. Röbi wrote that he will probably be able to come home on Sunday. He is so homesick and longing to spend a few hours to see everything again. I am longing to having him here again even if only for a few hours. Next Sunday he will go to visit his brother who is still on basic training. I am sitting all alone at home. But now I hear  the siren has started howling so I will stop. Good night Lotte, my beloved child.

14 December 1940

A couple of things I must tell you, and go back to  August. We had one air raid after another and praise God we had withstood them. But there was one attack, which was very painful for me: There is an air raid, late at night and Röbi was not yet home. I am very anxious, but I knew for his preference, so he would be with Schuster, a Russian émigré where the conversation is always very interesting. And so it was.

This attack was particularly close to us and the bombs were falling and the flak intense. Eventually it was all over, everything was quiet and soon your little brother arrived.  He was very excited because very close to where he had been at Schusters a bomb had landed on the home of Fräulein Jäckel. A direct hit. The house was destroyed. I went to see it the following day. My darling if only it were all over. And the same story repeated itself regularly around us.

All the time I thought of you. How often have I tried to get news of you. I have written to the Red Cross and the Foreign Office, and every time the reply is the same: “No news.” I had given up and left it in God’s hands because I thought it might be making things difficult for you, when one day in October, after my beloved Röbi’s call up and I was feeling so lonely and abandoned, what lay in the letter box? A letter. Good God from Lotte. I went hot and cold. I was on my way to your father and I could not open the letter for fear of what it might contain. When I got to his studio in the Schildergasse then I opened the letter and read it over and over.

How I thanked God for news of you at last. I could not stand it for long at your father‘s and then I went as fast as I could to Bully to tell her about the fate of her dear friend in the North. I was very happy and encouraged once more. There was so much news in your letter, above all that you, darling, have become a mother. My darling. And to think that I could not be with you. Yes, Lotte, my beloved child, life is so cruel sometimes.   

Well, one day not long before Walter’s call up, the Reinemann’s maid came to invite Walter and me for afternoon coffee. We should come early she said, they had such wonderful news. The news could only be from Lotte. We set off promptly and when we arrived the coffee table was beautifully laid.   Frau Reinemann had baked a fruit cake and both Frau Reinemann and Bully approached us and congratulated us. What for?  It is not our birthday or saint’s day. No. The congratulations were that we have become a grandmother and uncle!

How did this make me feel, child? Lotte, my beloved child, I thought back to twenty eight years ago when I had lain lonely and alone and had my little girl. And then you lay alone far from home in a foreign country, no-one with you who speaks your language and gave birth to your little girl, my granddaughter.  They could not understand why I was not happy. My darling, you little mother, why was fate so cruel that I could not be with you. Why does life repeat itself. I do not know and often say to myself  “It must be so.” How often had my dear mother longed to see me and you and I did not go. Certainly I do not deserve better. I will hope then that we will see one another soon and until then, all good luck for you and your child. Frau Reinemann and Walter did their best to cheer me up and the evening passed and we went home.

A few days later Walter went. He went off bravely so that my heart should not be heavy. He went to Lippe-Detmold, not far from Röbi who is on duty in Paderborn after his accident, and Röbi can visit him often and that is good because Walter will find it very difficult. Röbi is a good dear soul and I never have the feeling that he is our youngest. He always does everything for me and regards it as axiomatic that he should.   

And so my darling my diary will really begin now, in which I hope to share with you everything; our sorrows and our joys in this difficult time. It could be that it will soon be over, but it may also last a long time, but I hope this will not happen.Yes, and should it happen that I will not live to see the end, I will see that if God keeps you well and you will one day see your beloved homeland again, you can get this book and get a picture of how your people have suffered.

Note by Clare Westmacott: The Reinemann family were neighbours and friends of my grandmother and Bully was their daughter. See also „People and Places“ in the Introducktion

24 December 1940

The next few days have been filled with running around and preparing for Christmas for today is the twenty fourth of December. After I have decorated the Christmas tree I will have finished with the work and can write to the boys, for Walter a very long letter to keep his homesickness at bay. Röbi has told me that Walter is having a very hard time. Poor Walter. And Röbi, although he is the little one I can depend on him for everything. He simply is a really good boy. So he is getting a letter, too.

Then your father arrived. Throughout he has remained the same. He is still working. Work is his reason for living. He is quite alone now that his best friends Peter Rust and Dr Schulte are dead. And now that Röbi is no longer here he really has no-one. Apart from me. And you know our relationship well. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I look after his bodily well-being but he grumbles incessantly about how much everything costs more than ever now. Earlier because of his children, now because of the taxes and, of course, me. I have said to him over and over again that if it is so bad we should sell the house and that I would take a couple of rooms in the country until the war is over. But he never does anything about it and prefers to grumble.  It is hard for me because I sit here all alone day and night and if I did not have my friends I would go crazy.

I have side-tracked myself again.  Where was I? Oh yes Christmas Eve. A couple of days ago I was already full of sorrow and then your dear compatriots from the North paid us a call in Cologne, especially in Braunsfeld.  The block where the Reinemanns live was very damaged. Next day after the raid Bully came to tell me. Poor thing she has gone through so much lately. When I went there in the evening I saw how dreadful it looked compared with how it had looked the day before when I had left and everything was nearly ready for Christmas. Now it is all damaged. Not a room is intact. It is a miracle that no-one was killed.

And I asked myself once again “How is this going to end? Can it all come right? What is the point of it?” I mulled all of this over in my mind on Christmas Eve, the first Christmas without my children. My boys would be all alone. Darling, even though you will have had longing in your heart you will not have been alone. Father was very nice although he grumbled about Walter who had not written to him. However the evening was quite nice particularly as the nightly visitors did not come and from that point of view we could forget the war for a few hours. I have done a very small tree and we sat and talked and so Christmas Eve passed.

Note by Clare Westmacott: When the second world war broke out the Rhine-Ruhr area became immediately the main focus in British plans for the strategic war in the air against Germany and Cologne was one of the principal targets. Running in parallel with the bombing attacks was the psychological battle to attempt to persuade the civilian population to rise up against their evil regime, mainly by dropping leaflets and broadcasting to the German people.

25 December 1940

We got up very late and had a long breakfast. Walter had sent us a Christmas telegram which pleased me very much. We did not eat until the afternoon, because we went to the Escher See, it was awesome. When it began to get dark father went back to his studio and wants to come back for New Year. Now I am once more alone.

2 January 1941

Then came the New Year. New Years Eve. How terrible that was when I think back. Alone with your father. I had dreaded that he would come and he did but I must say that he was very pleasant and with my best wishes in my heart for you three children so far from me, together we passed from 1940 into 1941. What will it bring? Peace?  Oh God, let it be so. Everyday life returned with all its problems and stress. Röbi wrote that he was going to get some leave on the eleventh of January.   Something to look forward to once more.

The days come and go. Bully came when she could in the afternoons and we did our embroidery together and in the evenings we went to her mother‘s. Nightly the siren sounds, for our friends from the North come regularly and have done a lot of damage. Many people have been killed. Because we have no protection in the house, no cellars or air raid shelter and your father will not part with his money to provide anything I have to go out in the open to the communal air raid shelter.

I am really looking forward to Röbi coming. I do hope he does come and then we can sit and talk about everything under the sun, especially about you, Lotte, my beloved child, your husband and child. When Walter talks about his niece one could believe he was the father, he speaks so tenderly. He is racking his brain trying to think what the child might be called. He says the child will definitely be named after me and when I say he may be wrong he is offended!

Eventually we agree that it does not matter what the child may be called and the debates are brought to an end. But quietly he continues to speculate. What is it going to be called? Yes, yes.   Walter dearest, you tender uncle. The poor lad suffers dreadfully from homesickness, he has had a very difficult time and his letters are full of longing for home. I wonder how long he will have to be away and how events may develop. Oh God. If I have to sit here alone and think about the possibilities I could go crazy.

3 January  1941

Today a letter came from Walter. Walter’s letters really are books. This one however is happy. His Captain has become aware of him and after his training wants to call him as an Arabic interpreter. That would be good. Röbi’s letters are always warm and loving. I am looking forward to him coming.

8 January 1941

Last night we had a terrible attack. We were fortunate once again. Just before Christmas they destroyed everything at Reinemanns‘. That beautiful house. The poor people. How will it end? Everything is fate and I will accept it. Röbi cannot come after all. How terrible. Every pleasure is taken away from me. I could hardly believe what he wrote. “Leave cancelled”. We both have to cope with it. And once again I am alone. I will go to the Reinemanns tonight. And then maybe we will get some sleep. Maybe not.

Note by Clare Westmacott: By January 1943 when the range of the Allied bombers had increased and radar and modern target finding methods introduced, the British and American airforces agreed on a combined bombing offensive in which Cologne and the cities of the Ruhr, and later the cities of eastern Germany including Berlin were bombed night and day; at night by the British and during the day by the Americans. At the end of the war Cologne was a heap of rubble with thousands of the civilian population dead and the survivors left with almost nothing.

19 February 1941

I have not written for a long time. There was not much to write about. Everyday the same misery.   During the day the struggle for our daily bread and at night very often air raids and the most appalling misery descends on our poor people. Many cities, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Hannover, Wilhelmshaven have been attacked. Many dead. So much misery. Up to now the beloved Lord has spared your parents and brothers. But for how much longer? Thy will be done.

Röbi and Walter are still in the country thank God. Röbi comes often on a Sunday to visit me. That is the most joyful event in my loneliness. Because, my darling, your father lives his life in the city and leaves me all alone here in the house. But really throughout our marriage I have always been alone and left to bear the burdens alone. Perhaps he simply does not recognise his egoism. I have nothing here. No air raid protection, no gas mask, nothing. Nevertheless I believe that God will do as He wills with me. If God wills it darling we shall see one another again, otherwise not.

Walter is a poor boy who suffers a great deal and I hope he will be able to come home soon because the doctor has declared him unfit for active service. It was an excellent examination for him.

I went to see your father in the studio. There had been a bad night once again and a bomb had fallen in the Schildergasse two minutes walk from the studio. Thank God nothing had happened to him. Yesterday I went to see Frau Nanzig who had invited me to visit her. She had had a letter from her daughter dated 15 November 1940, another dated 24 November 1940 and also one dated 15 December 1940. Three letters. The old lady was so happy and I had to think how long it was since I had heard anything from you. I could not stop myself from thinking, “Why does my daughter never write? She can live freely and cannot send her mother a note. She has a child herself now, since the fifteenth of October, is a mother herself and does not send her mother a word of comfort.”

Käthe Herz wrote in one of her letters, “I have not heard a word from Lotte since I was interned”. What can I say? I do not know what to think. I hope to God it is not out of self-interest, and I cannot really believe that, because that kind of egoism would separate us forever.

But why no sign of life? Lotte, the Lord God has a price for everything even here on earth. I could have made life better for my dear mother. So you see, the payback and if you do anything my child that hurts your mother which is your own fault God will punish you here on earth. I do not deserve this punishment after all I have done for you. Nevertheless I do not doubt you yet. Who knows, when one is alone in a foreign country, how one may be persuaded to behave. Let us hope that soon all will become clear.

20 February 1941

Today I went once again to see Frau Colonel Coleman. Her husband is in his homeland America. He is very concerned about his wife and child. He has put a lot of money for him on deposit with the Deutsche Bank until 1942 and stocked up with comestibles so that as Americans they might be protected against  the privations. I wonder if America will enter the war. Let us hope not. Let us pray to God that this murder of the people is soon at an end. It is late again and I am ready to go to bed. Will we have a quiet night? Well, Lotte, my beloved child, in my imagination I can see you with your little daughter telling her about your loved ones at home. Goodnight.

22 February 1941

I have been looking forward for so long to Röbi coming on Sunday for a couple of hours. Today the postman came and brought a letter from the military hospital. He is in sick bay with influenza and is really not well. Always disappointment. Then came a second disappointment. In the newspaper it said that there is now a ban on all correspondence with enemy countries. So now all hope has gone of hearing from you Lotte, my beloved child. Dear God, why am I haunted like this, why is every possibility of contact with my loved ones being taken away from me?

14 March 1941

It is four in the morning. I am in bed and cannot sleep. I have been through a lot of crazy air raids. Night after night the suffering increases. Whole streets have been destroyed. What is a human life worth. Everything is going to the dogs. And what for? For megalomania. The blood of our young is being spilt once again. Last night we were spared and then we heard today that Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen had suffered big attacks. No-one wants to live in the city anymore, a real mass exodus has started and anyone who can afford it leaves. In the last attack the inner city was badly hit and during the attack our Archbishop Dr. Schulte had a heart attack when a bomb fell close to his palace. Röbi is still ill and in sick bay. And so it all goes on as though on a conveyor belt. I will have to stop writing now, I can hear firing outside and soon the alarm will go off.

19 March 1941

Today I went shopping and when I looked in the letterbox there was a letter with a curious stamp.   A letter from America? Well I opened it, it was from my cousin Janko. I started to read it, he informed me that everything is all right with you and that your daughter is going to be called Clare. Poor child. Why? Should she have as much darkness in her life as her grandmother? They say here that a child who shares her name with a relative will have the same experiences in life. Although I am pleased by her name I would have preferred it if she had been called Roberta after your father because she would without doubt know how to look after herself, indeed with total self-confidence. If she also inherited your father’s artistic talent I would have no fears for my dear little grand daughter.

Anyway I wish little Klaerchen all the best in the world, first of all good understanding parents so she will have all she needs for a start, then a happy youth because that is what sustains one throughout life. However I am content, because my little grand daughter has good parents. In my mind’s eye I can see Jack’s happy face leaning above his child and I can see Lotte, my beloved child, as a happy mother who will do everything, but everything she can for her child.

Therefore in this respect I have no worries, the child is fortunate and I pray to my beloved Lord God that soon there will be joy for all our people again and with that the possibility of us making contact and as soon as possible a reunion. May God grant my wish that these cruelties will soon be at an end and that people may carry out His purpose on earth – to be happy and content.

We have endured once again a lot of air raids. They have brought once more sorrow and suffering to our poor people. Many children have become orphans,  just as many parents have lost their children and brothers and sisters. It could happen to us any night. How long will God protect us? Röbi has been ill for a long time, in sick bay with fever, a head influenza.  As he says his head feels like a soft pear.  Well I am pleased he is on the mend now. Hopefully I will see him again.

Note by Clare Westmacott: My grandmother mostly calls me Klaerchen in her diary, „little Clare“.

27 March 1941

We have had a terrible air raid, this time the districts Deutz and Kalk were hit and the residential colony of Humboldt has suffered greatly. Many hundreds of people are without homes. The day before yesterday I got a summons from the Gestapo and this morning I went. A young man from the SS asked me if I had dealings with enemy countries. I was astonished at first and denied it, he then became coarse and crude but I protested my innocence and didn’t give in. As things became clearer I realised it was a letter from you which had made me a suspect. I wanted to have the letter and there followed quite an argument.

Yes my darling, if you had thought for an instant of how I might have found myself you would not have had any peace. But in the end it was all right and I departed with my letter. Naturally I was forbidden to tell anyone what had happened. We have gone so far here that we cannot get the most harmless news from our loved ones without suspicion. Anyway I left and when I got on to the tram I read your letter. I was so happy that you are all well. I read it twenty times and went straight to Bully who was thrilled about the letter as well. Then when we knew it off by heart I sent it to Röbi so he could also have some pleasure. He will send it back to me.

In the meantime the war goes on and I have been trying to think of a way to get our news to you. I will have to ask Bully. Poor girl, she cannot even write to her friend. Frau Nanzig does not get any news anymore either. The poor old lady. When your letter gets back from Röbi I will take it and read it to her and she will be very pleased. I always have to comfort her and life goes on. It is hard, very hard.

Walter is on study leave. He has registered at the University and the misery with the old man has begun again. He had to pay the fees and his meanness is getting worse and worse. One would have nothing if one did not practically use force with him. How things will proceed with the house I just do not know. There is still no shelter, no gas mask. Not a single room to be safe in. We will have to leave it in God’s hands and hope for the best.

Easter, 13 April 1941

Nothing much has changed here. Röbi writes rarely, Walter is getting ready for his new term. There have not been many air raids either, some forecast for the foreseeable future. We shall just have to wait and see. Your father is getting more and more difficult. He has been threatening Walter again. He has been trying to persuade Walter to give up his studies and has used a lawyer, Herr P., whom he has bribed with gifts to try to threaten Walter that he will not pay the fees.

One day I had a long talk with Kurt who advised me to take great care to protect my rights, which are becoming increasingly vital for my well being. I must do something about my health. I go to Frau Schuhmann my cardiologist for weekly consultations. My heart does not work properly anymore, it has already been damaged and she says if I do not do something about it I will never see my daughter again. Up to now I have paid her out of my few pennies but I cannot go on doing it particularly as I have to support Walter. The old man does not give me a penny for him. You three have got a magnificent father have you not?

Kurt has told me that I should insist on having sight of our financial position. Frau Schuhmann expects to be paid for my care and Walter has taken up his idle way of life again. I wish I could get away from here for good. Clear off. An end to all this misery and all your father’s nagging. I could live for very little money deep in Westphalia and peacefully and safely await the end of the war. A friendly family has invited me but I would have Walter hanging around my neck and my finances would not stretch to that and I could not leave Walter sitting here.

I will have to leave it to fate and time and hope that perhaps there are good things in store for me. When will the war be at an end? The hatred gets worse and worse and now it has started in the Balkans. How will it all end? Will we ever see one another again? I often say to myself, “if only this had not started.” Yes, when I think about it.

When I think back to how much sorrow your father has caused through his loveless ways. If only he had shown some understanding then all our unhappiness would not have started. You would have stayed here. Then again I think that God moves in mysterious ways. He holds the reins and He knows where we are going. It is my only comfort to believe that God wants it thus.

I do not get to see the Reinemanns very much anymore. After their misfortune with the house Frau Reinemann does not like to sleep there anymore, so every evening they go to sleep in Odenthal and have to leave here early in the afternoon. Frau Floeck is mostly in Bonn with her sister as she does not want to be alone here.

So really I have no-one apart from Walter who only causes me to worry. I do not know what will become of him. Time will tell. I cannot change him. He is twenty four years old and still not fit to be independent. Röbi has not been home on holiday for ages. He was in sick bay for a long time with flu.   I wanted to visit him but he did not want that. Anyway he is better now and I expect one of these days he will turn up if only for a couple of hours.   

And so I am sitting here and wondering how my Lotte will be spending Easter. I think only of you, then of your husband and child. I think of you and see you before me. I am so pleased and thank God that you are a mother and have something fulfilling in your life, that you love, for which you will put many things aside, who will make a lot of work for you, but who will help to distract you from this terrible time.

I pray to God to keep your child healthy and that He will help you to bring the child up to be a decent person who will not make life too difficult for you. And I thank God that you have a husband who supports you in everything and to whom you can go and open your heart when things become too difficult to bear. Now I will finish for today. I could not sleep and I am here alone in the night, or more accurately, morning. It is exactly five twenty a.m. What will happen today?

Note by Clare Westmacott: Kurt Korsing was a friend of the family, part of their social circle and had once been engaged to my mother. He was a lawyer.

19 May 1941

I have not written for a long time. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and this year darling is the first time you are a mother on Mother’s Day. Röbi did not write even though he could have done. In my disappointment I automatically thought of you, Lotte, my beloved child, who always remembered these days and often prepared a surprise for me. Will we ever have these days together again? Will we ever see one another again.

After the latest raid I doubt we will. It was dreadful and all around us there was destruction. After the attack my nerves were finished and I could not stop crying. Then, it was half past three in the morning and I went with Walter to see what damage there had been. From the Voigtelstraße I could see in Ehrenfeld nothing but fires, flames shot up to the sky. A rubber factory was burning and nearby a petrol tank exploded. We made sure we were safe and saw three other big fires.

We crossed the Oskar-Jäger-Straße and from the Kitschburgerstraße nothing was left standing. We went on and saw that the Rheinische Savings Bank had been damaged. Kurt was in his flat clearing up his damage. And near us by the church all the houses have been damaged. The worst thing is that this unhappy quarter is where I do my shopping and now we will not even get what we are entitled to.

Downtown the Hohestraße, the townhall, Mülheim, eighteen people killed in a shelter. There has been a lot of damage again in Deutz but we were able to get through. The case of Rudolf Heß is over now, they say. Will it really be over? Only the future will tell. I had hoped a sudden change might come and I have prayed for it but up to now nothing has changed. Every evening brings fear of the night and every morning we are thankful to have survived. But for how much longer?

Käthe Harz wrote to me again and I will reply and send a letter through her to you I hope. The longing to see you and the hope of seeing you is the only thing that helps me to endure this misery. Your letter made me so happy in spite of the fact that I had to go to the Gestapo. I will not think about that anymore even though it would be worth writing it all down. I will not think about the Gestapo as God has offered me another way to write to you through Käthe.

Note by Clare Westmacott:  My grandmother is referring here to the flight which Rudolf Hess took to Scotland where he hoped that the Duke of Hamilton might be able to broker a peace deal. He was in fact arrested and was imprisoned in Britain until the end of the war, whereupon he was returned to Germany to be charged at the  Nuremburg Trials. He was sent to Spandau and committed suicide there in 1987 at the age of 93.

28 May 1941

“Mother today we will have ignition,” said Walter, “why don’t you lie down with your clothes on if you are tired? I feel sure we are going to have an attack.” I cannot do that. I need to take my things off if I am to sleep. So I stayed up. But tiredness overwhelmed me and so I undressed and went to bed with the thought that maybe they would not come today, but hardly half an hour later Walter woke me. Even today in spite of everything I still have the ability to sleep deeply. I do not hear the sirens and if I am alone in the house I do not wake up until the Tommies’ wonderful music sounds overhead and by then it is too late to go to the communal shelter. So usually I abandon myself to fate and stay here.

Well, Walter woke me and we nearly had a row because it took me too long to get dressed. Then the most terrible concert from hell started overhead, and downstairs Walter was shouting and I went quite cold. I went downstairs and through the house. The earth, the house shook. I cried out. All hell had broken loose. We stood together downstairs clinging to one another. My whole body was shaking and I thought that this really was the end.

Then it was quiet. I was still alive, Walter was alive. It was peaceful and we were still alive. And then it started again. Walter and I stood together arms around one another in expectation of what might come. Nothing came and soon the all clear sounded. Yes darling it all passed. I went upstairs and looked out of the window. All of Lindenthal seemed to be burning. Walter thought it was the University but I thought it was more to the right. We could not sleep and I wanted to go out.

Walter and I went through the Stadtwald park, above us glorious stars but we could take no pleasure in it. We could smell burning and went towards the fire. Everywhere the fire brigade were busy their sirens sounding. We came to the Dürenerstraße. My God it was dreadful. A mass of flames. The Corso-Cinema was on fire and nearby a chemical factory, the entire block, Hitlerstraße, Lortzingplatz, Turnerstraße, Dürenerstraße were all in flames.

We went to the Reinartz’ house. You cannot imagine what it looks like. It had been hit by an  incendiary bomb. They were sitting in the cellar and the bedrooms were on fire. Their children’s few worldly possessions, shoes, documents, money, clothes, everything had gone. They had saved up to go on holiday and have lost everything. We left silently each with our thoughts and set off for home. We had to try to get a bit of sleep. Walter had to go to work early and it was five o’clock before we got home.

28 May 1941

“Mother today we will have ignition,” said Walter, “why don’t you lie down with your clothes on if you are tired? I feel sure we are going to have an attack.” I cannot do that. I need to take my things off if I am to sleep. So I stayed up. But tiredness overwhelmed me and so I undressed and went to bed with the thought that maybe they would not come today, but hardly half an hour later Walter woke me. Even today in spite of everything I still have the ability to sleep deeply. I do not hear the sirens and if I am alone in the house I do not wake up until the Tommies’ wonderful music sounds overhead and by then it is too late to go to the communal shelter. So usually I abandon myself to fate and stay here.

Well, Walter woke me and we nearly had a row because it took me too long to get dressed. Then the most terrible concert from hell started overhead, and downstairs Walter was shouting and I went quite cold. I went downstairs and through the house. The earth, the house shook. I cried out. All hell had broken loose. We stood together downstairs clinging to one another. My whole body was shaking and I thought that this really was the end.

Then it was quiet. I was still alive, Walter was alive. It was peaceful and we were still alive. And then it started again. Walter and I stood together arms around one another in expectation of what might come. Nothing came and soon the all clear sounded. Yes darling it all passed. I went upstairs and looked out of the window. All of Lindenthal seemed to be burning. Walter thought it was the University but I thought it was more to the right. We could not sleep and I wanted to go out.

Walter and I went through the Stadtwald park, above us glorious stars but we could take no pleasure in it. We could smell burning and went towards the fire. Everywhere the fire brigade were busy their sirens sounding. We came to the Dürenerstraße. My God it was dreadful. A mass of flames. The Corso-Cinema was on fire and nearby a chemical factory, the entire block, Hitlerstraße, Lortzingplatz, Turnerstraße, Dürenerstraße were all in flames.

We went to the Reinartz’ house. You cannot imagine what it looks like. It had been hit by an  incendiary bomb. They were sitting in the cellar and the bedrooms were on fire. Their children’s few worldly possessions, shoes, documents, money, clothes, everything had gone. They had saved up to go on holiday and have lost everything. We left silently each with our thoughts and set off for home. We had to try to get a bit of sleep. Walter had to go to work early and it was five o’clock before we got home.

29 May 1941

Today after lunch I went to Lindenthal. I went through the Stadtwald park, through the Wüllnerstraße, the damage from the previous raid had not been cleared. Dr. Paas’ family home had been damaged. Further on to the Lortzingplatz where there were a lot of bomb craters and the left hand side had been completely destroyed. I came to the Dürener Straße as far as Geibelstraße, Schallstraße and then to the University which was badly damaged. Then I went to Bachemer Straße and came to the school at the Lindenburg – all destroyed.

Well what should I say or write? I went on to the parish church. It was a heap of junk and stones, only the tower remained standing in the middle of all this desolation, looking like a finger pointed at the sky when taking an oath. I went on to the Dürener Straße towards the Rein house but could not get through. I was overwhelmed by the sights I saw, quietly accepting the unchangeable is beyond me, I am filled by the spirit of revolt, I cannot understand resignation. So I went back through the Stadtwald park to our house.

It stood there silent and complete. I went through every room. I went into the garden. All quiet an full of peace. Involuntarily I cast my mind back over the past fifteen years. A lot of trouble but also a great deal of pleasure. I could see you three children, small and later growing up. You brought all your joys and your sorrows to me here in this house.  And now this madness, this mass murder has come to my house just as though it was on the Front and no end in sight before it is all destroyed. And after that? Yes you wise men and Fuhrer what then? Dear God in Heaven have you no insight, no mercy?

1 June 1941, Whitsuntide

It is all quiet. Presumably it is too foggy for them to come. I am in the process of moving. On Tuesday I am taking the best things I have in linen and clothing into the Bergische Land. I have rented two rooms. At least for a short time I shall be secure. Walter has to work and cannot go with me. I shall commute between Cologne and the country and wish I could stay there.

Röbi wrote to tell me that he is having a lot of success with his work. He draws and paints his superiors and I wish he could spend all of his time like this until it is all over. Oh Lotte, my beloved child, when will it be over? When will we see one another again? Will we see one another again? When I think about it, I try not to think about it, otherwise I would lose confidence. God will not allow that we won’t see each other again, will he? But nevertheless I can see no end.

Your little daughter is now eight months old and I may never ever see her. Fate is hard. I must go to see Frau Nanzig again very soon. She is like me, all alone. Frau Floeck hears very little from her son. I see the Reinemanns seldom. They are mostly in Odenthal.  So tomorrow I am off to beyond Marialinden. It is glorious there and I wish I could stay there for ever. Your father lives for himself and makes sure that he is well looked after and won’t let us look at his cards. That is the way he is and he will remain a stranger to me as long as he lives. Yes my child fate is hard and cruel.

10 June 1941

I am sitting on a bench at the station in Vilkerath in the Bergische Land waiting for a train to Cologne. Since the eighth of June I have been in my summer residence. During the night I heard an attack on Cologne. I cannot relax anymore and have to go and see how things are. As Walter is busy with a student job I can only leave for a few days.

During the couple of days I have been here I have been collecting things to eat, eggs, some butter, even a bit of bacon, sausage and various bits of food that cannot be had in the city. The black market thrives just as it did in the Great War. Coffee is thirty marks a pound. Fat and butter cost a fortune and yet those who can afford it can have everything.

Last week I went to my greengrocer to see if he had any asparagus, for years we had not eaten any. He said, “If you want asparagus you will have to pay ten marks extra to get a small basket.” I was offended. He laughed and observed, “Rich people do it all the time.” Yes darling that is how it is with us. Soon I will not be able to get anything in the country either because things are beginning to get difficult there as well.

I walked for hours yesterday to all the isolated farmhouses and from most of them I got nothing. It was time for me to get my train to go home but I missed the train and so I had to stay here an extra night and set off early this morning. I wonder how Walter managed without his source of food. The poor fellow, he is constantly hungry and has to work all day. I could do nothing about it and had to stay the night in the country and walk the one and a half hours from the station back to my room.   And I was so tired.

And this morning I walked back again to the station. And now I am back in Cologne and a great chaos greeted me. Why are people so untidy? I think if they had to clear it up themselves they would soon learn to be more careful. There was no post. Röbi writes seldom even though I sent him a parcel which was so difficult for me.

And from you, Lotte, my beloved child, when will I hear from you? I beg God daily to let me get a letter from you even if I have to face the danger from the Gestapo again. But nothing. And now some good news. Biba sent his mother some good news. He is safe and well. We thought that something had happened to him during the occupation of Crete. Thank God he is all right. I have to go and see his mother and find out about him again. We have had no damage from the air raids. Thank God.

14 June 1941

Night after night there are air raids. It is very hard for Walter, he has to be up at five in the morning and regularly gets no sleep at all. And then all the suffering. Yesterday they hit the main railway station and badly damaged it. We thought the cathedral would  have been hit but it escaped. The east side has had some damage but thank God the beautiful windows had been removed to safety in good time. Deutz and Kalk and many suburbs have once again been demolished. Last night they were in Braunsfeld on the Eupener Straße. Well we are all in God’s hands and we can only hope that it will soon be over.

Unexpectedly yesterday evening Röbi arrived home once again. It is always a great joy. The good boy brought me forty marks. Instead of me giving him money he gives it to me. He is a good boy. I hope God will protect him and return him to me. The night of the thirteenth to the fourteenth was appalling. During this terrible raid Frau Linz had a severe heart attack and died on this dreadful night.   Well she is at peace now but it is very hard for her family.

Next day when I was returning from shopping I met the two daughters and asked if they knew where the attack the previous night had been. They cried and I asked what was the matter and they said “Our mother is dead.” I was very shocked. I had only met Frau Linz the day before and had chatted with her. Yes, Lotte, my beloved child, one can only say, “Lord, Thy will be done.

19 June 1941

Night after night we have endured the vilest of terrors. Seven nights in a row there have been air raids. They drop leaflets and saying they are going to raze Cologne to the ground. There is nothing I can do about that. It is not my fault and if God accepts it, then why should I not? But I am very sorry for Röbi who just happened to be home for eight days leave and gets no peace at night because every time we get a warning I race to his bedside and tell him to get up. But he wants his night’s sleep and can sleep peacefully even though all hell breaks loose above us.

Next day he asks if the English have been whilst he was asleep. That is my dear boy for you. There will never be another like him. Today he left. I watched him go as far as the corner, my beloved boy in his cavalry uniform and his dear face. May God protect him for me.   

And my darling, in the last few days I have had such a longing for you. I see you everywhere, I cannot accept this and tell myself it has to end one day, but when? And with all common sense I cannot supress this longing. Not for Jack or even your child, only for you.

It is evening now and we are going to go to bed for a while before the raids start. I hope Röbi arrives safely in barracks before Tommy arrives. His route north through the Ruhr is very dangerous. But God will protect my good dear boy.

21 June 1941

I was lying in my quiet room in Niederhof and in the night I suddenly heard the thunder of the flak from Cologne. It sounded terrible. I got up and from my tiny window I could watch. It is the second night I have seen this drama take place. Walter is in Cologne. I have begged him to come up here but he does not want to. He says he is too tired and on Saturdays he just wants to sleep so he goes to the communal shelter and so I am slightly relieved. But who has had to die? How many lives has this war already destroyed. Has Röbi arrived safely?

23 June 1941

I have just got back to my room. It is very hot and I feel exhausted from all the trailing round the isolated farms for a couple of eggs, or often trailing round to get no eggs at all. But this time I got fifteen. It happened like this. A farmer’s wife who was about to deliver her baby gave me the job of restoring her battered old pram. And my darling, I, who in these matters am so impatient and lacking in the skills of restoration let alone of panel beating, managed to do the job to the satisfaction of the farmer’s wife. It took me a whole morning in dreadful heat and for that I earned fifteen eggs. I have divided them into five for your father, five for the Reinemanns who are so good to me, and five for me.

By the time you read this, all this will be behind us one way or another. Perhaps I will be sitting with you and if not Bully will explain to you how often we have sat together talking about all these things.   We have now had thirteen nights of raids and Tommy will honour the West with his visits more often.

Today I came down from the Bergische Land and saw the destruction at the station and then heard on the radio,  “The enemy flew with few planes and did little damage.” Little damage usually means seventeen heavy bombs on a factory in Leverkusen with at least forty to fifty dead, or an air torpedo wipes out half a dozen houses with of course many dead, either torn to pieces or with their lungs having burst. And then one hears a broadcast like this. Oh German people, your glorious Führer said himself in his book Mein Kampf, “The German people are just one large flock of sheep.” How much longer?

10 July 1941

Once again quite a time has passed. Often, in fact nearly every day, the enemy was here and always did a lot of damage, but never as terrible as it was now. It was such a terrible night, it just didn’t end. Finally dead tired we fell into our beds and next day I had to go into town. One could only go as far as the Opera house on the tram. I needed to go to Mulheim and beyond. I got as far as the Neumarkt.   What a sight! The whole of the Neumarkt was a bomb crater. The Citizen Hospital was still burning and the Lords house a pile of stones. Zeppelinstrasse likewise.

I went to the Heumarkt. The same sight. The old Gurzenich was completely destroyed. And further.   The station. From behind the station as far as the Eigelstein the sight was indescribable. I decided I would not get to Hohenberg and gave up. I turned back. On the Apostelnstrasse houses were on fire, and on the Friesenstrasse and Christophstrasse everything was burning. The fire brigade did not have enough water to put out the fires.   

What should I do? Leave? Go into the Bergische Land? I have so often begged your father to let me have some money for emergencies so I would not have to stand here penniless. But no. I learnt about his selfishness many years ago. At the moment I do not know what to do. I stand here so alone. If only Röbi were here. He is the only person I can rely on. Walter is his father one hundred per cent. When I see how this young man can detach himself from all normal feelings and allow things to wash over him with a total disregard for the feelings of others I am reminded of the days when your father behaved in just the same way. Walter is his father through and through.

11. July 1941

Yesterday I went through Cologne which was in flames. It had been burning the whole night. The sights in the city are appalling. You see little children barefoot wearing only a vest, who are running aimlessly about having lost their parents, or playing, thank God, totally unaware of what has befallen them. Walter comes home. During the night seventeen bombs hit the factory where he is working as a student and so there is now no work for him. In one night three thousand six hundred people were made homeless and how many killed. People are not told the truth and the radio lies constantly. As always. They said twenty four people had been killed that night. If you add a zero you still have not accounted for those killed in one night

13 July 1941

Today Sunday is my dearest Lotte’s birthday. You will be twenty nine years old my darling. I cannot believe how time can pass so quickly.  But then how long are twenty nine years. How much happiness and how much sorrow are contained within those  years for you? For us both? How long will it be before we can celebrate our birthdays together again. Maybe not for a long time. Who knows? I went to church today and offered a mass for my only daughter. For a long time I have not been able to pray so earnestly as I can in this little village church and if everything I have prayed for is fulfilled we will be happy once again.

14 July 1941

Early in the morning I had to go down into Cologne into the daily grind and misery that the war has brought to our beautiful city. Röbi wrote from Münster that Münster is in a gruesome state. A soldier reported that Münster looks like Lille after the storming and all the women and children have been evacuated.

Note by Clare Westmacott: Lille, in Northern France, has suffered a number of sieges in the course of its history, but it is almost certain that it is the siege during World War I to which the soldier is referring. Lille was stormed by German troops and massive damage inflicted on the city during the siege in October 1914.

26 July 1941

Today I am fifty two years old and after a terrible night it looks dreadful in close proximity. This time it was very near. Bombs dropped behind our house and seven deep bomb craters in Friedrich- Schmidt-Straße show the night’s results. The houses have been destroyed and our roof and all the windows have been damaged. It is a miracle we got away. Quietly I think to myself, “What has fate in store for us?”

1. August 1941

Now there has been peace and quiet for days. We are filled with anxiety and expectation. Walter said, “Mother I dread what lies in front of us. What will tomorrow bring?” It is an eerie quiet and I cannot tell you anything other than that we experience the suffering and misery all around us. When I go into the city I have to weep. The work atmosphere is feverish and when I see it all I have to ask,  “What is it for?” Dear God. What have we done to deserve this suffering. Soon it will be winter again and what then? We have already in summer no potatoes, no fat, everything is either difficult or impossible to get. What will the winter bring? There is hardly any point in writing because nothing changes, just the same misery.

Bully has been here, I was out and did not see her. She climbed over the garden gate and put everything, some flowers and wine from her mother for my birthday, on the table for me. Yes, Lotte, all windows are broken and good Bully has free access. She has been here three times, but did not find me. I have to visit them. It is a blessing that there are still some good people. Even if only a few. Röbi wants to come for a few hours on Friday evening. I wonder what news he will bring. I must go and see Frau Nanzig again. I have not heard from her for weeks. Apparently Käthe is no longer on the Isle of Man.

7 August 1941

I have not put anything in the diary for a time. What for? The daily or rather nightly visit from Olde England brings more and more misery. Once more my birthday did not bring what I most wished for.   Röbi did not write. Walter gave me two English books. I was very pleased that he had remembered.   Then he came and brought me a lovely powder compact. Then a few days later Röbi appeared for two days and we were really happy.

But to my great sorrow he told me that the doctor had decided that he was fit for active service in tropical zones. So I am not even to be spared this. Röbi is pleased to get away from the monotony of the barracks. I took him to the train and as we made our farewells our tears flowed.

I am sitting here writing and I am frozen even though it is August. I must say I have never known it as cold as this in August. And on top of everything Tommy has broken all my windows, the roof is damaged and the ceiling in the bathroom has fallen down. It was a dreadful night and we thank God that He spared us. So much sorrow and anguish descends every night onto Cologne. I do not want to think about it. It is too much.

12 August 1941

Mine and my little granddaughter’s Saint day. My darling, your daughter’s first Saint day. I had imagined it differently. But one thing I am sure of, it will not be the pattern of her life. I wished hard that the Saints’ days of my little granddaughter and godchild will get better and better. For my part I wish that the coming year will bring rest and peace. May God fulfil my heartfelt wishes and bring me together with my children again soon. My Saint day was not very pleasant. No one had remembered it and I had to think Lotte, my beloved child, of how you always planned weeks ahead for such occasions. If you had been here how different it would have been. I have a lot of problems with the house, the roof is open, the windows are broken, it rains in and the draught is terrible. One cannot get anything done. What will happen in winter? I dread it.

12 August 1941

Mine and my little granddaughter’s Saint day. My darling, your daughter’s first Saint day. I had imagined it differently. But one thing I am sure of, it will not be the pattern of her life. I wished hard that the Saints’ days of my little granddaughter and godchild will get better and better. For my part I wish that the coming year will bring rest and peace. May God fulfil my heartfelt wishes and bring me together with my children again soon. My Saint day was not very pleasant. No one had remembered it and I had to think Lotte, my beloved child, of how you always planned weeks ahead for such occasions. If you had been here how different it would have been. I have a lot of problems with the house, the roof is open, the windows are broken, it rains in and the draught is terrible. One cannot get anything done. What will happen in winter? I dread it.

23 August 1941

At the moment your compatriots are giving us a rest and we can sleep. Actually they came last night but were soon gone. Walter and I have got it to a fine art now knowing whether we need to get up or not. There is so much pain and sorrow here. Many of our best have fallen and so many have been killed during the air raids. I could not begin to write of all the misery we endure here but if God spares us I will be able to tell you everything. At the moment there have been no potatoes for weeks, no eggs, no meat, nothing, nothing except the black market. The big shots have everything and the poor people have nothing and have to work day and night.

Your father has gone once again to the Black Forest, his second visit this year. He reckons that our house needs to be kept heated and therefore I should hold out here. That is if I can last out. I spend my time gathering potatoes, meat, milk, eggs and coffee and the doctor has said I absolutely must get some rest. Yes, well next spring if I am still alive, I will do something for myself. Maybe by then my dearest wish will have been granted and I will see you again and then I will soon be well.

1 September 1941

It has been a long time since I had a written conversation with Lotte, my beloved child. I do not get any letters anymore at all. The Red Cross? No hope. How often have I written there. I have even thought of going to the distinguished Gestapo to ask if anything has come from you for I am sure you will have written. I will go and ask them.

Yesterday Biba’s leave was over. He is a parachutist and stationed in Crete. Röbi had eight days leave and has to go this evening. It will be hard for both of them to leave. When will we be allowed to be all together again and live in peace and happiness. Last night there was a dreadful raid, we do not know where. We are just thankful that nothing has happened to us. Tomorrow I will have to find food for us because Röbi and Biba have eaten me out of house and home.

They say that it is a criminal offence to hoard food. Well all sorts was forbidden in the Holy Roman Empire and even more in the Third Reich so I shall go to get potatoes, eggs, milk and anything else I can get hold of. Your father is still protecting his expensive skin in the Black Forest. I have got the builders repairing the damage in the house. These are all worries I have to handle without help. I have just heard that last night the tax office was hit. I am sure a lot of Cologne people will be sorry about that!

19 September 1941

Today I saw the Jews on the streets wearing their Star of David badges. Yellow background with “Jew” written on it. All of them, even the children, have to wear them. I do not see what effect this is meant to produce. It will only cause bad feeling even among decent people. People shake their heads in disbelief at these petty regulations. No one knows what the reason for it can be.

Life is so difficult for everyone here and in spite of reports of large and small victories in the east  no one can raise their spirits. We are terrified of the winter. I have tried so hard to get everything I could for the winter but without any success. I have not preserved any beans or any fruit. I have no potatoes.

The house is still not repaired after the last attack but I am thankful that at least the roof has been fixed. The masons have been as well but I have had to clean everything up after them, all alone. When your father saw what was going on he decided he needed to rest and has been in the Black Forest for the last six weeks. Röbi is my only ray of sunshine. He came twice. It is always such a joy.

25 September 1941

Röbi’s twenty first birthday. I had never imagined it would be like this. I had never imagined anything would be like this. I am so lonely and have no idea whether things will ever change. When I consider the times we are living in I have lost the ability to comprehend anything. What will the future bring?   Where is all this leading?

The decorator has just been and said he cannot begin to decorate the repaired parts of the house for at least two months. There are no workmen, no materials, nothing.  Actually I will soon not care whether it is done or not. Maybe before the decorator comes  the Tommies will have been and razed it to the ground and there will be a spring clean in one go.

If only I could get some news from you. I have tried again to make contact through Käthe so that she should try to get in touch with you. Maybe this time I will be lucky.

2 October 1941

And now at last I have got news from you although it is very old. My request is dated 9 October 1940 and today is 2 October 1941. I do not know if the fault lies in England or here. The date it was stamped for delivery is 29 September 1941 so according to that the fault lies here. Why do they have to establish such a service if it will do nothing to reduce the bad feeling that exists? Anyway at last it brings news of you even though it is from so long ago. I will go straight to the Foreign department to try to get permission to write back to you. Well, little Klärchen is nearly a year old now and I have not met her yet and do not know how much longer I will have to wait.

At the moment it is quiet here, the English have not been for quite some time. Lotte, you write in your letter that you wish mother and father were not living in the city. Well, your father has been living in the Black Forest for ages and as for me as always, I have obligations. Walter has to go to the factory and after work he has to study and I cannot leave him here alone. And in spite of the fact that he is rude and hostile and makes my life bitter, right now I would not like to abandon him. For all his so called cultivation and education, without me he would go to the dogs. I will wait until he is finally finished. He has made me so many promises, but once the war is over things will be different anyway.

If I should survive the war then my children will be grown up and I will be able to do something for myself. The first thing I would do would be to come and stay with you for a while. I believe I would be welcome. And darling if I should feel that I am not welcome I would not be offended and would simply return. But I would think of myself and my heart and would visit the most beautiful parts of our fatherland, some that I have never seen and others I have already visited but would like to see once again, because your father never showed me anything.

Also I believe that when Röbi has finished his studies that I will have a lot to look forward to. From Walter I expect nothing and would be content if he would no longer expect anything from me.   There is no point my writing about all the problems I have and they are little compared to the terrible things that are happening. I just hope that that will also soon be in the past and we will all meet again soon.

9 October 1941

I had told Röbi about my unhappiness with the two grumblers, your father and Walter, and that I really did not want to stay here any longer. He looked me straight in the eye and said that if I did not stay at home he would volunteer for the Eastern front. So you see darling I am always prevented from having a choice. Röbi is my only hold here. Röbi must stay here and I will do anything to keep him here. Röbi loves his little bit of home and he says that without me all this would be nothing for him to look forward to. So I have no choice and must stay here. Maybe one day it will be as lovely here as Röbi imagines.

10 October 1941

Last night I could not sleep. Then finally I got off but was suddenly awake. A voice was calling loudly, “Mother, mother, mother.” I thought it was Walter and expected him to come to my room but he was asleep. I had heard the voice so clearly but it was not Walter, it was Röbi. I am sure of it. It was his voice. But what did it mean? I could not sleep anymore, I could not stop thinking and worrying.   What might be coming? Is Lotte all right? I had not heard anything and the last news was six months old. Well morning came and with it the day’s work and that was good.

11 October 1941

Until last night we had not had a raid for at least a month and then when it came it was a big one and upset me a lot particularly as it was unexpected. Anyway it came and went and God protected us once more. Thanks be to God.

The following day I went to the post box to collect the letters and there was a letter from Röbi but somehow not in his usual hand writing. I opened the letter and Röbi wrote briefly and to the point that he was about to set off for Russia. My God. How am I to bear this? Why must I suffer this? Lotte gone and Röbi in that terrible hell. What more can come to hurt me? I will keep the letter. Maybe one day you will be able to read it. At the moment I am good for nothing and exist only in terror of what might happen. Now I know that Röbi had come to me in spirit in the night. He needed me. Oh God, protect my most beloved child.

17 October 1941

Today I received a card from Röbi and yesterday as well from East Prussia. He wrote that he was on his way and would be home again with me in five weeks. He promises a lot, just like you, Lotte, my beloved child, you always were good at it. Mosty you didn’t keep your promises. In the end, my consolation was that you meant well. Well I hope that this time it is true and that he will be back soon. I think he is driving a truck. I will pray to God that this time it is more than just wishful thinking.

In the meantime Jack’s countrymen have been here again more often than we would have wished and have not exactly been harmless. The Friesenplatz stands testament to that. The block near the Institute of Medicine, you remember where as children Dr. Schulte looked after you, well, that got a direct hit and all around has been flattened with everyone killed. Yes my darling that is war for you.

Another taste of life here for you: On the same night they attacked Düsseldorf. Just after the warning an enemy aircraft was hit by flak. It was fully loaded and gave signals, but nobody cared, the flak kept firing happily. The aircraft came down into a residential block in Düsseldorf-Bilk. It exploded and the whole block, man and mouse were hurled into the air. There were at least four hundred people in the block who were killed while the radio claimed it were thirty dead. In Bonn the University clinic was hit and also the Old Customs house and so it goes on. We win ourselves to death, like they said in the last war, and it is still the same.

And another picture: At the beginning of the week I went once again into the Bergische Land to fill up my small store cupboard and I got a few eggs and some milk. I got back to the railway station in Cologne at quarter past eight in the evening and was pleased to get onto a number 25 tram straightaway. But at Neumarkt there was an air raid warning and we had to get off the tram and into a shelter.

The men, these noble beings, got off the tram like lightning to get into the shelter and safety. But last of all was a young woman with a small child and masses of parcels. With the best will in the world she could not get to the shelter without help so even though I was laden myself I offered to help her.   The important thing was to find shelter and so we went to the nearest shelter in the Richmodishaus.

Off we went. We went there fully laden. It was still empty. There were a lot of chairs and so we sat down comfortably and were very tired and happy to sit down. But we were not lucky for long. Gradually the cellar filled up with people who owned the chairs. They were people who lived in the neighbourhood who had either lost their homes or who felt more secure down there.

Anyway we had to let them have their chairs and we lay the little child’s head on my handbag as well as we could and then we stood and waited for the raid to start. We did not have to wait long. In the meantime as we had nowhere to sit I wandered around the cellar. Interesting darling! I wandered through the wide aisles and had plenty to see.

Here stood a cardboard box fitted out as a child’s cot, twins were lying in it fast asleep with their mother by their side knitting unperturbed. There stood a washing basket with a little boy in it with his feet, twitching as he slept, sticking out through holes that had been cut for the purpose.

Then in my corner lying there were two children on an ironing board. They were not asleep but reading a book by Karl May. Then again I saw some men who were playing cards. On some steps sat a young couple obviously in love and happy. He was in uniform, she just in what she happened to be wearing. But beautiful in the eyes of her dearest. Everyone was oblivious to everything going on outside.  

One has lost interest and as long as one does not get a bomb landing on one’s head one takes no notice of the attacks. Well, eventually the raid was over and we had to get as quickly as we could to the tram. Suddenly the young woman shrieked that in the dark she had lost her child. She could not understand it and neither could I. We missed the tram and it was doubtful whether there would be another. Eventually following the cries we found the child and were lucky and we did get a tram.   After she had calmed down she thanked me for my help and I was thankful to get to Braunsfeld. She wanted to get to know me but I declined. I had had enough.

So darling I got home dog tired. Walter had been worried about me and was thankful to get something to eat. Then we went to bed but were dragged from our sleep at half past two when there was another alarm. And so it continues, alarm after alarm. Which one will be the last one?

Tonight I am going to the Reinemanns. They are the only people I can go to and speak freely without fear. Often we sit together and cannot say anything other than, “When will this be over?” I have not heard anything from the Wohlfahrters, it must be for nearly a year. I must go to see them sometime.

3 November 1941

I have not made an entry for ages. Since I last wrote the damage to my house has now been repaired.   I have been lucky because they have done everything except the painting as there is no material for it.

I have also been to see Frau Nanzig. She had got a letter through a detour via Berlin which is for me from you. After we had read your letter Frau Nanzig reckoned that Lotte could put a bit more detail into her letters. She is right. They are always the same and when I read Käthe’s letters they are much warmer. Well, that is what you are like and I gave up complaining long ago.

Many sad things have happened here. They have taken away even the last things that the Jews still had and have transported them to Poland. We have experienced many bad things here recently but I cannot write them all down.

On Friday, the last one in October, Röbi arrived all of a sudden and although I had nothing to give him our joy at seeing one another was immense. He stayed until Sunday and then had to go back to his garrison. If only he did not have to go. He recently had to transport horses to Russia and had a lot to talk about.

It is snowing already and we have no potatoes, we simply have nothing and winter will soon be here.  Yesterday evening after Röbi had gone I went to have a meal with a relative of Frau Floeck who had invited me. And thanks to these people having the right connections there was everything you could wish for to eat. It was terrible to think that I had had to let Röbi leave with nothing and I sat and ate myself full.

That is the way it is. Some people have everything, many others have nothing. Tomorrow I am going to Frau Nanzig. She sent me a card asking me to go. She said she had a lot to tell me and had cried a lot. This evening I am going to the Reinemanns. I have not seen them for a long time. The repairs to their house have been completed and I am going to see everything.

19 November 1941

Your Saint’s day. Lotte, my beloved child, we all thought about you. Röbi has his last leave in his homeland. He came in the morning and brought me a big bunch of chrysanthemums in remembrance of your saint’s day. In spirit we were with you and congratulated you with a silent wish. You know what that is.

Röbi was very quiet and as he sat there I knew what he was thinking and my heart was very heavy. I had long feared this moment and knew that it would come. That this gang would want my dear boy.   He has to go to Russia and how will that end? Things get worse and worse. Walter is now a censor for French. Your father got on his nerves so much that he gave up his studies until the war his over.

Everything here is so desolate. Early winter. The trees were still green and have snow lying on them. The harvest was bad, there are no potatoes, no flour, no fruit. How will we get through the winter?   It is November and we have not stored any potatoes. We have nothing, the coal for the heating must last until February. Röbi has been here for four days and I have used all the meat coupons. Tomorrow I shall go into the Bergische Land to see if I can get some milk and maybe some eggs.   Christmas is just around the corner, but if Röbi is not here I shall not do anything at all for it. Things get worse all the time. Christmas 1941 and you in England, Röbi in Russia and what lies in front of us.   In every household here there is only misery, worry, and heartache.

4 December 1941

Once again I have not written for quite a while, but what should I write? I do not know of anything good to write about and there is little point in only writing about our misery. Who knows if you will ever get this letter, or if we will ever see one another. I do not hold out much hope. It is becoming more and more miserable.

Röbi had fourteen days leave before he left for Russia. Now he has gone and everyday I wait for news of his tranfer to Russia. My little Benjamin. Nothing came easy to him. He has to endure everything, now that he is such a capable artis who promises to rise to the top in arts, and now this. In this unspeakable country where there is so much hatred, and my boy who is only capable of creating beauty and who detests this murder of the people, he of all men has to go. When will the world finally learn to live in peace? Christmas just around the corner, the festival of peace, how absurd with hatred, death and doom everywhere. I wish Christmas were over. Where is my Röbi?

Christmas 1941

Christmas Eve. Lotte, my beloved child, I have not written for quite a time, what should I write about. One day follows the same pattern as another, full of sorrow and the effort to find food and so on and now and then air raid warnings, but one gets used to that. Röbi is here once again and we three, Röbi, Walter and I sit around the Christmas tree with our thoughts. Your dear father created such a to-do that even Röbi was struck dumb. Walter managed to get a French cookery book and enthusiastically translated some dishes for us!

We presented good books to each other as Christmas gifts and we could have done with a lot of other things but it has to be so. They seem to think they know what is good for us and what is not. We spoke about you a lot and they all consoled me with the thought that this must end sometime. At the moment Röbi is doing impersonations of his fight with his dear father and we have laughed so much this evening but I cannot illustrate them for you, apart the usual nicknames you must remember, chamber pots and scrubbing brushes are also featuring in the performance.

Yes, darling, that’s how it is.  And now I go in spirit to you and your family and see you celebrate Christmas. Your child is now more than a year old and will be fascinated by the tree. How time passes. I can see you very small looking at the Christmas tree in wonder, then Walter and then my good Röbi. And I remember how touched I was by all your Christmas preparations. In our minds you are here with us and we have discussed everything.

Do you realise how little we hear from you but we do not know the reason why? Is your personal safety so compromised by us? I see how Käthe tries all sorts of different ways of getting in touch with her mother, last time through a relative in America, and she has all kinds of ideas. I believe I see more and more that you are the first daughter of your father. You must know if that makes you happy.

29 December 1941

Christmas is over. From you not a word. Röbi reminds me I should not expect to hear because we are at war and tells me to be sensible. Well I am being sensible, always have to be sensible, but slowly it is getting to me. Today they come by the doors begging for something warm and woe betide anyone who would not give even his last rags. What could we still have? Since the war begann wool has been confiscated, we only get Ersatz. Where could we find something to give them?

I have always given things to poor people and my old clothes box is empty. Anyway I gave them a blanket from off my bed and some of Röbi’s socks and a pair of shoes. And if at the beginning of the Russian Campaign anyone had predicted what has actually happened they would have ended up where so many others have ended. These big shots will not hear the truth and woe betide anyone who would say this. In the meantime they have scrounged books and records and much more and our soldiers are sacrificing themselves. Oh God if you will only protect my good boy. From you no word and now 1942 is about to begin and the promised final victory is rubbish.

5 January 1942

Note by Clare Westmacott: This time Röbi writes something for Lotte into Klara’s diary:

My dear good Lottchen, Now after two and a half years of war I am writing these words to you to tell you how close we are, in spite of worlds separating us because of this bitter fight. Tomorrow I am going away from home, I think it will be for a long time. I do not know what time will bring, but I know that my thoughts are always with my loved ones, mother, father, Walter and you, regardless of how far away I am.

Who knows what time will bring. A soldier never knows. My soul is always with you all. Two months ago I was in Russia and now I am probably going to North Africa. Sitting here and doing nothing is impossible. I cannot do that. It is not imprudence, believe me. I regard it as fulfilment of my duty. Mother and father know this.

A year ago today I received your last sign of life (I was sitting on watch) in which you wrote that I had become an uncle. I am already looking forward to the day when I can greet my little niece. I am also looking forward to seeing Jack again. Hopefully he will not have to become a soldier. You cannot imagine how much I am looking forward to peace, to work and to art. My dearest Lottchen, now I must close. I send you kisses through time and space my dear little sister.

It is exactly midnight. Yours, Röbi

6 January 1942

My pen is at the menders but I must go on writing. Today my good Röbi went away again and this time it was definitely the last leave. I will have to wait a long time before I see him again. Where will it all end? It is unbearable for me. Oh God, what is the reason for all this? I took him as far as the city centre and then I could not  do anymore. I burst into tears on the tram in tears and I had to get off early because I could not control myself. I didn’t want to look back, but I did and my beloved boy waved to me until he could no longer see me. God protect my good beloved boy. Tomorrow I will go again to the Foreign Office to try to make contact with you. Bully has written to  her friend. Maybe we will hear something. I will stop writing now because I have the feeling the Tommies will soon be here. After I left Röbi I went to Frau Nanzig. She is so lonely and is pleased if I spend an hour with her. Mind you it is nice for me as well, she is so good and kind.

15 January 1942

Last night I had a dream. I got news from you. “I will be at such and such a time in Cologne. Please come to meet me.” I had to hurry and it was so very hot and I put light things on. I was frightened I would miss the train. I wondered what you would look like after all this time. Thank God the terrible time is over. But what is this, I wake up. It was just a lovely dream.

Well, that was only a lovely dream. And now something different, perhaps something you know more about there. Well more about that later. Now some news from the family. Today I heard that Herbert Seuffert has been badly wounded. He has been shot straight through his upper jaw. He was in the east and is lying out there in a military hospital. His poor parents. Röbi is going to Africa. Who knows what this year will bring? My heart is so heavy. When will I hear from you again?

20 Januar 1942

Today I heard that Walter is going to Paris as an interpreter. I am not really happy about it at this crazy time. But he wants to, and I cannot keep him from going. He is twenty five years old and old enough to decide things for himself. His father has forced him to look after himself and I think that when the war is over he can always go back to complete his studies. And so you three are scattered to the winds. May God bring us all together again.

In the meantime things have become really dreadful. Unless one insists on being deaf and dumb one hears the most terrible things from the eastern front. Our poor troops. How have we earned this?   Their senior officers all die of heart attacks. Peculiar! But we are supposed to believe what they tell us. Here in Cologne, citizens have been punished because they offended two officials. Schaller and  Winkelnkemper. Those swine. How is it possible to offend people like them. The whole city knows how corrupt they are, but no one dares to raise a finger against them. They can openly do what they want and steal from us because those swine in Berlin are no different and each protects the other. And so our soldiers freeze and let themselves be killed.

Yesterday I went to Reinemanns. Bully is getting thinner and thinner because she does not get enough to eat. If it goes on I don’t know what will happen. She has taken a job. She had to. Everywhere there is envy or fear that one could be or have more than another. I wish the time would come when we could have some hope. People say that the Russians are so hungry they eat their dead comrades. Isn’t that dreadful. Yes, well we ourselves have nothing either and even less to spare for prisoners. Bully says she is frightened she might end up in a pea soup! She does not mean it of course but maybe if things get much worse her fears may become reality.

We have heard nothing from you.

Note by Clare Westmacott: Richard Schaller was deputy NSDAP-Gauleiter Cologen-Aachen. Peter Winkelnkemper was NSDAP mayor of Cologne.

1 March 1942

I have not written for a long time and things are very bad here. I had a fall and broke the finger of my right hand and have to have it in a sling. The winter has been the hardest and longest for one hundred and fifty years. It is terribly cold inside and we have no heating. Opposite I saw ladies shoveling the coals themselves. The snow is still lying metres high at the roadsides. The misery is awful. Outside one sees little children in ragged shoes.

We are getting used to eating less and less and Walter and I have two small meals a day to make the food last longer. Even so if I did not have friends in the countryside we would have even less. We are allowed three pounds of potatoes a week but they are often frozen and rotten so I go into the Bergische Land to get what I can. Then again there are the air raid alarms. Where have they been now? Next day we heard it was the station. The dead are still lying underneath the rubble. And the war goes on.

Röbi  has been gone now for two months. He is in Landau in the Palatinate doing his last preparations before Africa. He volunteered for Africa simply to avoid going to Russia. I have endured so much sorrow that now I can take the blows when they come. It leaves me cold when the sirens go off. It is all the same to me now. If it goes on much longer it will be immaterial whether you are caught in this corner or that. There are a lot of epidemics. The doctors are not able to desinfect themselves adaquately.

Walter has been sent home sick. He keeps dislocating his knee cap. I advised him to stay in bed for a day but the next day he is walking again. Even though it is obvious he still had to go to a military doctor to show that he was not shirking his duty.

I have no fat to cook with. The fat ration costs fifteen pfennigs a month so you see how small it is and we get a quarter of a pound of butter per person a week. Only big shots and slave-drivers  can stuff themselves full. Coffee costs sixty to eighty marks a pound, that is if you have the energy to go and find some. The flour is dark grey and there are no vegetables except occasionally when you may find a red or white cabbage, frostbitten. Fine times! No shoes. I applied for a pair of shoes. I had to queue twice for three hours. Whether it is going to be granted is to be seen. The shop window was full but you cannot have them. Sadly in our German fatherland it is all humbug. Still they assure us that everything is fine here and that the poor, poor English are suffering more. A likely story!

10 March 1942

My finger is still not better and it is difficult to write because it is in a splint. Today I sent you a note through the Red Cross. I wonder when the reply will come. Frau Nanzig gets a letter every month. I am amazed by Käthe who, all alone in a foreign country makes sure her mother is not forgotten and hopefully I will one day be able to express my admiration to her.

I am very worried about Röbi. He sent me a letter and in it he wrote about all his problems. The poor boy volunteered to go to Africa to avoid going to Russia. Now he is in Landau in Palatinate getting ready to go. It is very hard for him and he is constantly hungry and I have nothing to send him. He is ill. If only I had him here. Why does he have to go through this?

He is the best of all of you and life is not easy for him. I wish he could be here with me. He deserves that much more than your eldest brother. He is, and always will be, ungrateful and selfish. We had another air raid, many victims, much misery. If only the horrible winter came to an end. Nothing from you. Yes, children are always ungrateful. Today I tried again to get some shoes. Everything is confiscated they say. Nothing is available.

11 March 1942

I have just come back to my room to go to bed. It is six in the morning but I cannot sleep, my nerves are shattered. I cannot even cry. Perhaps it would be better if I could. I am dead tired, but it would appear that the time for me to die has not yet come. How much longer.

We have just got through another terrible attack. I wondered where it was. Braunsfeld was spared.   Walter and I were sitting at the table talking over the day’s events. Röbi had written to say he was in sick bay in the military hospital in Landau, they treat him for scarlet fever.

I was so tired I had been running around all day to try to get something to eat. I had been promised some butter, 14 Marks a pound. Yes my child, life is very hard here. Bully is very pale and thin and has to work all day. The doctor prescribed oatmeal for her but even though it has been prescribed she still cannot get any. Walter has no cigarettes and has to work hard all day.

We were about to go to bed when the alarm sounded. Every evening it is the same. Now that the winter with all its cold seems to be over at last, the horror of the air raids has started again. No peace, no food, no shoes. Dear God your punishment is harsh, but whom God loves he chastises.

13 March 1942

I did not believe things could get any worse. Every time I write, “We have never had an attack as bad as this one.”  I will not bother to write that anymore because truly every day is worse, more insane, but ever since they started attacking Cologne the attacks have never been as bad as this one.

It lasted over three hours and what did Cologne look like? The whole inner city was on fire. The Neumarkt was entirely flattened and all the people buried in the rubble. In Nippes it burned and no house was left undamaged. Lindenthal likewise. A bomb fell in Braunsfeld five minutes away from us.   Terrible events took place.

I will tell you about one of them. A woman went to visit her badly injured husband in a military hospital somewhere in Germany. The attack took place while she was away. She came home, full of sorrow over her husband’s stat, to find her house destroyed and her two children buried under the rubble.

And so on, and so on. The report in the paper and on the radio said, “Last night enemy planes attacked in Western Germany. There was very little damage.” And so it goes on. We do not know what the future holds or whether we will be alive in twenty four hours. We just have to take it as it comes.

Röbi is finally off to Africa. He wrote asking me to get him some cream, nut oil, Eau de Cologne and so on. Where on earth am I going to find that? But I must find a way. He must have it and he shall have it.

26 March 1942

Today a bit of gossip. Since the death of Dr Schmidt, our new Lord Mayor is Dr Winkelnkemper. He is the biggest philanderer, the least suitable person to be leader of our city. It is not he who managed to get this high office but his wife. It is her reward for sleeping with G. At least this loose girl has now got a title. Winkelnkemper and Schmidt have not been punished for their corruption. Two dimwits were found to take the rap for them.

On Sunday the prelates read the pastoral letter from the chancel steps in which it said that until the autumn many churches are to be sold for secular purposes. The bishops have asked us to support them in objecting to this plan. It is even planned to abandon all denominations, all people would just be believers in God. And God is Hitler! It has gone as far as that. Will the Lord God really not let trees grow all the way up to heaven? Then it is high time for him to take action.

2 April 1942

It is nearly three weeks since the Tommys have wreaked havoc in Cologne. Last night we got a warning but it was all quiet. But we can expect Tommy to return. He is due. Life is becoming more serious. The farmers have been forbidden, indeed under threat of death, to let the starving city dwellers have anything. So I have to go in great danger to get anything. I go on the loneliest woodland paths to avoid being caught. The penalty is prison. So we are sitting here and Easter nearly here with nothing.

I went to see the Reinemanns. Bully is suffering from malnutrition and hunger oedema. Her legs and feet are very swollen. No food. Only the big shots can stuff themselves. But it is getting worse. The day after tomorrow is Walter’s birthday. We have heard nothing from Röbi. The good dear boy.

5 April, Easter 1942

Yesterday was Walter’s 25th birthday. Röbi has gone, I do not know where. He will write. We never had so little. We have only potatoes to cook today at Easter. There is no meat, no heating and it is still very cold. In great danger of being arrested I got a few eggs from the Bergische Land from the farmers. No butter, nothing, and nothing more to say. 

Yesterday evening I went to Reinemanns. Walter collected me and was shocked by the sight of Bully and Frau Reinemann. They look so dreadful and I wish I could help them but I have nothing myself.   It was your father’s sixty-eighth birthday and as a present I took him five eggs and a tiny bit of bacon which cost me a lot of money. He  is desperately worried about Röbi and that is the one thing in our marriage in which we are united. Nonetheless I wish for him a peaceful old age.

Yesterday the newspaper woman came and begged me for some bread coupons. I could not give her any as I had already used next week’s allowance. She sits there at home with four small children with no eggs, no bread, nothing at all. Oh Easter 1942 would that I did not have to endure you. We are about to launch our much vaunted spring offensive and my heart is full of anxiety about Röbi. I have no food for Walter and myself and outside it is time for First Holy Communion. I gave a neighbour a couple of eggs so she could at least bake a cake for her child.

The bitterness increases but no-one dares to grumble openly. Monks and nuns have been driven out of their monasteries and stand helplessly on the streets. It has happened at Nonnenwerth as well. Their work permits have stamped on them “Subversive Element.”

And now to you. I cannot understand why you do not do everything to try to send your mother some news but today I will not dwell on it. I think maybe we get what we deserve and perhaps I have earned this. The Lord God will know if and when the punishment has been paid.

If He will do one thing for me, and I will bear anything if only He will give me back my Röbi, my most beloved boy and you my dear child Lotte. Many terrible things may be ahead of us but we must endure them, even wish to endure them if God will give us peace and free us from this pestilence that we ourselves have elected.

6 April 1942

Over and over again I have read Röbi’s letter of  9th February 1942 but I will not read it again because it makes me very unhappy and there is nothing I can do about it anyway. I have looked back to Easter 1941 in my book. Then one had some hope, some pleasure and now a year has passed and it is no better, and one awaits only one’s fate.

I recently met Dr Kreuser and he promised to speak to the Spanish Consul to see if there might be a possibility of getting a letter through to you. He is going to let me know. On Easter Sunday I got a letter from Röbi which was full of homesickness and bitterness. It grieves me that I cannot help him, but can only offer consolation. That is too little. Why must my boy suffer so much? Life does him no favours. This boy whom I would so dearly love to have with me, for whom I am sick with longing.

Well, to tell you about the night of Easter Sunday. In the afternoon we sat, Walter and I, in the sitting room. I did my embroidery and Walter was busy. We wrote as we always do on a Sunday to Röbi. I went to bed early and Walter was stayed a while later. He had to work on Easter Monday.

Suddenly I was woken from a deep sleep. Air raid warning. We were both in a deep sleep and had missed the first warning. We could hear only the anti aircraft batteries and aeroplanes. The sky was clear as daylight lit up by explosives and searchlights and the parachute flares which we think look like illuminated Christmas trees. All hell broke loose. It lasted five hours and afterwards the whole of Cologne was burning in every nook and cranny. Next day we heard that three hundred big bombers had attacked northern France and Cologne. Many casualties.

8 April 1942

Now I must tell you more about the last attack. The whole of Cologne was burning, and next to us Lindenthal. Then came the all clear and we thanked God for His mercy. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion and we thought it was all starting again. But what was it? An unexploded bomb going off. It happened like this. An aeroplane had come down. All the men were lost, their bodies burnt. After the all-clear many nosy people came to have a look at it. It was in the Lindenburg on Robert Koch Strasse.

Herr Professor Schroeder stood there along with several residents who like him lived nearby. He was feeling cold so he went home to get a coat. He had hardly got to his home when there was a tremendous detonation. His home flew into the air and he lost consciousness. When he came to he was in one piece but the roof of the house had gone. He ran outside and everyone out there had been killed. The bodies were in bits scattered around the neighbourhood. This sort of thing happens in every district of the town. If this goes on there will not be a stone left standing. Only a miracle can save us.

Röbi has written to say he was getting six days leave and would be here at the end of the week. All suffering is forgotten and we are looking forward to seeing the dear boy.

9 April 1942

Last week I met Dr Kr. He enquired after you. I told him that I had heard nothing from you for a long time and he promised me to do something. Yesterday he invited me to go and see him and to give him your address. He is going to write to you from a neutral city to let you know that we are all right so you need not worry. You see darling I try to explore every possibility to try to get into contact with you. Are you doing the same?

21 Apil 1942

Today the best thing I have, had to leave to trek to Africa. I cannot ask God to do more than to protect him. Will we see one another again? I dare not hope. But I must not think. I cannot pray any more because I quarrel with God Almighty: Why do you take the dearest one I have? Why do you not leave me the best child of all? Every night we do not know if we will be alive the following day. Each night we can meet our fate. The raids are terrible and if it goes on much longer you will not recognise much of Cologne, in fact there will not be anything left. Well, there is nothing I can do about it.

At eleven o’clock the post came and with it a letter with an answer from the Red Cross to my enquiry of June 1941 together with your reply. On twentyfirst of April 1942. Dear God in between times half the world has gone to the dogs. What good is the reply to me? Röbi got six days special leave. We two had looked forward so much to having some time together and Röbi had so many plans. But twenty fours had not elapsed before our joy had turned to sadness. He got a telegram, “Return to base immediately.” Yes fate is hard. He went back to sit around idle for seven days. Those precious days, Prussian drill didn’t let us enjoy them.

1 May 1942

Today I went to see your father in the studio. He had photos of Röbi that we had taken when we were last together. Then we had gone together to take him to the station. He reckoned that he would almost certainly be in Italy for at least two months. Well he might have thought that but only two days later I got the news that he had to go straight to Africa. It makes father suffer.

And now the terrible air raids. We get no rest at night at all. And our beautiful old Cologne burns and burns. It takes days to get the fires out. The suffering is appalling. In one night four thousand people lost their homes. I went with father along many streets, to Gereons church, everywhere destruction.   Christophstraße is all in ruins as well, I think everything hast to be torn down. And then there is the so-called retribution. I heard on the radio that York Minster had been attacked and Exeter and many other places. In the end what will there be left? Nothing but hatred and rubble.

I have just heard Robert Ley speaking on the radio to the German workers. As soon as I heard his drunken voice I was revolted and switched off immediately. It is evening and the sky looks like it often does when we get visitors. Whose turn will it be tonight? How long will God look on while mankind cruelly tears itself to pieces, when what people really want is to be at home, with wife and children, with father and mother, to go happily to work and live in peace. Why is that evil band of gangsters not hanged, they who are to blame for all of this.

6 May 1942

I went to see Kurt Korsing in the office. He had just returned from Poland. Months ago he had promised to get into contact with you through good friends by letter or by spoken word, whichever happened to be possible. Last time he could not manage it but he is going again soon and if he can he will telephone you. May God help him to succeed. Besides that another friend of his, a Swede, wants to take a letter from me to you which he then can post to you from his own country.

Things are very bad here with no butter, no fat, nothing, but nothing. I went yesterday into the country to get something for us to eat. I went through burned woods for two hours. The English have been there as well so even there nothing is safe. I wonder if we will get a harvest? Röbi has not written. Where can he be?

12 May 1942

I have still not heard from Röbi. I am so dreadfully nervous I cannot sleep. All the time I see him dying of thirst out in the horrifying desert. My darling, my very best. He was already homesick when he wrote from Naples. I could tell.   

The English have not been for three weeks and the stupid people believe that Hitler has frightened them off. Just wait, they will soon be back showing us how frightened they are. Churchill spoke on Sunday and what he said was right. We just need to build up our courage and cast off the yoke and send the whole lot to the devil. Then we could clean out the evil and start again. It would mean starting from nothing but we would be free.

15 May 1942

Today I heard on the radio that seventeen transport planes had been shot down off the coast of Africa. They were full of reinforcements for Rommel and the soldiers fell with their equipment into the sea. Röbi has not written. Oh God if only my fears do not come true.

16 May 1942

Thank God Röbi has written. He is four thousand kilometres away from me. Tomorrow is Mother’s day. Father sent me the latest photographs taken before Röbi left. He suffers just as much as I do, but for now I am relieved. I went to see Kurt and brought him a letter for you. It would be marvellous if I could hear something from you via this route. It may take a long time. It will be July before his friend goes to Sweden. Anyway there is some hope. It is very kind of him and I hope that I may be able to make it up to him. I must tell you such a lot. It is crazy, and many things make sense to me now. But this time, if God wills it.

18 May 1942

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Father sent me the photos of Röbi and a nice little drawing for Mother’s Day. I was very pleased as I had also got the first letter from Röbi. Now all I can do is pray for him.   Walter gave me two very beautiful angels, books and half a pound of coffee. Half a pound of coffee costs thirty marks. A sign of the times. In the afternoon Frau Floeck came and also her sister and a few other acquaintances, and Walter was the gentleman with all these women. Everyone brought a bit to eat and we had some wine and so for a while the worries about our loved ones on the battle grounds were pushed into the background. Tommy has left us in peace for a long time now. Thank God. Our nerves could do with a break. This year the lilac blossom is so wonderful. All around the house it is in bloom and fills the house with its perfume. How many more times will it bloom before I see you and Röbi again?

24 May 1942, Whitsuntide

Outside storm and rain. In my heart the same. Nothing from Röbi. I will just have to try to bear it. We are used to the privations but the uncertainty about my boy is almost intolerable. No, I cannot do it. Whitsuntide and we have nothing, no fat, no meat and disgusting bread which makes your stomach churn. Walter had to work today. He looks paler and paler and although I complain about him I must get him through this awful time. Because now and again I manage to get a few eggs and some milk from my farmers.

Frau Floeck was going to come today but she wrote to cancel. She has gone to Bonn to get something to eat as she has nothing left and we will not get anything for another week when the new rations are available. In Bonn she has a sister who still has her silk stocks she can trade in. Yes, how many people do these things? They say we, the German people, should look after ourselves and we would soon have peace. Yes, if clever people tell us how we could achieve this we would do it.  

If five people get together to plan to overthrow these criminals, you can be sure that one of the five will be an informer and the plot would be dead.  And that would be four heroes fewer for the German people. Over and over again attempts are made. With Bully and other like minded friends we try hard to think of a way to do it and I would not hesitate if I could only help. Then I would serve my beloved fatherland if I could help save the blood that is spilled east, west, north, and south.  What is the point of it? Where is my beloved boy?

28 May 1942

At last yesterday I received a letter from you through the Red Cross dated 12 March 1942. It consisted of nine words, “All three safe and well. Please send your news.” Have you really so little news that you cannot even use the paltry twentyfive words that are allowed? Or is what Walter says right, that they have removed the other words because they were not allowed? I do not know. It reassured me to know that all three of you are well and safe but it gave me no pleasure. I have not heard from Röbi for some time. The battles going on in Africa are tremendous and I beg the Lord God to protect my boy. Today I went to the requiem mass for Frau von Carnap, she had suffered a lot for a long time. Well she is out of it now but her relatives are grieving very much. I was sad as well. The fact is that today there is only sorrow in the world.

2 June 1942

Today I went on one of my excursions through Cologne following the most terrible attack. Wave after wave of planes came over dropping their bombs. Dreadful, terrible, gruesome! No, I cannot find the words to adequately describe everything I saw. Nevertheless I will try. I do not really believe that you will ever receive this book. I have not attached great importance to it lately. It is really to keep it in my memory that I do it. I doubt I will ever be able to tell you everything myself anyway. It will be a miracle if I get out of this hell hole alive.

However to get on with the facts. I came out of my house and right and left lay ruins and rubble still burning. Walter had spent the whole night trying to put out a fire with only a small bucket. The fire brigade simply cannot cope with the demand apparently and so it just burns. So in the Wiethasestraße fires everywhere, in the Aachener Straße the post office was burning, opposite the hospital there was nothing anymore.  In Ehrenfeld, Lindenthal, Melaten there is nowhere that is undamaged.

Aunt Liesel’s house has been damaged. The people from opposite have left their surviving carpets and linen at my house so they are not ruined by the weather. I went to the Schildergasse which was also badly hit. The church has been hit and there is a big bomb crater there. Father’s studio has also been damaged. I went on to the Heumarkt and the Neumarkt. It was the same picture there as well.   Deutz, Kalk, Ehrenfeld, Lindenthal and Melaten, everywhere, but everywhere there are only fires and rubble with uncounted dead an eighty thousand homeless.

In my basement and all of my rooms I have people’s carpets and linen and other goods. It is all lying there. There is no light, water or power, no trams, not trains, no newspapers and tonight we will again go to bed with fear. We have had three alarms during the day and Walter has got to go on foot for 90 minutes to work in Riehl. Röbi has not written and I am terrified for him. There are terrible battles in Africa. Dear God protect my boy. I can bear all the rest.

5 June 1942

One of the Nazi big shots Heydrich died a wretched death. I hope the rest of them soon go the same way, so the poor people will finally have peace and quiet.

6 June 1942

When one goes through the city in the evening and it is dark there is still fire everywhere. It is the fires from the fractured gas pipes. They are not able to turn them off and they go on burning. A lot of people with coal in their cellars have had fires burning for eight days. Every church apart from the cathedral has been destroyed or severely damaged. All the warehouses have been burned. The women and children are going to be evacuated. Oh my lovely Cologne what do you look like!

When Röbi or you Lotte, my beloved child, will see Cologne again you will not believe your eyes. Surely even you have not become so English that you are unmoved by the plight of the city of your birth. I am sure that when you hear of the attacks on Cologne you will be filled with anxiety and sorrow. I cannot believe how amazingly God has protected us until now. At Father’s the studio has been damaged and right and left destroyed but he was spared. Likewise Walter and I.

Röbi wrote after a terrible battle. “Dear mother. I am well even though it is 45 centigrades in the shade.” Dear God continue to protect my dear boy in Africa, my good Lottchen in England with her family and we three here so that we may all be together again in a happier time. It is an English proverb “The darkest hour comes just before dawn.” Yes that is true. Maybe we are coming to our darkest hour.  The last attack was so dreadful we are still struggling to stand in its wake. Yesterday another two hundred people were buried and many more are still to follow. Fate and doom.

14 June 1942

Röbi wrote that he had heard nothing from me. The poor boy must be so worried about us and I write so often. I replied immediately. You too must wonder about us and perhaps you have given us up for lost. I have heard nothing from Frau Nanzig for a long time, I have written to her but have received no reply. I will have to go and see her. Life goes on here in its sorrowful way. Tommy has left us in peace since the last raid but we always go to bed in fear and trepidation. In the city there is the constant noise of unsafe buildings being demolished.

In the mornings one sees lorries full of old Jews and their luggage. Where to? Who knows? Frau Reinemann claims that the luggage is brought back again in the evenings, but not the owners. One hears that old people are being forcibly removed because there are not enough homes left intact.

If Röbi would only hear from us he would be reassured. When might I hear something from you? If I were young again I would not have children because the love I have for my children makes the thought of losing them unbearable. This uncertainty takes away any pleasure. May we one day find happiness again? I doubt it.

27 June 1942

Four weeks have gone by since that last terrible attack. Many, many dead have been buried. One sees so much suffering when one goes through the streets. Röbi has not written for a long time.   Your father came home again but not for long. The peace did not last and Walter was the victim.   Walter had a few days holiday and I for one did not begrudge him the rest but your father took a different view.

He may be old but he is still the devil he always was. Nothing suits him. To have him to put up with as well as all my other nerve-shattering worries was too much. Soon there was a colossal row. What kind of man is he to make his own as well as our lives so bitter and difficult? It is impossible to live with him under these circumstances and I won‘t.   

The following story demonstrates just how selfish he is. I asked him if, in view of the difficult times and the uncertainty of our situation and that we might be seperated by one of the attacks, he would let me have some money, say five hundred marks. He refused this claiming he had no money, just his check. I would manage to get things and we do not need any money. So now you know.  

In the evening he was in the garden and I went to his jacket which was hanging up in the bedroom and believe it or not there were twenty thousands marks. Fifteen thousand mark notes and five bundles of thousand marks each. That is your father. All further comment is superfluous. I have lived with this for over thirty years and for how much longer? Once the war is over and we are free I shall come to you and cast off these burdens. But who knows? Maybe all I will ever do is dream about that. I believe in nothing anymore.

I am so worried about Röbi. I went to the cinema and saw scenes from Africa on the newsreel. I wish I had not watched it, now I will not have any peace at all until I have heard from Röbi. Walter comes home and is hungry. So am I. He has to eat this disgusting bread. We have no butter, no fat, no potatoes and tomorrow is Sunday.

30 June 1942

This morning the doorbell rang four times. It was the postman. He had three parcels from Africa for me. In the first was a bar of chocolate, very dry and hard. But it was from Röbi the good soul. He must have taken it from his rations to send to me. The good boy. In the second was a small piece of soap for me. He had accurately reckoned that his mother would be hard up for soap. In the third was a piece of washing soap. All valuables we have not had for a year and a day. My most wonderful boy thinks of everything.

Walter and I bit into the chocolate with mixed feelings and we thought of the donor who in all that heat had made the effort to send us something. This morning I went to see Kurt Korsing to see if he had managed to get the letter to you. But unfortunately he had not had a chance yet and thought I should go again in August. Perhaps. Perhaps!

3 July 1942

Yesterday the postman rang again with a parcel from Röbi. Soap, and joy of joys, some coffee. That  coffee would cost a hundred marks a pound but after a terrible attack we only get a ration of 60 grams which we actually got six weeks later. Well Röbi sent me the coffee and I am enjoying it. At the moment I am sitting alone on the veranda with a little cup of Röbi’s coffee.

With the second post yesterday I got a letter from Röbi which was cool. I wonder if his father has been writing to him. I do not know but I did not write and tell Röbi anything about the big row I had with your father because there is no point in filling his head with our problems. That would be all the more reason for your father to have told him. That is the only thing that spoils my relationship with Röbi and I am very sorry about it but there is nothing I can do.

Last night there was an alarm but the Tommies did not come. Thank God. They have not been for so long and I am sure it is about time we had a visit.

13 July 1942

Today is your birthday. Thirty years. What a long time. Dear God what have I lived through in that time. Two terrible wars and the last one not yet over. I have brought up my children. Yes I can say that I brought up my children all alone, no one helped me. I had to deal with every problem, always alone. Now you are all grown up but do I have peace? No, life gets harder and harder. The war brings more and more privations. On your birthday today we have nothing. I shall have to go again to the farmers to see if they have anything I can have.

I went to the farmers. They have new orders. All their barley is to be appropriated, so they will have nothing to feed their animals, their pigs will not get fat. So my last recourse is lost. While I was on my way through the quiet woodland I spotted some wild raspberries and as I had had nothing to eat I ate as many as I could and felt reasonably full. Then I picked as many as I could carry and took them home and made some juice but without sugar. I will add that as soon as I can get some.

I am dead tired and off to bed now. That was for me your thirtieth birthday. I congratulate you. I never thought your thirtieth birthday would be like this. Man may plan but God has the last word. Last year I went to pray but this year I have not got the strength.

14 July 1942

Last night after a long pause the Tommies came again. We had a warning but they did not come here and went to the Ruhr instead. Frau Nanzig came to see me today. She is very unhappy and has not heard from her children for a long time. I comforted her as best as I could but I am so unhappy myself. I have not heard from Röbi for a long time.

28 July 1942

I have nothing from Röbi since the third of July. You can imagine my state of mind. My birthday was very sad and I could not be comforted although everyone was very good to me. But my friends. I got one card from an acquaintance and otherwise nothing. In the afternoon Frau Floeck, her sister and brother-in-law came and brought wine and sparkling wine and we had a nice afternoon. Walter gave me English books which I can now read fluently. But nothing can make me happy if Röbi does not write. What could be the matter?

Now to something else. Your father has been going through one of his episodes again. He could not bear staying with us for long. The smallest thing makes him insufferable. There is no one anymore who is prepared to spend time with him. He sits in that filthy hole of his and thinks how he can upset Walter and me. Because Röbi is not here any more he no longer has anyone to argue with. Röbi is the only person for whom he still has any affection and he gets worse and worse because he has not heard from him. He has been to the solicitors again to see how he can sever our relationship. Now he wants to say goodbye and separate and it is crazy how he spends his time working out how he can harm me.

After his studio in the Schildergasse was damaged he thought he wanted to come and live at home but there he found Walter and wanted him out and did everything he could to make him go, in a manner unique to himself. I could not allow that at this terrible time so I stood my ground and one day he had disappeared. Then he began his intrigues. It leads to nothing, you know how he goes about it and what he is like. I really thought as the man got older he would improve, but no, the opposite has happened.

He does not have a cleaner anymore and has tried to persuade me to go and clean for him.   However the circumstances in which we live prevent me from doing that. In any case I no longer have the strength. I have to keep this house all alone now and it would be impossible for me to do the studio as well. And why should I? I would not get a word of thanks, only would be accused of stealing from him. All charwomen steal from him, he says. In fact everybody steals from him. No one wants him anymore. I however still have that cross to bear. For how much longer?

The air raids are worse than ever. I heard today that Hamburg had been attacked and Duisburg four times in a row. It will soon be our turn again. God have mercy.

9 August 1942

Röbi still has not written. Kurt has got back from Poland but he still has not managed to get your letter, or rather my letter to you, through. Now he thinks another friend may take it through Sweden.   I certainly hope that will be the case but I do not really have much confidence that he will succeed. There is really no joy at all anymore. There is less and less here. This week I was lucky to get some butter which cost thirty marks a pound, and coffee costs one hundred and twenty marks a pound.   One can hardly believe it but it is a fact and so life continues.

Your father, like your elder brother each in their different way conspire to make my life extremely difficult. I have decided to last out the war here but whether I am able to succeed in doing that is debatable. Last night I had a terrifying dream. I saw you wandering around with your child. My God, it cannot be true. Jack promised me, “I will take care of Lotte, please do not worry about her.” And I believe in Jack. Where can Röbi be?

12 August 1942

My Saint day came and went like any other day. It started very early with an air raid. There were five alarms during the day and it ended with another alarm. There was no news from Röbi, no sign of sympathy. We have been told of great victories in the east, but something is brewing in the west. What can the matter be with Röbi? I am dying with fear. Life here gets harder and harder. There is now no bacon fat for frying at all. They tell us that margarine is as good if not better. Wheatflour now is replaced by barley. So now we eat with the animals out of the same pot. I would have thought that by now we had reached the nadir of our existence but it would appear not to be the case. How are we to go on? It will be interesting to see.

A sad thing has happened which will interest you. Frau T. is dead. Poisoned with either sleeping tablets or hydrochloric acid. There is a lot of talk. Her husband for whom she did everything has betrayed her. While she worked he went off to the Salzkammergut on holiday and took his girlfriend with him. When her so-called friends told her about it she took poison. The poor woman has only worked and toiled away for her family and that was the thanks she got. She leaves a daughter all alone.

1 September 1942

Yesterday I got a letter from Röbi dated 22th of August 1942. He wrote as always affectionately and told me not to worry about him. He tries to reassure me even though he is in great danger. He says that no bullets have been cast with his name on them. I wrote back to him as cheerfully as I could even though I am dying with anxiety about him.

Your father is in the Black Forest, hopefully for a long time. He wrote however to say he was thinking of coming home. Yes, the good soul. Now that the meat pan is hanging high and the wonderful years are over, seven years of adventures, he thinks he can come home and reside with us. If that happens I will go even if it means I have to look after myself.

Kurt is also trying my patience. For so long he has promised to get a letter to you. I went at the time we had arranged and took the letter and when I got there it was to be told he was away for three weeks. So I have had to wait another three weeks. Well next week the time will have passed and I am curious to know whether you will ever get the letter. Now my darling I am going to bed to try to get some sleep in case Tommy comes tonight.

3 September 1942

Yesterday I went shopping. I had just reached the Voigtelstrasse when Frau Scholz came towards me.   You remember, the coffee and delicatessen on the corner. I did not recognise her even though I was only speaking to a day ago. “What is the matter Frau Scholz?” I asked. She replied, “Yesterday I received the news that my beloved husband has been killed.” It was dreadful and I wished I had not asked. Bad luck follows some people. In the terrible attack in May she lost everything including their home and now the worst luck of all. I had seen him in May and we had talked about the future. Now only sorrow. So many people you knew living on the opposite side of our road are dead.

18 September 1942

Darling I have not written for such a long time. What for? It is always the same. Always there is anxiety, the terrible anxiety for my beloved Röbi. If only I could have a sign of life from him. The waiting is driving me crazy. And Lotte I am once again completely alone. Yesterday Walter went again. He has gone to Bordeaux as an interpreter. He says for the duration of the war.

Why must I give away all of my children, who alone are my reason for living? Children I have brought up only to lose and be left alone. Will it ever be different? I can no longer imagine it ever being any better. And there are the terrible air raids and their terrors. It was so hard when Walter went as well.   Your father is still in the Black Forest and seems unable to even make the effort to write. Yes, if only he feels safe. Well, I do not miss him.

12 October 1942

I went to the letter box and there were three letters, all from different corners of the world.   England, France and Africa. I had not heard from you since March 1941 and at least there were twenty five words to let me know you are all well. Then one from Walter, who wrote happily about his first impressions which for someone like Walter are very important. At least one who has some luck regarding the times we are in.

And then Röbi. He is all of my worry. He wanted to send me his new field post office number.  He tells me not to worry. If only that were possible. Since he left for Africa I have not had a moment’s peace. I live only for his letters. When one arrives I come to life but within two days I am once again overwhelmed by anxiety. I have been trying to get him home on study leave. I just hope it works. I fondly hope I could have him home with me for a short time.

Maybe all this fighting and hatred and murder will stop. Why is there all this hatred? I have got the most wonderful references from his teachers. Maybe I will be lucky. If only God Almighty hears my plea and gives me my boy back again.

I have to say that with all my sorrow over his letter I have not really been able to be happy about your message. How long is it since I saw my beloved child Lotte and how much longer will it be till we are together again? Your father is still in the Black Forest and I wrote to him to give him news of Röbi and to remind him to become active on his behalf. He wrote back and said that obviously he would do everything he could for his only child. You see even in these harrowing times he still behaves so badly. Leopards never change their spots.

18 October 1942

It is Sunday and I am sitting here quite alone. I have just written to Röbi. He begged me to write to him every day. He is going through the most difficult time in his life. It is terrible to know how much he is suffering, or not to know if he is safe. It must be dreadful there if even he complains. I am doing everything I can to get him study leave. I am not really very hopeful because I do not really believe there is any longer any joy in the world.

Will I ever see my boy again? Lord God I beg of you do not demand this sacrifice from me. It is the only thing that keeps my head above water, the hope of having my children with me once again.   You know I never was given a cup overflowing with happiness but now I sit here all alone in this house. When I have finished my work my thoughts turn to Röbi.

As far as my other two children are concerned I know where you are, what you are doing and what your duties are. You are in no more or less danger than I am. That is war and anything can happen to us day or night but Röbi is in constant danger. He will see the most harrowing things that war can bring and every moment he is in danger for his life and I can do nothing to help him. I have done what I can but it is so little. God cannot punish enough the persons who have condoned this murder and brought so much misery into the world.

Herr Reinemann has had to go as well. He is going to Brussels this week. I do not know how much longer Bully will stay. She would like to be with Walter and wrote to him to ask him if he could do anything to help her. I do not hear much from him. Yes, well, Walter is not Röbi. Frau Reinemann has asked me to at least spend the nights with them so I am not totally alone and also have some protection from the air raids. I am going to do that.  It is terrible to be alone in the house during those unspeakable raids and to hear the crash as the bombs land and to be thinking that any minute my life might be over. But it is the will of God and if He wills it a person may not have a hair on his head damaged.

The black market here is thriving. Coffee costs between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and thirty marks a pound. Stockings cost twelve marks but they are not silk. Butter is thirty marks and fat for cooking is not available at all. Goering has allowed fifty grams a week more meat and a little more bread. And immediately the crazy mob cries Heil once again and the war goes on and on. They certainly know exactly how to manipulate the masses. And the best of our youth continues to bleed and die.

26 October 1942

Yesterday I went to the cathedral as the archbishop was celebrating his first pontifical service.  As I am all alone and without responsibilities I had the opportunity to go to pray for my children. The archbishop is our former parish priest Dr Frings. When I got to the cathedral, what a sight! The cathedral square as far as the Reichardterasse was solid with people. The Nazis will not have liked it at all. But our archbishop! As he arrived in his carriage the crowd spontaneously began to shout “Heil our archbishop.” Then inside the cathedral was filled to capacity and as I was pushed forward by the throng I thought that to get out quickly would be impossible. One would be crushed to death.

I was very sad because I had wanted to quietly tell God all of my sorrows, how my boy is away and how I sit all alone at home day and night worrying. But it was impossible, there was so much noise.   I was pushed further and further through the lovely choir until at last I stopped behind the high altar.   I stayed there for the whole of the holy mass and saw very clearly the sacred ceremony. I was able to unburden my soul to the Lord God and if he hears my prayers I will get my children back healthy in body and soul.

The previous month I got news from you twice, Lotte, my beloved child. If only I had news from Röbi.   Walter has been gone for some time. He is a big disappointment to me. Lately he has not written at all. In the early days he wrote enchanted by all he saw. Also there is much more to be had there at reasonable prices which is unobtainable here except at a huge cost. It would be nice if he could occasionally have sent his mother some coffee or something else but no, he does not even send a letter. Yes well, we are all disappointed occasionally. I would not have thought it of Walter.

8 November 1942

Yes my darling I have just received two messages from you at once. After eighteen months the joy is almost too much. I am pleased that you and your family are well and I am pleased that your child resembles me, maybe once in my life I may get the opportunity to decide for myself. Actually I am not concerned whether she looks like me or not. If it means the child will have to bear the blows in life that I have endured I think it would be better for her to have nothing in common with me at all.

I am all alone here. Walter is in Bordeaux and he is well. Therefore I do not hear much from him at all. He is his father’s son. Now there are terrible battles in Africa and my dear boy Röbi is in the midst of them. Just like his mother, fate does not spare him. It has always been the same from childhood on and he is my favourite.

Lotte, my beloved child, you know how much I love you and that the greatest longing of my life is to have you and Röbi with me again and for that I will bear anything. However if fate should force me to decide to either never see you again or lose my beloved boy, well I should never see you again. I know that you are well and safe and have a husband who loves you and cares for you but I could not live without my dearest boy. But I believe that God Almighty will guide us and save us.

10 November 1942

And now Lottchen once again something worth the effort of writing. So now then. Listen! Yesterday I simply could not stand any longer the anxiety of not hearing from my beloved boy Röbi and it drove me to go to see an acquaintance, Frau Colemann (wife of Colonel Coleman). I asked her to phone father to see if he had had any news. After three months in the Black Forest he has returned to his studio in the Schildergasse. I have already been there three times but he refuses to open the door.   That is your father for you at sixty seven years of age. Well Frau Colemann phoned him as though on her own initiative but he was very angry and ranted and raved for nearly half an hour.

He said he was pleased if I was suffering, if I knew the meaning of the word as I had no feelings at all for Röbi, but if any at all, only for my daughter in England or for the swine who lives at home with me. However much I was suffering it was good because I had certainly earned it. Well I cannot write it all down. It is impossible to reproduce the conversation. All I can say is that whatever feelings I had left for him have certainly died now. Frau Coleman came from the phone only under a pretence, mentally exhausted as was I. She was very kind to me and as we went into her sitting room. I was perplexed and slowly wondered whether he was right and I was bad.

The only thing that keeps me going is waiting for post from Africa. In my mind’s eye I thought of my thirty years of marriage abandoned and alone, married to a man whose egotistical nature became clear to me in the first year of our marriage. And why have I put up with it? Only for my children. I did consider divorce but came to the conclusion that the best thing for my children’s education was to stick with the marriage.

Yes, I had to think about all of this, and I came to the conclusion that I did everything possible, and when I see what they are today it is only thanks to the love and care of their mother. And these thoughts uplifted me and I was at peace again. When I got home I was wet through and thought to myself, “I will wait and see what challenges the Lord God lays before me and I will fulfil them if he only keeps my boy safe and returns him to me.”

It was dark when I got home and I felt in the letterbox to get the newspaper. And, oh wonders!   What is this? A letter, probably from Walter. I went into the dark house and through to the kitchen where I put on the light. No. There were two letters and both from Röbi. I was crazy with joy and ran around to finally read them. Darling, one day you may be able to read them yourself. They are an attestation of love for his mother and complaints that his father is only concerned for his own well-being. Walter likewise. In all this time he has never once written a single letter to his brother in Africa, not one word of comfort. 

I saw in Röbi’s letters the answer to my question which is to endure my fate until I have my good dear Röbi once more and see his good dear face, and hold him tight and look into his beautiful eyes.   It will be a long time before this happens, until May next year if the Lord God will protect him for me.

12 November 1942

Now something else. About Walter. It is hard and I have waited a long time before I was convinced that he is an egoist. You know all the time he was with me when he returned from the military, how I raced round everywhere trying to get food for him, hours on the tram, and how I walked to get a few eggs and how I took things to give to the farmers so we could have something, even buying butter on the black market, all for him. Then he got the position in Bordeaux where everything is available, chocolate, butter and in short everything that is either unavailable here or costs four times as much.   He sends mit nothing and uses it all for his own pleasure.   

His brother, the good soul, if he is still alive endures hunger and thirst and to whom loving and caring words from home would meand so much receives not even a word from Walter. I would not have believed that any of my children could have displayed such lack of feeling. You know, I am driven crazy with worry about Röbi and a compassionate letter would have helped me. Instead he returns Röbi’s letters to me which I had sent to him asking him to return them to me, and he doesn’t add a word of his own. That is your brother Walter.

I just hope my best boy survives. Today after hearing what is going on in Africa I wish he would be taken prisoner by the English. He would be well looked after and I would get him back, otherwise I would not wish to live. What will all this bring? I have such dreadful foreboding. Dear God protect me from evil. Keep my beloved Röbi safe, my dearest son. Without him life has nothing to offer.

19 November 1942

Your Saint’s Day. My darling I congratulate you. All alone. This time no Röbi came, nor Walter who is also in enemy country. Today I went to church and prayed for you and your brothers, my thoughts were with you all, my beloved children. My Röbi I can only entrust to the care of the Almighty and only a wonder or His will can bring him back to me. His last letter was so unhappy. He asked me to send him a cake. If he gets it it will be a miracle. Three I have sent have never arrived. I have sent him parcels with cigarettes and it drives me mad when I hear that he has not received them.

And then there is the terrible carry-on in Africa. I cannot think straight anymore. I am in a trance-like state. I spend hours at night working because I cannot sleep anymore and you remember how deeply I used to sleep. If I do fall asleep I wake up suddenly and see my dearest boy before me. You know I have never had that worry about you. You are well looked after but Röbi is endlessly in danger of his life. You know, Lotte, my beloved child, they have been saying here for long time that soon they are going to attack “the island” [England] and when they do they will destroy everything within eight days. People express their pity for me that I have a daughter living there but I have to laugh silently about it and think, “You poor fools” or sometimes I lose patience with them and give them a piece of my mind. I often wonder why it is that I am not sitting in a concentration camp.

Do you ever worry about that happening to me? The only person who really knows what I think is Bully, not even her mother agrees exactly with us regarding the future. She fears the band of criminals will remain strong indefinitely. I however believe and have always believed that one day they will vanish from the scene and be remembered by the people only with horror just as one thinks of the Black Death or similar atrocities, those godless swine.

As I am just thinking of Bully I must describe her fate briefly to you. Maybe we will one day sit together and I will tell you in detail what I am unable to write now. In the course of time she has been denounced by her own friends and is constantly watched by the Gestapo. She cannot do anything, she is watched all the time. She is obliged to work and has to work very hard. And the worst thing is she is suffering a lot because of it. How can one comfort her, her entire youth is being wasted and she just sits with us two old women, who have worries of our own. All I can say to comfort her is that one day there will be an end to all this, but in my heart I am also full of anxiety, worrying about my dearest child and like her sitting here with terrifying thoughts in my mind.

2 December 1942

I have just got back from your father’s. Once again he has no-one who will clean for him. He claims they all steal from him, no-one will go to clean his digs and so once again I have done it for him. However not out of love. In my heart I can hear my good boy saying to me, “Mother, help the old bugger so he does not asphyxiate in his own filth. Take no notice of what he says.” And so I have done it once again. If I begin to feel sorry for him I only need to think of the telephone conversation with Frau  Coleman. I was standing next to her and heard every word. Yes, Lotte, I will never forget that. Anyway I have blisters on my hands from cleaning all his dirt. One thing we have in common is our sorrow and anxiety for our boy and for that reason I will not be difficult.

I just hope that God will give him back to me. We have had no news again. Only your brother Walter has written but a letter so arrogant and shameless. Presumably things have not worked out as he thought they would. You know he is never content and he is soon tired of everything. However we now have this war and he cannot change his mind so easily. He will have to stay there. It would appear that because he is unable to be offensive to his mother in person, he has to do it in writing.

At the moment, Lotte, Tommy is overhead. We have had a warning. I am all alone and sitting in the sitting room. We have no air raid shelter, nothing, simply nothing. If God brings me through all this horror in one piece, if He brings me my boy back, if He allows me to see you again, then it would mean that the unspeakable time will be behind us. And if that were to happen I believe the Almighty will have a happy time for me. What am I saying, He will have prepared happiness for all of us. I will beg him for that and now finish this letter.

Although the war is not yet over my diary is full and I have just heard the all clear. And now my dearest Lotte, my beloved child, should this letter reach you then read it through, aware that it was written for you by your mother in the most terrible time of our lives. The war is not yet over and who knows what is yet to come. Whatever happens and if life separates us remember always that the country where your mother lived is the land of your birth, where you grew up and where you had much joy and much sorrow. Remember too that it is the country where your brothers live and I beg you never to forget this and to stay close to your brothers in spirit even though countries and seas may keep you apart.

I hope that I shall be able to give you this letter myself, if not that it will eventually come into your hands. In that case keep it as a document from our bitter, bitter times. I remain always your faithful and deeply loving mother.

6 December 1942

I did not really intend to write anymore but it did not seem right to stop. It was not possible to buy a second diary. The shops no longer have them because paper is too short. Well it is now eight weeks since I heard from Röbi. I am desperate to hear from him.

It is impossible to describe my feelings. At the post office they say that at the moment there is no connection with Africa. Tommy is being a nuisance again and if what they say in the instructions at the shelters is true, all kinds of horrors await us. And Christmas just around the corner. If only it were all over. They sing a song here: Everything passes, It all passes away, After every November, There always comes May. If only that hope won’t disappoint.