My mother-in-law, Helen Wachtel, passed away in September. She and I were civil to each other, but in a way, we were rivals, both vying for Broccoli Rob's attention. I always lost that battle. Helen was a difficult person to begin with and I'm not here to trash her like I used to. She lived to be 92 and was in fairly good shape until a few weeks prior to her demise. I can't say she was a happy person, but as an outsider looking in, I didn't think she had it so bad. But anyway, she once told me of how she left Hitler-occupied Germany when she was 12 or 13 years old and I thought I should let that information go forth.
Helen, born in 1922, grew up with her younger sister, Ellen, in Worms, Germany. She spoke fondly of her family, especially her grandparents on both sides. We have some lovely photos of her childhood in Germany and it's a shame no one can name many of the friends and relatives in the pictures anymore. But my mother-in-law, who grew up Jewish (but not observant), said that one day she was forced to attend a Catholic School. She was young, but she was aware of the indignities around her. Her father, who must have been very clever, decided it was time for the family to leave Germany. This was the early 30's.
As Helen once told me, she and her family lived next door to a Gentile family, a wife, an alcoholic husband and a child. Helen's mother had befriended the wife in that family and would be especially helpful when the alcoholic husband was, well, alcoholic. The child of the alcoholic grew up to work in the passport office in Germany. Voila! The child didn't forget that Helen's mother was a good friend to her own mom and was able to process all the passports to get the family and one set of grandparents to safety in the US. (The other grandparents must have already passed away from old age).
So, my mother-in-law and her immediate family were able to sail to America with all their belongings--furniture, clothes, dishes. I thought that was pretty amazing, as my own grandparents/great-grandparents, came here from Minsk with the little that they had to their name. When I first got married 30 years ago, Helen gave me some of the furniture that she sailed with. She didn't want the items anymore as she wanted new stuff. I like the old stuff anyway. And to think of the history that came over on that trip.
Look at this old buffet from Germany. It's a bit scratched up on the bottom (from the vacuum cleaner), but still functional and beautiful.
These are the dishes my mother-in-law's parents brought with them to the US. Service for 16, but not all the salad plates survived. I proudly use this set every Thanksgiving. Haven't broken a piece yet.
This wooden armoire is still in great shape. I still have the original skeleton key to open the doors.
So these beautiful old pieces of furniture remain with me, from their start in the days before Hitler-powered Germany. A lot of history here and, quite frankly, some nice pieces of homesteading that I've put to use. Thank you, Helen, for these items. Rest in peace.