Early autumn 1945, West Germany, the American sector: Hof an der Saale.
Again there was no school. The reason for this – all Nazi propaganda had to be removed from textbooks and all teachers had to be retrained. Once more, Guenter and I were free to play and to explore, within limits.
Usually we went to an open area near our homes, because this was where the “GIs” played football. What a colorful game! The players wore outfits with huge shoulder pads and very solid looking helmets. Under spectator benches we often found cigarette butts, a great treasure. The tobacco freed from its casing and fluffed up would, when traded, earn us respect and also small rewards from older boys.
I was eight years old and Guenter was seven.
This time we went to a park, also close to home. We loved finding things and, as luck would have it, amongst the bushes and trees we found a scattering of balloons. Pure joy! After much debate we blew one up, the others we pocketed. Back home we carefully arranged our treasure on a low bench, then we blew up a few more. Filled with water, they became weapons we used against each other. We knotted the ends and played catch. What a wonderful time! But then, out of nowhere , my mother appeared. Her demeanor was glacial. She walked over to me and slapped my face hard, both cheeks. Guenter was sent home and I had to go inside as well. For a long time I was puzzled. I did not ask my mother anything – she was too angry.
(excerpt from an unpublished “flash” memoir, Shame, by Renata Bernal, 2008)
- The Portrait