Sigrid Henning
Sigrid Henning

Interview recorded:

Bielefeld, Germany
05.10.2017

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My grandmother was born on the 15th of February 1945 in Bielefeld. She grew up There and completed an apprenticeship as a tailor. At the age of 19 she married my Grandfather and they had two kids: my father Frank and my uncle Mark.

In 1943 my father came home for a short leave. On his way to our home, he met my brother and said to him: “Manfred, my son”. My brother replied: “You are not my father, I know him”. My brother hadn’t seen him for a long, long time and couldn’t recognize him.

In 1944 my mother wrote a letter to my father telling him that she was pregnant. He replied that he was very happy about the baby. But in December a soldier came to my mother and he brought her the sad message that my father had died because of typhus. At this time my mother was 28, a widow and pregnant again.

I was born on 15.02.1945 during a bomb attack. My mother and the midwife were left alone, because all the other neighbours had run for cover in a neighbour’s cellar.

How could you cultivate the farmyard without your father?

We had an own home with a garden, additionally we rented a field. On this field we grew potatoes and other things. My mother could not do all of that by herself, so my family helped her. We had enough to eat, for we had a pig that we slaughtered and a goat who gave us milk. We were pretty happy that we had this perfectly great family, who were helping us for decades.

How did the other widows handle the loss of their husbands?

We had 4 widows in our neighbourhood. I knew from hearsay, that my mother and the 4 widows became friends, they met and cried all together. My mother never cried in front of us, so I only knew it from hearsay.

How was your childhood without a father?

I was always missing my father. I had some occasions in my former school class, when the teacher called a schoolmate saying that she could go home because her father had come back. After this occasion, whenever the door opened, I always hoped that the teacher would come in and say: ”Sigrid, you can go home, your father came back”. I knew that my father was dead, but I always thought that maybe I was lucky and he was not dead after all. Many people who were presumed dead came home in the end. I have been missing my father my whole life. One day my mother came home crying, because my brother and some of his friends had done something silly and a woman from the neighbourhood had told her, that her kids would be no good, because they had no father. That hurt her very much.

Did you live through some dangerous occasions or can you remember some of them?

I did not live through anything dangerous myself, but I know that my brother once did. I think it was 1943 when my brother and my aunt went to my grandparents. Suddenly there was a bomb attack and my aunt threw my brother to the ground and then threw herself on him to protect him. This was a horrible experience. They were always afraid that the bombs would hurt the children.

Did you have a good childhood?

I had a good youth, thanks to my family. My aunt was married an I was like a daughter to her; her husband was like a father to me. I did not miss anything. Of course we did not have so much money, I was delighted when my grandpa gave me 5 or 10 Pfennig [German currency at that time] to buy a chocolate-coated marshmallow cookie. I was always looking forward to his visits because I hoped I could buy myself a cookie again. To sum up, I can say that I had a good and happy youth.