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Dorothee W.

Mrs. D.

by Elisabeth S.

 

 

Childhood and youth

D. was born in 1935 in Bitterfeld as the oldest of 4 sisters. The father worked for IG Farben. The paternal grandmother lived in Düsseldorf, the maternal grandparents lived in South Hesse at Bergstrasse, and she remembers that she and her parents often visited her grandparents in the first years of their lives, but later, during the war, visits were no longer possible.

 

The war "didn't affect them very much, only at the end there was a bit of a food shortage. We also had to go to the bunker, but we were relaxed about it...we had no feeling of great need. You just didn't think about what happened"...Here she experienced her primary school time and the first year in high school…

 

In 1945 her father was imprisoned by the Russians“... so I was sent to Düsseldorf... I was picked up by a friend of the family...and was taken across the Russian border by a guide who was well paid. I went over the Russian border to Friedland, from there to the Ruhr area......You just weren't asked how to do it. But there I learned to assert myself....

 

My grandmother was from another generation and I didn't want to be told what I had to wear, for example. There was no love either, she was sweet, but when you are transferred like that, it is hard. Then I concentrated on myself and I read a lot, ... I went swimming, I went for walks ... through ruins ... It was important to me to always do what I wanted, I learned that very, very early in life. I took everything what I needed. After all, I had no family, just me and the grandmother... My salvation was that I didn't let it all influence me. I read out two lending libraries, I listened to the radio for the first time to classical music, no, earlier, my father played the violin. I listened to choir music…

 

After one and a half years in Düsseldorf I went to South Hesse to my mother's family. My mother came later with my sister, with the little one. In Bensheim I went to school (grammar school) I was good in English. ... I did not pass my final exams, I left school after the tenth grade because I found it absolutely unproductive…

 

The family thought I had to learn something, so they sent me to a commercial vocational school in Darmstadt, where there were excellent teachers, which was very good for me…

Then I went to England, worked there in the household, it was a guesthouse and that was a great time! I was in Oxford at University College and at the Royal Academy. You didn't get much money, I was always going to museums, concerts, I visited a lot of events, I did great things. These interests, they're just in me, I can't do anything about them...In England you already noticed very much that there was a war and the Germans were looked at in a bad way, but we got along very, very well in England. The host parents were very nice and gave me much time for school... At the end we made a big bicycle tour with a friend to Wales, to Dartmoor and to Cornwall ".

 

After a year in England she lived with a family in Sweden for half a year "When I came back, I went to the Berlitz School in Frankfurt. My family thought that I had to earn money although my mother had no opinion at all or very little, she mainly had migraine, which was actually very limiting for her…

 

My grandparents never asked: "What can you do? What is it? There wasn't that much, but there would have been more than I knew, or they knew... ...and they were also busy with life after the war. We just went along with it and we were doing quite well, even very well. We had huge gardens and our forest... our playground was the castle and so... that was great. We lived in the sanatorium and then later in a small house that was paid for with carpets".

 

Professional Life

"My mother's pension came very late and so my motivation was to get away from home and not to be a burden, that was the main thing.

 

In Darmstadt at the company W. I had an assistant job. It was a shop for curtains, carpets and fabrics and there I got to know very nice materials, very good materials, nice fabrics, so that I began to ask: "Is it possible to work there in the company, ... where the fabrics come from?" Through the mediation of a designer I came to Herrenberg to the company "Stuttgarter Gardinen". Because I had no previous knowledge, liked to draw but had nothing else, I worked in the pattern department.... I wanted to go there because they made such beautiful things, some great fabrics. I would have loved to draw fabrics... but I couldn't get there because I lacked any training…

 

I also learned to assert myself during this time, and I remember a very unfriendly man who found it completely unnecessary that I worked in this company and that a young woman was employed there - he was a piece of work. But we managed to get along, and afterwards it went great…

 

I had a lot of friends there. ... then I knew that there is such a thing as housing consulting and I had already noticed in the Darmstadt store that that's my specialty, consulting people in interior design... Anyway, I went to the academy (for architecture) as a career changer and took part in interior design for two years without being able to do carpentry, so I was allowed to do things differently, ,..and during this time I was practically poached by the Stuttgart housing consultancy there...The Stuttgart housing consultancy was in the design centre, so those were great times back then....I got to know all the designers and architects etc., all these ideas and besides my boss I worked very independently, which suited me very well! That was really a work that was very good."

 

The German Werkbund, city and country were involved in the housing consultancy institutions, these institutions existed in the 50's to the mid 60's," ...so to speak, to counteract the lack of taste... People had no idea about kitchen planning, for example. There was always a table in the middle that you had to walk around. ...otherwise there were a lot of new building plans, ... we did a lot of exhibitions, planned kitchen rooms, re-designed many plans and furnished show houses, ..."

 

After 5 years we were told that the people from Munich were looking for someone and then I went to Munich, because Munich is of course different from Stuttgart. That was in 1962."

“I was never so inflexible that it would have stopped my personal development." I had a passionate love affair in Herrenberg, but unfortunately the man turned to another lady and then it was over...

 

Munich was really very good, after a while I was in charge, because the boss left, in total I was in Munich for six years. We had very nice consultations and the office had a great location in Schwabing, so I applied again, ... I could have studied interior design there, but then I didn't, because I didn't know how I could finance it. Maybe it was stupid, maybe not, I don't know." I quit because I met Mr W and moved back here to D."

 

Marriage and family time

"Then back in Darmstadt, that was really hard! We were 20 years in D. (family), we bought a house, that was a good piece of work for me because I did the renovation...I didn't work professionally anymore...Besides, Mr. W. didn't want me to work and men were allowed to decide until the seventies whether women work...I had two children, was in the Vocational School (VHS) and continued to give courses (interior design, later drawing courses) at the VHS even after the divorce. .. I learned drawing at the university and drew nudes for almost 30 years...Even during my marriage I was allowed to study graphics for 2-3 semesters, but then he didn't want that anymore...I continued to pursue my interests: Music, art, applied arts and above all doing it myself.

 

After 20 years... I got divorced....I wasn't allowed to have money; he didn't give it to me. Then I retrained to be an office administrator, that was all I could get. After that she worked in a small bookstore for a year, and briefly in a publishing house. She applied for a job in the library of the psychology department at the university. "I got the job ... and I had it for about ten years, until I turned 65 and then I retired."

 

Age

"Yeah, how did I finance myself? So, my mother's house in A was sold after her death and divided between us siblings, that was basically my retirement plan... and now I still get money for the two children, that's great, I was totally perplexed! ...My pension is good enough for a decent life..."

 

Thoughts about age, role models, everyday life...

"My mother lived independently and alone in a house until she was very old... My grandmother was one of the first to learn to be a nurse and in the sanatorium she did all the jobs: mistress of the house, housekeeper, cook... she cleaned, she was responsible for everything, she did all that, it rubbed off on me too…

 

The transition to retirement was relatively easy. I was already in the choir, I continued to give drawing lessons, I had a meadow orchard, you always had to go there by bike, I always did gymnastics. I continued to go to concerts and the theatre, and I started right away in the Oxfam bookstore. .I very quickly replaced work with lectures and after a while my boyfriend came along and... I don't have a spouse, but I have a partner and we live in separate flats. Especially history, art history... Philosophy, those are the main subjects, we do until today... And (we) also have a field, which we cultivate and there I realize now...that sometimes I lack a little bit of strength, otherwise I just kept on going, what else could you do?". I want to be able to move, otherwise it won't work......Oxfam is also a great training! I am responsible for the art books and there I must be very careful and concentrate as long as I can, I do that....

I don't know if I have thought about anything (about age) before...I just remember a statement my mother made when we visited one of my grandmother's sisters at the old people's home, that she said: "These are such terrible women here. They are sick at 60 and from then on they turn their heads off!" ".......that seemed to me to be very impressive......I don't want to go to an old people's home... ... I find it appalling, how grown up, independent people, who have not given up caring for themselves, are treated there …

My daily routine is like this : in the morning before breakfast I walk for half an hour in the park, then I have breakfast, then either my friend comes or I go to Oxfam, then you have enough to do. Ride my bike a lot, do sports. There is always something going on, exhibitions, concerts, theatre, family...I don't have a smartphone, computers yes, but moderately. Very little television, only ARTE and radio, lots of radio…

 

About the representation of the elderly in the media "...I can't say much because I don't watch enough in the media how the elderly is portrayed. On the other hand, when I look at the business section of the newspaper, I notice that there are great women, even older ones, who do great jobs.

 

The role of pensioners in the transmission of knowledge, values... in politics?

"I think the young have completely different values, but I know too little to really say anything about them. My children, that is more in line with my views...For a while, senior knowledge was probably not in demand at all, but now we know that they know a lot and could pass on a lot, yes…

 

It already started in Stuttgart, when the emergency laws were to be enacted. ... My boss at that time, she was very much against it and that influenced me... ... I always checked if it was fair, that was most important to me! ...Because I always had very little money or was very short of money, (I)never voted for CDU, never, never voted for CDU. Now I've been on the green side for a very long time, that also corresponded to my way of thinking...The grandparents were great people, but there was nothing anywhere that was lavish...I never had high expectations, nor would I have liked to develop such a way of thinking...

I was politically active, I was in the citizens' initiative, until it was dissolved, I was in ´Puls auf Europe´, but otherwise I am not politically active now. I would join in again any time... if it takes place in my district, i.e. something you must fight against or for which you believe, I would join in again.

 

Difficulties and opportunities to improve the lives of seniors?

"There are certainly many elderly people, who have very little money and what I find very difficult myself, and that is where I will soon be affected, that is housing. There are no affordable small flats......I would find a place to live in a house, mixed residents but also elderly people, where you have your own area, but can get involved in the community in some way. I would like that very much...but it's just not affordable."

What has changed with Corona... "Not much! I am a loner; it was hard for me not to be able to see my friend so often. I helped myself by getting on my bike and riding a lot every day and being outside. I can live with the Corona restrictions."

 

The common thread:

It has remained simple, the interest in art and music has existed since I was 10-12 and it hasn't stopped...But whatever I am, I am very critical. I don't know if it's good and I also lack a sense of humour.... but I am satisfied, I am quite satisfied!