A Personal Lesson in German History

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A Personal Lesson in German History

Have you read Author Dieter Kermas recent article “Das Erste Mal Durch Die Mauer?”  If not, I highly recommend it.  I find it very fascinating to hear about experiences from people who have lived during a time of major historic events.  Back in the days, when my grandma from my mother’s side was still alive, I begged her to keep telling me stories about World War ІІ.  Since I (obviously) wasn’t alive at that time, I tried to imagine how life was back then through my grandma’s stories.  And boy, did she have experiences to share!

She explained to me how she felt the earth shaking from bomb fire while she and her family were puckered up in an underground bunker.  Another story consisted of her sister losing her baby while in the bunker because of a lack of breast milk.  She also told me how it felt to be part of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female youth organization during the Nazi regime, which was part of the Hitler Youth.

I was beyond impressed by what my grandmother had to live through during her long life.  The world we live in today is far from peaceful; we do live in a time surrounded by war and terrorism.  Thankfully, so far I wasn’t personally impacted, meaning that I haven’t lost a relative or friend through a terror attack nor was I the victim of one.  I would not know how to deal with something that terrible, while my grandma endured several losses and tragedies in her lifetime.

These personal experiences really sparked my interest in history.  Unfortunately, I had a really bad history teacher during High School, who made the subject unbearable and unnecessarily boring.   Due to that, I lost interest in the subject, and my hunger for experiencing German history myself kind of subsided for the next couple years.

I know it might be a shame to admit, but I had never visited Berlin until 2010.  I just didn’t really feel the urge to travel much around Germany when I was younger.  That changed after I came back from my Au Pair stay.  I developed an incredible urge to travel, and if it would just be for a weekend.

It just so happened that one of my Au Pair friends, who I met in the states, moved to Berlin after she came back from the U.S.  She invited my other good Au Pair friend Doreen (name changed due to privacy) and me to come visit her in Berlin.  Finally I was going to visit the capital of the country I grew up in and could experience a grand piece of German history first hand.

My friends and I crammed every possible Berlin sight into our two day stay.  Of course, we couldn’t miss the Brandenburger Gate or the German Parliament.  But the monuments that struck me the most were the Holocaust Memorial and the remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall.  Those brought back the imaginations, and I was finally able to grasp what my grandmother used to tell me about.

While at the Holocaust Memorial, some darkness overcame me.  Not from the clouds in the sky that were hanging above us that day,  but rather from what the Holocaust represented during World War ІІ.  It was beyond saddening to see those hundreds of ceramic stones on the cold ground, each one representing the victims of the horrendous concentration camps.  We can all just pray that something like this is never going to repeat itself.

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Checking out the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall, also known as the “East Side Gallery”, which represents freedom, was more uplifting.  I don’t remember any of the news coverage from 1989 when the wall fell, but seeing those monument parts from such a big part of German history was just amazing.  Each of those pieces still represents the fate and pain so many people had to endure during that certain time period.

This trip definitely had an impact on me and made me realize how appreciative we can be of not having to endure a world war at first hand.  Let’s keep praying that it will stay that way.

Images: © Anne-Kathrin Schulte
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Good-Bye Summer – Hello School

school busGood-Bye Summer – Hello School

While some schools and students are just getting ready for another school year many school districts in California have decided to let the school year start early and are in fact already in full swing…

Gone are the days when, almost as a rule, school would start right after Labor Day.  This is the case also with some German Schools in California whose first day of instruction is around the corner!

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GermanSchoolCampus in Newport Beach is ready for another excellent year

“A wonderful new German School year of 2016/2017 is ahead of us”, says GermanSchoolCampus founder Ursual Schoeneich excitedly as she shares her plans for the upcoming year. Her school which is located right at the beautiful Newport Sea Base, offers classes for beginners and advanced German learners.

And… you will not just learn German but you will walk away with a diploma for every level, since you are actually working towards an official German exam that is accepted by the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFRL).

Each level of German studies therefore will end with achieving the corresponding German Exam A1, A2, B1 through B2/C1 of the CEFRL and also AATG Level 1to 4.

All classes are open to native and non-native speakers from 7 years to 18 years old or as long as they are enrolled in High School. The school offers also preparation classes for AP German, an Advanced Placement course which is offered by some High Schools in the area.

Classes for Beginners and Advanced German learners start on Monday, August 29, 2016 closely followed by the Intermediate German class which starts Thursday September 1st in the afternoon hours.

All GermanSchoolCampus teachers are on task as they visit conferences during the year and keep going with their continuing education. All classes are taught primarily in German except for giving certain instructions or assistance.

Keeping Traditions Alive

Celebrate with GermanSchoolCampus the many traditional festivities throughout the year, and learn about German culture through its traditions. The school holds a St. Martin Lantern Parade in November and in December you can participate in the Gingerbread House Decoration contest followed by a Christmas Party. In February you can learn about German Fasching by attending the Carnival Party and in April be part of the Easter Egg Hunt at the Easter Party.

To find out more about GermanSchoolCampus please visit their website, http://GermanSchoolCampus.com or if you would like to enroll in some German classes you can go straight ahead at http://germanschoolcampus.com/enrollment/

 

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Image: Pixabay.com , GermanSchoolCampus


 

 

Life Is Not Always All Sunshine

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Life Is Not Always All Sunshine

Even though I’m so in love with living in California, there was a time when my life wasn’t all sunshine and beaches.  It happened in early 2014.  I came home after a four week trip from Europe.  I am usually excited to come back after a vacation, but that time was different.  I still don’t understand why, but I fell into a deep hole; a very deep hole.

I realized it a couple days after I had arrived.  I wasn’t eager to see anyone or meet friends.  I didn’t feel like going out or being active.  I didn’t work out at all.  All I wanted to do was lie in bed and be left alone.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone- in person, on the phone, or via Skype.  I tried to keep up a straight face when I was around my roommate.  I didn’t want to become a burden to anyone.

The only thing that gave me a little bit of joy during that time was my roommate’s dog, who I loved to death.  She was allowed to stay in my room with me anytime, and I liked to take her on strolls.  At least I got some fresh air.

During this time, I started studying at California State University, Fullerton.  While I was excited at the beginning of the semester, I soon started to see school as a burden.  I managed to show up to my classes and do the required homework.  But I didn’t want to get involved with people.  I basically showed up shortly before class started, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone, and left right after.  I didn’t care about getting involved in school clubs and organizations.

Then, end of February 2014, I had four girlfriends from Germany coming to visit me.  I hoped that their visit would help me to get out of my funk.  And for a short while, it did.  Thanks to short trips to Las Vegas and San Francisco, I got a little bit distracted.  But once my girls left to travel back to Europe my deep hole welcomed me again with open arms.

I was deeply missing my friends in Europe, who have known me for many years, while I was still building up friendships in the U.S.  I was also still working on moving on from my relationship with the American guy who I met in Germany.  Those were just some of the things that took a toll on me.  So I continued with the “lifestyle” I started practicing the previous weeks- staying in my room the majority of time.

In late March, I had a trip planned to visit my best friend in Dallas.  I was staying out there over Spring Break, helping my friend and her husband with the move into their new house.  At least, I could be helpful.  I had a really good week in Dallas.  We had some much needed girl time, and she introduced me to the guy who finally helped me getting over my ex.  Even though it was just flirting and he was living in Texas while I was in California, it showed me that there were other guys out there I actually found attractive.

But once I headed back to Orange County- well, you kind of guessed it: same thing happened, no motivation, no thrive.  I was getting really worried and wanted to figure out a way to get out of it.  Then, I realized, that one of my good girlfriends from High School, who lives in England, went through such a stage in her life as well.  She had actually been diagnosed with depression.  I didn’t want to think that I was depressive, but I wanted to get her advice anyways.  We talked a long time via Skype.  It was really, really helpful.

The next day, I decided to do something for myself.  I went to get my hair as well as my nails done.  And, as silly that might sound, it helped.  I felt better about myself.  Shortly after, I decided to join a meetup group, just to meet some more like minded people who were interested in more than just drinking and going out to the bars.  Little did I know by that time that through this group I gained some really great new friends, who I am still hanging out with at least once week.

I was still very cautious of my feelings, but my life definitely improved for the better.  I think I was mostly relieved that I didn’t need any professional help to get out of this.  I swore myself to never get back into this stage, and to enjoy life to the fullest from that point on.  And so I did.

Image: © Anne-Kathrin Schulte
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Das Erste Mal Durch Die Mauer

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Teltowkanal. Die Grenze verlief in der Mitte des Gewässers. (Photo: ©Dieter Kermas)

Das erste Mal durch die Mauer

(Ein Erlebnisbericht von Dieter Kermas)
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Es war Mai 1990 und der DDR-Staat begann, sich merkbar zu wandeln. Zur Einreise genügte für uns Westberliner jetzt nur der normale Personalausweis.
Am 11. Mai fuhren wir, Helga und ich, zum nächstgelegenen Grenzübergang am Ostpreußendamm. Der Grenzpolizist auf der Ostseite warf nur einen kurzen Blick auf unsere Ausweise und gab sie mit einem Lächeln und einem „Gute Fahrt“ zurück. Wir waren über diesen, in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten noch nie gesehenen Gesichtsausdruck bei einem „Grenzorgan“ richtig verblüfft.
Die Möglichkeit, ohne die oft erduldeten Schikanen, die nächste Umgebung hinter der Mauer zu erkunden, war für uns nach fast vierzig Jahren natürlich sehr verlockend.

Aus meiner Kindheit waren Ortsnamen wie Köpenick, Erkner und Müggelsee, in mir noch recht lebendig. Am heutigen Tag wollten wir nun mit der Erkundung dieser Umgebung beginnen.
Bei strahlendem Sonnenschein ging die Fahrt über Teltow, Mahlow, Waßmannsdorf, am Flughafen Schönefeld vorbei, nach Köpenick.

Dem Tipp eines Kollegen folgend, besichtigten wir die Ausstellung im Schloss Köpenick. Wir hatten den Rundgang recht zügig hinter uns gebracht, obwohl die Exponate mehr Zeit verdient hätten, und standen so gegen elf Uhr wieder auf dem Schlosshof.  Nachdem uns eine Tasse Kaffee in der Schlossgaststätte wieder fit gemacht hatte, entschlossen wir uns, die Fahrt in Richtung Müggelsee fortzusetzen.

Während der Fahrt, die Sonne brannte uns schon recht heiß durch das offene Schiebedach auf die Köpfe, hatte ich urplötzlich die Idee bis nach Gosen weiterzufahren. Meine Frau stimmte sofort zu. Die Straßenbeschilderung war ausreichend gut, und so trafen wir gegen zwölf Uhr in Gosen ein.
Kurz vor Gosen überquerten wir zwei Brücken und ich erinnerte mich in diesem Moment an eine Fahrt mit Tante Klara. Als sie uns 1948 mit dem Pferdewagen vom Bahnhof Erkner abgeholt hatte, und wir durch das Wasser fahren mussten, weil die Brücke zerstört war.

Aus der Erinnerung heraus versuchte ich den Weg zu unseren Verwandten zu finden, doch vergebens. In den Jahren hatte sich doch mehr verändert, als ich angenommen hatte. Um nicht länger umherzuirren, erkundigte ich mich bei einem älteren Mann, der gerade mit einem kleinen Jungen den Weg entlang kam, nach der Familie Krauel.

Er fragte zögernd zurück, ob ich Alfred Krauel suchen würde, und ich bejahte dies. Mit bekümmerter Miene teilte er uns mit, dass gerade heute, am 11. Mai, Alfred Krauel Senior zu Grabe getragen würde.

Das konnte doch nicht wahr sein, dachte ich. Nach fast vierzig Jahren der Trennung wurde mein Onkel Alfred gerade an diesem Tag beerdigt. Zufall oder ein Wink des Schicksals?
Der alte Herr beschrieb uns noch die Richtung zum Hause Krauel und ging seines Weges.

Noch etwas erschrocken und verwirrt überlegten wir, ob gerade heute der richtige Tag für ein Wiedersehen sei. Wer und was erwartete uns?
Wir entschlossen uns, das Wagnis einzugehen und fuhren zur Seestraße 24. Als wir vor dem niedrigen Bauernhaus standen, es war früher mit Reet gedeckt, erkannte ich es sofort wieder.

Ich ging bis zum Gartentor und rief, niemand meldete sich. Nach kurzem Überlegen, entschlossen wir uns erst einmal etwas essen zu gehen.
Im Gasthof nahmen wir dann unsere Mahlzeit ein. Im Hinausgehen entdeckte ich zufällig in einem Nebenraum eine gedeckte Tafel. Die Bedienung erzählte uns, dass der Raum von der Familie Krauel für eine Feier bestellt wäre.

Wir hatten uns vorgenommen, nach dem Essen, ein zweites Mal zur Seestraße zu fahren. Ich stieg aus, ging durch das offene, erste Gartentor bis zum zweiten Tor. Hinter dem Haus hörte ich Stimmen und so rief ich: „Hallo!“ Zuerst kam ein Hund um die Ecke gesaust und blieb bellend hinter dem Tor stehen. Kurz darauf bog ein Mann um die Hausecke, blieb stehen, kam langsam näher und fragte, wen ich sprechen möchte.

Vom Alter her, so ging es durch meinen Kopf, könnte das wohl mein Cousin Alfred sein. Spontan und nichts Besseres auf der Zunge, rief ich: „Ich bin Dieter Kermas aus Berlin, bist Du Alfred?“ Die Verblüffung auf der anderen Seite dauerte nur eine Sekunde, dann wurde das Tor aufgeschlossen, aufgerissen und Alfred packte mich bei den Schultern und fast schleppte er mich bis zur Hausecke. Auf dem kurzen Weg dorthin deutete er mir an, nicht zu sagen, wer ich sei.

Hinter dem Haus saßen unter dem Nussbaum einige Personen, die mich etwas verwundert und neugierig musterten. Zu einer älteren Frau gewandt, fragte Alfred: „ Na, wer ist das wohl, den ich hier bringe? Erkennst Du ihn?“ Natürlich war das nach den vergangenen Jahrzehnten fast ausgeschlossen. Ich stellte mich dann vor und auch alle Anwesenden nannten ihre Namen.

Die Begrüßung war recht stürmisch und ganz besonders herzlich wurde ich von Tante Else willkommen geheißen. Erst nach einigen Minuten konnte ich erklären, dass meine Frau noch im Wagen säße.
Sofort lief Alfred mit mir auf die Straße und Helga wurde ebenfalls zum Platz unter dem Nussbaum gezogen und dort herzlich begrüßt.

In die Freude des Wiedersehens mischte sich der Schatten des Trauertages, und so war ich fast geneigt, wieder zurückzufahren. Schließlich entschieden wir uns doch dazubleiben, und Onkel Alfred auf seinem letzten Weg zu begleiten.
Alfred lieh mir noch ein dunkles Hemd, und wir gaben seinem Vater die letzte Ehre.

Im Gasthof versammelten wir uns dann bei Kaffee und Kuchen. Ein ums andere Mal erzählte Alfred den Gästen die erstaunliche Tatsache, gerade an diesem Tag, den Cousin aus Berlin nach vierzig Jahren wiedergefunden zu haben.

Die Stunden vergingen, und wir hätten noch lange dort sitzen können, doch den Weg nach Hause hatten wir noch vor uns. So verabschiedeten wir uns und fuhren heimwärts, nicht ohne vorher Alfred versprochen zu haben, bald wiederzukommen.

Die Gedanken kreisten in unseren Köpfen, und zu Hause angekommen, diskutierten wir noch bis Mitternacht das Erlebte, während der Maiglöckchenstrauß von Tante Else das Zimmer mit seinem Duft erfüllte.

Berlin, September 1990

© Dieter Kermas

Photo: ©Dieter Kermas———————————————————————————————————————–

Dieter KermasDieter Kermas, CaliforniaGermans Author and a true Berliner, turned to writing after he retired from his profession as an engineer. Family and friends urged him to document his many experiences during his childhood in wartime Germany. This made for a collection of various essays which have been published here at CaliforniaGermans. (You can find the stories here on CaliforniaGermans.com by putting “Dieter Kermas” into the Search Box.)  Apart from his childhood memories he is also sharing some of his short stories and poems on CaliforniaGermans. Dieter Kermas, who loves to write, is currently working on his first novel. Some of his work has been included in anthologies.

To get in touch with Dieter Kermas, please send an email with subjectline “Dieter Kermas” to: californiagermans@gmail.com
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Writing Is My Therapy

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Writing Is My Therapy

“You are kind of old to study!” “When can I expect more grandchildren?” “You are not the youngest anymore; it won’t be easy to find a job.” “Wait, you are relaxing and not writing applications?” “You won’t find a job with all your tattoos, and now you want more?” “You are working out too much; I don’t want you to get too skinny.”  These are just a few examples of what I get to hear from friends and family who think they know how I should live my life.  Don’t get me wrong, I am open to constructive criticism and well-meant advice, but I also do believe that I know best how I want to live MY life.

Yes, I do have tattoos, and I am not ashamed of every single one.  I understand that some jobs require you to cover them up, and I was pretty successful doing so during my previous internships with renowned companies.  I know that I can’t be too picky at the beginning of my career. But further down my path, I want to work somewhere where I am accepted for what I bring to the table, not if I have ink on my skin or not.

Speaking of jobs, my dream profession definitely includes traveling.  Lots of it, to be exact.  Something my family is not too thrilled about.  But let me explain something: I am not into the cookie-cutter life.  I do not desire to own a house one day, I’d rather be moving around the world.  I do not intend to have children; I want to be flexible to go wherever the wind takes me without worrying if this lifestyle is appropriate for my kids.

I do not want to be stuck in an office 12 hours a day and not be able to enjoy life.  I do believe that it takes a lot of someone’s shoulder when you earn a $100+K a year, but if you never get to enjoy it because you are continuously working, than that is not worth it. Of course, we all know that the California lifestyle is pretty expensive, and I am not saying that I wouldn’t want to earn a substantial amount of money to be able to afford my life here.

But to me, it is all about balance.  I truly do believe that we all need days off to recover, or that we all deserve a relaxing vacation for all the hard work we are providing to pay the bills. I do work hard: I nanny for two families while writing this column.  I also am a social media volunteer for an animal sanctuary, and I also draft countless applications.  So if I decide to relax one day instead of writing an application, than I do so.

I apologize that this post has such a negative undertone this week.  But writing is therapy for me, and maybe one or more of you have experienced the same issue and can relate.  We all should be able to live our life how it works best for us.  I do not tell you to not have kids, so please don’t tell me that I am missing out on life if I don’t plan on having any.

I do not tell you to go to the gym more often, so please don’t tell me I overdo it with exercise.  And first and foremost, do not ever tell anyone they are too old to change their life by going back to school or planning a new career.  We only have this one life to live, and it is never too late to change something for the better if you are willing to do so.

Image: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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