Her father had been in the trenches at Verdun during World War I. He was strict and unfair. He spared Gertrud’s younger sisters; he shaped them. A certain hardness remained towards oneself and towards others.
She grew up in Wyhlen, a village on the Rhine deep in the south, on the border with Switzerland. She worked in her father’s bakery. When the upscale people from the neighboring village called and ordered, little Gertrud would set out in the evening to deliver 20 grams of fresh yeast to the front door three kilometers away, naturally with a curtsey.
Free time was scarce, in the summer she bathed with her peers in the Altrhein, as a teenager she escaped from the strictly regulated everyday life to the village cinema, to a dream world with Heinz Rühmann, Zarah Leander, Hans Albers.
Then the Second World War. An incision that robs another piece of the meager youth. In 1945 she was still deployed in the dense Prague Forest as an air force assistant. The only place where the Luftwaffe girls feel cared for is a small pharmacy near their base. The pharmacist, a nice older Czech, understands your needs and speaks fluent German. They buy little things from him and pour out their hearts. The front is getting closer, the commander decides on his own authority: the air force helpers have to start their journey home immediately. He hands them the marching orders, that’s all he can do. They hurriedly say goodbye to their pharmacist, who hands them a plan showing a safe route through the dense forest, along with a Czech pass for the partisan post. The nice elderly gentleman was the local partisan leader.
After two weeks of forced marches and low-flying aircraft attacks, Gertrud is back in her homeland. Not all made it. The brief excursion into another world and what she has experienced make her bolder: she defies an order from her father. It continues a beating, a day after her return. She knows she’s home again.
In 1949 she met and fell in love with Adolf, known to everyone as Dolf. A charming, handsome man, very popular with the whole village, including the women. He will be the calm, balanced part of the marriage for the rest of his life, Gertrud the vital, decisive wife who has grown in the struggles with her father. In 1950 they get married in an evangelical church. Meanwhile, Dolf’s parents are sitting in their Catholic and praying for their son’s salvation. They don’t come to the wedding party.
Gertrud answers the question about her job with: “Housewife”. But wasn’t there more? Dolf is a dental technician, and in the early 1950s South Africa was looking for professionals like him. Trudi is on fire, gets all the documents, calls the embassy, wants to get away from the village, away from his father, away from the bakery.
Dolf doesn’t dare, the war broke him. Because he defied an officer, he ended up in a penal company. The village community and the singing club “Frohsinn 1848” give him support. You stay in Wyhlen.
Gertrud is the first woman in the village to get a driver’s license. In the mid-1950s this is a sensation. Every day, she delivers baked goods by car, deep into the forest of the Rührberg, on steep roads with tight curves, even in the depths of winter when it’s icy.
In 1952 she gave birth to her son, he was raised in a large family, together with his two cousins and the cousin. Everything revolves around the bakery until Gertrud’s father closes it in 1970.
A new time for Gertrud, more time for Dolf, they even go on trips together now. Every week we go to Basel to go shopping. Her homemade tarts are very popular, along with freshly brewed coffee and beans from Switzerland. She enjoys cooking for her guests.
Dolf went blind in 1999, now she is tied to the house again, trips to the city are rare. Dolf dies in 2003. Two years later, at 79, perfectly healthy and completely independent, Gertrud moves to Berlin, because her son lives there with his daughter-in-law. Gertrud’s curiosity is great, she is equally familiar with the bus, subway and S-Bahn, and is often on tour. She likes going to KaDeWe, and her grandchildren, nephews and nieces are allowed to accompany her. This then regularly ends in the gourmet department.
But there are moments when she longs to return to her distant homeland. She gets on the plane four times and visits her friends. It’s getting fewer and fewer. The village is also changing, young people, new roads, new life. What remains is the memory.
Her small apartment in Berlin is on the fifth floor, no problem for her, she carries the light purchases upstairs herself. She is 92 when she falls badly. Uncertainty remains, she decides on a home. There she revives and keeps her son and daughter-in-law busy. Get her clothes, plan the exchange campaign right away; the decision for the right shoe also needs to be carefully considered. Weekly orders from the market hall, “from the French”, are common.
She keeps in touch with her homeland, she gets the village newspaper sent to her, she studies the daily newspaper. She is up to date. She strictly rejects offers of help from the nursing staff.
She often thinks of death now; she wants to go to Dolf. She made up for it in her new home in 2006. When she and her niece planted his grave, she spilled a bucket of water too much and dismissed it: “He was a good swimmer.” Seven days before her 96th birthday, she made her way to him.