You will probably doubt the truth of this story just as I did when it was told to me by my dear friend Carol but she insist it is true. Her grandfather who died only a few years ago related this story to her on his death bed.
My grandpapa lived in a small German town and was only ten years old in 1945 when his papa died in an Allied bombing attack. A woman who was killed at the same time with him was misidentified as his wife 1. Grandpapa’s twenty-seven-year-old mother assumed the identity of the dead woman and applied for and received the ward-ship of her ten-year-old son. This allowed them to receive a monthly stipend which was enough to live on in post-war Germany.
Housing was in short supply and the only quarters available was a single room in a boarding house. The couple (mother and son) “grew too close together.” 2 A daughter, Hilda, was born from this closeness in 1950. In 1951 his mother married a much older but wealthy man who assumed the responsibility for Hilda and gave her his last name. 3 This man also saw to it that grandpapa got a good education. In time grandpapa became an aeronautical engineer.
In 1966 grandpapa received a job offer from an American aeronautical corporation. As he was considering the job offer his 16-year-old “sister-daughter” Hilda came to him and told him how her “father” was abusing her. She expressed her love for grandpapa and begged for his assistance. She never knew the truth of her parentage and she begged grandpapa to take her with him to America. His attempt to accomplish this was thwarted by their mother who refused permission. In a further attempt to persuade their mother she was told of the abuse. The old man was then confronted and threatened with the law if he again touched Hilda.
Thinking Hilda safe, grandpapa moved to America. Three years later when she was old enough to get a visa to visit him she did. As he held her in a welcoming embrace he wished he had the courage to tell her their true relationship. He could not bring himself to tell her she was not only his sister but his daughter. His own personal guilt for the affair with his mother shamed him too much. So much that he, to make some kind of amends, got her a job here in America and a place to live. He hoped she would find a man and raise a family for which he could be the grandpapa.
One day in January 1974 while having dinner together grandpapa asked Hilda why she had no man in her life. “There is and always has been only one man in my life,” she said.
He knew by her actions and previous innuendos that the man she was speaking of was him. He debated with himself whether to tell her the truth of their relationship. Again he could not bring himself to destroy the illusion for her. Through the months of that year, with her open desire to be with him, they grew closer and in December he married his “sister-daughter.” He hypothesized that if no children were born of the union, no harm would be done to anyone.
Unfortunately, due to a miscalculation, Hilda did get pregnant. Again he debated with himself. Abortion was an option but he could not end a life and at the same time destroy Hilda’s joy by speaking the truth. He told himself that if his sin marked their child in any way he would do penance in some other way than to take the child’s life.
When the baby, my mother, was born she was perfect in every way. Grandpapa watched carefully as she grew up for any indication that his sin would show through. It did not and he continued to keep the secret. I have no idea why he chose me to tell his story but he did say that he hoped that by telling me, “he could rest in peace.” It has not helped me rest in peace. I have told the story to Emerald in hopes he could write it and share it in a way that I cannot.
1. The actual reason why the woman was identified as the wife was that at the time they were killed they were in coital union.
2. Eligible men were in short supply in post-war Germany and many single women did have children by “man unknown.” This in no way was a brand of shame since being a mother was more honorable than anything else a woman could do. A single woman was respected for her courage. (The ratio of women 20 to 35 to men 20 to 35 was two to one.)
3. There was a governmental policy, with tax incentives, that encouraged men who had lost their wives or who had never married to marry women who had children to support. This relieved the public from having to support those un-fathered children. (There was even a movement to allow polygamy for wealthy men over a certain age. This did not become law but polygamy laws were relaxed so that if the wives did not prefer charges the man could not be charged.)
Since this is too short for a post I will at this point add a bit of fiction which may entertain.
It had happened before but in the spring of 1949 it happened nearly every day. She would be walking home from her work at the railway station as a ticket officer and some man would make a proposal that she have a drink with him. She was so tempted, just once to have a few drinks and just let happen whatever. She longed for the pleasures that a man could give to her but no she could not do that. She had a responsibility to her son. On this day when the temptation called she hesitated but just in time she stopped herself and walked on toward home.
Her son Johannes or Kleinhans as she called him was waiting for her in the boarding house dining room under the supervision of the cook. He always without fail came home from school and reported to the cook who usually assigned him some duty such as shining the silver. She thought of how obedient her son was. She had to be as reliable as he was.
They went upstairs to their room where they washed up and dressed for dinner. The best part of living in a boarding house was the wonderful food that was served. It was true there was little choice, you ate what was served but it was always good. Tonight was wiener schnitzel. There was no better food in the world than wiener schnitzel.
After dinner they would share a dark beer and then return to their tiny room where she would work with him on his school studies. When that was done they would most often read aloud to each other from one of the entertaining books he would bring home from the library.
When the time came to go to bed they had a well-practiced procedure. She would go to the corner of the room where the water closet was and draw the curtain that provided some privacy. There she would dress in her sleeping gown. Then while Kleinhans changed into his nightshirt behind the curtain she would get in bed. On this evening she noted he had not drawn the curtain all the way. She should have told him but instead she watched. What she saw showed her that she could no longer in truth call him Kleinhans. Her fifteen-year-old son had grown beyond the little stage.
Seeing what she did only rekindled her inner most desires and she wondered how she could sleep in the same bed with her son who had become a man instead of a boy. Yes the bed was too small that night. It was all her fault. She had lain there beside him and thought about her son who was now a young man. She had thought of the pleasures he could give a woman. Those thoughts only heated her soul. Those thoughts caused her to think irrationally and before she could stop herself she had felt for his manhood.
Once started there was no stopping. She had longed for the touch of a man for years and he gave to her what she gave to him.
They never talked about it but nearly every night for several months they would go to bed like they had for several years and then after the lights were out they would connect. They would then do the unspeakable for a mother and son.