War & Education

The war

Historical events before and during the Second World War are only sporadically mentioned. There is not a word about the introduction of the racial laws against the Jews, the 'Anschluss' of Austria, the German invasion of the Netherlands, the war effort and the bombing of Rotterdam. The children and their seemingly everyday lives are the subject of the letters. Fear of the war or of what is to come appears only once.

"Seit 2 Wochen leben wir ein Leben, der ständigen Beunruhigung man tut sein Tagewerk immer in der Angst vor irgend einem aufregenden Ereignis oder einer neuen Nachricht, die unser ganzes Leben umwerfen kann." Gerda writes on 20 March 1938, when Felix is away from home for some time on business. The 'Anschluss' of Austria to Hitler-Germany has just taken place and Gerda fears that the danger will come to Karlsbad. Shortly afterwards the family flees to the Netherlands.

On May 4, 1940, Felix writes another Drillingsbericht, but after the German invasion on May 10, 1940, it remains quiet for a while on Felix's side. Only two months later, on July 8, 1940, he wrote another Drillingsbericht. He wanted to resume writing about the children. And what happened in the weeks between the letters, he writes, he will tell in calmer times.

The education

Of course, the focus of the Drillingsberichte was already on the children, but after the letter of 8 July 1940, this attention is strengthened, and shifts from describing the growing up of the children to describing their learning process. Where he first describes that they have grown, can walk and talk, he now describes how they learn. Felix throws himself wholeheartedly into his role as a teacher. Beate, Helli and Maria are taught at home, because Jewish children are no longer allowed to go to school due to Nazi rules. He not only taught writing, reading and arithmetic, but also religion, history and geography. He told stories himself, but also drew on great works of literature for his narration. Felix writes, for example, that while washing the dishes he told his daughters the entire Nibelungentrilogie in the version of the composer Richard Wagner. This way, they also become familiar with the Gudrun passage and the Lorelei, among other things. The children are creative and inspired by the stories, and in early 1943, they each write their own fairy tale.

The young children have much to learn. Beate, for example, starts to learn French with Omi in early 1942 (she is only eight then). And by the end of 1941 Felix was already playing with the idea of introducing Beate to Hebrew, although he expected this would be difficult. By now the girls had mastered the Dutch language so well that they had difficulty with certain sounds from their original German mother tongue. For example, they have difficulty with the 'sch' in German (a German sound that generally causes problems for many Dutch people).