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On the Other Side: Letters to My Children from Germany 1940 -46 (original 1979; edition 2007)

by Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg, Christopher Beauman (Introduction)

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Member:LizzySiddal
Title:On the Other Side: Letters to My Children from Germany 1940 -46
Authors:Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg
Other authors:Christopher Beauman (Introduction)
Info:Persephone Books Ltd (2007), Paperback, 232 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
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On the Other Side: Letters to My Children from Germany, 1940-1945 by Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg (1979)

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Persephone Book No. 75, On the Other Side: Letters to my Children from Germany 1940-46 by Mathilde Wolff-Mönckeberg, are letters written (but never posted) by a 60 year-old woman, to her children living abroad, about the experience of living in Hamburg during the war. Discovered in a drawer in the 1970s, they were translated by her daughter, the late Ruth Evans, and first published in England and Germany in 1979.

The first thing that came to mind while I was reading these letters, was how easily "Tilli" could have been writing about Britain. The shortages, the cold, the bombings and shelters were as dreadful for ordinary people in Germany as they were for the people suffering in Britain. It was intersting to hear all of this from a Germam perspective. "Tilli" was no supporter of Hitler - quite the reverse, and I think it is easy to forget that there must have been many thousands of people who detested everything he, and the Nazi party stood for. What comes out strongly in these letters however is "Tilli's" love for her family, her children, her sisters, her husband, and numerous other people we hear about in her wonderfully lively letters. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Jul 13, 2009 |
Letters written (but never posted) by a 60 year-old woman, to her children living abroad, about the experience of living in Hamburg during the war. Discovered in a drawer in the 1970s, they were translated by her daughter, the late Ruth Evans, and first published in England and Germany in 1979. They were serialised on `Woman's Hour' and in the Observer and a television documentary about the book, with Margaret Tyzack acting `Tilli' and many original newsreel shots of a devastated Hamburg, was shown in the autumn of 1979. The Preface, which fills in the background, is by Ruth Evans and the Afterword, which sets the letters in the context of recent controversies about the Allied bombing of German cities, is by Christopher Beauman.

Tilli Wolff-Mönckeberg was the daughter of a lawyer who later became Lord Mayor. She was intelligent and well-educated but married very young and had five children. Unusually for the time, she and her husband separated during the First World War and Tilli returned to Hamburg, did some translating and took in lodgers. In 1925 she married a Professor of English who later became Rector of Hamburg University. By the time the letters begin, therefore, in October 1940, her personal life is slightly complicated, with her children living in far- flung places - her youngest daughter Ruth is living in Wales - and her Hamburg relations are slightly disapproving of her unconventional personal life. They would have been even more disapproving if they had known that Tilli was keeping what was in effect a diary: the discovery of the letters would certainly have resulted in her and her husband's arrest. In the first one she writes, about the events leading up to the war, that the German people were led to believe that they had been wantonly attacked but `in truth this whole campaign had been planned long ago, the Führer's blind lust for conquest, his megalomania being the driving force.' She adds, `for me nothing was more devastating than the fact that nobody... stood up against this, but remained passive and weak.'

It is an evocation of daily life in Hamburg during the war years and immediately afterwards (the months after May 1945 make up a third of the book, partly because it was easier to write without the constant threat of bombing and partly because there was no danger in writing). `If you want to know what it was like to be a civilian in wartime Germany you must read this marvellous book' wrote Timothy Garton Ash in the Spectator in 1979, going on to add: `The letters document the terrible suffering caused to the German civil population by Allied bombing. It is difficult to read these pages without feeling that this kind of bombing was worse than a mistake' (the issues covered in the Afterword). However, this is not a harrowing book, it is gentle and domestic, human and humane - and Tilli did survive.
  antimuzak | Dec 25, 2007 |
1540 On the Other Side To My Children From Germany 1940-1945, by Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg translated and edited by Ruth Evans (read 25 Nov 1979)

When I read this book I said to myself: "I have just finished reading an extremely moving and well-edited book of letters written but not sent by a German woman to her children from 1940 to 1945. I was tremendously caught up in this so personal glimpse into German life. Actually, things seemed to get worse as far as privation was concerned after the war ended--but at least the bombing was over. The author of the letters did not do anything particularly: she even had a maid-cook at all times. Her husband was a teacher, and after the war Rector of the Universtiy at Hamburg. This was an extremely engrossing book, and I am grateful that the daughter of the author caused it to be published. ( )
  Schmerguls | Aug 5, 2007 |
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10 October 1940
My beloved far-away children, everything I was not able to tell you in my letters during the first year of the war, was not allowed to say, because the censor waited only for an incautious word in order to stop a message from getting through to you, all this I will now put down on paper under the title 'Letters that never reached them'; so that much later perhaps you will know what really happened, what we really felt like and why I had to reassure you repeatedly that the 'organisation'was marvellous, that we were in the best of health and full of confidence.
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