, , ,

Continued from After the War: Darmstadt to Mainz

The Treaty of Versailles obligated Germany to pay reparations to the Allied countries for material damage and loss resulting from the war. These hefty payments decimated the economy and caused rocketing inflation. In urban areas, food supplies were spotty and unreliable. Fresh vegetables and dairy products were dearest of all. Though she was a spirited child with a curious and quick mind, Yry was a thin and pale ten-year-old. It was difficult to get good, healthy food. A week’s worth of earnings barely covered a quart of buttermilk, a rare commodity which Herman hoped would plump up his puny little girl. His sacrifice was met by a long nose and wrinkled lips as she struggled to choke down the detested sour concoction.

Schools were also in disarray. Herman was convinced that no German school could provide an adequate education for his little Girlie, as he’d taken to calling her. He’d hired a few private tutors to supplement the lessons that he and Norah pressed upon her, but he could no longer put off her formal education. The French Occupation of Germany had resulted in an influx of French civilians, along with their families. Elite French schools bloomed to educate the children of the occupation. Ever resourceful, Herman finagled to enroll Yry in one of these highly recommended French schools.

During this period, Herman was employed by a German businessman. He and his wife, Elise, were frequent dinner guests at the house on Ritterstrasse. They had no children of their own. Elise adored Yry. Although she was not that much younger than Norah, Elise delighted in getting down on the floor to play games with Yry. She sensed that in that house filled with preoccupied and stern parents, the child was lonely.

Yry’s mother was mentally and emotionally exhausted. The war had taken its toll. And she felt the ever-present burden of trying to maintain a household as she felt it should be kept, despite the financial strain. And, like Yry, she dealt with the isolation that comes with immersion in customs and expectations that differed from her own—something that can be exciting—until the longing for family and the familiar sets in. Aside from overseeing her daughter’s lessons Norah spent little with her child. So when Elise offered to take Yry on outings to the park or for walks in the woods, Norah practically sighed with relief. Yry returned Elise’s admiration with unabashed joy. She loved this beautiful, fun-loving woman with her abundance of energy and kindness.