Continued from Rapprochement and disappointment
Norah’s health wavered between bouts of depression and increasing joint pain. Throughout the upheavals between Yry and her father, Norah maintained contact with her daughter. Sometimes she’d call Yry and plead with her to come home, but Yry resisted. Occasionally, however, she stopped by her parents’ flat with a few bags of groceries when she knew her father was away. While doing loads of laundry, she and her mother chatted, cautiously skirting the topic of Herman.
Yry took up sewing, thinking perhaps of breaking into dressmaking and fashion design. Most of her clothes were hand sewn, even her coats and hats. And she continued to fill notebooks with poems and stories in which she was the protagonist with a made-up name. She read books from a broad assortment of topics and authors, copying particularly noteworthy quotations into her notebooks.
The years crawled by. She had a handful of new friends now, but most were married with husbands and children. Playing with her friends’ kids and sewing charming outfits for them stirred a soup of desire for a family of her own.
Animosity between her and her father gradually dissipated. She began arriving in the afternoon and staying into the evening, cooking dinner for her parents. Herman’s frequent travel gave the women time to comfort each other.
Meanwhile, letters arrived from both English and German cousins that spoke of difficult times: political unrest, long lines to buy essentials, exponential inflation, and ugly rhetoric about Aryan superiority. Yry spent Independence Day in 1935 seeing her father off on a ship that would take him to Amsterdam for a visit with his brother. Herman hoped to convince Willy to leave Germany and join them here in America.
Several months later Herman returned from Europe with a heavy heart. Staring vacantly out the window at the Hudson River as it pushed toward the Atlantic bearing the wealth of a nation, he spoke of the poverty, the turmoil, the broken spirits of his countrymen. Two years into his Chancellorship, Hitler was replacing the fledgling German Democracy with his vision of the Deutsches Reich which centralized power not just with his party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, but with Hitler himself as the grand leader of the “new power in the world.” Stirring up nationalism by casting liberals, revolutionaries, and Jews as the reason for the country’s woes, anti-Semitism had swept the country into a maelstrom of hate crimes and sanctioned gangs that terrorized Jews and outsiders. In violation of the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler was rebuilding a military force and stripping wide swaths of people, mostly Jews, of their citizenship. Germans were turning on one another like cocks in a pen, looking for any chance to rat out a neighbor, or even sometimes a family member, for suspicious activity—and the most mundane behavior could look suspicious given the right spin. Journalists and jurists alike lost their jobs and their livelihoods if they failed to follow the party line. The press delivered Hitler’s message inside and outside of the country.
In spite of all that was happening, Herman’s brother was still firmly attached to German soil. Willy was adamant that he and Nelly could not and would not leave her aging parents to weather the chaos alone.