INT: So Saskia you were telling us about what you discovered after your mother passed away.
ST: In the documents in her box I discovered in a medical document that it said that she’d had 2 pregnancies, two normal pregnancies, one in 1945 and one in 1954. The first child died in infancy. And then suddenly, I was obviously distraught at finding this out, things started to make sense because I couldn’t figure out why she would want to go back to her stepmother. And I think it was because she was pregnant. She obviously didn’t know what to do or where to go. And if the baby died in infancy maybe that’s why she waited so long in that camp. Maybe she couldn’t go without the child, and it was only after it had died that she eventually managed to, you know, to leave and go to the west. The thing that struck me most though was that she hadn’t been able to tell me about this. There was obviously a lot of shame involved in this, and the fact that I was illegitimate was shame enough so why couldn’t she have told me about that? And then I wondered, well, whose baby was it? Had she been raped? And was that even more shameful that she couldn’t tell me about it? She said that she’d had a friend and there was always talk of them getting married but his mother wouldn’t, didn’t encourage it, and anyway she couldn’t have married him at that point because the law was that if you were Jewish you couldn’t marry a non Jew. And she said ‘he stood by her’ that was the phrase that she used, but eventually they took him off to the western front and she never saw him again. So the only thing I can think is that because he was mixing with somebody of the wrong sort he was eventually taken away.
INT: So do you think this affair… it sounds like a love affair took place when she was still a slave labourer?
ST: The timing’s odd.
INT: Yes that’s what I am thinking.
ST: But so I am thinking if it was at the end of, there’s no date, if it was the end of ’45, then she could have been raped when the Russians were coming, she hated the Russians. One of the comments she’d made was, maybe I shouldn’t say this, was that ‘the Russians, the men were awful, they took women 3 or 4, 5 times a night’ which is a strange, strange sentence for anyone to utter. I didn’t know whether she was referring to Freiwaldau Camp, because I’m sure there must have been Russians there, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had raped the women there. It took a long time for me to get to grips with the fact that she hadn’t told me that for whatever reason. But I think I realized that there was a lot of shame, my mother must have felt a lot of shame in her life, not belonging to any particular group, shunted back and forth, being labeled and so on.
INT: She must have been very, very proud of you
ST: Yes well that was another burden. That was a bit of a burden because I felt like I was never quite capable of fulfilling all those dreams that she had for me. I was very interested in drama, oh yes I was going to be the next great film star, I’d think I could fill that role and I was going to do this and I could go to university but I couldn’t quite manage that. It was a big burden having all those dreams placed on my shoulders.
INT: She was around when your children where born?
INT: And did you find that there was a different relationship between her and her grandchildren? Or do you think she had the same high expectations?
ST: My mother was extremely good with children, you could see why she had become a sort of governess. She had this great rapport with the boys, of course nothing was ever discussed it was just a, just a grandmother relationship.
INT: Which is lovely, which is lovely.
ST: And it was limited because she still lived in England at that point. The great thing was, when we moved her up and got her a little flat so she could be independent, although she only had 6 months in it, was the fact that the kids could go after school and get to know her as a person. It was a good time.
INT: It would be a lovely time actually
INT: Saskia, thank you very much, and we very much enjoyed talking to you.
INT: Thank you.
ST: Thank you.
Saskia Tepe’s Blog provides some further background to the book “Surviving Brigitte’s Secrets: A holocaust Survivor. Her Daughter. Two Traumatic Journeys.” Not already included in her interview.
It also describes the twists and turns of the process of becoming accepted for publication by Authorway Ltd. It will be available for download as an e-book by the end of February/beginning of March, and as a paperback a couple of months later. It will be available on a world-wide basis.