Why My Father Stopped Speaking German

waterhorse By waterhorse, 20th Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Family

A daughter remembers her father and tells of his childhood during the war.

The funeral

At the funeral it was said that my Dad didn't like speaking German. This was true. He understood it, could tell you the word for anything in German, could read it, but would never speak it.

Family history

My Dad spent three years in Germany from age two to age five. His parents sent him and his sister to Germany because it was the Depression and they couldn't afford to feed their two children. He and his sister, who was a year younger, went by boat with their father to Germany to their grandmother's house. Their father stayed for a few weeks, then left. Dad and his sister Anna, who were one and two years of age stayed. This was right before the start of WWII. In time my father and his sister came to believe that their grandmother was their mother. They learned how to speak German, of course, and memories of their lives in the U.S. faded. They were, after all, just toddlers.

Little soldiers

My father started Kindergarten. He didn't like school very much because even though there was play time there were also some very strict rules.

Dad and my aunt Anna were taught along with other little children how to march and salute. They were given flags with strange pictures on them. Germany was changing.

Back to America

Meanwhile back in the States, Grandma got some shocking news. She was pregnant. She and Grandpa were not any more well off then before she sent her kids to Germany. However, since they were having a new child, they decided to send for the other two.

For my Dad and his sister Anna, it couldn't have come at a better time. Things were getting worse in Germany with Hitler's rise to power. My Great Grandma took the two children, ages 4 and 5 on a boat back to the U.S.

Living with strangers

When Great grandma, Dad and Aunt Anna got to the house in Brooklyn, they were introduced to their mom and dad. As far as the children were concerned they were strangers. Great grandma stayed for a few weeks, then went back to Germany.

As upsetting as this must have been for Dad and his sister, it only got worse. They were in a strange country with a strange language and my Dad had to start school again.

Growing up

Gradually my dad taught himself English. His parents spoke very little English and the language spoken at home was always German.

During the war and especially when the U.S. got involved, many Americans showed their dislike of Germans. My father was teased by his peers at school. He hated being German. One day he came home and said to his father, "From now on we won't speak German. Only English!"

My father did not speak German from that day on.

Dad's name was legally "Adrian" because with my grandmother's accent, the American nurse thought she said Adrian when she actually said Edwin. Dad had the name legally changed to Edwin Charles instead of Adrian Karl when he joined the navy.

I will always remember my Dad as being a strong athletic man who loved sports and was very competitive. That's why his battle with Parkinson's Disease was so tragic to me. It made him the opposite of what he always had been. But even though he was not strong physically, he was still the gentle loving person he had always been. He loved his family very much. I know he is at peace now and I am happy because I know he is.


Elderly, Elderly Relative, Family History, Family Love, Family Members, Family Relationships, Father, Father And Daughter, German, German Language, Germany, Parent, Parent And Kids, Parents, World War Ii

Meet the author

author avatar waterhorse
I am a middle aged woman recently engaged with a BA in Human Services. My passion is writing. I have a Storytelling Group on Facebook with 48 members. I write about philosophy and psychology mostly.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
20th Nov 2013 (#)

Life takes strange turns at times but the experiences strengthen our resolve to survive - siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
21st Nov 2013 (#)

My mother was in Germany during the war as well. When she returned to the states and public school, sometimes she used a German word instead of an English one. For this, she was often punished. Now she speaks very little German. I'm sad to have missed this part of my heritage because of bigotry and failure to understand. I think that's why I enjoy ESL classes when I get a chance to teach them. I can't help my mother as a little girl, but I can help others. Thanks for the memory and sharing your story.

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author avatar Michelle Stanley
21st Nov 2013 (#)

Wonderfully told. A bit of the past being brought to light in the future, and you told it nicely. I'm sure others reading this can relate to similar family experiences too. Michelle

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author avatar waterhorse
21st Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments.

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author avatar vpaulose
21st Nov 2013 (#)

Nice post dear. Thank you .

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author avatar Mariah
22nd Nov 2013 (#)

Very interesting and emotional story waterhorse, beautifully written

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author avatar waterhorse
22nd Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you so much, Mariah and vpaulose

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author avatar Ptrikha
15th May 2014 (#)

At times, wars creates conditions for discrimination and common citizens suffer for the excesses of those who rule them.

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