Coming back from Stuttgart was not easy for me. What would my parents say? After all, they collected a whole year’s pay in advance and I had only worked six months. In reality I didn’t care. I didn’t ask to be enslaved. It didn’t matter what they did to me, I would not go back to the Schatz family.
“Good for nothing!” Is what they called me when I returned home. I never actually knew what the letter said and they didn’t ask me anything.
My mother informed me I had to go to work somewhere else right away. My father would find that work. Several days later I started working in an auto parts factory. I worked on the piecework line. There were only a few women working in that department and we were kept busy keeping the guy’s hands away from us.
Every morning at 5:30 the company bus made its rounds and picked up the workers. The bus was usually full by the time it reached me. Seldom did I make it to the back of the bus without being touched by one of those pigs. It was the same nightmare everyday I went to work. I felt so helpless, especially against their dirty remarks and filthy stares.
If I said something to defend myself, I became the center of attention and they had fun embarrassing me. Then I was given a lecture that men ran the world. That man allowed women to work. Because of that, women were big headed and believed they had a right to voice their opinions. The harassment continued after we arrived at the factory. The foreman made sure he found a reason to advise me, then I had to go with him to his office where he intimidated and pawed me.
I noticed one of the young men from another department watching me. One day he asked if I would like to spend my lunchtime with him. I was glad to because I’d had enough harassment throughout the day. After a few days I felt safe around him and started to develop some confidence. It also took away some of the fear of my having to go to work everyday. We started dating and after several months he asked me to marry him.
I told him about my life and my father, but he insisted on asking him for my hand. My father embarrassed me by calling him a low class laborer right in front of him and threw him out of the house. I was told never to see him again.
We continued to see each other anyway, except on Sundays.
Whenever I told him what was going on at home he said, “You have to get out of there.”
“But how? I asked.
“Do you know how to make babies?”
“Why do you ask me?”
He explained if I got pregnant my father would have to let us get married. “This,” he said, “Is the only way I know.”
“As long as I’m not twenty-one I need my father’s permission for everything.”
My first paycheck was nothing but a receipt with my mother’s signature on it. She had picked up the paycheck in advance without telling me. This went on for months. One day I fainted during lunch and was taken to the hospital. I was suffering from malnutrition and consequently, was too weak for hard work. As a result, I was fired.
My parents were not intimidated at all. Two days later they enslaved me in a hotel kitchen peeling potatoes and washing dishes. Again, my paycheck was nothing more than a receipt.
One Sunday afternoon my mother told me we were going to have a very important visitor. She was speaking about a man who had been there before. I wondered why all of a sudden he was so important. She had me get dressed up, like a young lady. She even bought me lipstick. I knew then, why. I was meant to be shown off.
After serving coffee mother asked me, “Would you like to have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake with us?”
I must have worn a look of total surprise. I had never been allowed to have coffee at home before. Nobody, except my father was authorized to have such a luxury. Yet, my mother dominated the conversation by mentioning my skills in business and all the many other qualifications I possessed, especially how flexible I was.
She was selling me like a piece of meat, like a slave. It was my father that delivered the icing on the cake when he brought out his violin and I had to sing. It was always the same song he used to impress people because I had to hit high C many times and in two different octaves. That day I prayed, Dear Lord, I hate my voice please take it from me.
I learned I had to marry the man, and I wasn’t yet sixteen. My feelings were indescribable at that moment, but I kept a smile on my face. Not this time! I thought, you made a deal without me!
After he left father said that the man had the money to associate with the right kind of people and I would have a perfect place in society. My mother tried to comfort me by saying, “I know he is sixty-five, but you won’t be married too long. He has liver cancer and you will inherit everything when he dies. If you are a good wife for a couple of months all of us will benefit.”
That night, I couldn’t sleep.
I lay awake trying to decide what to do. To avoid marrying the man I would have to leave the house forever.
I left the house at 5 a.m. Monday morning while everyone slept. I hitchhiked to my boyfriend’s house. When I got there his car was gone and I knew he had already left for work. It wasn’t that much farther so I walked. I told the guard at the gate to tell my boyfriend it was an emergency.
He came right out. “I took the day off, what is going on?”
“I will tell you when we are away from here,” I said.
He took me to his parent’s house. It was the first time I had met them and they welcomed me into their home. We sat in the kitchen and I told him what had happened over the weekend.
“We have to get married,” he said. “We’ll make sure your father has to say yes. The only way is you have to get pregnant.” We spent the rest of the day making plans for our future.
Late that evening he asked me to come to his bed. When I hesitated for a moment he asked, “Don’t you want a baby?”
I finally realized what was happening. Yet, I refused to accept the fact that making babies was the same act as what Lutz had done to me. It was about four in the morning when he asked, “How come you are not a virgin anymore?”
I did not know how to answer his question. He kept asking, “With whom did you have sex before we met?”
I couldn’t tell him that it was my half-brother. And when I did not answer he started yelling and calling me names. “You lied to me; I thought you were different than the other girls. I will never marry a slut like you.” As he ran out of the house he yelled, “Go, I don’t want to see you anymore.”
I went numb. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go back home. I really felt like my life wasn’t worth much. I left his house and walked through town.
I hitchhiked back to Harburg and immediately went up to the castle. I sat there for hours thinking about my life. I realized I was too young to do anything except commit suicide. I had my little scissors in my handbag and tried to open the vein on my left wrist. Even that didn’t work, the blood soon stopped. I felt as if I couldn’t do anything right. A few more hours and I decided to run away.
I hitchhiked throughout Germany for a month until I met Barbara who invited me to live with her. She helped me get a job as a waitress. I had worked a couple of weeks and started losing weight. I weighed 79 pounds. I realized how sick I really was and needed to see a doctor.
I didn’t know any doctor and went to the police for help. After I told them my story they transferred me to the police back in the town where my parents lived. I had to repeat the story to them and to the Child Protection Department. After a few hours of waiting a lady told me she couldn’t help me, that I would have to go back home.
“Your parents are already here to pick you up.” She said she talked to them and my father told her I would always make up horrible stories to get attention. “Is it true?” She asked.
“What do I have to do so you will believe me? If you send me home I will run away again, or find another way.”
The lady seemed concerned enough to ask what I meant. I told her I was ready to steal or even to kill my father. I would rather go to prison than to go back home. That seemed to be enough for her. She promised I wouldn’t have to go home.
The next day I was taken to another town and put in a house where many young girls lived. Most of them were pregnant. Two days later I was taken to the hospital for surgery. When I returned one of the girls explained I had a tubular pregnancy.
Four months later I got a chance to enter tailor school, which would take three years. It was not really what I wanted to do with my life, but it was three years away from my family. So I took the test and qualified to get in. I was one of fourteen apprentices who graduated as the best in that class. Every year we had a test, and after my second year, my senior master said she would recommend me for an earlier graduation.
In the meantime the psoriasis became so extreme that I ended up in the hospital for six weeks. First, I worried about how much time I would miss from school, but the teacher said she had the confidence I would make it anyway. When I did return the Chamber of Industry and Commerce informed me, in a letter that I was allowed to enter the finals eight months early. I graduated as the best in the practical part in a class of 140 girls.
Years later I realized that I had the same rights as others. Slowly, I gained the knowledge I needed to recognize what I had lived through was wrong. I unlearned the old patterns and began a new way of life. I began to gain confidence to defend myself against someone else’s aggressiveness.