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George L. Mosse on his Berlin Childhood in the Last Years of the Weimar Republic (Retrospective Account, 2000)

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The Schenkendorf manor house itself I never found especially attractive, though it had a large hall at its center around which, on a gallery, some eight bedrooms intended for guests were grouped. My father had each of these rooms equipped with a private bathroom, an unheard-of luxury at the time. The two drawing rooms (red and green) were downstairs, as was the dining room, together with my mother’s suite and a so-called winter garden off the great hall, leading to the large terrace with its view over a wide lawn toward a small lake.

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The servants were a necessary and integral part of this opulent lifestyle. The house in Berlin and the one in Schenkendorf were maintained by some five or six servants each, including cook and butler, my mother’s personal maid, various chambermaids, and a kitchen maid. The story is told that in Berlin my father once met on the stairway of our house a woman whom he had never seen before, and in answering his astonished question of who she was and what she was doing there, she said that she was the kitchen maid. Our relations with at least some of the servants must have been very close; they were in any case far from hostile, as class-based theory would have had it. Whatever was saved of the contents of our houses was due to the actions of loyal servants, who rescued valuables, including tapestries and some furniture, from under the very eyes of the police who had confiscated our property after our flight into exile. Some of these possessions followed us halfway around the world; they eventually turned up when my father and stepmother lived in California. But as the pleasant was often mixed with the bizarre during the first years of exile, the loyal concierge of the Berlin house had packed among the Medici tapestries and Empire chairs a whole suitcase full of enema bags of the large old-fashioned kind. Perhaps she was afraid of what strange American food might do to our health.

Source: George L. Mosse, Confronting History: A Memoir. With a Foreword by Walter Laqueur. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000, pp. 7-16.

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