My grandmother surrounded by her family
My grandmother surrounded by her family
My great grandmother surrounded by her family

When I was little, I was very lucky to have a great-grandma in Jarmen.

Her name was Betty and she only spoke “plattdeutsch” to me. A language spoken in the north of Germany.

She lived in a 1 bedroom apartment on Demminer Strasse, which is the main street that meanders through this small town in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It had neither a toilet, nor a bathroom, nor a washing machine, nor a telephone, nor central heating. The loo, which consisted of a row of 3 different black wooden outdoor privies, was in the backyard. …

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Anna Deichmann — a tyskerjente and inspiration to the main character of a norwegian novel.

A few years ago the Norwegian author Trude Teige wrote a book called “Mormor danset i regnet”. This book´s storyline deals with the treatment and situation of the Norwegian “tyskerjentene” in Norway in the 1940s. During her research for this book Trude met Anna Deichmann, one of the few “tyskerjentene” who were still alive.

Since Anna’s story moved me very much when I heard it for the first time, I would like to share it with you here. …

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“Do you also wear these traditional costumes? What’s are they called again?”, Kate (American) asked me when we met for the first time. Kate is my work colleague and has lived here in Norway for a long time. She will become one of my best friends in the years to come.

“You mean dirndl?” I answer. “No, I haven’t, I’ve never had anything like that. Only people in southern Germany wear that.”

“Okay. I always thought that was so typical for Germany”.

“I love Germany, you know. I’ve driven through it with my children several times. The trains are wonderful. The “German Autobahn”! I was in Munich then. Oh man, the beer gardens, the beer! And everything is so cheap and clean. The food. Delicious. …

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Trude Teige — The norwegian author of the Demmin novel

Since the beginning of this journey to have this book translated I have always wondered how Trude had come across my home town Demmin, that little place in the north-east of Germany. How did the Demmin book actually come about? Did Thekla and June really exist? Was Trude ever in Demmin?

In the last years, I have had the opportunity to ask Trude herself exactly these questions several times and took many notes in between. I now want to share this background information to the novel, as I felt it might inspire you just as much as it captivated me.

But we should take a step backwards, because Trude came across Demmin more or less by chance, almost how I found her book in 2018. …

One of the biggest mass suicides ever happened in Demmin, a small town in the North East of Germany. It became known as the «Tragedy of Demmin» in which thousands took their own lives and that of their children — until this very day this dark history influences the people in Demmin and this town in a very special manner.

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Russians discovering some of the locals in Demmin that had committed suicide.

The Past

Between April 30, 1945, the day Hitler committed suicide, and May 3, 1945, more than 1,000 people in Demmin (estimates reach up to 2,500) decided to take their own lives. They used poison or gas, hanged themselves and their children, or shot each other. Women tied their children around their bodies and walked, burdened by stones, into the nearby rivers of the Peene, the Tollense or the Schwanensee (Swan Lake) in the center of Demmin. They took this for us now unimaginable decision to escape the fast approaching Russian troops coming from the East and to flee from their dreaded and feared tortures and rapes. But that was not their only reason, as with the end of the German Reich and the death of Hitler, many people saw no reason to continue living with their family in a Germany governed by the French, Americans or Russians. …

My meeting with Trude Teige in Bergen, Norway. The author of the novel “Mormor danset i regnet” (“Granny danced in the rain”)

I left early. It was a Monday and I had taken the day off work today, especially for this occasion. The plan of driving from Balestrand over the Vikafjell to Bergen, I had to discard in the evening. Wind speeds of 10 m/s were predicted. That means in the winter months to strictly avoid Vikafjell. In particular this year, as it was one of the snowiest in a long time. …

Sometimes it seems like fate, chains of coincidences that stop you to let go of a topic. Those moments you suddenly find it everywhere and nowhere — in a book, in the stories of your family, when talking to friends and now even in a movie.

Albeit very briefly, I was in Demmin for a few days in March. Without having planned it directly, an excerpt from my article “Granny danced in the rain” was printed in the local press on the day of my arrival. The many comments and interesting conversations that I had subsequently with my family and friends strengthened my belief that this topic has still not lost its relevance. …

It all started with Google. In fact, with, the Norwegian version of the search engine. Often to my frustration, Google and its results change automatically based on the location you are in. This time however, I intentionally used this search setting out of pure curiosity and typed in: “Demmin”.

To those of you who have never heard of that name before, “Demmin” is a small city in the North-East of Germany and it is also the place I was born, the place that my family is from and that I call “Heimat”.

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Clara Zetkin Strasse in Demmin

And, to my utter surprise, I found a book. A Norwegian book, written by the Norwegian author Trude Teige called ‘Mormor danset i renget’— “Granny danced in the rain”. A family and love story that spans across decades and European borders. It combines Norway’s gruesome history around the “tyskerjentene” with the dark days of the mass suicide in Demmin around May 1945. The month when the Russians arrived from the east and took revenge on the German population. …


Katharina Kalettka

Born in Demmin, Germany | lives in Norway | Norway WW2 stories | Genealogy | POW Crossville | researching events in 1940s Berlin for a documentary | my memories

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