Tue recht und scheue niemand - Das Leben der Gerda Siepebrink (1975) - full transcript

"Do right and fear no one. The Life of
Gerda Siepenbrink" by Jutta Brückner

was first broadcast
on 20 November 1975 on ZDF

and screened at the International Forum
of Young Cinema in 1978

as part of the Berlinale.

In 2016 ARRI Media
digitised the film in 2K resolution

on behalf of the Deutsche Kinemathek.

Only parts of the 16mm camera original
negative have been preserved.

The missing scenes
were taken from the ZDF's master copy.

This was funded by the Federal
Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

You want me to tell you my life story?
Why would that interest you?

When I look back on it all today,

I feel like I missed out
on all the important things in life.

You only realise how to live
when it's too late.


Georg is always telling me

that I spend too much time
thinking about the past,

and I should appreciate
what we have now.

And we've achieved a lot.

But I often feel down
and don't even know why.

Why I'm so scared, when we have
such a lovely house

and no financial worries.

But maybe the fear
is my mother's nightmare.

Because my mother was always scared,
as long as I can remember.

Since the moment
my father fell off a ladder

and was taken to hospital.

It hit my mother really hard.

She went straight to the hospital

and sat by his bed for two days.

And my brother
and the twins were with her too.

But I had to stay at home.
I was still very young.

My father was then
laid out in the parlour

and all of our relatives
came to the funeral.

They were all rich farmers.

They paid a pittance for all the land
that was part of my father's inheritance.

They told my mother,
"You shouldn't have the land

if you can't cultivate it".

That's what they thought.

My mother used the money
she got from the land

to buy a first class burial vault
for the entire family.

It's hard to imagine it today,

but she had this idea
that she'd bury all of her children

and then she would join them.

She was so desperate.

She didn't know
how to go on living alone.

She wanted to spare us all the misery.

Her family was her sanctuary

and she wanted to care for us,

protect us
and make sure nothing could harm us.

The lengths you go to for your children!

There she was, left with four children
and a pension of 106 marks.

The accident and orphan's pension,
and then inflation on top of that.

That was in...


The lawyers say,
"We are sorry for this woman,

but the factory relief fund
is a voluntary payment.

And there is no way to force the factory
to pay more than the approved rate.

Pastor, we believe this family
should be granted poor relief."

The pastor and the Presbyterians say,

"Women who have served
in respectable houses

lack much of the crude character
and customs

so common among the lower classes.

This woman is an example of such a case,
and we can only ease her suffering.

We ask you to reconsider your position
as the factory's representative."

The director says, "Any act of charity
would encourage my workers

to neglect the safety precautions
just as Mr Siepenbrink did."

His wife says,

"One of the children
gets a free meal once a week

and can take some food home
for her siblings."


The landlord asks her to leave the flat
because she can't afford the rent.

But he organises a cheap attic flat
in his brother's house

with the water supply in the cellar.

The baker employs her eldest son
to sweep the shop and deliver the bread

in return for enough bread
to feed all his siblings.

The local grocer offers to pay her
to clean his shop.

To his surprise, she declines,

because she doesn't want her children
to have a cleaner for a mother.

Her neighbour gives her fruit
and vegetables from her garden.

In return, the girls look after
the neighbour's three small children.

The other neighbour asks them
to embroider her daughter's trousseau

in return
for her daughter's old clothes.


No, living off welfare would have been
unthinkable for my mother.

Back then, people had
a very different attitude to welfare.

My brother didn't
have a confirmation suit

and the pastor said he'd get one
from the welfare office.

But that was
out of the question for my mother.

She managed to buy him a suit in the end,
but I've no idea how.

If you got welfare,
you were practically a social outcast.

She said, "If you've fallen that low,
you've given up on yourself."

That's why she placed such value
on decorum and cleanliness.

Us girls only had one good dress,
which was washed once a week.

On that day, we had to stay at home
in patched-up clothes.

And we weren't allowed to tell anyone.


She took so much pride
in her children and their upbringing.

She'd been a maid
at the home of a rich factory owner.

She'd learned about good manners there.

This was how
she wanted to bring up her children.

She wanted to have well-behaved children
who didn't get dirty,

who were nice and quiet,

and polite and very reserved.

And helpful and obliging.

So she kept us at home a lot.

Sometimes I envied the children
who played outside,

but I had my two dolls

and my mother played with me
because my sisters were too old.

And I wasn't used to the rough tone
so many children had,

especially those with brothers.

Our family was so quiet.

Everyone was polite.

My mother didn't want us to play
with rude children:

she didn't associate with people
who were in any way unwholesome.

Our mother was a fine woman.

No, I didn't have any friends.

We didn't have birthday parties
because there wasn't enough money.

I've always been a loner.

I have no problem with being on my own.
I don't need people around me.

People used to be so meticulous.

I don't know
what other children were allowed to do.

We weren't allowed anything.

"Pupil Gerda Siepenbrink

is clean, tidy, punctual, reliable,
but still very childish and playful.

She needs to be guided
with a sympathetic yet strong hand.

"Our homeland is wonderful:
the mountains are high,

the rivers are clear,
the forests are vast,

the valleys are deep."

Gerda is a diligent girl,
with an average but adequate intelligence

who fits in everywhere with great ease.

"Our teacher has walked with us
through our wonderful homeland.

We are very grateful."

All of Gerda's female traits
are well developed.

She is adaptable, eager to learn

and her diligence and ambition
make up for her shortcomings."

"Our mother cooks at the stove.

Our father is a hard-working man.

On Sundays we all go out for a stroll."


"Save your pennies for a rainy day."

"He who needs not a penny
will never have many."

"A tree must be bent while it is young".

"First work, then play."

"Work and virtue
are the greatest riches of all."

"God's help is never far
from those most in need."

"No pain, no gain."

"Honesty is the best policy."

"A tidy house, a tidy mind."

"There is no greater wealth
than having good health."

"An adventure
is often a venture too far."

"Do right and fear no one."

We retreated from the world.

We were ashamed of being poor.

We saw it as a punishment.

So we stayed silent because
the others just wanted to snoop on us.

We didn't want anyone to know
how poor we were

because we wanted to be respected.

My mother always said,

"Keep to yourself, be good and clean
if you wish to earn respect and esteem."

Yes, I did envy other children
because they had a father.

They had a lot more freedom than we did.

We always had to make sure
we pleased everybody.

It felt like we were vulnerable.

And at home my mother ran a tight ship.

Because she didn't want
anyone to say,

"You can see they don't have a father."

The problem wasn't being poor.
Other people were too.

Sewing appliqués
onto cushions in the evening

or delivering newspapers in the morning
didn't bother me.

What bothered me was the feeling
we were excluded.

You can't imagine what it was like
for a woman to lose her husband.

All of a sudden, she was an outsider.

We were always at the local
homeland society's procession.

But now, no one invited us.

O highly esteemed Germany,

the sacred land of the faithful...

Hold firm! Hold firm!

So we meant the world to our mother
and she meant the world to us.

On Sundays, we all went for a walk,
but we avoided the crowds.

And we never stopped off anywhere.
How I'd have loved a lemonade!

It came in those lovely bottles,
which were red or green

and only cost 10 pfennigs.

But our mother didn't want to spend that.

She liked to save her money.
Always saving for a rainy day.

Even if it was so little.

Things got better
with my apprenticeship in 1931.

I was trained at a large
tailor's and handicrafts workshop.

It was very hard
because there was so much unemployment.

I remember the workshop foreman saying,
"Well, isn't she small!"

My mother replied, "Wait till you see
what an eager little thing she is!"

And then he said,

"Give me a little busy bee
over a big lazybones any day".

The manageress said,

"Contact with elegant and educated
customers has a favourable influence.

The often ungainly apprentice girls
quickly acquire good poise and manners,

cultivate their speech and appearance.

Their profession broadens their knowledge
and furthers their education.

This enables them
to climb the social ladder.

I am thoroughly satisfied with Gerda.

She is friendly and accommodating,

helpful and courteous and always pleasant
to our distinguished clientele.

And she has the prudence and ambition

necessary to advance in her career."

To get to work I had to travel
to another town and change trains once.

The train left at 7:12 in the morning.
I'll never forget that.

And I arrived just before 8.

Then I'd go and sit on a bench
in the third class waiting room.

The waiter left me in peace.

There were lots of girls
from other towns,

who were too early
to go to their shops or offices.

I'd get out my needlework immediately.
I couldn't sit idle for a second.

We had our lunchbreak from 1 to 3.

Since I couldn't go home, I'd go back
to the waiting room and sit on the bench.

Then I'd get out my lunch pail.

I'd get out my needlework again.

Then I'd watch the people
travelling on the trains.

I'd watch the rich masters getting off
the trains with their luggage.

People still said "masters" back then.

I'd watch them heading off
to the lakes or mountains.

Sometimes anger
would well up inside me.

I thought, "Why do I have to
spend my life in train stations

and toil away to earn my living?"

In my second year, I started crocheting
patterns for the collections

for the sales reps to show off at fairs
in Berlin or Leipzig.

That was money on the side

to buy myself a little something.

Meat salad or some sausage.

But I mostly used the money
to buy presents for my mother.

Every Saturday, I'd give her
a bunch of big, juicy grapes.

I used my first bonus
to buy her two porcelain figurines:

a shepherd and shepherdess.

Then I bought her a silver coffee pot

with a milk jug and a sugar bowl.

On her wedding anniversary,
she got a fox stole and a veiled hat.

Once I even gave her a shawl,
opera glasses and a little handbag.

She never used them,
but was always looking at them.

I still have those things today.

At first she told me to save the money,
but then she began to like it.

And once a week we got pastries.

Pralines and Florentine biscuits.

She loved them
and she'd ration herself:

just a small piece each day.

She'd always offer me one,
but I'd always say no.

They were just for my mother.

And for Christmas 1932,

I gave her a porcelain peacock
and a collection of porcelain angels.

A lot of people were having a hard time,
but we didn't really notice much.

My brother was unemployed,
but us girls earned a good wage.

We were so eager
and always went the extra mile,

so no one would think of letting us go.

We started to buy things:

a rug, a nice standard lamp
and a nice living room cabinet.

We kitted ourselves out with new clothes.
We were good at sewing.

We got the fabric cheaper
because my seamstress sister

sold the fabric collections of big
mail-order houses to her customers.

A lot of people
had a hard life and lived off welfare.

There was a family in our house

who had been so haughty
when our father died.

And the husband and his three sons
were now out of work.

And my mother said,

"You see? The mills of God grind slowly,
yet they grind exceedingly fine."


Well, we weren't really political people.

But I do remember what they said,

"The Führer promises work and bread."

So my unemployed brother joined the SA

because he thought
he'd get work more easily.

But after he'd been
in the SA for half a year,

he realised what it was all about
and he left pretty quickly.

But apart from that,
we had nothing to do with politics.

A lot of our neighbours
were in the SA and Nazis.

My mother was always very careful.

If we knew someone was a Nazi,
we pretended to be Nazis too,

to make sure
nothing unpleasant happened to us.

We didn't pay any attention
to what went on outside.

Our main concern was earning our money
to have a decent life.

When I wasn't working,
I was always with my mother.

Going out
to the theatre, the cinema, bars,

going dancing...
we did none of that.

Not because we had no money,
but because a respectable girl

stayed by her mother's side
for as long as she possibly could.

And my mother managed that.

She had such a strong willpower.
We didn't lack anything.

In winter, we always did our needlework.

We were always busy.

My sisters also read now and then.
"Ben Hur" and "Quo Vadis".

Reading wasn't my thing.

And on Sundays,
we went for a stroll with our mother.

I never went out with colleagues,

so I didn't really have a youth at all.

Since we didn't know what it was like,
we didn't miss anything.

Today I sometimes wonder,

"How would things have turned out
if we'd been able to live differently?"


I dance with you up to heaven above

To the seventh heaven of love...


The wishes or dreams
I had from time to time...

I repressed them.

I knew I couldn't fulfil them.

Because in our family,
everything was done together.

Being nicely dressed
was really important to all of us.

It gave you more confidence.

My mother said, "You never get a second
chance to make a first impression."

Every free moment we had,
all we did was sew,

turning old things into new
or using leftover fabric.

We never threw away anything.

Back then I fulfilled a dream
and sewed myself a blue velvet dress,

with pearls and embroidery,
and very snug-fitting.

What a lovely dress that was!

I loved that dress so much.
I'd have saved it from any fire.

I lost it in the war.

I was wearing that dress
when I met Georg.

If you're well-dressed, people see you
in a completely different light.

Society looks at you differently.


I had my sights set
on marrying an office worker.

I hadn't given any thought to marriage.
My profession made me very happy.

But if I ever did marry,
it had to be an office worker.

A labourer was out of the question.

Back then I believed that the man
had to be intellectually superior,

far superior to the woman.

She should be able to look up to him
and he should take the intellectual lead.

And another reason, of course,
was that labourers get their hands dirty.

And I saw them as tough and crude
and loud and make sleazy innuendos.

I couldn't stand men like that.

They only needed to tap me
on the shoulder and I'd stiffen up.

I'd be so cold and dismissive
that no one would dare to touch me.

I had a real dread and fear of men.

I felt they wanted something from me,
but I didn't know what.

I was scared
that they'd behave improperly towards me.

And I never thought about marriage.

I also did my best to avoid Georg

and maybe
he only had a chance with me

because he was an office worker
and spoke French.

And he was an accountant and I thought
that was a distinguished profession.

And I was so proud to be able
to go home to my mother and say,

"I've met someone
who earns a lot of money

and you don't need to worry about me.

And if I'm doing well, so are you."

It took me some time to notice
that Georg was so involved in politics.

He told me
he'd gone underground for a while

because he'd handed out pamphlets.

And his parents
did so much to help the Jews.

They took them to the Dutch border.

Whenever Georg told me about his friends
from the Red Front and the SPD and so on,

I'd forget it straight away.

I was afraid
of anything to do with politics.

And I didn't understand any of it either.

But I knew I couldn't tell my mother
or she'd have said,

"You shouldn't marry a man like that."

I chose not to see
certain things back then.

One morning, our shop windows
had been shattered to pieces

and on my way there

I kept stepping over glass
and smashed up furniture.

Two SA men in front of the shop
screamed at us,

"You should be ashamed to work
for a Jew. Be off with you now!"

So we left straight away, of course.

We hadn't seen
Mr Maier Levi for a while.

Rumour had it
that he'd gone to England.

But we actually
didn't give it much thought.

We were just happy to have the day off.

For the first time on a workday,
I went for a walk in Wuppertal.

We went to the zoo
and then to a tea dance.

But I had a bad conscience.

Because I knew I couldn't tell my mother.

... that's all I need to feel just fine

the weekend and the sunshine.

The lark flutters up in the sky

and chirps a tune as we walk by,

the birds, they sing a song divine,

the weekend and the sunshine.

No car and no road in sight,

we're all alone to our delight.

Deep in the woods, you and your guy,

the good Lord God turns a blind eye

and helps us all to feel just fine,

the weekend and the sunshine...

We toil so hard for six long days!

"But on the seventh day, you shall rest",

said the Lord God.

But on this day too,

we have plenty of work to do.

The weekend and the sunshine

out in the woods, you are all mine

that's all I need to feel just fine,

the weekend and the sunshine.

The lark flutters up in the sky

and chirps a tune as we walk by,

the birds, they sing a song divine,

the weekend and the sunshine.

No car and no road in sight,

we're all alone to our delight.

Deep in the woods, you and your guy,

the good Lord God turns a blind eye

and helps us all to feel just fine,

the weekend and the sunshine...

Now, when would that have been?

It was probably
before the war broke out, in 1939.

Georg took me with him to the Rhine.

All of his friends were out of work.
They'd get their stamp and go there.

They'd set up camp there
and spent all day by the river.

But I didn't like it.
It was such a slovenly lifestyle.

They were all really nice people, but...

I didn't like that laidback lifestyle.

Joseph Schneider tells a joke to see
if he can embarrass Gerda Siepenbrink.

One day,
the pastor's cook says to the pastor.

"Pastor, I'd like to get married."

The pastor then says, "Why do you want
to get married all of a sudden?"

"Aren't you happy here?
Don't you get everything you need?"

"Yes, but I don't get it enough!",
she said.

I went along with everything
and laughed along too,

even if I hadn't understood
what they meant.

But afterwards I said to Georg,
"You know...

I won't come along next time".

A short while later,
he picked me up from the train station

and he said to me,
"There will be a war after all.

You know what:
let's get married right away,

so at least when I'm called up,
you'll get a pension."

I didn't say yes or no,
but was deeply happy.


We got married very quickly

and a year later,
we moved into a lovely new building.

We had a bedroom suite made of elm wood.

And a kitchen-diner made of walnut.

The flat was my pride and joy.

And then a year later, Ursula was born.

And Georg and I were over the moon
because we both so wanted a girl.


And then we were a really happy family.

I always wanted just one child.

Because I wanted to give my child
everything I possibly could.

I didn't want her
to say later on in life,

"I lacked this or that."

And above all,
I wanted her to have a good profession.

I dreamed
of her becoming a lecturer one day.

She'd have a good income
and be independent.

She wouldn't need to get married then.

When she was one,
she could already speak.

And we decided
she should have piano lessons.

And Georg was just itching
to go out and buy a piano.

He hadn't been called up to serve yet.

Then all of a sudden, his uncle died.
He'd been an excellent piano player.

And we bought his piano
and put it in our bedroom.

In 1943, Georg was called up after all.

He had stomach ulcers,
so he was allocated to "homeland duties"

and went to Austria,
instead of being sent to the front.

I could follow him there with Ursula.

Georg was head of food supply,
so we were well looked after

and Ursula didn't suffer during the war.

In 1944,
he was transferred to Yugoslavia.

And we had to go home.

As I had a small child,
I wasn't conscripted to serve in the war.

A lot of women were conscripted.

They worked in munitions factories and...

and the news service or the "news front",
or whatever they called it.

Who knows. I didn't pay attention.
It didn't concern me.

Women help win the war.

The anti-tank obstacles
will allow the women to work in peace.

The men have freed the land
from every hostile threat.

Joining forces for the final victory!

Father's on leave and takes
the children to the hospital

where their mother works as a nurse.

Cheerful music gives you health,
energy and the strength to fight,

especially when Sister Ruth
spends time with her patients.



In May 1945,
Georg was released from captivity.

We moved straight back into our flat,
which was in an extremely bad state.

The doors and the windows were gone.

Thank God we could organise a van

to bring back some of our furniture,
porcelain and linen we'd stored away.

A cousin who was a carpenter
mended everything for us.

My father-in-law got us
some wallpaper to barter with.

You were lucky if you could do that.

The others were badly off.

And then things got really bad:

we were hungry and freezing.

We lived near the port
where the freight trains passed by.

They deported coal from Germany
and often stopped there for the night.

And once or twice
we went there in the morning

and stole some briquettes and coal.

Everyone did it.

But you can't imagine
how scared to death I was.

Because the police
patrolled the area on horseback.

I said to Georg,
"I can't do it anymore."

Georg couldn't do it either.

He wasn't doing well.

He had problems with his stomach
due to our poor diet.

And I was worried about Ursula too.

You can't make up for what you lack
in those first few years.

And we got so little
with our food stamps.

Your only option
was to go to a farm to barter.

But I couldn't do that.

I'm no good at bargaining.

And all I had was my trousseau.

But it wasn't worth swapping that
for a few eggs and some butter.

And then I came up with the idea
of opening a workshop in our flat.

A lot of men had come back from France
with this lovely, soft wool.

The soldiers
didn't leave a thing in that country.

And now the women wanted to use the wool.

The business really took off.

Sometimes I had up to 20 women
knitting garments for me.

But I was in charge of it all.

And because I'm so terribly precise,
it wasn't long before I was overworked.

I had bad gallbladder pains
and had to shut up shop.

We'd planted a garden in the rubble
of the house next door

and were growing vegetables and potatoes.

We had a good harvest.
And I had the money from the shop.

At least now we could
buy expensive items on the black market.

Food items like meat, butter, oil, flour.

But you had to pay good money for it.

The day after the currency reform,

the shops were packed with goods.

We'd got through the worst.

"Now things will start looking up",
I thought.

"After all, Georg has a good profession
and earns enough to give us a good life."


When the red sun
settles down over Capri...

Well, things didn't turn out
the way I'd imagined.

And for a long time,
I could only dream of all these things.

We weren't well-off at all in the 1950s.

You felt there was so much
to catch up on.

How I longed for a new living room suite.

And new beds because the old ones
had really suffered in the war.

And I'd love to have gone on holiday.

Georg was an accountant at a newspaper
and didn't earn much money.

I often felt very lonely back then.

I didn't have anyone to talk to about it.

I'd turned 40 by then.

And life was still just passing me by.

I'd had such a miserable childhood,
and then the war.

And now the reconstruction.

And I still couldn't be a part of it.

He was rarely at home.

He worked till the paper went to press
and often went out with his colleagues.

I know it was partly my own fault
because I never wanted to join them.

I wasn't keen on his colleagues.

But I'd wait up for him
until the early hours.

I'd look down onto the street,
thinking maybe he'd come home soon.

When it was really bad,
I'd get Ursula out of bed

and we'd lie there waiting in the dark.

What a wise child she was!
I didn't have to explain anything to her.

She just understood.

Georg didn't understand anything.

He had his profession,
and men always take refuge in that.

Georg wasn't the family man
I thought he would be.

I wished he was more of a homebody.


Red roses, red lips,

red wine...

That's why I started working
as a shop assistant.

But it was a lot of work:
a job and looking after the house.

I'm very tidy and I didn't want
to neglect my household.

We bought this and that
with the money I earned.

And then we got ourselves
a second hand car.

We drove out of town every Sunday.

Ursula had started secondary school

and we had to think about financing
her studies at university.

Georg was happy to have the extra income,
but still didn't help around the house.

Sunday was the only day
when I could get away from it all.

And every Sunday we went somewhere new.

We'd go and drink coffee

and sometimes
have a cold platter in the evening.

I was quietly planning something...

But I couldn't talk to Georg about it,
so I kept it to myself.

I so longed to have a house.
Georg didn't want a house at all.

But I badgered him until he agreed to it.

And then we joined a building society.

We didn't have any equity at all
and the houses that I had my eye on

were all too expensive.

We looked for a long time
and only much later

we found a terraced housing development,
but the building company had gone broke.

The houses were in a terrible state
and hadn't been completed.

It was a long way out of town.

But then with a lot of hard work,

we managed to do up the house
just as we wanted it.

Now I had to go to work by train.

I got up at 5:30 a.m.

to be in the shop by 8:30 a.m.

I had to change trains once.

A neighbour who worked nearby
offered me a lift.

But I don't like depending on people.

And you never know
how to show your gratitude.

I didn't get home until 8:30 p.m.
and then I had to do all the housework.

A house is a lot of work.

Sometimes I'd be sitting on the platform
waiting for my connection

and I'd think about how I'd spent
a large part of my life

sitting in train stations,
in trains and waiting rooms.

And then I'd think,
"It's your own fault you're miserable."

The worst would be over in seven years
and then I'd stop working.

That's why I kept telling myself:
"Just grit your teeth and stick it out."



I found the photo and inscription
in his coat pocket

and totally panicked.

I just couldn't understand it:

you devote your entire life to someone
and that's the thanks you get.

I ran off.

I must have run off.

Because suddenly I was sitting in a bar.

Then I came to my senses.

That's all I have to say about it.
It's in the past.

That was the final push I needed.
I felt so humiliated.

But then again,
I'd felt inferior my whole life long.

I lacked the knowledge others had.


That was why I applied
for the job at the library.

And of course I wanted to get revenge
on Georg, show him what I was worth.

Of course
I was incredibly scared at first,

thinking I'd fail.

Dealing with books and journals
I'd never read.

All my job involved

was putting the used books
back in the storeroom.

But I was so worried
I'd do something wrong,

I put aside everything
I didn't understand until lunchtime.

When the others went to the canteen,
I'd have a quick lunch at my desk.

And then I'd carry on.

It was easier to find things
when no one was watching.

I hate having things explained to me.

The first year was very hard.

All the foreign words
and scientific terms.

But I soon knew my way around the library
better than the librarian herself.

I nearly always stayed late.

I never felt like rushing home.

I hadn't forgiven Georg yet.
I'm a difficult person.


Gerda is promoted and helps her boss
compile the bibliography

for his post-doc.

"Sauerland, Hans.
The soul of the industrial worker.

A cry in the wilderness."

Her boss says she can do it
during her working hours.

But she secretly works on Saturdays.

To her joy,
she is mentioned in the foreword.


Gerda is promoted once again.

You said to put the books aside.

But that was fourteen days ago
and now you turn up

and have the nerve
to demand the books right away.

Someone else needed the books.

The library isn't just there for you.

Now look here! Who works here: you or me?

I have the power to decide
what should be done.

You won't tell me what to do!

You have to abide by the regulations.

My employer
has given me the responsibility

and I will thoroughly fulfil my duties.

You should learn to know your place.

Are you trying to teach me
how to run this place?

I can decide that
all on my own, and I will too.

I'm not going
to squabble with someone like you.


Gerda discusses Marxism
with her boss, Professor Wernicke.

They kept us dumb.

We didn't know that there were
different classes of people.

My mother always said,
"You are what you own."

But it's obvious!

Those at the top didn't want us to learn
all about the means of production.

As the saying goes:
"Knowledge leads to power."

I've experienced first-hand what it's
like to be alienated from one's work.

You toil away, but it's meaningless.

Professor Wernicke asks,
"In economic or psychological terms?"


I wonder why people need
such huge bungalows and cars.

It just makes others envious

and envy and gossip
are the source of all misery.

If the state ordered us...
It wouldn't be possible for us.

We only have a small house

and my husband needs his office.

But if our house was bigger
and the state came and told us,

"Someone else is going to live with you."
I'd say, "Of course."

It would need converting
so that we wouldn't bother each other.

And we'd have
to make a stair cleaning plan.

You have a right to what you've earned.

You want to be rewarded for it.

But that should be all.

If all those claiming to be "masters"
got their hands dirty,

they'd soon lose their pride
and might realise a thing or two.

Before leaving, the professor says,

"You aren't a Maoist, are you?"


No, I won't let anyone
order me around anymore.

That's why I joined in the protests
against the emergency laws.

My God I was scared!

If I hadn't been there with a colleague

I'm sure I would have run off.

But I was embarrassed
and carried on walking with her.

But I wasn't mixed up in the worst of it.

We ran into the courtyard of a house
when the brawling started.

Two young policemen suddenly came in,
looking for protesters.

They barely dared enter the courtyard.

When they saw us old women,
they turned to leave right away.

But when I saw their truncheons...

I didn't recognise myself anymore.
I started yelling,

"Do men always
have to lash out right away?

If you were my sons,

I'd give you both a good hiding!"

My colleague still talks about it today.

I used to be scared of the police.

Today, I hate the police.

They're only interested
in punishing and lashing out.

Typical men!

Men are a strange species.

There aren't many men

you can have a calm discussion with.

They always raise their voices
and think they're in the right.

If someone gets loud, I go all silent.
I'm no good at defending myself.

I just clam up.
I'm probably just scared.

That's why
I've never been able to get my way.

I've always refused to flutter my eyelids
and wiggle my bottom, like other women.

I always wanted to be morally upstanding.
Morals meant so much to me.

When Georg was angry once,

he told me I was callous and intolerant.

It might even be true.

But you can't completely
change your ways at 60.

And he benefits from it.

I can't stop waiting on him and caring
for him, even though I work myself.

You can't change anymore.

You just become unhappy
with the way it is.

I used to think: in a happy marriage

you do everything together.

Now I can see
you just keep yourself to yourself.



You have to keep on learning.

That's why I read so much,
but I don't read novels.

I'm not interested in fiction.

Or in cinema and theatre.

But I like political TV programmes.

I like quiz shows.
You can really relate to them.

I'm only interested
in day-to-day politics.

You have to keep a sharp eye on them
or they'll cheat us.

Once a week, I buy all the papers
at the central station.

Georg doesn't get that.

Today, I'm much more political than him.

Back then, we only had bans and laws.

And now I want to know
the reason for this.

I don't want the old anymore,

but I don't know how to start the new,
so I keep repeating the old.

One should be more courageous.

But if you've been as scared as I have,

you can't be courageous.

You just get angry.

You bottle up the forces inside you,

and suddenly they burst out of you,
like an explosion.

Georg's always accusing me of that.

But you need courage
if you're going to be brave.

You want to be liked too.

If you feel abandoned,
you can't be brave anymore.

If I could live my life over again...

I'd do everything differently.

I probably wouldn't get married.

I'd find myself a little flat.

And I have a good profession
that makes me happy.

And I'd discuss everything with Georg
right from the start:

who's responsible for what.

What we want to buy,
if we'll go on holiday.

Ah, well...

Well, you say these things sometimes.

Over the course of life,
you lose more than you get...

Next year we want to convert the attic
into a spare room.

Then we'll buy a new bedroom suite.

I dream of getting a queen-size bed.

Rebekah Smith