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151 35 “You to Neuwied, to sew!” Father says to Maria. “Where Neuwied?” She is very surprised. “On the Rhine.” Maria later learns from Aunt Barbara that one of the soldiers who guarded the Russian prisoners was from Neuwied. This soldier’s wife is a master dressmaker. Father has received a letter from her saying that Maria can work there. Maria is glad. She tells everyone she knows. She packs her clothes and waits. Shortly after Christmas, Father and Maria take the train from Ahrdorf, transfer in Remagen and travel on toward the little town of Neuwied. They sit alone in a compartment on wooden seats. Father holds his walking stick between his knees. He has not said a single word the whole journey. Suddenly he turns to Maria and says, “Never marry a farmer! Too hard work for you, and not good. You not marry farmer!” Surprised and startled Maria replies, “Oh—I not think of marriage!” Father remains silent for the rest of the journey. They look out at the countryside flying past. Maria can think only of Father’s words. Mrs. Raschke, the dressmaker, lives with her husband in a small house. Maria is given a room all to herself. Apart from her, four other girls work for Mrs. Raschke, who sets great store by order and punctuality.The sewing room is also the living room. Mrs. Raschke has two sewing machines, both with a treadle.The girls clean the machines every week with rags and brushes, and oil the nipples from a little oilcan. When working, they wear dark dresses and white aprons with lace and frills. The girls are friendly to Maria. From the very first day, she feels at ease. A lot of ladies come, choose things from magazines, get changed behind a curtain, try things on, and turn around in front of a large mirror. One day, Maria asks Mrs. Raschke where the other girls come from and what their names are.“They all come from Neuwied, and one is a Jewish Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 151 4/26/2017 12:17:40 PM 152 Maria Wallisfurth girl.” Maria is puzzled. Why does Mrs. Raschke mention that especially? While she is sewing, Maria keeps looking at the Jewish girl, watching how she moves and works. A Jewish girl? Maria cannot find anything remarkable . For the others, she and the Jewish girl are different. She, because she is deaf, but why the Jewish girl? Maria thinks of the cattle dealer who comes to Father. He is a Jew, too; Grandmother told her that with a grim face. Deaf people sign a hooked nose with their forefinger when they mean a Jew, and it is always done with disdain. She does not know why. Is it bad to be a Jew? Why is it bad? Which is worse—to be a Jew or to be deaf? The winter of 1920 arrives with a terrible, severe cold. Maria goes out only on Sundays, walking quickly to church with Mr. and Mrs. Raschke through the snow-bound streets. In this icy weather it is almost impossible to breathe, and the cold bites the face. Mrs. Raschke keeps the iron stove filled up with coal and briquettes. It is Maria’s task to take the ashes out every day. Apart from sewing she also helps around the house. Mrs. Raschke has put rolled up blankets in front of the cracks below the door and hung large woolen cloths in front of the windowsills. She tells Maria that the Rhine has frozen over. Maria asks if she can go to the Rhine on Sunday and have a look. Mrs. Raschke lends Maria her fur muff. When Maria catches sight of the river, it lies there, glistening and glittering in the morning sun. From bank to bank there is solid ice. Ice floes, strangely shaped, are piled up in terraces. Gulls are strutting on the ice or flying across the frozen river. A man is feeding the gulls. They swoop down to snatch the breadcrumbs in midflight or peck at them in the hard snow. Maria watches for a while. Then the cold drives her home. She has really not seen any water at all, only solid ice! One day she wants to clean the windows. She prepares hot water in the kitchen and tries to wash the windowpanes very quickly. But no matter how fast she wipes, the cloth almost freezes to the glass. All the water...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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