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219 48 In Aachen, things are much different than in Freilingen. At midnight on 20–21 October 1923, the armed Separatists declare the creation of the Rhineland Republic in the Imperial Room of the Aachen town hall. But the populace is outraged, and the local police and fire brigade retake the town hall and attempt to drive out the Separatists. On November 2nd Wilhelm walks from Eilendorf to Aachen because no trams are running. His father has told him that there is fighting in Aachen, and Wilhelm wants to see it for himself. When he reaches Adalbertstrasse , he sees many people running toward the city center, some of them armed with clubs and stones. The Separatists have returned to Aachen to take over the town hall and the government buildings of the Rhineland Province.The town is in turmoil.The Separatists race through the streets in cars and trucks, firing off random shots, but the Belgian occupation soldiers mounted on horses and on foot remain neutral. Because of pressure from the British government, the Belgian occupation authorities , who have had their headquarters in Aachen since the end of the war, do not interfere on that November day. Wilhelm, seeing this dangerous unrest, decides to return home to Eilendorf. Later, he learns that the Separatists have finally been driven out. The German economy suffers from hyperinflation, and the money that Maria earns is practically worthless. The factories now pay only daily wages. The gray fall, with its gloomy, foggy days, and the onset of winter increase the misery. Everyone in the Heumann house wears a coat all day long. Freezing cold, Maria sits at the sewing machine in the kitchen making shirts for the professor’s sons. Her fingers are numb. There is no coal for the oven or stove. Mrs. Heumann has set up a sort of mini-stove on top of the cold main one; this is where she cooks dinner now, using single Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 219 4/26/2017 12:17:45 PM 220 Maria Wallisfurth pieces of coal or wood. Even more meticulous than usual, she divides up what little there is to eat. Sometimes, the Heumann family and Maria go hungry. Large numbers of Belgian soldiers are patrolling the town.A quiet and meager Christmas passes. Maria spends one day at Wilhelm’s house. At the Deaf Club Master Wirtz asks her,“Do you want a change? Do you want to work for other people? Do you want to get to know something new?” Maria likes the idea, and Mrs. Heumann would certainly be glad to have one less mouth to feed in these bitter times. On 24 February 1924, Maria receives her last monthly pay from Professor Heumann—16,666 billion Marks! It is a thick bundle of colorful, large notes with very little value. Maria says her goodbyes and thank-yous, and then goes with her few belongings to the address that Master Wirtz has given her. Maria now lives with the teacher Master Kau and his wife in a block of flats on the Schanz. Mrs. Kau is a plump woman who treats Maria as if she were her own daughter. Maria has a nice room all to herself, and she is allowed to join the couple at mealtimes. She feels at home right from the start. On 31 March, Mrs. Kau pays her the first wages: 25 Rentenmarks! The Rentenmark is a new currency first circulated on 15 November 1923. Now 4.2 trillion Marks are equal to 4.3 Rentenmarks and worth about the same as one American dollar. For the first time, Maria has earned stable, valuable money, and she can plan, spend, and save! On Whitsunday, she is due to be engaged to Wilhelm. Now she has to think about her dowry and her future household. She goes shopping with Wilhelm the day before Whitsunday. Wilhelm wants her to buy a completely new outfit. They go to Appelrath am Dom, the shop with a broad, white marble staircase, where Maria explains what she wants.Then Wilhelm, with a critical and careful eye, selects the clothes. Trying them on, Maria looks at herself in the mirror. She feels strange. Is she still the girl from the poor Eifel? Isn’t Wilhelm right? Doesn’t she now look much more attractive? But she learned in school that vanity is not good, and that the devil sits in the mirror. She has never seen the devil. Wilhelm wants...


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MARC Record
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