The girl settled into the routine at the children’s home. She wasn’t too keen on the food, especially when the bread tasted just awful on some mornings. Some of the other kids were of the opinion that the bakers hadn’t put any salt in the bread dough before baking.
She finally saw her little brother again on the second day. He seemed to have a couple of new friends but told her that he really missed his teddy. The girl put her arm around his shoulders and reassured him, telling him that his teddy was waiting for him at home.
She loved the walks in the woods and the large forest playground with various types of wooden equipment and climbing frames, all made from the wood of Black Forest pines. Climbing was one of her favourite pastimes. She had been to the Alps with her parents on a few occasions and vowed that she’d be a great mountaineer when she was older.
Like many German towns and villages, even the nearby village had an open-air swimming pool. The girl didn’t know how to swim yet, but she loved going down the steep waterslide into the shallower end of the pool. Life was good!
The children had a hot lunch every day unless they went on an excursion and this lunchtime they were served bratwurst, vegetables, potatoes and bean salad. The salad consisted of yellow wax beans in a vinaigrette. As soon as the food was put in front of her, the girl looked at the beans and was determined not to eat them. Her mother had given her the same type of beans before and she hadn’t liked them one little bit. So she didn’t touch them and slowly moved the salad bowl away from her plate into the middle of the table, hoping that none of the sisters would notice her manoeuvre.
Alas, one of the sisters spotted the deserted salad bowl and quickly established its owner. She told the girl to eat her salad.
The girl blushed and spoke up:
“I don’t want to eat those yellow beans”, she said. “I don’t like them!”
“Eat your beans”, the sister repeated and went on to explain about God again and the sin the girl was about to commit.
When she still refused to eat her beans, she was dragged to the dreaded solitary table in the sunken area of the hall and the bowl of beans was put in front of her.
“Now everybody is watching you, eat!” one of the sisters said.
The girl impaled one of the wax bean pieces on her fork and lifted it to her mouth. As soon as she smelled the beans, she started gagging, felt violently sick and spewed the contents of her stomach all over the table.
The sisters were horrified while some of the children smirked or giggled.
So the girl was handed a bucket and sponge to clean up the mess and was told that she would not be allowed out with the other kids that afternoon.
Time was flying. The girl enjoyed herself and had made some new friends. She also liked the singing in the evenings, although the songs were all about God and Jesus.
One afternoon, after coming back from the forest, the girl had a sore throat. One of the sisters gave her a lozenge and told her to gargle with the blue stuff her mother also used at home when someone had a sore throat. However, as the evening wore on, the girl started shivering and when her temperature was taken, it was established that she was ill.
She was transferred to the sick room on the top floor of the building. In the room was one other girl who was unwell too and who had been here on her own for a few days.
The girl’s whole body was aching, her throat was on fire and she missed her mother, but her parents didn’t have a telephone and the sisters didn’t want to worry them. The girl cried herself to sleep that night and hoped that she’d be able to get up again in the morning and join the other kids. However, when morning came, she still had a temperature and was told to stay in bed.
This morning the girls were given porridge and at lunchtime they received a nourishing broth. However, the traditional dark brown bread was served in the evening with slices of cold meat – two open sandwiches each. The girl tried to eat, but her throat was too sore and she only managed to eat half a slice. The other girl didn’t feel like eating either. However, when the sister came around to collect the empty plates, she scolded the girls for not eating up and left the plates in the sickroom.
The girl gave it one more try but didn’t manage to eat any more of the hard bread. The girls were thinking of throwing the remaining bread out of the window to feed the birds, but the windows were locked. Flushing the bread down the toilet was risky as they were aware that the bread might float. So in the end the girl had an idea:
She had received a letter from her grandparents that day, so she put her and the other girl’s bread slices into the envelope and together they lifted up the mattress of one of the unoccupied beds and placed the envelope underneath the mattress.
Phew! It was hard work but at last the dreaded bread was out of sight.
The days dragged on. They had books to read but no other form of entertainment and their friends were not allowed to visit them. After two days, the girl found herself all on her own as the other girl had recovered from her illness and rejoined her group.
Time stood still. The girl missed her brother who wasn’t allowed to visit either, her parents and her friends. Never in her life had she been this lonely!
Every day she asked the sisters if she could get up and join the other children again, but every day she was told to stay in the sickroom.
Eventually, after what appeared to be an eternity, the girl was allowed to leave the sickroom. In the evening, one of the sisters asked her to follow and she was taken to a room she’d never been to before. Here she met three of the most senior sisters who said that they had found some discarded food in the sickroom. They questioned the girl who denied all knowledge of it. Eventually, one of the sisters grabbed her by the arm and said:
“You might as well admit it! The other girl has already told us!”
Still, the girl didn’t own up.
Then one of the sisters showed her a grease-stained envelope with her name on it.
She could no longer deny responsibility but kicked herself for her stupidity. She then had to listen to yet another tirade about the sin of throwing food away and had to ask God for forgiveness. She was told that she was a very lucky girl indeed as the other girl had received a hiding for telling lies.
Two days later, it was time to get ready for the journey home. The girl didn’t feel well in the morning and by the time they got to the station, her throat was burning like fire. The sister who looked after the children in her compartment encouraged her to eat and drink, but the girl wasn’t able to do this.
By the time they reached the station in her home town, she was running a high temperature again and when her mother called the doctor the following day, the girl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Her mother was worried sick as she herself had been struck down with pneumonia earlier on in the year and had been very ill indeed.
The girl eventually got better but missed the first three weeks of school after the summer holidays.
She didn’t realise until years later what had been done to her and the other children in the name of religion and Christian kindness.