Friday, December 7, 2012


Opa’s older sister was Brigitte, but her family called her Patti (pronounced “Putty”). I asked her daughter where the name Patti came from and she told me: “It was a child’s (Tom’s?) corruption of Spatzi, an endearment of Spatz which means sparrow, because when my mother was very little she was a picky eater who didn’t eat much (“ate like a sparrow”).” I thought this was such a fun story to remember, and so funny how little nicknames stick! The way Opa describes Patti, despite eating like a sparrow, she seems like a person who filled a room with her presence.  
She was a most remarkable person: a linguist at an early age. I must admit when we were young, she dominated me completely, but for some reason I didn’t mind; it just seemed natural. One of her traits: she would not, could not, stretch the truth. As an example, when someone asked for my mother on the phone, my sister would find my mother and tell her; when my mother didn’t want to talk to whoever it was at that time, my mother would lie down on a couch immediately, so my sister could truthfully say, “she is resting right now." (From Opa's autobiography "From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom")
She was unashamedly honest- a little fact that I find really endearing. I think I would have really enjoyed her. I have always been drawn to people who were a little more abrupt or rough around the edges. These are the type of people who can’t help but be themselves, so they give up trying to be someone else. They lack pretense, and you can trust them.

Opa wrote about a makeshift radio he made in order to get access to foreign stations that wouldn’t be filled with Nazi propaganda or signal jammed by Nazi censoring (listening to foreign stations was against the law). He and Patti found a couple stations and got their news from these foreign sources. One station was a Russian station that was fairly good but included some propaganda about the good life in the Soviet Union.   
My sister got so enthused about the broadcasts, she decided she wanted to emigrate to Russia. Both my mother and I tried to talk her out of it, but she was insistent. She actually went to the Russian embassy and obtained the paperwork. When my father heard about it, he just laughed and said, “There is no way the Russians will ever accept her.” And sure enough, almost by return mail, she received a letter to that effect from the Russian embassy, without any explanation. (From Opa's autobiography "From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom")
Patti actually reminds me a little of my older sister when we were growing up- slightly dominating, passionately caring, and even a little naive in her quest for what is good and right. I always thought my sister could have been a lawyer- she could fervently argue any case once she was sure it was the right one. Maybe there is some genetic strand for this brand of passion.  

1 comment:

  1. I have missed a few of these posts, so I was catching up this morning when the picture of Patti appeared on my screen. I was amazed at the resemblance - you look so much like her Sarah!


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