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Ron Birks in Lderhosen

A brief history to date.

My father joined the British Army at the age of 15. During WW2 he was stationed in Krefeld with the REME attached to the Black Watch. As many soldiers did, he married a Krefeld girl, Magdalena Rafolt, one of three siblings who’s father came from the Weimar Republic and was married to my Oma a Hanoverian girl of 16.

Rafolt

Depicted: Centre my Oma Anna Rafolt and the guy behind the accordion player my Grandfather Johannes Rafolt.  They had a  Schuhplattler ensemble.

It is my I understanding that they relocated before the war was in full swing to Krefeld and like many and having had their savings misappropriated by the manager of a bank.

It was tough times all round. The whole family worked in The Crefelder Baumwoll-Spinnerei as Krefeld was at the time the epicentre of the silk and cotton-weaving industry. Oma’s Mother lived in the Ulmanstr which was situated in an area specially for the factory workers.

My Opa, whom I never met studied at the Technical College on the corner of Hagerweg. He was an extremely talented man who spoke 6 languages including Russian, and Serbo-croat. He was also a highly talented musician who played many instruments.

Below:

My lovely great Aunt, Tante Kate… I miss her dearly.

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My folks lived ( before I was born ) I in the famed Wasserturm, a Krefeld landmark, sadly now no longer there at the end of the Glabacherstr.

When I was 6 months old my folks took me to live in the UK, living with my Dad’s mother in Oxford England. My English Nan was a true Mackenzie who had been married dot Percy Birks, an Irishman who had lived in Hull in Yorkshire.

Post war is was difficult for everyone, certainly in Europe ( not forgetting Nagasaki and Hiroshima ) and the millions of tortured and displaced refugees.

The 50s were a time to start to forget the pain and atrocities this global catastrophe, and Europe, in particular the devastated Germany set about rebuilding.

By the time I was 4 years old, I was being detached to Krefeld during the Summer Holidays to stay with my German relatives in Krefeld.

It was during these times where I learned German and of course the local slang Krefelder Platt Deutsch.

One of these visits, the first time my Mum had been back “home” she came with me.  I contracted a mix of Scarlet, Glandular and Rheumatic fever and was very close to death. I remember the hospital vividly, not a happy time.

My memory if Germany from those early years is extremely vivid, I even remember the Lloyd Loom pram I was in..the were the fashion pram item of the age.

to be continued

 


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