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Berta, my first cooking lessons---

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I've met some interesting people over the years---This is the story of Berta.




When I was young ,I helped out in the kitchen of my fathers German deli.

It was a nice way to earn some pocket money and help the family.

German was the language spoken by the staff and Frau Behling would whisper a translation in my ear--
She told me Berta's story.

Berta was old--to my 14 year old eyes anyway.

Time had not taken away her sharp blue eyes or her command of any room she walked into.

She was important and had the respect of all who knew her--
When Berta was coming everyone scurried around cleaning ---the staff always dressed just a bit nicer on the days that she worked.

I got curious---and Frau Behling filled me in on Berta's life in Austria during the Nazi occupation.


post #2 of 7
Thread Starter 
Berta liked me and wanted me to dice the onions and meats for her salads and stir the bowls.

Berta's hands were so twisted with arthritis that she could not hold a knife or a spatula any more.

My secret job was to learn Berta's recipes--Every thing was in her head--measured by eye and a scoop from her gnarled fingers--a sniff and then a taste.

You have to taste,it's the only way--She did have the ability to speak English---by she used it sparingly.

She earned her bad hands during the war washing bed sheets in the mountain streams for the Nazi SS troops that took over the resort that she and her husband owned.


post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
The war years----

Austria was a nice place to live before the war , The great depression had not hurt the Austrians the way Germany was kicked.

Germanys industrial base was devastated by the world collapse of business---people there were starving . Austria was removed from much of the worlds troubles--so the people there could see the way the new movement in Germany was going to put Hitler in a position to take over the country and ,perhaps ,the rest of Europe.

Few in Austria trusted the new Nazi government and they prepared themselves for the worst if they were right.

For Berta and her husband that day came when the Nazis took over their mountain resort as a retreat for the SS officers.


post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Berta's husband was a distraction.

No, not the kind that you think---He was extremely smart and focused on his world.

He was a distraction to cover Berta's secret movements.

She fled in the night to contact the underground resistance fighters---the staff needed to be spirited away to Switzerland.

Berta and Carl would stay at the resort---take care off the Nazis and feed information to the resistance.

Carl kept the Nazis distracted that night and many others as Berta slipped out to contact the resistance.


post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

The thought that Berta and Carl would flee to safety never entered their minds for more than a fleeting moment.

Protecting the lodge and helping Austria rid itself of these monstrous tyrants was their mission.

Without any staff Carl served and entertained the officers while Berta prepared all the food ,made up the rooms and worked through the night washing bedding and clothing in a stream fed by a melting glacier.

Those late nights out at the stream were the only time she was out of sight of the Nazi guards.
Berta and Carl made good use of that oversight.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Berta was a widow when I knew her--Meeting Carl would have been very interesting.

You see ,Carl was the spy and Berta became the messenger.

They knew that the information that Carl overheard would be most useful to the Allies ---

With enough drink all people talk and Carl was the perfect inn keeper.

He served breakfast while strategies were discussed---lunch as orders were written--and evenings when the alcohol loosened up the lips.

They both knew the risks---discovery would mean a short walk into the woods and a pistol shot to the head.

There was also the thought that a plane would simply fly over and bomb the lodge ,ending the Nazi infestation along with everyone else.

But they stayed the course and continued to be pleasant and professional to their guests--

All the while feeding information to the resistance.


post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

The routine of sleepless nights washing and hard days cooking lasted for over two and a half years.

The constant stream of information meant that the lodge was spared from the bombers---

Members of the resistance came for them one night---the Allies had taken France and were rumored to be heading to free Austria ---

Their work was done and for their safety an escort was sent to smuggle them into Switzerland.

Eventually they were lead to England and then to the U.S.---

Berta was proud of her hands---and I was proud of Berta----


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