by Janet R. Kirchheimer (New York, NY)
My father is teaching me German.
He still speaks fluently, even though he
escaped from Nazi Germany almost
seventy years ago when he was seventeen.
We study nouns and verbs.
We study when to use the formal pronoun, Sie, you
and when to use the more familiar, Du.
One must be offered permission to use the familiar.
We study dialects.
The word Ich, I.
The Berliners pronounce it Ick.
Those from Frankfurt am Main, Isch.
Those from Schwaben, Ich or I.
He tells me when he was a kid he and
his friends used to say in a Berliner dialect,
“Berlin jeweesen Oranje jejessen und sie war so süss jeweesen.”
I was in Berlin and ate an orange, and it was very sweet.
“And then we added, dass mir die brüh die gosh runterglaufe is,”
with the juices running down my mouth.
He explains: “It is in our Schwäbisch dialect.
I should say, it was our dialect.”
Janet R. Kirchheimer is the author of How to Spot One of Us (2007), a collection of poems about her family and the Shoah. Her poems and essays have appeared in several journals such as the Connecticut Review and Limestone, as well as on Beliefnet. She is a teaching fellow at Clal.
This poem has been reprinted with the kind permission of the author and Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
For more about Kirchheimer’s work, visit: http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?WRD=janet+r+kirchheimer&page=index&prod=univ&choice=allproducts&query=Janet+R+Kirchheimer&flag=False&ugrp=2
And to read Kirchheimer’s recent piece on observing Kristallnacht this year, the first without her father, who died this past July, visit: http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/kristallnacht_without_my_father_20111102/