Title: The Word Collector
Subtitles: A German Childhood
Author: Dietlind Köhncke
Softcover with flaps • 166 pages • 11.5 x 20 cm • Publisher Price: 14,90 €
Release Date: August 1, 2014 • ISBN: 978-3-942223-86-7
Also available as Ebook at eISBN: 978-3-942223-87-4
Lilibeth and her family have to leave because the Allies are bombing their favourite Berlin. She starts school in East Prussia and is enthusiastic about the words she is learning. She observes how the adults talk, listens to their sentences and learns quickly: ‘war’ has three letters, Mrs. Ohlmann is ›Aryan‹, not only because she walks like a queen, and the cargo train to Berlin must arrive faster than the ›Russians‹. In her word collection she speaks new words every day and sometimes whole sentences, like ›Get out of the house, around the corner and into the bunker‹. And then she is instructed to call your own father who had come home after a long time by the name of ›Uncle Hans‹, so people would not report him to the authorities – they called him ›Nazi‹ when he had been picked up. Lilibeth’s world is also made up of words which she does not include into her collection such as ›Soviet Occupation Zone‹ because that sounds as if somebody stares at you closely, frowns and hisses.
Dietlind Köhncke describes the war and post-war period from the perspective of a girl who collects words. Childhood and adolescence are characterized by the getaway, political upheavals and reprisals between two systems. Through the child’s pictures her family life is mapped, in which women play the main role, a piece of German history, experiencing difficult times – under the Nazis as well as under the Communists.
Dietlind Köhncke was born in 1937 in Aachen, and grew up in East Berlin. After fleeing to the West, she studied literature, philosophy and sociology in Frankfurt, Marburg and Giessen, and then taught German and politics at vocational schools and at Hessenkolleg in the city of Wetzlar. Besides her teaching she got trained as group analyst and supervisor and now owns a private practice and works as group training analyst and lecturer at the Institute of Gruppenanalyse Heidelberg eV. She has written two novels, a children’s book, short stories and poems and published a series of scientific essays with the topic ›play and creativity‹