My Father’s Scar

In Chapter 28 of Girls Don’t Ride Motorbikes I describe a scene with my dad, in which he shares memories of his youth and the rescue of his older cousin’s Jewish fiancée. The following are notes for a future publication:

Only after my dad’s passing, I realized the loss of the irreplaceable source of knowledge. I regretted that I hadn’t asked more questions and that I didn’t write it down.

Together with my dad, 1991
Together with my dad, 1991

I suppose my obsession with World War II was fueled by my father’s scar. On hot summer days he wore a white sleeveless undergarment around our secluded farm. When he sat on his kitchen chair I had to walk by him to get to my place. Every time, I stopped and stared at the scar’s broken skin on the back of his left shoulder. Thin, delicate and unnaturally rippled, the scar’s size was larger than my hand. With its abnormal white color it looked like a frozen layer of thin ice. Tiny red veins pulsated beneath the surface. The healthy skin bulged around its edges. I never dared to touch it, but was mesmerized by the scar from World War II, where the shrapnel had pierced his skin, a young boy running as fast as he could, when everyone else was killed on the front lawn of our farm.

As a little girl, I asked and asked. My father’s recollections of what he had seen, planted images into my mind of decomposing bodies hanging on parachutes in trees or a woman bleeding to death in her husband’s arms in the cellar of our farm. Above this cellar, which also housed the well water pump, was my childhood room. At night when the livestock drank, the water pump in the cellar would jump to life with a loud clang and then settled into a monotonous brr-brr-brr-brr-brr-brr-brr. Often the noise woke me up, my eyes opened to the dark and I thought of the woman who died.

My mom didn’t like my questions. I asked her, but she insisted she didn’t remember anything. I always wondered. She was eight at the end of World War II.

Together with my mom, 2013
Together with my mom, 2013

New Years Eve of 2006 in Tenerife, Spain, it all changed. We were on one of our nostalgic journeys, revisiting a place she had vacationed at together with my dad. After a celebratory five-course dinner with plenty of wine and champagne she started talking.

Gruesome memories of her childhood during the war spilled out like a waterfall, she remembered everything. She described her longing for cousins, young soldiers, who didn’t return from war, their fates unknown. Her mom’s youngest sister, whom I never had heard about, was shot, holding her baby boy in her arms, only the baby survived. And my mom’s hometown in rubble, bombed to the ground. I was in shock, my stomach turned and I ran to the bathroom to throw up. I fell sick for the next days, adjusting to what I had learned. Later I tried to ask more questions, pressed her gently for information, but she refused to tell me and always changed the subject.


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Please check out the Tribute to my Dad.‘A true reminder to always be conscious of the fragility of life, to not hold back on saying how much you love someone and to be grateful for every moment you share together.’ Learn why I am so grateful for my father, and how he shaped me into the woman I am today.

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