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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Putting in an extra thread - Rudi Lehrs

We only know a little about this character:
He was five years younger than Käthe Lehrs i.e. there was a much bigger gap between them than between Käthe and Ernst.
  • He only had one lung. (Though for how much of his life we’re not sure, nor why.)
  • He was a mathematician.
  • He was in London with Ernst when niece Renate Edler arrived there on the Kindertranport.
  • He ended up at the University of Ottawa.
Despite the problems with his lung he survived almost as long as his brother and sister.
At one point they could not find him: he had moved house in Canada and the notification had gone astray.  
That actually may seem like quite a collection but in fact we have much less of an impression of him than of the rest of the family. He seems to have been a bit of a loner but he has to come into Clara’s story. She was above all else a mother and a mother is concerned about her children.
I am only including a few scenes of Clara’s life before her “third stage” – her life after her husband’s death which spans the time of her involvement with the Steiner schools, the special class in Schellberg house and her persecution by the Nazis. Yet these scenes are crucial. They really build her.
For these scenes I am using the historical writer’s third tool – the imagination. (The other two are primary resources and repeated experience.) I’m inserting three scenes of Rudi’s earlier life. He will appear again later – mainly as he moves away from Germany.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the research we do and our writing in any case. We research the story in order to be able to tell it but as we write new questions appear. The research must stay out of the writing time and be seen as separate activity.  Sure, it counts as a writerly activity, it’s extremely interesting and it seems to me to be a good use of my time. But it can’t count as writing time.
I keep a list of what else I need to look into. Lung diseases joined that list yesterday.                 

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