Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD
(1910 - 1995)
In my time (I do not I know whether the school system has changed
in Germany), one started school at the age of six. There was a free
school, the so-called Gemeindeschüle which went from the sixth
to the fourteenth year, graduated and were then sent to private school,
separated by sex, until the age of sixteen. However, by the age of
twelve one could follow a different track by going to a “gymnasium,” where,
in addition to French and English, Latin was also taught. The final
examination, the Abitur, was taken at eighteen or nineteen; it
allowed one to enter the university in a field of one’s choice.
Acceptance did not depend on the grades one received in school, as
is customary in America.
In the beginning I enjoyed going to school. I loved to read, liked arithmetic,
and my favorite subject was history. I can still remember my I first history
teacher, who taught German history, beginning with the German tribes, as the
Roman historian Tacitus described them. In my eyes she was the epitome of an
Arian- tall, blond, and blue-eyed. I never realized at that time what the word
would mean in the future. I had a crush on her (the German word for this attachment
is schwarmen). I would scratch her initials wherever possible, wait for
her at the trolley car stop so that I could walk with her to school, and
make little presents for her. In current lingo, she became my roll model; luckily
we did not yet know this technical terminology.
As I grew older I liked school
less and less. Arithmetic, which I had enjoyed, developed into higher
mathematics and I had trouble understanding it. I had no ear for languages,
and whenever my father who could read and speak Latin and Greek, sat
down to study Latin with me, the session always ended in tears. Sciences
were only taught superficially, but history and creative writing remained
my favorite subjects. Not many girls went to the Gymnasium; at the
end there were only eight students in the class. I must admit that
I was not a good student. As I got into my later teens I fell in and
out of love many times, which is quite time consuming, and I liked
to dance, but I knew I had to graduate from school so that I could
attend medical school. Once in medical school my life changed completely.
I loved my courses and ultimately loved learning. The human body in
all its complexity fascinated me.
That I would become a physician was almost pre-ordained, and I never
questioned my decision. Looking back at this period of my life, I am
deeply grateful that I had the chance to become what I wanted to be,