Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

New Years Eve
(written New Years’ morning 1994)

I remember when I was a child and World War I was over some family members living in Berlin would gather at my uncle David's apartment to celebrate New Year's Eve. He had a large front room with a large table and large windows overlooking a wide street. The children would gather around the table, joining my aunt's nieces and nephews. We would play card and board games and have a wonderful time. Shortly before twelve midnight my uncle would come into the room carrying small figures. It was a custom in Germany to do some Bleigiessen (lead pouring) to read the future. One put a small figure made of lead or metal on a large tablespoon and hold it over a candle flame. When the lead melted it was quickly poured into ice-cold water. The lead congealed into an irregular form and my uncle would decide what it represented; its shape foretold the future. This was exciting for Uncle David had a vivid imagination! When the church bells rang at midnight and we would open the windows and call out “Happy New Year” and the street was filled with the voices of celebrants.

As I got older I would celebrate with my friends at parties and dances until early  morning.

And them came 1932, an ominous year, where in Germany, the coming of Hitler stretched like a black cloud over the land. I had been very sick at the beginning of fall. And my health became even more precarious when my appendix suddenly ruptured and I had to be rushed to the hospital where I underwent immediate surgery. Complication quickly followed: I  developed peritonitis, and at that time, before  insulin treatment was discovered, my condition was life threatening. However, I pulled through and after six weeks, I left the hospital physically healed but I was deeply depressed for I had broken off an unhappy love affair. We both realized that we never could get married. During the Christmas week my mother took me to a small spa to help me regain my strength. We returned home a day before New Years Eve, 1932. Many of my friends had already left Germany to escape from the coming horror of Hitler’s regime. I felt completely alone. On New Years Eve I went with my parents to a small family gathering, and at midnight we all went out on the balcony to drink a toast to 1933. It was a clear night, a full moon, cold and white, looked down at us. Did the moon know that world-wide destruction was soon to happen? Never would the world be the same again. Hitler would bring destruction over all mankind. I stood there looking at the moon and I felt lonelier than I had ever felt before or after. Even now, where I am alone again, I do not feel lonely. I have my family and my memories, which are like a blanket that I can wrap around me to keep me warm. When I woke up at five in the morning  on Saturday after the first of 1994,  I went to the window. There was a full moon as cold and remote as always, but I went back to bed and fell asleep.


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