Bad Girl in Berlin

We were sure of ourselves, so sure of our wavy blonde Bubiköpfe, our lithe bodies, our small high breasts, our shaved and penciled eyebrows, flirting that went just up to the line of . . . propriety and flirted back at it. We were sure of the reactions from men, we were like sisters from the first bumbling days modeling at KaDeWe—Etta and I were both Jewish and didn’t look it, both not sure whether the other one was, both asking without asking. We formed a united front against the wolves who roamed the women’s at-home department, who pretended they were searching lingerie for their wives but really wanted to see half-naked young women displaying themselves.


Years later the self-assured Jewish ladies in Houston assumed I came direct and unwashed from the shtetl. They asked me, Did you bentsch licht, did you keep separate milchik un fleishik, they wanted me to answer, Yes, we were in the midst of poverty yet we had a pressed white tablecloth every Friday night, baked a regulation-killed chicken and a challah. But we lived in the city. We were modern. We were so poor—at the beginning, when I lived with my aunt and uncle. And later with my brother—he gave all his money to the Party and was an atheist, besides. We weren’t pious. Before, when I was a child, with my aunt and uncle, we had cholent, the stew that cooks during the Sabbath in a community oven and you eat it later, at home. Especially at the end of the month, when your own gas is out at your apartment, you treasure hot food.

I am skipping around. You asked about the Weimar Republic.

People on couch
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