Maria Theresia Jelkmann was born in 1923 in Berlin, and residing in Kew England since 1967.
Maria's ambition was to always work as an artist. From an early age she realised that she also had a talent for writing. When a German publisher gave her the opportunity to write short stories, as well as to provide illustrations for children's books, she grasped the chance with both hands. For many years, even after she moved to London, she was commissioned to illustrate and to write regular features about London life in well-known German newspapers. It is hoped that, at some stage, a list of some of these will be published.
Maria studied art and fashion design while living in Germany. Prior to the commencement of the 2nd WW, she learned everything about art while living in Berlin.
In the latter part of the war, the German authorities sent Maria with a small group of art students to Silesia, situated in the South East of Germany, but now part of Poland. Under Hitler's instructions, artists and students of art were encouraged to continue their education in art school. However, she was not expected to work in the youth movement or to bear arms or work in factories. It was Hitler's wish that groups of artists be selected for use by the government to help its propaganda war. These artists were expected to draw scenes depicting victories by German armed forces.
ESCAPE FROM EAST BERLIN
When the Berlin wall was being constructed and travel restrictions were being imposed on East German citizens, Maria escaped from the Eastern zone of the city to West Berlin. Thanks to a kind farmer who cooperated in the arrangements, she escaped with a group of about a dozen other East Germans. Her escape was planned to take place under cover of darkness by crossing a field which straddled both East and West Berlin. Had she been seized by the East German authorities, the penalties would have been quite severe. Had she been arrested by the West Berlin police, she would have been sent back to East Berlin.
In 1962, she made her first visit to London. It was during this visit and subsequent trips to London that she became friends with Curt Geiger and Irene Hertzfeldt, a German couple. Curt was working in London as the foreign correspondent for the German newspaper, Sud-Deutsche Zeitung. The couple decided not to return to Germany. Although non-Jewish herself, Maria grew close to Curt and Irene, who was of Jewish descent. Over the subsequent years, Maria developed very strong relationships with many German Jewish refugee families in London. She was now a part of a community in London where she felt both welcome and safe.
Apart from the close friendships that developed between Maria and the many families in London, she became a passionate reader of Charles Dickens' novels. Much of Dickens' works were based around life in London and Maria is in no doubt, that part of the attraction for London emanated from her love for Dickens. She moved to London permanently in 1967.
LIFE IN LONDON
Although the British government allowed Maria to reside in England, she was not permitted to take employment in the country. Whatever she earned to support herself had to be generated from overseas income. Fortunately, a number of publishers in Munich employed Maria between 1950 and 1960 to write poems and children's short stories. The same publishers continued to commission her to provide illustrations for children's books as well as short weekly features of life in London and England i.e. Olaf Klama & Maria Saekel-Jelkmann 'Veronika, der lenz ist da!' and illustrations to Carl Brinitzer 'Wo die queen regiert'. A list of some other selected releases is available upon request.