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Back-to-School Around the World with MyHeritage

As families everywhere tighten their shoelaces and double-check backpacks for the upcoming school year, we’re journeying through time, revisiting classroom memories from distant eras.  These snippets of history have been lovingly shared by MyHeritage users from every corner of the globe. 

To truly bring these photos to life and showcase them in their full splendor, we used the MyHeritage photo app, Reimagine. With its groundbreaking AI technology, Reimagine allows us to scan, colorize, enhance, and restore old photographs, giving them a new lease on life. These rejuvenated images transport us more vividly back in time, helping us feel the emotion and atmosphere of each captured moment. 

Join us on a heartfelt trip down memory lane. These photos not only highlight our users’ unique family journeys, but also bring back familiar memories and highlight the common experiences we all share.

Geneva, Nebraska, U.S. 1912

The US was buzzing with hope in the early 1900s, right before the Great Depression hit. John Peterson’s snapshot gives us a glimpse of what school looked like then. This 111 year old photo features his grandfather “being used as an armrest” in the middle row, fourth from the left. 

Berlin, Germany, 1915

In 1915, World War I was leaving its mark on Berlin, and Irma Herta Ernestine Preuss, born in 1908, was just beginning her school years. As shared by her grandson Ralf Maehmel, from Germany, in the years before the Weimar Republic (i.e. before 1920), children often started school at Easter time. Accordingly, the sign at the bottom of the photo says: “mein erster schulgang” (my first school), April 1915. Irma’s school was located in the Gesundbrunnen district, today Berlin’s Mitte district.

Boras, Sweden, 1924

Sweden in the ’20s was moving and shaking. Kerstin Wennerström’s tale is a window into the changes families experienced back then. Kerstin shared this  photo of her mother and her small first class in a private school in Borås, which was called First Prep. The school building can be seen in the background. It was located in a beautiful park, which belonged to a large, beautiful villa, Annelund.

Kerstin’s Mother, Ingrid, was the fourth from the left. She was the eighth child in a group of nine siblings, 6 girls and 3 boys. They lived in a big old house. In 1921, Ingrid’s mother (Kerstin’s grandmother) Anna died in the aftermath of the Spanish flu. The eldest sister together with the nanny and housekeeper had to take over the responsibility for the children. Little Ingrid had to start school dressed in her older sister’s discarded, homemade clothes. Ingrid’s father did not allow the girls’ hair to be cut, and so she was teased by the other girls. After a while, the older sister Margit took her little sister to the town hairdressers to get her hair “bobbed”, but they had a hard time finding a hairdresser that would go against their father’s wishes! Their school teacher was very religious and told the children that if they prayed enough, they would get what they wanted most. So poor Ingrid prayed fervently every night that her beloved Mamma would come back and every morning when she passed the cemetery on her way to school, she waited for Mamma to appear there.

Berlin, Germany, 1932

In 2021, Martin Haesner from Germany stumbled upon a family treasure trove, uncovering photos and documents after his father’s passing. Among these was a 1932 photo of his uncle, Herwig Waldemar Haesner, starting first grade at the 18th elementary school in Friedenau, Berlin. The class teacher was Mr. Kasprik, and Herwing is standing second from the left, with the white collar. Tragically, Herwig was drafted into military service in 1943, trained in Bremen, and dispatched to the Eastern Front. Regular letters home ceased in January 1945, and the family later learned he passed away in a Russian prison camp just shy of his 20th birthday. This deeply personal history resonates in Martin’s own name, given as Martin Herwig Haesner in 1961.

Gothenburg, Sweden, 1949

Even though Sweden didn’t fight in WWII, it felt the aftermath. In this picture, Rustan and his friends Ejve and Bernt are standing on Plommongatan street in Gothenburg, Sweden, on their way to their first day of school. Rustan’s mother took the photo, and he is the one standing on the right. 

The three friends lived on the same stress and walked to school daily. Rustan Ligander shares a tale of school life post-war. “There were quite large classes at that time, there were close to 30 of us. It was crowded because we were “war children”, called this way because the birth rate increased sharply during and after the Second World War, even though Sweden did not actively participate. The beginning was a bit special because there was a shortage of paper, and we didn’t get all the books until later that semester. We had “paper collections” at school and for many years we collected newspapers, then we called a company that came and collected the newspapers and we got paid. But this year, at the start of school, only a few had newspapers to hand out. So, for various reasons, paper production was not at full speed yet after the war.”

Utah, U.S, 1950

America was booming in the ’50s after the war. Kenneth Prigmore’s photo captures the spirit of the time perfectly. In the photo one can see Kenneth’s mother’s cousins on their first day of school. From right to left: Patricia Lear, Darrel and little Calvin that insisted on joining the photo, even though he was still too young to start school. 

Frederikshavn, Denmark, 1952

After WWII, Europe was finding its footing again. Svend Kai Sørensen brings us back to his early school days in northern Denmark, full of post-war promise. Svend was accompanied to school by his mother (right) and my aunt (left). The second photo of Svend was taken at school in his classroom on that same first day. “I was part of a large year group of children born after world war II. There were 6 first classes of 20 students each”. 

Husum, Denmark, 1955

Denmark in the ’50s was all about fresh starts post-war. Henrik Strange Hansen shares his memories of school during this hopeful time. 

“I was very much looking forward to starting school with my two playmates Allan and Jan who lived in the same building as I, at 7 Kobbelvænget street in Husum. I had a new school bag, a leather briefcase with straps so it could be carried on my back.

My mother took the photo on the lawn in front of our apartment building before walking me to my new school, Voldparkens Skole. My class was called 1.v, and there were 34 students in it. The school was too big, there were far too many children in it and it only got worse on the following grades. Many years later, in 2008, Voldparkens Skole was closed due to declining numbers of children in the area.”

Cannes, France, 1974

France in the ’70s was all about change and progress. Serge Manesenkow’s story from Cannes is a throwback to those times. In this photo Serge is the shortest boy, shown together with his cousins Patrick (9) on the right, and on the left Jean-Marc (13) and Luc (12, in white) all of whom accompanied Serge to his very first day of school in 1974.

The boys were standing on Boulevard des Espérides in Cannes Palm-Beach on their way to the Croisette school. Serge reminisces about those days: “At the time, I remember, there were still glass inkwells on the classroom desks, we were even taught to write with a pen and we also wrote on a slate with coloured chalk. The teachers were very strict and demanded respect. We all were extremely disciplined because we knew that if we were scolded, our parents would have no mercy on us”. 

Schwedt, Germany, 1975

The ’70s in Germany were a time of division. This photo of Petra Hennig was taken in 1975 in northeastern Germany. Petra brings us into her school world during the Cold War vibes.

“I started school on September 1st, 1975 at the Wilhelm Pieck-Oberschule in class 1a.” says Hennig. “Each child was photographed individually in front of the side entrance to the school. My school bag was very heavy and already began to tear at the edges. I was very proud of my school cone and less happy with my dress which I found almost too short – but I had no other.”

From Berlin to Cannes, these stories are a heartfelt nod to the universal ritual of starting school, set against the backdrop of their times. As you gear up for this school year, why not dive into your family’s past school stories? Explore more on MyHeritage.

If you’re curious about your ancestors’ school stories, now is a great time to check out to learn more. The MyHeritage Yearbook collection is a goldmine for historical genealogy research, and will help you gain insight into your ancestors’ high school and university careers. Learn their personal histories, social circles, and more about the times they lived in.

The post Back-to-School Around the World with MyHeritage appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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