Kretschmann is the oldest German
The 113-year-old who discovered Instagram for herself
04/16/2023, 09:27 am
Great historical turning points accompany the life of Charlotte Kretschmann. At 113, she is the oldest person in Germany. That doesn’t mean she’s rusty: she likes to drink wine, keeps fit and lets the world participate.
In her long life, Charlotte Kretschmann has experienced far more than fits into one of the many calendars hanging in her room. Now and then she takes a copy from the wall in the retirement home and leafs through it. One tells her recipes every month, another takes her out of the room into the rocky world of the Dolomites or reveals wisdom. The next features bright yellow tulips.
“I need everything beautiful, a bit colorful. So I have a lot to see,” says the woman, who is considered the oldest German, and points to the photos of the great-grandchildren, to the crocheted Easter bunnies on the dresser and to the three inflated ones balloons. “113”. Large and purple, the numbers hang on her wall, reminding her of her record-breaking age.
Charlotte Kretschmann left everyone behind on her way through life and to the retirement home in Kirchheim unter Teck, south-east of Stuttgart. A bit like it used to be in her sports club, when she was the fastest in the 200, 400 and 800 meter distances. Today nobody in Germany is known who is older than her.
A glass of red wine and chocolate
Kretschmann is completely relaxed: “You know, I didn’t choose it. I can’t help it. Everyone can experience the next day, they don’t have to do anything for themselves,” she says. You can’t really tell her age, Kretschmann still reads the newspaper, she likes to have a glass of red wine with her meal and loves chocolate. “My head is 150 percent right,” she says proudly. The only thing that bothers her is the wheelchair, she wants to be able to use her walker again and therefore trains regularly with the physiotherapist.
She experienced a lot of sadness and a lot of good things, “Lotte” Kretschmann recalls during a conversation in her care room. She suffered through world wars and endured economic crises, she regretted the division of Germany just as she celebrated reunification, she saw currencies come and go, and even the corona virus did not knock her down last summer. “I just didn’t see anyone, hear anyone or speak to anyone. 14 days at the window and watching every leaf. I don’t want to go through that again.”
And of course the question arises as to what the secret is for such a long life. “It was sport, exercise even in winter,” says Kretschmann. “But certainly also my happy childhood.” Born in Breslau in what is now Poland in 1909, she got everything she wanted from her parents. “The most beautiful dresses, good nutrition, loving care,” recalls Kretschmann. She met her husband Werner while doing sports, they often danced together, it was “love at first sight”, as she says.
Marked by the turmoil of war
During the Second World War, the happiness of the two is separated. Werner is called up as a soldier in France and then in the East, Kretschmann flees to the West with their daughter. After the war, the couple found each other through the Red Cross and settled in Stuttgart. Charlotte Kretschmann survived her husband and daughter. She lived alone until a few years ago, when she decided to move into a home after a brain hemorrhage. “God didn’t do it well,” says Kretschmann. “In the end you should be fine, but it’s getting worse and worse.”
Was everything else better and perhaps simpler in the past than it is today in a world of climate change, the energy crisis and the Cold War that is looming again? “You know,” Kretschmann dismisses. “Each generation survived its life. And we managed to do that after the First World War and after the Second World War.” But she dreams often and in very tangible images of the past decades, which add up to well over a century. About her parents and childhood, her daughter and her husband. Then she wakes up, realizing that this was all a dream. “I’m often very unhappy and cry too.”
“I’ve kept my vanity”
There are only a few difficult moments in a conversation with a bright, interested and often smiling record holder. Kretschmann also pays attention to her appearance in old age, she goes to the hairdresser every two weeks, as she says. She has painted nails and wears perfume. “I’ve kept my vanity,” she says. “I don’t want to do without that in everyday life.”
And she not only spends this everyday life with her grandchildren and distant relatives, but also lets the world participate via social media. With her almost 5000 followers, the 113-year-old shares snapshots from her life from time to time, whether it’s shopping, Christmas or the trip. “Even my niece in America can see me,” she says proudly. Her grandson Peter Baur helps her. “In terms of feeling,” his grandmother is simply much younger, he says. And if she continues like this, she still has some time ahead of her. Charlotte Kretschmann doesn’t waste any thoughts on death either. “That’s no use, at some point it just happens and I can’t do anything about it.”