Cornelia Scheel © DR
The founder of the German Cancer Aid, Mildred Scheel, was straightforward and self-confident. Her death was a deep cut in life for her daughter Cornelia. Very personally she remembers her mother, who had a great influence on her.
It was not an easy step for Cornelia Scheel to write a book of memories of her mother, Mildred Scheel, because the journey into their shared past was an emotional challenge for her.
Mildred Scheel was a doctor by passion. When she became pregnant out of wedlock in the early 1960s, she was working in hospitals as a doctor, especially in conservative Munich. She was therefore forced to place her daughter in a children's home for the first two years. "It must have been gruesomely difficult for her to put this little human child temporarily in someone else's hands," says Cornelia Scheel. But to this day she doesn't understand why her mother kept it a secret and didn't tell her until she died. "She must have had a very bad conscience," says Cornelia Scheel. She had no further contact with her father, the director Robert Adolf Stemmle ("Die Feuerzangenbowle" with Heinz Ruhmann).
Unconventional as first lady
When Mildred Scheel met her future husband, Walter Scheel, Cornelia was six years old. At her first meeting with her future dad, she was given a green frog by him, which made her very happy, because like her mother, she didn't enjoy dolls. Mildred Scheel and her husband Walter had very different temperaments, recalls Cornelia Scheel: "He was the perfect diplomat, and my mother was very unconventional." She didn't care much for fashion, was bored at receptions as the wife of Foreign Minister and later German President Walter Scheel. It was only when Mildred Scheel founded the German Cancer Aid that she flourished. "She worked day and night for her organization – with great success – and then she also endured having to accompany Walter Scheel on a state visit."Unconventional as she was, she asked, for example, foreign presidents to sign a plate to be auctioned off for cancer aid. She regularly drove the chiefs of protocol to despair with such actions.
Cancer and her faith
The shock was great when Mildred Scheel was diagnosed with cancer and died at the age of 52. "I am 52 years old today, and this brings home to me how young she was, she loved life and wanted to go on living," recalls Cornelia Scheel, who accompanied her mother for two years in her fight against cancer. Of great concern to Mildred Scheel as president of German Cancer Aid was that her incurable cancer would cause "people to lose faith in the fight against cancer". But Cornelia Scheel also remembers that her mother's faith in God manifested itself more and more the closer she got to her death. "She was then given a consecrated cross by the pope, and that was very important to her, she often had it in her hand, it gave her strength."
The admiration remains
For her daughter Cornelia, her mother remains a great role model. "You have to stand up for the things you care about," says Cornelia Scheel, "and walk the path as consistently as she did."And she draws a parallel with her mother's commitment to homosexuals: "When my mother founded the German Cancer Aid 40 years ago, it was her concern to get the word cancer out of the taboo zone, and 25 years ago I appeared in public with Hella von Sinnen, to get the word homosexuality out of the taboo zone."And so she is also a little proud that she has done some things in the past so that people don't have to hide anymore. "She would find that quite good," says Cornelia Scheel. In general, Mildred Scheel was really annoyed when people talked badly about others. "She lived that," says her daughter, also thinking about how to deal with refugees and all people who are marginalized. Today, she is glad to have written down her memories of her mother, because she has also found more closeness and peace through it.
The book "Mildred Scheel" by Cornelia Scheel was published by Rowohlt Verlag.