May 14, 2020

Michael was born 4 years later and still remembers the ruins

(Our friend Glenn sent this:)

Fragment, fragment...yes, here, cool, from Michael's essay, My Childhood Ruined, which tells about his youth in the suburb of Berlin-Grunewald:

Halfway experiences are also fairly common, I believe, and it took me some time to get over the shitty first sex of my teens, like when Amy, another classmate, him from Armenia, living alone with his father in one of the villas not bombed out, took me to the plot opposite his home which had been cleared of the rubble and grown into an orchard of sour apples with an undergrowth of stinging nettle—-and then suggested that we’d play doctor. We had barely started when Evelyn, whom I hated, and who was officially my friend, turned up and sent us scampering into the stinging nettle.

Fruit trees and cleared plots weren’t typical, however. Roughly half the splendid villas of the Grunewald, by reputation Berlin’s most residential area, had gotten hit by air raids during the war and burned down to black skeletons of eternal stone and reinforced concrete, with rusty steel rods sticking out and begging for accidents to happen like when you were chasing an Indian under fully-feathered headdress up to the fourth floor of the rubble and trip and fall to your death. Yes, fourth floor, or fifth even, since these structures had been built by the nouveau riche in the ’70 and ‘80’s of the nineteenth century when Berlin became the capital of the Second Reich. Falls from ruins never happened, though, or were never reported in the West-Berlin of the ‘50s, an insular place so devoid of news that nothing ever happened—-save for a world-shaking crisis when Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Communist World, threatened to take us by force and unclench WW3—-so the press had to play along and beg any visiting celebrity to confirm with his/her own eyes that—-yes—-Berlin was still the Hauptstadt, even though the government resided in Bonn and anything of consequence had decamped to Munich in Bavaria, including Siemens, the founder of local Siemensstadt (don’t ask).
How about the fruit trees, then? Well, if you’d trip while aiming your pistol at this Indian, you wouldn’t land on an apple tree, but on an Acacia. Nobody ever remarked on it, or explained it, but newly grown Acacias dominated the ruined plots, whole forests of them, until Khrushchev’s ultimatum was forgotten, investors regained confidence, and reconstruction got under way.
Hollywood, please listen, where have we ever seen this: a rich-residential neighborhood, still packed with celebrities clinging to their premium cars and scandals and sumptuous mansions, yet strewn with blackened, empty-eyed structures much larger and spookier than anything you’d expect from a horror movie. And so many of them. The Tudor castle opposite our own place built by a nephew of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (the composer), and rebuilt after the war by an American religious sect in violation of all building regulations and in such blatant fashion that it became a place of pilgrimage for architects planning to cut corners on their own. Or a smaller structure of only three stories opposite to my primary school, which had been the birthplace of Walther Benjamin, author of “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit” (who committed suicide on the Spanish border while fleeing from the Nazis in 1940). Or the only Grunewald ruin inaccessible to us cowboys and Indians, for its fences were kept meticulously maintained—-rumors had it because of ownership issues, which were later confirmed by the fact that Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, had stolen the property from a Jewish owner, who then perished in the holocaust. Truly inaccessible, yes, because my friend Hans and I tried very hard to get in—-Hans living opposite the property in a modest dwelling belonging to the freight station nearby. I liked Hans a lot, but we lost contact when I was sent to the Gymnasium, and I never saw him again, save once at a bus stop, five years later, with his hair dyed to the signature peroxide blond of hustlers of the period. I also knew Hans’ father, a burly railway man, and wondered for years how Hans sr. had taken it, the new hair color of his son.
So many Acacias, so many ruins. Sure, there were parts of Berlin worse-hit than us, in particular Berlin-Mitte (downtown), which got completely destroyed—roughly 350 000 civilians were killed in Berlin during the raids, almost as many as American troops during the entire war—but other residential neighborhoods were left mostly untouched. My mother, who had survived the war in a bomb-shelter nearby, blamed the Grunewald focus on the strategic value of the nearby railway tracks, and refused my theory that Goebbels’ property might have attracted the attention of allied bombers, but then she wouldn’t know about Goebbels as a neighbor, or pretended not to know...

Read more of Michael's essay in My Gay Eye 2019, the German-English yearbook, edited by Rinaldo Hopf:

1 comment:

Hot guys said...

Educational indeed, Michael! 👍🏻🙂

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...