Thursday, August 16, 2012

Berlin

Day 12- Berlin tour
Quote of the day “ Yes, in fact I was imprisoned by the American forces after the war. …I have very fond memories of that time.” (Rainer, discussing his family’s return to Germany after WWII)


After a traditional European breakfast of boiled egg, bread and jam, cheese and sliced meats, we pack up for a day of touring in Berlin. We’re lucky to have Regina and Rainer as tour guides. These two are old enough to remember virtually every bit of the history we read about in school books regarding WWII and they have very personal connections to Berlin. Rainer’s grandfather was a shop owner in downtown Berlin which specialized in wine and cigars. His grandfather died when his father was only two years old, so his aunts took over the Falkenburg hut, the family summer home about an hour outside of the city center. His grandfather’s shop was taken over when the city of Berlin moved under communism . The shop was allowed to continue but the building was taken up by the government and if it had been able to stay within the family, they’d probably be very wealthy indeed today. The business exists on a prominent street, though it does not sell wine and cigars now. Sadly his grandfather was separated from the family when the country became divided up and was never able to return to the Falkenburg hut before he died.

We had asked them to show us the Berlin wall, among other things. So we started out tour in a cemetery where some of the family members, including his father, were buried.
The family's area has a large wall with their name engraved. There are bullet holes all over it, which they explained were a result of "target practices" by the guards at the Berlin Wall.



This is the location of Wall that is still in place and has not been removed. One of the very few pieces still in its original location. Sadly, many cemetery headstones were removed and tossed aside when the wall was put up to allow for clear shooting area of anyone who tried to climb the wall. We hobbled past a pile of headstones in fact to have a picture taken in this obscure part of the cemetery.

Rainer’s father was not a party member, so his father was forced to serve in the Army. While his father served, his mother took the children to Spain. Upon their return after the war, they planned to rejoin his father in Munich but they were imprisoned by American forces and held in a castle near Stuttgart. The American forces he told us “had a pretty good reputation then. I have fond memories of this time at the castle. I recall jumping over suitcases and playing inside the castle walls. The adults were not particularly happy about the incarceration, but I didn’t mind at all. I spent my 6th birthday on a US Navy ship. I have nice memories of that time.”
The US, he said, had agreed to let them return to their homes without incident, but instead seized them upon entering the country. Because they were returning from Spain, and the Spanish leader was a little too closely linked to Hitler at the time, the American forces had to determine that the family wasn’t spying, which Rainer says “was completely understandable considering the circumstances”.
We meandered across the city, recognizing when we were in the former East Berlin and West Berlin.
The constant opposition throughout the city was subtle but apparent. In the east, buildings were plain and simple, despite the attempt at adding color.
 Occasionally an old, pre war building could be spied- but not often.


The city seemed to be a symbol for constant change. We visited a 'new church'

next to the bombed out, old one, which was undergoing restorative repairs...

Near Checkpoint Charlie, we took a break at "Checkpoint Charlie Beach". A beach right there, complete with sand, hammocks, beach chairs, bikinis, and umbrellas, smack in the middle of the city. If that doesn't scream "Why not?" I don't know what does.
More wall near Checkpoint Charlie too-


Our friends pointed out everything from the “red/green man stop light” and Checkpoint Charlie to the Holocaust Memorial and Brandenburg gate (both on our plates at lunch- and in true form).


There could have been no better tour guides. No kinder or more open people with very personal connections to Berlin, to share the city and their history with us. It was a memorable day for which we owe a great deal to our former neighbors, Regina and Rainer.

 

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