Freitag, 17. Februar 2012

Good Luck And Freedom Are Interdependent

“Glück und Freiheit bedingen einander” this authentic German description of a flight in the year 1958 was published first on this website (have a look at  “Archive Dezember 2009”), then the English and Romanian version appeared in the international Romanian magazine  “Orizont Literar Contemporan” (Contemporary Literary Horizon) Jan.-Febr. 2011, and now it is published again in the Contemporary Literary Horizon Anthology, Febr. 2012.

I take this opportunity to present the English text here also to my international readers who are not so acquainted with the German language. 

Good luck and freedom are interdependent
Authentic description of a flight in the year 1958

My birthplace Jena actually was taken by US troops in 1945 but came under Soviet power after the division of Germany. My family soon ended up in Lindow/Mark about 70 kilometres north of Berlin.
Life in the province near the flat country of Mecklenburg covered with lakes turned out unassuming, but the charming landscape compensated many a one post-war deficiencies. And to us as children the region offered a paradisiac field of exploration.

Nevertheless, above the whole scene there was always a diffused threat by the occupying forces stressing out their presence every day and everywhere. They were accompanied by converted German creeps who praised the glorious Red Army as heroes.
In this political mood my father was the general manager of a private sawmill which, in direct competition with a publicly owned one, worked far more efficiently. – A thorn in the party functionaries’ sides!

Those were the times when my mother bought several issues of the newspaper “Neues Deutschland” (“New Germany”) to cut from it toilet paper, when my father complained to the mayor because there had been no salt or oil at the HO shop (HO = Handelsorganisation = trade organisation) for weeks.
Those were the times when people were jailed because they had purchased pencils and rubbers in West-Berlin. And gradually more and more people for ever said good-bye to the communist regime, leaving their possessions, relatives and friends to start a new life in the west.

It was certain that there didn’t exist any future within this system. Taking substantial risk my father tried secretly to find a job in West-Germany because he wanted to avoid passing various refugee camps. The family might move into a flat at once.
He succeeded and was offered a job in Himmelreich near Kirchzarten (Black Forest).
But then in January 1956 during a business tour by motorbike a Russian military van ignored the right of way and my father had to stay in hospital for months. The promised employment couldn’t wait for so long.
Thus for the time being we had to bow to communism.

Since many years there had been a struggle for allocating sufficient wood to the sawmill, conflicts with the political party and government offices became increasingly dangerous. Further more our family were active Catholics and though urgently admonished we children didn’t join the “Young Pioneers”.

In the year 1958 the communists ordered the end of the private sawing and offered instead a lower paid job at the publicly owned sawmill.
From that moment in autumn 1958 my parents again made plans about a concrete escape.
The international football match West-Germany versus Austria on November 19th came to the right time for my father to visit West-Berlin without arousing any suspicion. How lucky I was when he took me to the Olympic Stadium!
Even before the beginning of the match my father made a short visit to the then Mayor-Governor of West-Berlin, Willy Brandt. But I didn’t realize that in detail.
Nevertheless this short audience should be of some advantage later after.

As protests even to the state government in Berlin-Pankow against the expropriation respectively closure of the firm didn’t achieve any changes a close confidant in the provincial government of Potsdam gave a warning during the pre-Christmas period via telephone to behave with care.

So Christmas should be celebrated as usually, but some friends were informed about the plans of escaping. Taking as little risk as possible the one or other object out of the flat got a new owner or was “deposited” elsewhere.

My younger sister and me were not to take any notice of that, Christmas was our normal highlight of the year. Our good mood was even improved by the announcement we all were going to visit Uncle Willy in Halle (on the river Saale) on his birthday on New Year’s Eve.
Bofore that we children were going to spend two holidays with our aunt and uncle in Oranienburg. Our cousin Karl who was adult already accompanied us by train on December 28th.
I was full of excited anticipation standing at the yard gate to “Rheinsberger Straße” waiting for the others. I looked at the lovely new fence at the house and the sawmill and I felt an intense relation how unique our home was. I put my hand on the handle of the little fence door and imagined how terrible it could be if this was the last touch.
I was 13.
We walked to the station for an interesting stay in Oranienburg.
Now our parents had a free hand to regulate as discretely as possible final matters to say mentally good-bye to a period of life and to say farewell to the friends.
In the evening of December 30th, 1958 they joined us and also had with them the tickets to Halle.

If your residence was north of Berlin you had to go by S-Bahn (quick train) via West-Berlin to Ost-Bahnhof (East Station) where the long-distance trains started to destinations in the southern republic.
Next day our parents wanted to procure a little present in Oranienburg and that was why we children shouldn’t wait but take an earlier train to East Station.

December 31st, 1958 was a Wednesday. We went to the station in the dawn when our parents stayed back as explained and we, again with Karl, stepped onto the platform. Oranienburg is an S-Bahn terminal, so the train was already there. We took our seats in one of the empty railway carriages and got impatient when the train didn’t start for a long time. Finally it moved – a wonderful feeling. More and more people entered at the following stations.
Then the train reached “Hohen Neuendorf” *), the doors banged open and controllers combed all carriages. Karl had to show his identity card because the next stop was in West-Berlin. The officers watched us children sceptically and ordered us to leave the train together with Karl. The train roared away and we were led into unfriendly rooms where we had to wait at first. Then Karl had to come into another bureau whereas we were asked to tell where we were going to travel. Frightened but also looking forward with excitement to our long journey we gave information about our uncle’s birthday in Halle this very day, that our parents would follow us and we showed our tickets.
They wrote down every word. Something irritated the examiners, they checked our bodies but didn’t find anything unusual.
They let us go, Karl also got through the snooping, together we got onto the next S-Bahn to the west.

“Frohnau”*) was the first station in the west-sectors where our parents meanwhile on the platform were driven to despair because they had made an agreement with Karl to meet us all here: No kids to be seen, something must have gone wrong!
“I must return”, my father was shocked by the situation, “I must give myself up.” He was white as a sheet but our mother kept him back: “Still another train we will wait for.”
After endless minutes the brakes were hissing and squeaking, and we got out.

Propably the police were searching intensively but in vain for our parents in the following trains because they, without knowing about, had entered our very train because of the long delay at the beginning. Therefore they had arrived at the west before us.
Together we awaited the next train to start off to East Station. Just having stepped in the train speeded up and our mother said: “We won’t go back.”
“Why should we?” I asked, “We do want to travel to Halle.”
“We will never go back.”
Now I grasped what had happened.
I gazed out of the window into the flying past nothing, imagined my little model steam-engine, my metal architectural box, the Christmas manger, I thought of my friends, of the lake and of the handle at the yard gate.
As tears filled my eyes I looked at some passengers because I felt ashamed. But they nodded understandingly, scenes like that were acquainted to them meanwhile on these S-Bahn lines.

Our actual destination was Berlin-Marienfelde emergency refugee camp. Queuing up for registration, so many people were on the same way, medical examination, hearings and applications for asylum at German and Allied offices.
Night approached, we were given some pocket money and tickets for a bus travel through the gorgeously illuminated streets of Berlin to “Askanischer Platz”, refugee camp “Henri Dunant” in a former factory building of several storeys.
Women and men were seperated and accommodated on different floors, in big rooms with two-storeyed beds.
We were tired after the first day in freedom, soon we fell asleep but woke up at midnight by the sound of church bells and the cracking of the New Year’s fireworks. There was a huge factory window where we looked into a narrow dark yard. High above in the sky only some glowing stars of the new year symbolized the hope for a different life.
In the first morning of the new year most of the camp lodgers felt happy in a modest way being aware that they had reached freedom.

Sometimes it took rather long until leaving “Henri Dunant”, there was lots of time to go sightseeing in Berlin but nobody had enough money to do so. Everybody was eager to be flown out to West-Germany as soon as possible.
Now the preparatory visit at Willy Brandt obviously showed effect, we got all the necessary papers and identity cards after pleasingly short time and we flew to Frankfurt on Main in the middle of January. The journey went on by train to Kirchzarten, again refugee camp with mass accomadations and many people especially from Eastern-Europe. During another medical examination a huge stamp appeared on our circular letter: “Deloused”.
After further stays at the refugee camp Schluchsee and the refugee home Donaueschingen the odyssey ended in Geisingen near Donaueschingen where my father got a first job and the family found a flat. But it shouldn’t be the last place of residence.

My parents have never seen Lindow again.
I came back to the first time in 1993, after 34 years.
More impressively than ever I recognized how good luck and freedom are interdependent.

*) In the first manuscript there were named the wrong stations “Bornholmer Straße” and “Gesundbrunnen”.

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