On our way to Berlin from Prague, we stopped for lunch of wurst and beer in Dresden. As in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five,” “so it goes.” Much of the reconstruction of the city, once called the most beautiful in Germany, has been completed. The original architectural plans, some dating from the twelfth-century, had been moved for safekeeping in 1943 and were used in the reconstruction that’s been going on now for almost sixty years. Some of what’s been accomplished is mind-numbing in its beauty. But wait, let me describe that divine sausage and beer lunch we had from an outdoor vendor.
It was dark when we reached Berlin. It must be hard to get bad food in much of Europe. Going out blindly on a Sunday night, we stumbled upon a café-restaurant, that proved more than adequate. My wife however, ordered a pork knuckle, something that turned out to be as unappetizing to her as it was challenging to manipulate. The red pickled cabbage that accompanied my excellent schnitzel will remain forever in my memory.
Despite having served in Germany as a draftee in the mid fifties, I remained trapped in the wartime mentality of my childhood. I never met a German that I didn’t begin doing the arithmetic, calculating the person’s age and zeroing in on the unasked question; where had this person been and what had they done, 1933 -1945? This trip, going into the Germany of 2007, has largely banished those fading ghosts. The WW II generation, our “Greatest,” however their’s is remembered, is quickly disappearing. On any German street, I was among the more senior passers-by. The people I encountered had no more to do with what happened then than I did or young people anywhere. It is vital to maintain an honest historical consciousness, and not forget what happened, but also to let the rest of it go. An aside, Hitler, it was reported, disliked Berlin, believing the city and its people insufficiently zealous in their embrace of him and the regime. Continue reading ‘Fourth of Four Cities: Berlin’