Berlin, May 1945

Trigger Warning: the slaughtering of an ox

In Berlin, journalist Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, doctor Walter Seitz, actor Fred Denger, and German-Russian musical conductor Leo Borchard discovered a white ox in the middle of the disputed capital. The group had just sought cover in a nearby house from a low-flying air raid, when suddenly the animal was standing in front of them, unharmed and gentle-eyed, a surreal sight in the smoking scene of horror. They surrounded it and gently manoeuvered (in the book, this word has a typo!) it by the horns, managing to lure it carefully into the backyard of the house. But what were they to do next? How do four urbane, cultivated citizens slaughter a cow? The commander, who had a command of Russian, plucked up the courage to speak to a Soviet soldier outside the house. The soldier helped them to kill the animal with two pistol shots. The friends now hesitantly went to work on the dead creature with kitchen knives. They weren’t alone with their booty for long. “Suddenly, as if the underworld had been spying on them, a noisy crowd gathered around the dead ox,” Ruth Andreas-Friedrich later recorded in her diary. “They crept from a hundred basements. Women, men, children. Were they lured by the smell of blood?” And within minutes everyone was tussling for the scraps of meat. Five blood-smeared fists ripped the ox’s tongue from its throat. “So this is what the hour of liberation looks like. The moment we have spent twelve years waiting for?” she wrote.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout from the Third Reich, 1945-1955, pp. 4 – 5

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