Also Reading: BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, by Alfred Doblin

From the foreword by the author:

He throws in the towel, he has no idea what day of the week it is, it seems all up with him.

Before he can make an end, however, his blindness is taken from him in a way I do not describe here. His fault is revealed to him in the clearest terms. It is indeed his, the fault of his plan, which may once have looked sensible enough to him, but now looks quite different, not unexceptionable and straightforward, but full of arrogance and ignorance, and further vitiated with impertinence, cowardice and weakness.

The terrible thing that was his life acquires a purpose. A medical cure has been performed on Franz Biberkopf. And in the end we see our man back on Alexanderplatz, greatly changed, considerably the worse for wear, but straightened out.

To see and hear this will be worthwhile for many readers who, like Franz Biberkopf, fill out a human skin, but, again like Franz Biberkopf, happen to want more from life than a piece of bread.

Countryside, East of Berlin: June 1945

Ruth Andreas-Friedrich and a friend cycled into the countryside east of Berlin one day in June 1945. This is what they saw:

We climb over an embankment and stop as if frozen. Merciful heaven. Have we wandered into a migration of the people? An endless procession of misery is rolling away in front of us from East to West. Women and men, old and young, hurled together at random, as fate drove them together. Some from Posen (Poznan), others from East Prussia. These from Silesia, those from Pomerania. They’re carrying their belongings on their backs. To anywhere, wherever their feet carry them. A child totters by. A pitiful little boy. “It huuuuurts,” he sobs to himself. He balances miserably on his bare heels and stretches his bleeding soles at a sharp angle into the air.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945 – 1955, p. 63

The Defeated Nation

Self is very, very afraid for Ukraine. Especially after reading this section of Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich. Sure we all admire the Ukrainians’ pluck. But — if it’s ugly now, it’ll be even uglier for them at the end. The Russians have to be driven out, before they do their worst.

Over the course of the war Germany had transported about 7 million foreign nationals as forced labourers, including POWs, to the Reich territory, to replace the huge numbers of workers who had been sent to the front. These slave labourers had experienced an intensified form of hell during the last few weeks of the war, when they were ruthlessly maltreated more than ever before. The forced labourers still toiling in the factories were viewed with mounting concern by the Nazi regime. The more uncertain the situation grew the more fearful the German authorities became of an uprising among their slaves. The regime had always been more afraid of this than of German resistance, but now that feeling turned into panic. When, towards the end of the war, it seemed as if the forced labourers were unlikely to be of any further use, German law enforcement officers simply killed them en masse. Some of the massacres were perpetrated for fear of the prisoners’ revenge, but some were the product of an “apocalyptic habit.” The security forces wanted to take as many “enemies” as possible with them into death, even if their victims were defenceless and unarmed.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945 – 1955, p. 47

Berlin, Spring, 1945

Everyone was out in the streets all the time, not least in search of news. Without a working postal and telephone service, all communication had to be done on foot . . . Documentary footage from the summer of 1945 in Berlin shows everyone charging about in all directions: Russian and American soldiers, German police, gangs of youths, families dragging their belongings through streets on handcarts, scruffy homecomers, invalids on crutches, smart-suited men, cyclists in collar and tie,

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945 – 1955, pp. 42 – 43

One of the things self appreciates about Aftermath is that the author, Harald Jahner, has a very filmic eye.

Stay tuned.

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

The Audacity, Oh the Audacity!

Donald Heath calls his wife and son back to Berlin (they’d taken refuge in Oslo after Germany invaded Poland) and then breaks it to his wife: their eleven-year-old son will be the courier for messages between Donald and Mildred Harnack. It takes Louise Heath several days to agree.

This is what happens: the Heaths and the Harnacks meet for a picnic in the Spreewald, “a heavily-wooded area sixty miles southeast of Berlin.” Don Jr. is “dressed for the part: black short pants, tan knee socks, tan shirt, and a black cap — the uniform of the Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitlerjugend — a division of Hitler Youth for boys between ten and fourteen.”

Don Jr. “runs up ahead . . . he is always the lookout.” When he spots “Germans in uniform,” he remembers his father’s instructions and bursts into song:

Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig festern Schritt!

(Imagine teaching your 11-year-old to sing Hitler Youth songs! That is why self chose the title that she did for this post)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cable, Donald Heath to US Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau

Morgenthau’s decision to send Donald Heath to Berlin turns out to be god-level.

24 April 1939:

The (US) Embassy has received reliable information that the German Embassy in London has been informed by (Neville) Chamberlain that Great Britain is prepared to release to the Reich most of the Czech gold reserves which was on deposit in London . . . This news is surprising to Reich officials who look on it with somewhat amused disdain. They interpret it as an indication that Chamberlain is still inclined to gestures of “appeasement” and a belief that financial enticements can be used to buy off the Reich.

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 294

Neville Chamberlain absolutely capitulated to Hitler. He was the Kevin McCarthy of 1939. And Donald Heath was no dummy.

War breaks out. Germany invades Poland. Most of the US Embassy packs up and heads home, but Donald stays. He sends his wife and son to Oslo for their safety.

Louise and Don are in Oslo through September and October. On Nov. 4, Louise receives a telegram from her husband: COME BACK TO BERLIN.

If Louise knew WHY Donald suddenly wanted them both back to Berlin, she probably wouldn’t have agreed!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Goebbels, Sounds Like “Gobbles”

Goebbels at a press conference: The looters were “systematically trained” to commit their crimes by “a Jewish organization.” — ATFTOOD, pp. 289 – 290

In other words, KRISTALLNACHT was FAKE NEWS!

Stay tuned.

Louise Heath (Wife of Donald)

One morning Louise decides to attend a lecture at the American Women’s Club. She brings Young Don (11 years old) with her. They’re in the Embassy car. Louise glances in the rearview mirror. Following them is a Volkswagen crammed with Gestapo trainees (!!!), some of whom look as young as sixteen. Louise floors the accelerator. She has a full tank of gas . . . the teenage trainees don’t.

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 283

High fives, Mrs. Heath.

The Second Job

“At 10:15 a.m. on December 14, 1937, Donald Heath entered a wood-paneled corner office at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue for his first on-the-books meeting with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. . . . Morgenthau’s meetings were typically jammed with meetings, but today his desk calendar showed a considerably lighter load. He had a full half-hour for Heath.” (All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 276)

Morgenthau was sending Donald Heath to Berlin and wanted to discuss Heath’s responsibilities. “The job description was not, in the strictest sense, straightforward. Heath was taking on not just one job, but two.”

The first job would be “first secretary at the American embassy in Berlin . . . Here’s where it got tricky: someone already had the job . . . Heath would need to devote his time to his second job, which was the real, off-the-books reason he was being dispatched to Berlin. The second job . . . didn’t even have a name.”

And Morgenthau was able to get all of that across to Heath in a half hour? Because self highly doubts Heath was prepped before his interview!

Apparently Heath kept his responsibilities so secret that not even US Ambassador Hugh Wilson knew what they were! On June 30, 1938, Wilson sent a carefully worded letter (with bullet points! That’s when you know he’s getting serious!) to the Assistant Secretary of State complaining that no one had told him what kind of “work Heath was to do” and could someone please tell him what Heath was doing in Berlin? LOL LOL LOL

It took six months for Heath to file his first report, but it contained some very important information from the president of the Reichsbank, which was funding Hitler’s military build-up.

Heath’s wife jumps on him the minute Heath gets back from the Embassy, to complain that she thinks she is being followed by the Gestapo (but of course she is!)

Stay tuned.

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