Roots #TheDailyPost #WritersWednesday

The prompt, Wednesday April 26

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She belongs to this city, even if she would deny it. Her accent, I know, is – ever so lightly – from somewhere else, further East, for such is History. Once upon a time, those lands belonged here. Her roots are here.

And I, wandering those streets, drinking quietly on the benches of the parks, try to guess where she is, now, that war again sounds on the horizon. She haunts my dreams, her steps always fading, beyond some wall, or perhaps, behind a cloud.

The ruins have gone – so many women cleared the streets, as the soldiers jeered. At night I roam the squares, near the churches…

She’s nowhere to be found…

Photo: berlin 2017 © martin u waltz. streetberlin.net

Blindly #DailyPrompt

Today’s one-word prompt

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He watches the City born again, the ghosts of the past walking, silently, amidst the joyous crowds. The ancient monuments look old and cleansed, no longer ruins martyred by war. Yet he does not follow the script, blindly, but, rather, reflects on the meanings, the hidden messages, the untold truths. Here were divisions, for sure, and the hideous spectrum of tyranny. But here was courage also. And patient work, and the indomitable spirit of a great nation.

Photo: Brandenburger Tor, von Bundestag cupola, 2017 (Honoré Dupuis)

Territory #WritersWednesday

The Prompt

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This was her city, she’s lived here all her life, and even before she became the angel she now is, she knew the streets, the people who haunted them, and the sort she could meet, the day people, and the night creatures. She was a little of both, and even now, if you could see her, it might be in the glory of dawn, or in deep darkness, in those hours when the ghosts of the city roam the deserted parks, the tree-lined alleys and the silent museums.

She’s here on her territory, she knows the history, she knows the truths, the myths, the real faces behind the masks. She can read the stories the old houses tell, the dreams of the humans who live there. She can hear distant voices, she recognises them. She can read ancient books, she can read what is engraved on stones, hidden from view, forgotten, in abandoned buildings no-one ever visits.

She’s here for a reason: she’s the angel of Death, and close to her the Devil never comes.

Image: “Angel statue in a destroyed city

Purple #DailyPost

Monday Prompt

 

 

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We see the birds gather and fly, first as a small group, then swarming in a dark cloud, defying the glowing sunset. As the coulours change, as the sky turns from blue into purple, then into the deep hue of the coming night, they fly higher, for a short instant, to finally dive, back into the trees. Violet strikes appear in the sky, time seems suspended, the fleeting memories of the day prepare us to the silence that follows, to the peace yet to come.

Afrikanische Straße

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I leave the lutheran bells ringing clear, behind, the sky a dull lead blanket, but soon I see the green shoots: Nature, the knowing lover, is holding them back, in this chilled Sunday morning, as if to moderate our impatience. She knows how to prolong the foreplay, make us wait, nurse our lust, dream of future ecstasies.

The park is silent, even the birds talk in polite, muted voices. A few runners, the dog walkers, I must be the only tramp. The lake lies still, its waters not yet enticing: the beach is deserted, but for a couple of philosophical ducks. An old crucifix stands, alone, reflecting on a better, perhaps even, glorious past. Yesterday’s winds have covered the ground with small, brittle branches, it may rain soon.

The cool bier goes down so well, a not-quite-Spring treat, solitary pleasure. Some youths walk past, so quiet, survivors of some late Saturday’s party. I take my bulk further north, to the limit of the park; on the other side of the motorway lies the airport. The grumble of sparse traffic can be heard, faintly. The sport grounds are busy, with the serious shouts of enthusiastic soccer players. More dogs are entertaining their mistresses, bored, probably wondering about the human mind . The rain has started its cool morning exercise.

There are two small ponds before the street: I am back in Africa now. I follow Afrikanische for a short while, turn left on Transvaal: where else could I walk in a few minutes across thousands of miles? When I cross over Togo, the pavement is shiny with rain. Soon I find Kameruner: I am home. Girls are walking back to their nests, carrying bread.

Back to my space, I carefully recycle the beer bottle. Bless this city, and its inhabitants.

Image: Samuel Araya, via aeszaaesza.tumblr.com

Instinct #WritersWednesday

The source of all wisdom…

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You are away, the old instinct is awake, the walk in the park, a chill wind playing with dead leaves: my soul is hiding, without you… Crocuses shine, defiant, as clouds mask the sun.

You are away, I bathe in solitude, hunter no more, guessing at the dance in the skies, sacred world, surrounded by such beauty, sinner, well on his way to purgatory, or worse?

You are away: instinct prevails, the blank page stares at me, provoking, icy-cold.

The lake is alive, it’s just me: half way there, between heaven and hell.

Photo: Rehberge, Berlin

Abstract #Prompt

The Prompt

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The rain falls over the City, cleansing the ground, rendering a soft glow on the coloured roofs; people walk, attentive, checking their steps to avoid puddles. The sound of traffic is muted, the jackdaws fly higher, in deep reflection. It is as if time was slowing down, as if the City was pausing, observing, maybe wondering what this strange abstract picture of our lives really means: is the past catching up, melting our present into the unfathomable future?

The rain falls, and we become part of the painting, already absorbing the bright colours of Spring.

Image: M.C. Escher, Puddle, 1952. Woodblock print. Via: http://szobel.tumblr.com/

By the Lake

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The quiet street is bordered by sumptuous villas, surrounded by trees. Some of the buildings are ancient, although meticulously maintained, probably pre-1914; others are more recent. Most have views over the lake, for this is what would be described, in England, as a well sought-after, leafy suburb. It has been so for a long time, ever since, in the 1850’s, the industrial growth of the Reich, and of its capital city, pushed the wealthy and entrepreneurial to seek the peace of these shores.

We drive past the painter Lieberman’s house, now a museum. Lieberman died in 1935, a confused and broken man, at the start of the worst episode in German, and European, long history. His widow, then aged eighty, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, and killed herself with veronal. We park the car in a spacious space, a few steps from the “lion”, and from the Villa Marlier.

Kaufmann Ernst Marlier, a charlatan who made his fortune selling fake slimming pills to the gullible German ladies and gents, acquired the land and had the house built for himself in 1914. The house is set on an artificial hill, constructed at great cost, to ensure a view over the lake, and an elegant formal garden. This is a vast, comfortable place, well suited to the – then –  wealthy owner who could afford it. We are told (*) that Marlier, after many unpleasant encounters with the law, sold his property in 1921, and finally disappeared without trace in Switzerland. The next owner, Herr Friedrich Minoux, was another one-time lucky businessman, with political ambitions, and who was not so successful under nazi rule, not fault of trying. Minoux had specialised in acquiring jewish businesses at fire-sale prices and built his financial success thereupon.he could not however avoid bankruptcy and sold the property for 1.95 million Reichsmark in 1940.

And so it is that, against strong competition from other nazi supremos, including Doctor Goebbels himself, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), and future protector of Boheme-Moravia, acquired the Marlier house. There, on 20 January 19942, took place the conference that sealed the fate of millions of European citizens, caught in the nightmare of deportation and extermination on the East front. It is said that the real decisions regarding the “final solution” had already been taken, at the onset of the war, and were, anyway, already written into the “book’s” dreaded pronouncements.

By 1942 Heydrich had been made the über boss of all police and repressive forces in the Reich (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), and in the occupied territories. There is little doubt that the conference, as well documented in the “protocol” meticulously compiled by Obersturmbannführer Eichmann, was at most an endorsement and logistical settlement of the already determined final solution. The fifteen “functionaries” who participated, were in fact, Heydrich himself apart, no decision makers. As the said, many times later, and still during the trial of Eichmann, they obeyed orders…

The exhibition in the house, is superbly, and mercilessly laid out, from the nineteenth century nonsense, pseudo scientific racial absurdities, through the first world war and the fierce repression of the revolution, to the early fascistic violence of the frei Korps in the 20’s, to the onset of the nazi regimes, the logic of the first KZ, the liquidation of the “socialists” within, and finally, the war. There is plenty of sober evidence of the handy work of the Einsatzgruppen, Heydrich’s babies, the massacres of communists and jews, the good citizens of Lithuania, and other proud nationalists, butchering their neighbours with iron bars, under the watchful and impassive eyes of German soldiers. There is plenty of evidence of the cowardice of various collaborating European governments, including France’s Vichy, that managed to deport some 70,000 French citizens and refugees, in less than five years. Over half of the eleven million Europeans, objects of the conference, lost their lives. But, of course, this does not count Germany’s estimated eleven millions military and civilian dead, and the losses of the victorious USSR…

We looked out of the dining room bay windows, where once Reinhard Heydrich stood, surrounded by his fellow “functionaries”. We walked out on the beautiful terrace Marlier had built.

Then, we walked along the awakening lake shore, observing that the ice had melted. A heron flew by, in the woods we saw a wild boar. A beaver colony is evidently hard at work on some trees. So was a woodpecker. Peaceful walkers were taking pictures. So was I.

(*) I am in debt to Deutschlandradio for the programme “Gebt mir Sand, Wasser und Gold, Die lange Nacht von der Insel Wannsee“, for the historical information upon which this post is based.

The photography is from our visit to the Wannseeconferenz Haus in February 2017.

 

 

A Walk in Sacrower Schloss Park

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The leafless trees look over the park, serenity reigns. Not quite free of ice, the Havel flows, almost with an excuse: it may be February, but winter is far from over. In the distance, through the mist, one can guess at the Glienicker Brücke, the bridge of spies. Many years have passed since then, since the hideous wall was removed, new trees planted, the park reopened, and the old church finally restored to its simple splendour.

The Schloss is still closed, its windows blind; a few steps away stands the millennium oak, witness to the folly of man. The old, tortured trunk still proud, even if half of it lays on the ground, finally resting. The path leads to the edge of Scarow, and further to the west, deep in the forest that surrounds the lake. There, in Summer, the young, and not so young, bathe and flirt in the nude, in the cleanest water around, under the shade of the trees. Now the woods are almost silent, if it were not for the woodpecker’s tireless effort. Half melted snow still lies on the ground, covered in patches with the small, pale bulbs of snowdrops.

The lake is frozen, the calm waters undisturbed by visitors. Nature is still asleep, and Spring a long way off.

Photo: Oak tree in Sacrower Schloß Park, © 2017 Honoré Dupuis

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