Sunday, June 30, 2013

Berlin Blockade

The Berlin Blockade in which I fly with an allied ‘Rosinenbomber’ out of occupied Berlin in my mother’s womb, am born in Hannover, and am not contend with it.
       On June 24th, 1948 the Soviets stopped all surface travel to and from the US, French and British occupied zones of Berlin in the attempt to choke off the city and the hope that the allies would withdraw from Berlin and leave the former capital completely in Soviet control. Fortunately they didn’t succeed, but they made life difficult for the people living in the three western zones. The Russians considered Berlin the balls of the allies. To squeeze them meant to cause pain. In 1945 the Russians had made it to the Elbe river, which basically became the divide between East and West Germany. So, Berlin was in the center of the Soviet occupied zone.

Berlin street after the war.

       Most German cities were 50% or more destroyed during the war.  Most German cities were 50% or more destroyed during the war. In addition Berlin absorbed many refugees from the eastern provinces, parts of which were returned to Poland and Russia. During the blockade, to feed the hungry masses, the western allies flew 272,000 flights into Berlin, much to the relief of the people. Every 30 seconds a plane landed and before landing the pilots would throw candy, chewing gum and raisins out of the planes to the waiting kids, hence the name ‘Rosinenbomber’ (raisin bomber).

Berlin youth cheering a 'rosinen bomber.'

       My parents lived in Berlin at this chaotic period after the war and I was conceived sometime around December 48, not exactly planned, right in the middle of the blockade. Since life had become so difficult and the future so uncertain, my parents decided to try to make a better life in the west. Before the Russians attempt to choke off Berlin there had been a vibrant black market economy between the city and the west, much of it via rail. There were three main lines to the west, the northern route towards Hamburg, the western towards Cologne, Duesseldorf, etc and the southern line towards Frankfurt. My parents knew some people from Hannover the closest big city in the west on the western line. They got word that live was somewhat better there and made an attempt to go. My mother flew out with one of the allied planes and my father walked through the Soviet zone, crossing first into it and then, out of the Russian zone into the British zone. My parents then reunited in Hannover, my mother pregnant with me all this time. According to my mother I was born exactly at 08.08.8:08PM (49).        
        Before my birth, on May 12, 1949, the Soviets, realizing that the blockade had failed, had reopened the borders, but alas, the damage had been done and I was born in Hannover, a place that I never felt entirely at home. 

Mother and son. early 50's

Father and son.

In the public pool.
In front of the X-mas tree. Gotta love the bangs.

In grade school.
       My grandmother and my aunt had stuck it out in Berlin. Subsequently, I spend lots of time there and I had many important experiences in the city that I still consider the seat of my German soul. I remember well being there in the summer of 1961 when US and Soviet tanks faced each other over the building of the wall. By the time the wall tumbled in 1989 I had spend 10 years in New York City and was living in the US Virgin Islands.

Berlin wall being build. August 1961

        In 1954, my brother was born and interestingly still resides in Hannover; the German ‘wirtschaftswunder’ was gaining momentum and West Germany won the soccer worldcup, the ‘Wunder von Bern’. Life was getting better.
       Influenced by American rock’n roll, blue jeans and the refusal to follow the path of their parents, a youth culture developed in Germany whose members were called ‘Halbstarke’ . I was too young of course, but should join the lively activities during the next decades. The event of the Russian Blockade of Berlin was not only the beginning of the Cold War, but too has profoundly shaped me, the runaway son of the cold war.

Here I am running along the Berlin wall, a still from a 1987 super 8 movie.

No comments: