Thoughts to the 1st of September 1939

01/09/2014

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

One would have to be pretty old to remember that day in the summer of 1939.

I’m this old and remember this particular day and what made it important. My dad told us, that there was a war on and the government ordered all windows to be blacked out so an incoming enemy air plane was not able to see and recognise anything.

Dad wanted to put some old wall paper over the glass of the windows and used some drawing pins to stick the paper to the window frames. He soon ran out of them. He sent me, his four year old son, to the shop to buy some more drawing pins, I was not surprised for I had done some errands before. I sort of remember buying ice creams and toffee lollies on my own.

On the way back the air raid siren started howling. Dad told the family there was nothing to worry about, it was only a  drill. Long after the war I learnt that the air defence made a mistake and mistook a German plane for a Polish one.

On the day we children did not take the news of war in any way seriously. I have no idea how my parents felt. Much later I learnt that dad was a communist who hated Hitler intensely.  Still, in January 1940, he joined the Army. He returned after the war in May 1946 after having been a POW.

For me exciting times were ahead. But as a little child I would not have known anything about the reasons for that war. During the next five and a half years, slowly the excitement turned into horror and it all ended in May 1945 with the unconditional surrender of the military forces of the German Reich.

Where are we now seventy five years later? The world is in turmoil. Historians tell us, it is the most peaceful time in all of history. What we are doing is concentrating on one or two events and we think it is the big one.  Well, I know history too and I can see what the Western powers are up to.  We, the public, see only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We know nothing of what the big powers are really  playing at. What we hear and read is only propaganda. Lies upon lies are heaped onto a mountain of misinformation and before we know it, we have a big war in which young men are being  sacrificed and the women of the world are crying.

In Eastern Europe, at the  border between the Ukraine and Russia, storm clouds are forming. The enlargement of the EU and the encroachment of NATO towards the Russian borders is seen by the Russians as an attack on their national and cultural identity. The interest of the Russians in the affairs of Ukraine is not territorial but cultural and deeply emotional. Their feelings about “Mother Russia” is bordering on the religious. In Czarist times they called it “Holy Mother Russia”. I dare say, no other people on Earth feel so deeply about their country.

“The modern peoples of Belarus,Ukraine, and Russia all claim Kievan Rus’ as their cultural inheritance.” this is a quote from the Wikipedia about the country, Kievan Rus’. Now Russia, feeling stronger than at any time since 1990, feels it has to resist the encroachment by the West. The proposed association of the Ukraine with the European Union was the last straw.  If the West does not grasp this fact it is sliding into a confrontation of unimaginable consequences.

Today, at this important anniversary, we are closer to WW III than at any time since the end of the Cold War and we should be mindful of what Albert Einstein said, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

 

Let that be a warning to us all.

 

 

Family gathering at Sussex Inlet – August 2014

31/08/2014
The Inlet at low tide in the evening

The Inlet at low tide in the evening

 

We went to the Sussex Inlet for a family reunion. We have been there for short holiday stays many times over the years. The inlet is bordering a national park situated in the Capital Territory near Jervis Bay.

 

There we stay at a Railway Union Holiday camp. It is at the end of 13 km dirt track. The winding track is ideal for jogging and many a times, in previous years, we have been running out and back.

 

Kangaroo could break suddenly out of the bushes.

Kangaroos could break suddenly out of the bushes.

 

Soon after our  arrival the sun set.  Usually Kangaroos are awaiting us, but non was to be seen on the first evening. A single  Brush Wallaby made a short appearance to the delight of our youngest member of the family.

 

Lucas is meeting the locals

Lucas is meeting the locals

 

Next morning we saw lots of birds. A Kookaburra came to visit and even tried to take a bite out my finger.

 

The Kookaburra - the laughing bird

The Kookaburra – the laughing bird

 

More interesting are the Crimson Rosella. They watch us and hope for a tasty snack.

 

Grandson Ryan is getting friendly with the birds

Grandson Ryan is getting friendly with the birds

Lucas and his mother Ebony

Lucas and his mother Ebony

 

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast we all went for a long walk along the track and then back along Bherwerre Beach. We stopped at a little pick-nick spot   on the shore of St Georges Basin.

 

St Georges Basin

St Georges Basin

 

The place is actually called “Lone Pine”. And here is why.

 

The "Lone Pine"

The “Lone Pine”

We took a group photo, or two, at the “Lone Pine” spot.

 

 

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Ryan and son Lucas

Ryan and son Lucas

Beautiful smelling blossoms

Beautiful smelling blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there we set off for a stroll to the beach.

 

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Soon we walked through the dunes.

 

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And suddenly we could see what we came for. We all stumbled through the sand but were happy when we saw and heard the rolling surf. It is all part of the Booderee National Park .

The Tasman Sea - next stop New Zealand

The Tasman Sea – next stop New Zealand

 

We  rested for a while before we set off for the 2 km beach walk.

 

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At first we did not see any other people other than our little group. Much later two anglers were proud to show us their catch. We started off on our walk back.

 

The red shoes tried to do it alone.

The red shoes tried to do it alone.

 

A dead seal who did not make it.

A seal who did not make it.

 

The younger ones went ahead......

The younger ones went ahead……

 

...and we two oldies were a bit slower

…and we two oldies were a bit slower

 

The two angler....

The two anglers ….

...and their catch

…and their catch

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is me carrying the tired shoes

This is me carrying the tired shoes

 

At the end of our walk

At the end of our walk

We reached the inlet, tired but happy.

 

Our daughter Caroline prepared a beautiful lunch which we enjoyed very much.

 

....the cook

….the cook

The meal and...

The meal and…

 

 

 

 

After the lunch it was time to relax with the birds. At least this is what Matthew did.

 

Are you looking for answers, Matthew?

Are you looking for answers, Matthew?

 

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In the evening we all came together in Martin’s cabin. The younger ones played a tournament of card games. Matthew and Caroline won.

Martin, Ryan, Roxy, Mitch

Martin, Ryan, Roxy, Mitch

Monika, Troy, Natasha

Monika, Troy, Natasha

Ryan, Monika, Martin

Ryan, Monika, Martin

After the games some refreshments

After the games some refreshments

Next morning it was misty and slow rain fell and only the Kangaroos and a ghost were out.

Mr and Mrs Roo

Mr and Mrs Roo

The white ghost

The white ghost

It is a last “Good bye” to the Kangaroos.

 

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A last chat.

A last chat.

 

One more snap

One more snap

And we leave with good memories which will last longer then the tracks we left in the sand at the beach. We did not go for a swim but summer is not too far away and we can always go to the local beach or pool.

 

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Hold-up at the Art Precinct

22/08/2014

We had reason to go to Wollongong, the largest city in the Illawarra, and on the way back to the car I saw a large picture on the wall. Street art, I presume.

 

Mythical figure?

Mythical figure?

 

I was intrigued. What was it? An animal or a tree trunk? There seemed to be flying birds and falling leafs.  Beside was a sign.

 

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Ah, I was at the art precinct and they told me that I was under observation. I did nor know art was dangerous to warrant CCTV. As you can see on the sign it showed the way into a rather dark alley.  I felt I had to investigate a bit further. And found a triptych of horror.

Triptych of Horror

Triptych of Horror

 

I can not see any connection between the three pictures of the panel.

I went back to the street and to my surprise found three character with doubtful intentions.

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My favourite

My favourite

 

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After seeing those three, I wanted to get the hell out of there. I was lucky on the other side of the street Uta  was waiting for me near a safe sanctuary.

 

Anglican Church - Kembla Street

Anglican Church – Kembla Street

 

 ps. This blog is published also in German at pethan35.wordpress.com

8th Sunday after Trinity

10/08/2014

Today is Sunday. It is supposed to be a day of rest and recuperation. They used to say, it is the Lord’s Day. A day that belonged to something other than ourselves. And, in a roundabout way it is for our renewal.

 

We have to get away from the daily grind and our struggle for existence. That was the idea of the Sabbath of the old Jewish calendar. Even God needed a day of rest after the Creation; and he saw, all was good. Was it really?

When I was a child and looked out a window I noticed straight away when it was Sunday.  The streets were quieter and  emptier. People were dressed differently than they were on weekdays. Today I can’t see the street. I look at the bush as it always looks. It is green and the birds are flying from tree to tree as they always did. For them, it is always the Lord’s Day. We have to be reminded.

 

As we, Uta and I, were sitting at the table, having breakfast with a soft-boiled egg, we switched on the radio, as we do in the mornings, to listen to “our ABC” and the beautiful music they usually broadcast. And who better to start Sunday with than no other than Johann Sebastian Bach. They were plying the first movement of his Brandenburg concerto no. 4.

 

 

 

Brandenburg is the land of my forefathers and Berlin is its  main city. It has a beautiful landscape, where human hand has improved on what nature, from the Ice Age on, has provided.

Here begins Brandenburg when you come from Mecklenburg

Here begins Brandenburg when you come from Mecklenburg

After the concerto they played a cantata by Bach as they do every Sunday. The right one for the right day, as it was done when he was at the Thomas Church at Leipzig.

They played the cantata BWV 178: “If the Lord God does not stay with us”. This cantata has been especially being composed for the 8th Sunday after Trinity. After checking this cantata out I realised, how opportune it is for just our time.

 

The music of the cantata  is of course beautiful and powerful, even if one is not a believer. For  a secular person, like me, it tells me, that when we lose our moral compass then nothing will help us. Our immorality makes our enemies stronger and we can see it everywhere in the world today.

The wrong god, Mammon,  is running the show and that is why Sunday has been turned into just another shopping day. There is no Sabbath any more and the more we move away from the Enlightenment, the more the fundamentalists of this world will cause upheaval. The Yazidi, stuck on Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq, suffer for the greed and corruption of the West. The gods are angry and do not stay with us.

I’m not pleading for a new god. I’m pleading fore a  morality  where the balance sheet  is not the guiding principle. Countries are being run for the benefit of the corporations and not for the benefit of the people as a whole. We are being told to work more for less. But the wealth so created is ending up  in the pockets of the few. The environment is being destroyed. Countries are being bombed to smithereens.

 

It is time we we take back our Sabbath  or our Sunday and pause once in a while and consider the outcomes of our wrong actions and may be, “the Lord might once again smile at us.”  The lessons of 8th Sunday after Trinity must be learnt. Bach knew about it two hundred and ninety years ago.

 

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View of Mount Kembla, Illawarra, NSW

 

 

Pride comes before the Fall !

30/07/2014

2-Samuel-20

 

When I read a news paper or see the TV news nowadays, I get the feeling, we live at the the edge of something big.  We live at the edge of a political and historical cataclysm. Whether we go over the edge will depend on cool heads and people who’s thinking is not dictated by pride.

 

And it is our (false) PRIDE, I believe,  that lead us to it. It happened that they were discussing “pride” last night on our ABC in the series “Jennifer Byrne Presents“. We all think our country is the best, our system is the best, our God is the best and our weapons (read penises) are the best.  The implications here are “male pride” and women and children have to suffer for it.

No wonder we have come to the juncture that is our contemporary world. A hospital, in Gaza, is shelled or a passenger plane (MH 17) is shot down with no regard to the lives of people and a possible later historical outcome. One hundred years ago a series of shots rang out at Sarajevo that changed the world for ever. It was pure Serbian pride that lead that young man to his deadly deed. And it was pure Austrian pride that  made Franz Ferdinand parade in that city.

 

The re-emergence of hurt German pride after WW I  lead to WW II.

 

Whoever shot down MH 17 did it out of pride. We can do it, they thought and to hell with everybody else. We in the West like pointing at Russia and Putin (do you notice that the letters “Ras” are missing in front of Putin?) and claim  they are to blame. I think Putin is smarter than this. While not running away from conflict  with the West, he nevertheless is not looking for it. I’m  sure, when he heard of the downing of MH 17 he was storming in a big rage through the Kremlin. He himself is full of pride and that leads him into strife because he does not think what is good for all, but what looks good for him. And right now he is thinking how he could use the situation to his advantage.

 

We  in the West are not smart enough to consider a way out for people whose false pride  lead them into trouble . We could learn something from a lion tamer who always gives a dangerous animal a way out: jump on another seat or take another position.

 

The USA is full of pride ( cynics would say “shit”) and it is dangerous when a former world power is on a slippery dip to mediocrity.  In a country where they say, the second place getter is the first loser, you must have nightmares that someone, somewhere is overtaking you. I feel sorry for President Obama, who must be asking himself, why he ever nominated to be a candidate for President of the United States. Well, seeing him at the convention I must say, it was sheer pride.

 

And  then there is Israel. In 1948 it became the homeland for the displaced Jews from the war ravaged Europe. The inoffensive Jews of the diaspora became the aggressive Israelis who had no compassion for their Palestinian  fellow citizens who had taken them in in friendship and good will.

 

Seventy years ago there was an uprising in Warsaw. Polish pride lead the resistance movement onto a suicide mission. They did not know the Russians wanted  them destroyed  and the Germans were just the right people to do it.  A year earlier Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto staged an uprising on their own against the Nazis. It was not so much pride as pure desperation.

When I look at today’s news I’m reminded of those two uprisings and the behaviour of the occupiers. Gaza is being destroyed, as was Warsaw – street by street , house by house. You would think the Jews among the Israelis have learned something in the diaspora. They only repeat the mistakes of others. Of course, if you declare someone your enemy, your pride tells you,  you must give them no quarter.

 

No quarter is given in the Ukraine either. Did you have a closer look at those separatists?  They bristle with pride as they fondle their automatic weapons as teenagers would play with their erect members.  The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is  full of false pride himself, promising  that we , the Australians, will recover the bodies and  the evidence and will bring the perpetrators to justice.  I can tell him right now, that won’t happen. He will have to swallow his pride and tell the people of Australia he can not accomplish the mission. If he tries a military solution he must be prepared to see his elite soldiers coming home in body bags, if at all. Russia has been the grave yard for many.

Here in Australia, with no neighbours we have to deal with, chest thumping is a well understood pastime, especially during the Commonwealth Games.  We are the greatest, but don’t get the idea coming here to live among us. Aussie pride is a great confidence builder, but in the wider world out there, we would have to learn to swallow our pride.

 

Mankind, as a whole, has not learnt much since biblical times and that is why “Pride” is still one of the deadly sins.

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20 July, 1944

20/07/2014

Seventy years ago it was a beautiful summer’s day. I was  in a small town in Upper-Silesia. The town was called  Friedland (Land of Peace). It is now  called Korfantów.

 

Being there, it really felt like peace in a time of war.  I lived in a boys home and was safe and out of harm  from the daily air raids Berliners had to suffer at this time.  At least we had the luxury of sleeping  through the nights. Later  in the year of 1944 we often saw the American bomber formations on their way to Katowice and  the industrial area of Silesia. It is quiet a sight seeing hundreds of planes flying  in formation and trailing  their  exhaust contrails.

 

On 20 July, a Thursday, it felt like Sunday because we were on school vacation. The people in charge of the home decided we could go to the woods and collect blueberries. We thought so too, but did not know what lay ahead of us. Straight after breakfast we were on our way. The last big building we saw on our way out of town was the Catholic Church.

An old postcard of the church (Google image)

An old postcard of the church (Google image)

 

It turned out a long walk in the direction of Tillowitz (today Tulowice). I had no watch nor did anybody tell us how long and far we had to walk. To the right and left of the road were endless fields covered with ripening grain, wheat or oats. I saw lots of reddish poppies and blue cornflowers. They looked so enticing and seemed to call me, but I also knew about the  Roggenmuhme (a female ‘field spirit’ who will punish anybody who entered the field to damage it), who, we were told, will take naughty children away, never to be seen again.

 

At the beginning of the walk I felt excited and took in the sights and sounds.  Larks flew up from the fields and stopped in mid-air and sang their beautiful songs.  The telegraph wires, swinging from pole to pole and connecting people talking to each other,  where humming their eternal melody.

 

As the sun climbed higher into the sky it became hotter.  With all my stopping and  looking I fell behind  the others. They seemed to me so far ahead that I was afraid they would forget all about me and surely the Roggenmuhme would get me. Fear gave me extra energy and I started running and  was able to catch up with them.

 

We must have been walking, what seemed to me more than two hours, before we reached a wooded area. The forest gave us shade from the merciless sun. I have no idea how hot it really was, but the forecast for today in 2014 is for 30°C.  It could have been similar.

Finally we veered off into the bush for a rest. After a while the female carers sent us off to look for blueberries.  And there were plenty. There were also cranberries but these were not wanted.  The cranberries went straight into our mouths. I was nine years old and after a long walk I could have eaten a horse.

Each one of us had a little container in which we collected the blueberries.  Once full, we took it to the women, who were sitting on the grass and chatting away, and emptied them into  larger containers which they later carried in their rucksack.

I collected the berries into my old sandwich satchel and every time I emptied it, I received a tablespoon of icing sugar as reward.  I loved that very much and the icing sugar disappeared into my mouth without any delay.

I can’t remember whether we had any other food,  but I would say, the ladies brought sandwiches along for all of us. This went on for a long while and we were running to and fro to empty our little containers for the sweet reward. I have forgotten how much icing sugar I ate that day. Late in the afternoon came the signal that we had enough blueberries and after another short rest we started the long walk back.

On the open road it was still hot. The sun still shone strongly from the cloudless sky. We all were tired by now and walked at a much slower pace.  I was always under the impression we walked back for three hours. Perhaps the women told us the time when we started the walk back home and I know  it was eight o’clock in the evening when we finally arrived at the home.

 

The Head Sister of the home was already waiting and looking out for us and when we arrived tired and worn out she told us, “Someone tried to kill our beloved Führer.”

 

We heard the message, but we could not comprehend it. How was that possible? How could anybody do such a thing. But the Führer was alive,  that was important and what was even more important was that we got our supper. We were starving and while we were chewing our sandwiches, we were discussing the big news.

I doubt many nine year old today would be interested in news of a political nature,  but we were. A big war was going on at several fronts in Europe. My father was in Italy that is all I knew at the time. He was actually shot at every day by American fighter planes driving a motor lorry with supplies to the front.

From that day on the news would become grimmer by the day and five months later the war would come to the “Land of Peace” and we took a dangerous train ride back to Berlin.

Perhaps it was the last long, hot summer’s day of my childhood and I ate a huge amount of icing sugar that day. A day when a brave man, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg ,  tried to rid the world of a dangerous dictator. He said:

 

“It is time that something is being done. The one, however, who dares to do so, has to be aware, that he could go into German history as a traitor. But if he omits this deed, he would be a traitor to his own conscience.”

 

 

A Ship of Desperate People

08/07/2014

In 1933 the German cruise liner Veracruz was heading for Mexico. On board were Jewish passengers who wanted to escape persecution in  Nazi Germany. Mexico did not take the refugees and no other country either. The USA refused   them entry too.

The ship had to return to Germany and the Jewish passengers later ended up in a concentration camp. How many survived, I have no idea. I don’t think any of them.

 

The incident lead to the establishment of  The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) in 1951 was made into an acclaimed film in 1965 .

 

The gist of the matter is, that countries who signed the convention must give a refugee protection from prosecution. A person, that has a well founded fear of prosecution can not be send back to the country where the prosecution took place. Australia is such a signature country.

Up to last year Australia has taken refugees in and .granted them protection. Not any more. The new Liberal (what a Orwellian misnomer) Government. Has a policy called “Stop the Boats” nominal to avoid drownings on the sea and to secure our borders.

The policy was developed to secure the votes in the Western Suburbs of Sydney where a sizeable proportion of the voters is anti-immigration, especially anti-Muslim. The “avoidance of death at sea” argument is dishonest at the least.

I’m not a journalist, nor am I a lawyer but the legal situation is being much better explained in an article of the Sydney Morning Herald by the eminent law Professor Jane McAdam.

 

Now, out there, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in a sheer act of piracy,  the Australian Government has instructed our navy to stop a boat with 153 refugees from Sri Lanka and they are preparing to hand them over to the  Sri Lanka  Navy.

 

A group of lawyers acting on behalf of the refugees, among them women and children, went to the High Court of Australia to stop the Government from just doing that. Last week they handed over a boat with 41 refugees and according to Sri Lanka Police those refugees are facing now criminal prosecution for leaving the country illegally.

 

The High Court of Australia issued an injunction not to do anything till 4:0 pm today. The court will sit today at 2:0 pm in Melbourne to hear arguments. The nation is holding its breath.

 

Not so the convention busting inclined government of Australia who denies even the existence of the boat. For “operational reasons” they say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tank battle on the “Tempelhofer Feld” ?

02/07/2014
Possibly Soviet Tank T 44

Possibly Soviet Tank T 44

 

I have become aware of the above photo through the Face Book pages of the Berlin Wartourist.

The picture was taken (April 1945) perhaps 500 meters from were I was taking shelter from the fighting during the battle of Berlin. The headquarters of the 8th Guards Army, with General Vasily Chuikov the commanding officer, was just around the corner from where the picture was taken.

 

At first I thought it is just another battle picture but on second thoughts I’m sure it is not. Firstly, there was no heavy fighting in my area. I never  saw a fighting German soldier in my life. Dead one? Yes, but somewhere else. We kept our heads down in the cellar. My mother went out to get some food and had to take cover because someone shot at her.

 

What most likely happened was, that some Russians horsed around to take some snaps. There was no reason to  take the tank onto the heap of rubble.  Any German would have been long gone. But then again there is a lot of symbolism in the picture.

The debris represents the smashed Germany, the tank is the victorious Soviet military machine threatening a symbol of Western civilisation, the Church. We must not forget that Germany was after all a Christian country.  By its behaviour you wouldn’t have known it. The Catholic Church always believed that Germany, and his Führer, could be be in the forefront against Bolshevism.  The picture is the result of such thinking.

 

And there is another thing. If you look, you can see a street sign in the front of the church’s roof. It says, Manfred-von-Richthofen-Straße ! This was the name of the famous Red Baron from the Great War. His name almost covered by the rubble of WW II.

 

There is another picture, possibly at the same corner. One of tanks is said to have hit a landmine. The same church can be seen  in the background.

 

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The church belonged to our parish “The Church on the Field of Tempelhof”.   We could not use the church for our confirmation, because it was still damaged. In 1954 my sister married in it.  This field used to be a  marching ground for the military of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

So, this is the final symbolism, the Soviet tank is smashing the German militarism right in its heart.  I don’t think the Russian soldiers in their exuberance of victory were considering all that.

This is the same street corner now. Peace has been restored and we don’t want any more conflict,

ANYWHERE !

 

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Berlin, 30 January 1945

28/06/2014

 

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It was a bleak winter’s evening. The almost full moon, now waning, should have guided the people through the darkened city. But on this evening clouds covered the sky over the war damaged city of Berlin. Heaven could not decide whether it should snow or rain. When the Moon shone through a break in the fast moving clouds it gave the appearance that the Moon itself was speeding across the sky. There had been only seven air raids during the month of January, two of these had been  during the last two nights when the full moon shone  the bombers of  the RAF the way to  their targets.

The date was important in the calendar of the Third Reich. It was the twelfth anniversary of Hitler coming to power. Normally the Royal Air Force joined in the celebration with a bit of fireworks of their own on those special days. But on that day  Berliners looked up at the sky and said, “The Tommies will stay at home tonight.” This gave them the possibility to arrange their own entertainment for the evening.

Tucholsky said once famously, “There is always something,” and so there was. Bomber Command had decided to send a lonely Mosquito surveillance aircraft to take some happy snaps of the celebrating city. “We don’t want Jerry to be too comfortable”, they said. Not much was there to been seen. Only when the cloud cover opened a bit the two men crew in the freezing cockpit could see something. So they let the cameras do some picture taking. Mostly, they saw only the white clouds reflecting the bright moon light.

Mosquito surveillance aircraft

Mosquito surveillance aircraft

“Why had Harris to send us out on a night like that,” asked the pilot his sidekick.

“To keep Jerry on his toes, I suppose, “ said his co-pilot as he looked through his viewfinder.

Indeed that is what happened: Pre-alarm was given and Berliners did not dare going too far away from their homes. It interrupted normal socialising; if socialising was at all possible in those dark days.

“There is a train pulling into …, wait a minute…,” said the co-pilot as he shone a torch on a map and said, “…Görlitzer Bahnhof”.

“I’m surprised they’re still doing some travelling. Haven’t we destroyed all the railways?” wondered the pilot. They had their instructions to keep the fear level of those Germans up for a couple of hours. The two flyers hoped the sky would not clear enough to allow some Luftwaffe night-fighters to hunt for them. The order was to criss-cross the city a few times and then return with the last fuel.

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The train, the two RAF pilots observed through a break in the clouds, came to a screeching halt inside the station and disgorged its passengers; mostly soldiers with their heavy gear. An announcer told them that there was a pre-alarm and nobody was to leave the station. Refreshments could be had at the restaurant. The soldiers had to go to a “Frontleitstelle” where they would receive further  directions to their postings or  instructions pertaining to their travel.

In the middle of the platform a group of about thirty boys, from a boys home in Silesia, could be seen as they were shepherded towards the exit and then to the restaurant. They all carried their own luggage with difficulty and did not get any help from the adults. They were happy when they got to the station restaurant and were told a warm meal would be served. There was plenty of time as they had to wait for the ‘all clear’. They were told there was only one plane and assured that no bombs would be dropped on them.

They were all tired and hungry. They had been on a hospital train for twenty five days with hardly a change of clothes and not much to eat, except bread and jam. The Red Army chased them from Silesia all along the ever closer coming front. It was a miracle they were not attacked by low flying aircraft. Perhaps the red cross on the roof of the train protected them. During the last four or five hours they had been travelling in a scheduled passenger train through a heavy snow storm. Strangely, here in Berlin they felt save again.

The boys, all Berliners, found tables and chairs in the station diner. After they had settled in they went to the counter where a big elderly woman handed out the meals. One of the boys, Paul, went and asked for some food. An elderly woman smiled at him and asked,

“Are you hungry? And if you are you are at the right place. The bad news is we have only barley soup. The good news is you can choose between dark or white barley.”

Paul did not waste any time and said, “White, please!” The lady filled a bowl with hot soup and handed it to Paul with a smile and said, “Guten Appetit, mein Junge!

Paul did not need any extra appetite, he was practically starving. He wolfed down the soup and went back for more. “I’m still hungry, could I have more, please?” The lady smiled again and said, “We have plenty and you can come back as often as you like.”

The boy could not remember ever having received such an invitation. This time he took the dark barley and was surprised that it tasted just as good. The other boys at his table did the same and got refill after refill. Finally Paul could not eat any more. He had been eating ten bowls of soup altogether; five of each.

The lonely, freezing airmen in their Mosquito above Berlin  did a few calculations and decided with the fuel left they would make it back to their airfield in the north of France. As they left the airspace over Berlin the ‘all clear‘ was given.

III

“Boys get ready. We are leaving in a few minutes,” called out one of the women who had escorted them all the way from Silesia. When they got out of the station building they were surprised that there was no snow in Berlin. Two large, electric postal parcel vans were waiting for them. They were herded in and soon the vans took of.

The boys were all standing and they were holding on to sides of the van. Paul was lucky enough to be able to look through a tiny window in the front of the cabin and through the driver’s cabin. He could see where the van was going. He was surprised that they went along a street where he could see the viaduct of the elevated train. He knew at once where he was and it made his heart beat faster. Where ever they were taking them, he could possibly abscond and find his way home to his beloved mother.

Damaged viaduct of elevated train

Damaged viaduct of elevated train

When suddenly the van turned right into a side street, Paul saw through the rear window, that the viaduct of the elevated train became smaller and smaller. It made him fearful that he could lose his direction in the dark. But after only a few minutes, without turning again, the van stopped in front of a large greyish building.

Municipal Orphanage, Berlin

Municipal Orphanage, Berlin

When the boys were standing on the footpath one of the female escorts informed them that they had arrived at the Municipal Orphanage at Alte Jakobstrasse and they would stay there for a couple of days until they were taken to a more permanent accommodation somewhere else in the city.

Do you understand me?” she asked and further told them, “When you enter the building I want you to be as quiet as a mouse would be, because the other children are already asleep. Do you understand?” All the boys just nodded their heads; only here and there some inaudible “Ja.” . In the dark they could make out a large, grey building. No light could be seen from the windows because of the black-out.

Once inside, they could feel a comfortable warmth greeting them. They had to climb two stories to where their rooms were. Four boys were put into one room. They marvelled at the comfort the rooms emanated. Four beds that had their covers printed with blue clover leaves. The room had an en-suite bathroom with warm water. What an unexpected luxury and that in the middle of a war going on. In Silesia they had  only an outdoor l without flushing water.

Without warning they heard that the door to their room was being locked from the outside. They could not escape. Paul was disappointed and he had to wait till the morning. There was nothing he could do at that moment. He was too tired anyway to worry much about it. Quickly he was in bed and fell asleep immediately.

In his dream he experienced once again the blizzard he had seen from the train. Soldiers, carrying their rifles,  ran bent through the forest towards their fate. The snow did cover everything. Silence.

Two days later they left the orphanage in a special tram to Wilmersdorf, another suburb of Berlin, to another home that had been prepared for them. This was a stroke of pure luck, because another two days later, on the 3rd of February 1945, the orphanage was totally destroyed in the largest air raid Berlin experienced during the war. It is being estimated that 254 children died when the building suffered a direct hit.

Not long after his mother came looking for Paul and took him home.

 

 

 

 

Fundamentalism

27/06/2014

 

Fundamentalism is alive and kicking. How do I know? Well, read or listen to the news.

Fundamentalism is the main motivation for many people and is a sub-function of their “Fear”. It must be a fundamental motivation of our self-centredness we call “I”. “I’m right,” nothing else matters. And if “I” is not right I have to work towards it and bring it about. That is what fundamentalism is all about. That is the position some people want  to achieve and when they  have achieved it, they must defend the position to all comers.. New rules will be established and with those new rules new rulers will assert their power over people. This is what happens with revolutions. They get rid off an old fundamentalism and over time create their own.

 “Fear” tells us, that our  position is the fundamental bastion we have to defend at all costs. This is our “Fundamentalism”, our line in the sand, so to speak. The more fundamentalism is about, the more the others, the non-fundamentalist people, become marginalised and they in turn become non-fundamentalist fundamentalists.

According to the all knowing Wikipedia “Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to orthodox theological doctrines, usually understood as a reaction to Modernist theology”.

I think it is more fundamental than this. Because it  is also an unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs’ who do not need to be religious at all. I think fundamentalism is tribal. It is, we are right and you are wrong. What we are saying to others is, if you do not want to be my brother, than you are my enemy and I hit you as hard on the head, or worse, as I can. Those sentiments are older than religions, they came with us, and our DNA, out of the jungle.

Gun ownership in the US is a form of fundamentalism. They swear they need their guns to survive.

http://stuartjeannebramhall.com/2014/06/23/gun-ownership-and-the-nonviolent-civil-rights-movement/

It seems to me that religions developed because some wise people, usually men, were sick and tired that people in ‘dog eat dog societies’ were knocking each other off. Over the generations those same religions became fundamentalist themselves because they became tribal too.

The great teachers, Moses, Siddhārtha Gautama, Jesus or Mohammed were all peace loving people who wanted to free people from their fundamentalist fears.

To penalise someone because of a breach of a so-called religious law is actually showing mistrust in your God. It seems to me, it is assumed, that the culprit is getting away with it and God might not send the perpetrator to hell.

Capitalism is fundamentalist too, as was Communism. Communism is gone for almost twenty five years. Younger people might ask what it was. It is hard to imagine that it put fears into the rich for over seventy years, ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia.

Maximising profit” is a fundamental rule of Capitalism. Ayn Rand was a typical prophet of this form of fundamentalism. Her promoting of individual rights went so far that she even rejected altruism. Yet scientists tell us today, that altruism is part of our DNA and has survival value. 

From Bolivia reaches us the news that people should have the right to send their children to work and to contribute to the economic well being of the family. It is argued that families should be able to decide freely whether to send their children to school or to work. For this very reason Nineteenth Century England sent the children of the under classes into the coal mines.

http://www.dw.de/finding-balance-in-the-child-labor-debate/a-17728255

We know of course where that argument leads to; reduced wages and conditions. Bolivia is the testing ground now and if it works there, it will be introduced in other countries too.

In Australia we are heading for “capitalist fundamentalism”. Less money for education and sciences will be spent. Dumbing down the population and freeing up the labour market are all part of economic orthodoxy – fundamentalism !

Fundamentalism is part of the human make-up. Enlightenment and respect for others can be an antidote, not more. We have to work hard at avoiding that fundamentalism will rule our lives.

 


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