Berlin, 30 January 1945



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.


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.


“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 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.

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.

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.


Broadband is coming


The NBN (The National Broadband Network) is coming. It is knocking (literally) on our outside wall today and awaits entry to our PC. Work men are putting in the final touches.

It took forty-eight years since the invention of the fibre optic technology to reach us.

Manfred Börner, born 16. March 1929 in Saxony, was the inventor. Saxony, as part of East-Germany (GDR),  would not allow Börner to study there as they regarded his father, a Master-baker, as a capitalist. Young Manfred moved to West-Berlin and studied there at the FU.

In 1955 he started to work for the great Berlin company Telefunken. 

At their research facilities in Berlin and Ulm he invented, what we call now, the Fibre Optic data transmission technology.

The Rudd / Gillard Labor government in Australia set things in motion and promised Australia to build a modern, fast Fibre Optic Data network (NBN). The new Liberal Abbott government would love to stop and reverse it. They hate everything Labor did.

But politics aside, some of the work had started under Labor and it was not reversible. Now they are installing it at our premisses. Great Stuff 🙂

Work in progress

Work in progress


The finished outside box

The finished outside box

More has still do be done, but other people will come and than connect us to a new world.

Screenshot 2014-06-18 10.58.30

Modern life is almost unthinkable without Telefunken. We can thank them  for developing FM radio, the PAL colour system for TV and the fibre optic technology ( and thousands of other marbles of technology I have no idea of.

In the meantime I enjoy a piece of music on my FM radio and think about the connection between  my contemporary life here in Australia and Berlin.



Fear !

Storm clouds rolling in over Melbourne Dec 2011

Storm clouds rolling in over Melbourne Dec 2011

When the freshly elected President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said in his inaugural speech, on March 4, 1933, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses…,” he knew what he was talking about.

Fear is with us from the moment we are born. We will never be as comfortable again as we have been in the womb. When the contraction in our mother’s womb began, our fear was born too. So, we are born with fear since time immemorial. It is instinctive and is kept at bay by loving parents. A loving upbringing inoculates us somewhat against fear. But not wholly.

It is with us. It is lurking in the background all of our lives. Politicians and advertisers play on our fears. They tell us, if we don’t vote for them, catastrophe is upon us. If we don’t buy a certain product, we are left behind and missing out, the advertisers tell us.

And there is another group of people who play on our fears like they are playing an instrument; our religious leaders ! We fear death and even more what comes after death. Those leaders use this fear to make us comply with their vision of life. If you are a Christian you probably know that Jesus told you not to be fearful. But it doesn’t help because those leaders are not emphasising his message.

Buddhism tells us, “So much of our suffering—as individuals and as a society—is caused by fear.” It restricts and imprisons us.

We fear what we read about in newspapers. We fear our neighbours instead of loving them. We fear getting late to work, with all the consequences it entails. We fear missing out on the good things in life. We fear being left behind in the search for a good partner. And when we have a partner, we fear he or she could leave us. We fear being left on our own on a lonely railway platform and in life. We fear having too many children or non at all.

When we are good parents our children fear that we die or that they lose our love and they lose their urge to love us back. If we are bad parents they fear we will disown them and all our possessions will go to someone else.

Then there is the fear of being eaten by a shark or crocodile, stung to death by an insect, mauled by a dog, stalked by a tiger or wolf. Wolfs are reappearing everywhere in Europe. And so it goes. When a shark in his natural environment sees a human being it feels instinctively there is a fine, edible morsel. The news papers then, instead of explaining what has happened, start a campaign of fear and some people demand the shark to be killed or they could be the next victim. How irrational is this?

The fear of the future is so great because it is unknown and we don’t understand the past. This makes us extremely unhappy, worried and depressed. Not only do we fear the neighbour but also the neighbouring countries, people with other skin pigmentation or religion. That fear is also behind racism and xenophobia. We fear what we don’t know and fear what we do not understand. Travel to other countries is a great way to alley the fear of the others. On the stock market “smart” people bet on our fear of future shortages of oil or wheat. And they are getting rich and we slave away to pay the higher prizes. Our fear makes us poorer.

We fear we are too fat or too thin. We fear we won’t wear the right clothes and fall victims to fashion. In short, fear is dominating our lives. But what is it? Some unknown person called fear, “false evidence appearing as real”. How can we overcome fear if any action we could take is overtaken by the fear of failure.

Procrastination is a brake on change and only prolongs our fears. It is said we have courage if we are able to confront our fears. This is certainly true for a particular fear. For our fears generally we have to have hope in our life. This is the balance, I think.

Human beings are not solitary creatures. They function best in a close knit community; with people who love and understand each other. The closer you are to others the less fearful you are. United, we can cope with anything.

In the Isha Upanishad of Hindu Scripture they tell us,
“Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.”
This is good advice if only we could trust others.

Perhaps this is where Robert Ardrey’sAmity / Enmity Complex comes in. It says in a simple formula A=E+h that the combined forces of enmity and (life’s) hazards equal the amity we feel towards each other. We probably have all experienced this ourselves in times of war and natural calamities. Penguins come to mind as they all stand close together, exchanging places, under the onslaught of the extreme hazard of an Antarctic snow storm. Amity has survival value!

It also explains that in contemporary society, with relative prosperity, people have very little love for each other. The neighbour is no brother but a competitor and in the back of their minds FEAR is lurking.

In our current Australian political situation, where the enmity towards an unloved government, plus the hazard of their budgetary decisions lead to more amity among the citizens. This finds an expression in rallies and demonstration; and this with people they were competing with, just recently, for jobs and places for study. Now they fear they could lose their jobs or their place on the university. Fear is stalking the land.

Fear is just another hazard of life we have to cope with. The more knowledge we have the better we can cope with fear. I don’t think we can allay all fear all of the time, but we can lessen its impact. Western societies overcame the fear created by the Middle Ages with the Enlightenment. The struggle is ongoing and, still today, fear is dictating the events you see on today’s news.
Plato said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Lets hope that people learn not to be afraid of the “light of knowledge” and that they are able to disperse their fears to the darkness where it belongs.



Pentecost fifty five years ago

He called out to his wife, “What day is it today?”

“Sunday, Darling,” she called from the bed room and added, “in fact it is Pentecost and I’m getting ready for church.”


“Pentecost?…This reminds me of Pentecost fifty five years ago on our way to Australia. We were in Colombo for a stop-over, do you remember?” he asked her.

“Of course I remember. It was stinking hot and we walked for miles without getting a drink,” she said.

“We didn’t get a drink because we had no money, but I remember Queen Victoria greeting us on arrival,” he chuckled, “she was sitting on the throne overlooking her crumbling empire.”



“It wasn’t her fault her grandchildren started the Great War,” she said entering the study drying her hair with a towel.

“And I was impressed seeing all those religions living side by side. We even entered a mosque. It was beautiful and cool inside there.”




“I liked the Hindu temple too,” she said while giving her hair a good rubbing.




“What wasn’t so cool was the ravens and cats fighting over scraps from the rubbish bins.” He said.



“We should have gone to the cinema and seen an Indian epic,” She said and continued, while brushing her hair into some sort of shape, “people were queuing up and were waiting patiently in the hot sun.”

“I don’t think we would have liked the film. The idea was to see something of the city, not sitting in a stuffy cinema,  not understanding a word.” He said and was quiet for a couple of minutes trying to remember. “There was heaps of traffic, cars, ox carts and even double-decker trolley buses.”




He fumbled now in a box full of old photos and said,

“Here is a picture of the trolley bus. and the building  at the street corner could have well been the cinema. What you think?”

“Sorry, Darling. I have no time to think. I have to get ready for church. I expect the Bishop to be there:”

“That is important, isn’t it?” he asked. “There was also some sort of procession led by a VW van with a blaring loudspeaker on top of it.”



“Yes, I remember now, Darling,  the Buddhist priests in their yellow robes were quite a spectacle and also people with drums. But I have to hurry now. I’ll be back half past ten and we will have a cup of tea then.”








He heard the front door slam shut and he was alone. He could still remember how friendly the people in Colombo were. They were all smiling and they did not mind being photographed.









“I wonder, whether they are still like that after the civil war,” he thought. The city must have changed into something more modern. In deed it has.



Colombo (Google image)

Colombo (Google image)



(Black and white photos, copyright Peter Hannemann)