Oral History, Berlin, part 1


This week, a series. I have the enduring good fortune to have met two lifelong Berliners, who, like all Berliners of their time, both led remarkable lives, enduring the fall of the Third Reich, the subsequent occupation of their city and its division and reunification in the Cold War.

This is the transcript of a conversation we had with Inge in the summer of 2013 at the Seehotel Muhlenhaus outside Berlin. Inge died, well into her eighties, in 2014. Her husband remains our dear friend today.

Me: Tell us about … what was it like when at the end of Hitler when the Russians came and took Berlin?

Inge: Yes.

Me: There was bombing all the time and you must have been twelve or …

Inge: Yes, I was twelve, thirteen when the bombing began on Berlin and we had it three times a night at least sometimes four times a night and in the daytimes two times the bombing from air.

Me: Did you live in the city?

Inge: Yes. In the northern part. In Tegel, where the airport is.

Me: So you had a shelter in the bottom part….

Inge: Yes, it was a cellar usually … they had it … and we had to go down with my little bag and had to go and … maybe, to survive you know. It really was very bad and you couldn’t sleep all the night because once you had been up in your bed, ohhhh, and it took me about maybe twenty thirty years to be able to listen to the sound of the sirens you know.

And it always means it is higher danger and you have to go the the cellar in the middle of the night.

We did it for several years and then in 1943 we got a bomb on our house. Directly.

Phosphoric, you know, phosphor, the stuff that makes a fire very quickly. And we tried to save something out of the uh, out of the house but impossible, we couldn’t go there anymore, it was burning already.

Then we tried to hide ourselves because they were shooting from up there, and the people went around to the houses to try to find some shelter because the house was gone, we tried to go to some neighbors and things were very bad. And then was … and then we tried to get a dwelling somewhere with some neighbors.

More tomorrow.

Photo: Midnight, New Year’s Eve, 1989, Berlin.

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