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.
We were afraid and someone said you mustn’t stay at your house you must go more where the bigger houses are, they don’t try, they don’t dare to get in but it was very difficult because in the dark you wouldn’t like to go out because the Russian soldiers they were strolling around and trying to get anyone who went there.
My mother and myself, we were lying in bed in the noon time because at night you couldn’t have a sleep and some time, and we all said be careful, the Russians come around the houses today. And the door sprang open of our bedroom and there was the Russian standing there with his gun, looking at us, you know, and we were looking at him. And my mother said it’s over, he is coming now.
He looked at us and he said, “It’s okay” and my mother began to cry, you know, because she said (???) … a nice guy, maybe at home he has a wife and children also, you know and we were safe and then from then on we went to the bigger houses to a friend where we spent all the nights.
And they took not only the women but also bicycles. It was richness if you had a bicycle in your cellar you know and I had one and then came a Russian into the cellar of course who took out two of our bikes and I began to cry and he was so … he was so sad so nice he said “You have your bike back,” you know.
So I said to my mother, “They are not all very bad.” But you know, they were more … human … those Russian soldiers as the French soldiers. They came, you know, looking like this (she put on a haughty look) you know and they came along the street and say “Germans off the roads,” you know, and “Just go somewhere. WE are here now.”
And that was very bad. So the Russians were very dangerous of course, and that’s why we were glad when the Americans came and the British of course because they were human, you know! And they brought us some food. And they brought us new administration and things like this and the Americans, they began to bring us democracy.
Photo: The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin.