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 hadn’t had that for twelve years and we didn’t know how to do it. And we now watch in the eastern part of Germany, they don’t know how to do it now. They think they can do everything and they can have everything and they can say “I want everything and I’ve got to have it.”
They haven’t learned about it but we learned it by the American people. They told us how to do it. How to make, to build up a nice democracy, and we watched it, and we did it, and it was good, wasn’t it? After the war then, after twenty years later some people in Europe also said, “Oh, look at the Germans, they are doing quite well, because everyone wants to get somewhere, you know, to rise again.
But we knew if we had been only in the Russian sector, Berlin, we would take all the time of the cold war being … them, you know, and they had no rights, and they had no freedom and nothing, and they knew it.
Only sometimes, you know what they did? They crawled into family and friends and so, and so they tried to forget all about the political pressure and had their being together with their friends and said well, we go on our own way. We don’t want the political stuff, we do our own way and make it.
But on this side there were some very bad things that people, one wants the other man spied (on). And even in, within the men and women. We had a woman, she was very nice, and then she came out from the, we had a certain bureau that was looking after the, what happened with the Stasi and so on, people spying on people, and she came out crying and said, “My own husband. Whatever we said at home, he was bringing to the Stasi.”
That must be a very bad experience, mustn’t it? I have seen them coming out of this (building).
Me: You would have to decide if you really want to know that.
Inge: She would have never believed it, you know? She said, “I haven’t… it was a file of this,” he had a certain name for it, but she had been talking only with him, you know, and it was on that file, word for word.
But still we made it.
Photo: Standing on the Berlin Wall, New Year’s Eve, 1989.