Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembering

Flesh is Grass on Remembrance Day at 90, and on Remembering Kristallnacht.

An excerpt from Erich Kästner’s account of Kristallnacht, translation by Harrie Verstappen:
When, on November 10 1938 at 3 o’clock in the morning, I drove up the Berlin Tauentzien in a taxi, I heard glass tinkling on both sides of the street. It sounded as if dozens of wagons full of glass were being turned over. I looked out and saw, on the left and right, a man standing in front of about every fifth house, each using an iron rod to smash store windows with mighty blows. The job done, he walked over to the next shop with a measured pace and, with powerful calmth, dedicated himself to that one’s still intact window-pane.

Except for these men, wearing black breeches, riding boots and civil jackets, there was no human being in sight. The taxi turned into the Kurfürstendamm. Here, too, men were standing at regular distances and with long bars smashed ‘Jewish’ show windows. Each one seemed to have some five to ten windows for a job. Cascades of glass fell down, crushing on the concrete. It sounded as if the entire town existed of nothing but crashing glass. It was a drive right through a madman’s dream.

Between Uhlandstraße and Knesebeckstraße I asked to stop, opened the door and was just putting my right foot on the street, when a man emerged from the nearest tree and softly and energetically told me: “Don't get out! Drive on at once!” It was a man in hat and cloak. “But listen,” I started, “I just wanted to…” “No,” he interrupted threateningly. “Getting out is forbidden! Get on your way at once!” He pushed me back into the car, beckoned the driver, threw the door shut, and the driver obeyed. On we went through the ghostly ‘splinter night’. In Wilmersdorfer Straße I made us stop again. Again a man in civilian cloth walked softly over to us. “Police! Drive on! Make it snappy!”

The afternoon newspapers carried the story that the boiling soul of the people, because of the government patience with the Jewish businesses, had spontaneously resorted to self help.
Norman Geras has more links for the day.

1 comment:

fleshisgrass said...

Thanks for the lx Kellie. I saw the Capa and Taro exibition today at the Barbican. Downstairs were contemporary photographers of more recent conflicts, including Geert van Kesteren. More remembering. (I know you have children - I think this would probably be OK, with some explaining.)