Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Coupla Updates

This morning's Yahoo News had a weird headline in it: Memorial to East German Victims Torn Down. Figured I had to go take a look at that, and what it turned out to be was a very poorly-reported story about those crosses at Checkpoint Charlie being removed yesterday.

Now, I had written about this back in April, and expressed my doubts about the organization behind the Museum am Checkpoint Charlie, and if you read this update, you'll notice, buried way down there, that the Widow Hildebrandt refused to leave the patch of property and the bank which owns it wants it back, since the lease expired, she hasn't come up with the dough to buy it, and, well, it's their land.

As I keep saying, this ham-fisted bit of propaganda is an eyesore (although far from the only one in the immediate vicinity, contemporary German architecture being what it is), and the hectoring tone of it is disturbing. It's anti-communist, sure, but has anyone seen a communist recently, at least around here? And, Yahoo's clumsy headline notwithstanding, it's not quite a memorial to "East German victims," but, rather, to people who died trying to get out of the country in one form or another. If we're going to talk about "East German victims," we'd better include people who were used in medical experiments, those who wasted their potential at jobs that were beneath their abilities because those were the jobs they were assigned, intellectuals who were forced to teach things they didn't believe in to youngsters who wound up believing them, people who were jailed for years for minor infractions (like the guy I knew who was in for two years for calling Khruschchev a fool, being drunk and 18 at the time), and those who died outside of major showcase urban centers like East Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden because the government couldn't be bothered to improve the standard of living except where big-shots and foreigners were likely to see it.

But I also want to go on record as not wanting to talk about victims at all, because it's far too popular a subject of conversation around here. I'd like to remind Widow Hildebrandt and the clueless morons who talked to the reporter that there are many, many people who have a balanced view of life in the former East Germany, who aren't blind to its faults, and who have a certain affection for a significant chunk of its culture. Let's not forget that East Germany legalized homosexuality in, I think, 1952; that it gave women three years' maternity leave, and, although this was hardly the aim of the government, it also fostered a deeper sense of community though its clumsy spying and intrusion into people's lives, a sense of community which a lot of people could stand to add to their lives today. And yes, I'm talking to you, you West Germans. Among others.

Anyway, hooray for the big bad bank, boo hoo for Widow Hildebrandt, who'll doubtless show up in some other capacity if the Germans vote the horrid CDU/CSU in, because she's just the kind of vampiric, one-note ideologue they love. Hmmm, wonder what she thinks about the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe?


And, on a lighter note, albeit one which will depend on your having a little German for full appreciation, the other morning I woke up and there was a truck unloading in the courtyard. It was red, had Stuttgart plates, and said, in huge letters, SCHLECHT ELEKTROINSTALLATION. Lot of that going around, I thought to myself, and as I went out, the man who'd driven it here said "Grüss Gott," which isn't how they talk in Stuttgart. Anyway, there was a younger man with him, and one of my neighbors, so I figured there was an apartment changing hands. Sure enough, the next day, the name on the doorbell had changed, so now Schlecht is just above Böse.

So, from the House of Bad and Evil, I salute you, my readers, on this cold, grey, rainy summer's day!

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