Early winter poetry

it's seven fifteen on a weekday in late november. I'm on my daily ride to my office in the central district Mitte. The atmosphere has changed. The autumn eventually has gone, has taken all bright colours with him. The city looks grey and washed out, especially now at sunrise. that's what you call the winter season.

The Friedrichstraße is almost empty. The only signs of life are flashing red lights, it comes to my mind. They are changing their colors just for fun as long as the cars are absent.

But then all of a sudden a voice comes from the right hand side:

„Are you daydreaming or what?“

I already had passed the speaker, so I had to turn my head, which took a while because of the huge shawl around my neck, and for Christ's sake I automatically pulled the brakes – else I would have crashed into one of the parking cars, that's for sure! Because what I saw when I turned my head made my blood freeze:

i was just passing a huge department store with large shopping windows. And in one window was a hole and through that hole, about 20 cm in diameter, peeped out the head of a – polar bear, who had talked to me!

I slways used to laugh when people in movies nearly fainted when they saw a ghost. I take it back, every single laughter and apologize for my behavior: For I moment a part of me seriously considered fainting as an appropriate way to deal with this situation, but in the end did not. At least I stopped, and I'm not lying to you when I confess that my knees were shaking! And they kept on doing so until the polar bear spoke again:

„Leave the display dummy on the sidewalk and hand me another best, will ye?“

I looked around wondering what he was talking about, and the I discovered the two guys loading decoration items from a truck. the bear wasn't alive and he couldn't talk either. I was the latter fact that made me sigh and feel relieved – for s moment, I had figured out that I might end up in a mental hospital this day.

It must have been no more than two or three minutes that I intercepted my ride, but when I rstarted, I realized that the number of cars had risen extremely. Even the traffic lights seemed to flash more seriously now and i already was very close to my office. Night was definitely over, and so was the time for bad dreams as well as for play. A normal weekday in Berlin, boring and sober. At least it's better for my blood pressure.

The fog was unusually thick on that particular morning short before dawn. Sometimes the humidity is so high that you literally can smell and even hear it. Although in the center of a city you couldn't see houses or people or anything, except for that long wall, crowned by a long row of varying neo gothic Zinnen and roof tops with blackened crosses, pointing to the dark grey sky. Birches were leaning across the wall like tired, tired of following the rule of changing the season. They were full of leaves. They would shimmer in a warm orange tone during daytime, but it was still night at this abandoned place, which turned out to be – you sure guessed it it – a cemetry.

In fact I knew it quite well and had visited the graves once or twice – at daytime. Now at night I never ever would set a foot into it, not even at gunpoint. If that huge door right iin the middle which I am approaching now would open up that would make me faint!, I thought as I was passing it and you knoww what? It did. Just as I was about to pass it, it started to creek and squeek

As usual I'm a little tired and close to a dream. All of a sudden it“s like shivers down my spine, as I pass the entrance of a department store: I've just seen a polar bear looking out a shop window and talk to me!

„Are you daydreaming or what?“

Being an experienced cyclist I manage not to crash, but I need to stop for a moment, until my heartbeat will return to normal. I'm afraid to look back… Yes, there is apolar bear, looking out of the window! A group of unashamed naked display dummies. And now I notice the truck and the two guys unnloading the new decorstion for the shop window.

„Hand me another beast, will ye?“

A huge truck in front of the noble department stores with flashin yellow lights catches my eye. One of the glass fronts is open and – an ice bear is looking out, his head above the sidewalk. Two guys are carrying something.

“Hand me one of those beasts, will ye?”

“Hey are you daydreaming?”

A young girl at the hand of her father, the father is in a hurry, the girl isn’t. Maybe they’re late for school.

“Look”, the girl says and points to the sky. The morning sun has painted the clouds in incredible colours.

Now even the busy father stops. “And on Sunday, we’re gonna light the first candle, right?”

Dr. Uwe Zimmer
Psychologe Abteilung Neurologie

ZAR Zentrum für ambulante
Rehabilitation Neurologie GmbH in Berlin
Gartenstraße 5
10115 Berlin-Mitte

Tel. (030) 28 51 84 – 180
Fax (030) 28 51 84 – 350


Registergericht: Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg HRB 101546 B
Geschäftsführer: Ursula Mootz, Dietrich Pertschy
Ein Unternehmen der Helmut Nanz-Stiftung



Going round on Oranienplatz



The Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg is famous for the annual mayday clashes with police, but it's a busy place throughout the year. Yellow double store busses meet there for a chat at the huge bus stop in the center, and an endless line of cars crawls through the small surrounding streets in the search for parking space. At the northeast corner there's the entrance to a supermarket, once set on fire on mayday and never rebuild. If you follow this road and just before you reach the café „Kuchen Kaiser“ – the purveyor to the imperial court in 1900 – you stumble right into a small crowd of young people, presumably Turks, waiting on a sidewalk.

It's the entrance to a driving school mainly used by young Turks. Because of their higher level of unemployment, Turkish classes for traffic theory are held during daytime. On the full hour, a red Volkswagen stops in front of the entrance door. A hairdresser with blond moustache and short cut afro get's out, opens the door and helps the driver out, mostly a young Turkish lady. He's a driving teacher and the girl is his learner. Unfortunately he doesn't speak any Turkish. He uses gestures that mark either a compliment or helplessness and desperation, and he mainly uses his remarkable eyebrows for it. Young guys he gives a high five, or, if they failed too much, he's raising his hand as if he wants to slap their face, but yes: He's kidding.

There's a box of Cigarettes waiting in his pocket, a lighter in the other. Oh what a relief. He watches the tree tops, the birds flying, the growling busses passing by and then – he sees his next learner. All of a sudden his cigarette tastes like shit. He drops it, puts the foot on it and takes a deep sigh. One minute later he's sitting at the copilot's seat again, door window down, and drumming with his finger tips against the door from the outside. He has to! He would explode otherwise! The young man has moved the drivers seat to the front and chokes the enginge for – how many times now? In the first years in his job, he used to mock about mistakes of learners when he met colleagues in a pub. Now it's just nerve wrecking. But look: The enginge is running, and the teacher stops drumming, but keeps his fingers in drumming position and yeees, he was right, the boy choked it again. The drumming started again at a higher tempo. Ten minutes later the car has moved forward with moves like a drunken camel, ad finally got out of sight.

Other cars appear, Turkish fathers bring new learners. Among them immaculate Turkish girls, wrapped in white cloth, walking upright like pencils. Dad gives commands, points with his finger. The daughters smile like white doves ascending into the blue sky on an innocent sunday morning. But as soon as he gets out of sight, they change their facial expressions completely. The girls pour a cigarette out of her baby handbag, and there is always an offensive made up Turkish girl with high heels to give her light. A short smile, at the end we're all sisters, aren't we?

The teachers wife runs the office. You can tell from her face that she has seen it all. The first thing she does when a young Turk signs in for education, is noting his daddy's pohne number. It always works! These boys would dance on tables if she'd let them! New learners stand in line and while they're waiting, the guys check the girls. They're not used to it, they overdo it, and the girls roll their eyes and try to ignore them.

„Turkish language class?“, the driver school lady asks.

All boys say: „Of course!“

Then she asks the girls.

„German“, they say, and the boys start calling them names. It's the best way to get rid of the chatting of the boys!

When the girls leave the school, their daddies are already waiting in their cars with serious faces. The daughters have switched into harmless white flowers again, but the Daddies check if everything is in the right place and send angry smiles to the boys. And their is the teacher's car again, standing in line a few meters before the entrance door. He gives the learner a signal not to use the horn – he cannot do much wrong standing in line because… – „No!“, the teacher shouts, and hits the roof top through the open window: He choked the engine out of nothing! The teacher's mood is down at the bottom and he seriously is considering suicide as a way to get out of this situation.

„You mind if I smoke?“, he asks in despair.

„No…“, the learner says.

„Are you sure?“

„Absoluteley!“, the learner says.

Now their's a smile on the teachers face – a small one, like one single beam of sunlight on a rainy day. And now the lesson's over. The teacher says „Good bye“ – and another turn of the wheel begins. It's like a merry go round without anybody being really merry, like all things in the world – the world itself, too – go round because it is comfortable to move in circles, saves effort and the outcome is predictable. Breaking out is for heroes in Hollywood movies, not for you, not for me, not for the driving teacher in Kreuzberg, who will repeat his going round hour after hour until he get's out of the car and says the magic word: „Feierabend!“ Others will repeat and take their coat and head home. Their's no direct translation into English, and I cannot deliver a circumscription niw for exactly the same reason: „Feierabend!“ See you next time.




The late winter captive

You sure know these dark days in late winter, when the cold weather pack’s it’s bags and prepares to leave. It won’t put much effort in this Winter anymore, and that’s exactly what it looks like outside. Is there any weather less attractive to make you leave the house? No.  And you start dreaming about staying in bed the whole day. But whenever I do, I regret it in the evening: How can anyone be so lazy?

Today it’s late winter, it’s grey and wet outside, and it look’s as if I’ll stay in bed the whole day, yes, but one thing is different: I will not voluntarily do so. I’m forced !
Cheerful companions have turned on me and try to prevent me from getting up. Piles of unread books and newspapers on my bed have surrounded me, flanked by original Italian coffee cups, and – yees, I should have known it from the beginning: the huge silverish coffee can, the Cafetiera, is the damn leader of the pack.

There is music from Bach in the back. It sounds like a bunch of hornists trying to compete with the guy at the cembalo, but they never surpass him. They never have. They never ever will. It’s like a complex clockwork, a calculation and everyone involved is a captive – just like me!

No matter which side I turn, I cannot get out of my bed. So I sink back into my piĺlow and do, what all captives around the World probably do : stare out of the window. Given they have one.
A contemplative moment. I think about the count of Monte Christo. If I had a spoon, maybe I’d start to dig a hole into the wall – well, maybe not.

It’s totally quit out there. You’d never guess your in the middle of Berlin. Meanwhile snow flakes have started to fall. They are so slow, they hardly make a move. They’re only a few, they’re small, and they immediately turn into something wet once they reached the ground, as the sound of the gutters tell. No chance they fully cover the ground – it’s late winter, remember?

The backyard with it’s pie crust architecture sometimes reminds me of a Gothic cathedral : high walls, small ground, and an incredible acoustic: a pin drop in the morning could wake you up!
The windows are extremely high, too, but you cannot see the sky. Sometimes a woman’s face appears in a dimly lit window somewhere. She’s bending over, but the backyard is not interesting enough to put much effort in watching. Meaning: she will not discover my situation and help me escape!

But look what’s happening now: The flakes have become bigger and faster, and if it goes on like this for half an hour, we’ll have real snow magic in here!

But then a tiny little sound, and all my hopes blow up like bubbles: It’s only a small rise in volume of the soft traffic noise, but an experienced backyarder like me can read this sign:  somebody had opened the huge door leading out on the street. Then quick steps start crushing through the wet snow – and end it’s winterly pureness, it’s virginity.
Now I can see the intruder, and I know: This is just the beginning.
It’s the concierge, quickly returning home from the service in the nearby twin towered Catholic church. Every morning at eight o’clock their bells make the numerous doves startle and ascend into the skies as if theyd never come back again.
I could see her crucifix lying flat upon her huge bossom – she really is a big girl.

Seconds later, the ugly noise of a shovel conquers the quiet backyard ending the contemplation like forever. The concierge destroys the innocent snow – maybe the last snow of this winter – assisted by busy gutters, who swallow the snow greedily.
Has she no heart?
I know it’s her job to clean the backyard from snow before somebody slips and brakes a leg, but… To her, heavy snowfall means that she has to hurry home – it’s a call of duty!

All of a sudden, my dreamy sunday crushes to the ground! Somebody has done his duty – the word alone destroys so much! It’s like reality has intruded my dreams, the adult world has conquered fantasyland and all my contemplative thoughts and all poetic impulses have been taken into custody. So have my „imagined guards“ around me.
I’m free! OK, let’s face it: I haven’t been held captive at all. So when I find myself still lying in the bed in the afternoon, I’m a lazy guy, ain’t I? Doesn’t feel good. That’s why some people say that freedom bares dangers.
So I finally jump out of bed and start cleaning my bedroom, to prove I’m not wasting my time and I’m as busy as anybody else and f*** freedom… Hold on! Wait a minute! I’m not really free. If I was, peoples opinion wouldn’t bother me, right? Conclusion: I have to free my mind! Hey, that’s smart. I’ve been reading about recently it in some magazine. Freedom starts in your head.
With a sigh of relief I fall back on my bed. I knew one day going to college would pay off.

Pirates, Snow on the Mountains and the Want for Freedom!

A different story…

It hardly ever happens that I get grip of information while surfing through the WWW and say to myself: Yes, this is interesting, this is little known and I’d like to spread it through the interenet.
Being interested in history, I regularly stumble into Websites or at least pictures about world war II and – the nazis. I don’t have  numbers, but to me it seems, if you count the publications, only the history of the Wild West – civil war included! – outnumber the nazis.
Being a German, this leaves me with ambiguous feelings. It’s these pictures what people have in mind whenever they hear about my country, and each such internet post chisles it deeper into the mind of human history. But it is the most fascinating – evil – story about Germany, no doubt! So let them have their fun.

And then  I discovered this webpage about young misfits in Nazi Germany: There has been an – ineffective – military resistance and there are several movies about it. OK, those were the big names, but what about the normal people? It is generally held that this has been a black or white situation, things have been cut and dry: Either you fully embraced Hitlerism or you ended up in an concentration camp. No standing aside, unless you were a real hero. And that’s something you cannot expect from a „normal man on the street“.
This is how many Germans justified their behavior during the Third Reich. But it turns out that this wasn’t true. Quite a number of Germans successfully tried to escape the nazi society, that means: There had been some sort of third way, and the vast Majority of nazis followed Hitler because they wanted to. Period.
Among other topics, a German website now addresses the phenomenon of unruly young people during the nazi period, which – at least to that extent – has been 0 unknown to me, as I will admit ( http://www.jugend1918-1945.de ). There seems to be no English translation, so I decided to summarize the main points in English and established a pinboard about this topic on Pinterest (young misfits in the Third Reich):
To the public, little is known about unruly youngsters in Nazi Germany. Throughout the twelve years of the Third Reich, that is, between 1933 and 1945, an increasing number of young people turned their back on the official nazi youth organisations like the „Hitler Jugend“ and tried to live their own individual life. Loosely connected in groups, they would meet in parks or pubs or, later during the war, in public bunkers, play the guitar and singing along, or listen to Swing or Jazz records, the „degenerated music“ of the enemy.
The nazi leaders were outraged: How dare they ignore nazism? They were the future of the „master race“!
These groups named themselves „Blasen“, „Schlurfs“, „Fahrtenstenze“, or „Navajos“ – yes, there has been a romantic element idealizing what they regarded as the spirit of native Americans. In northern Germany, many young ones met to listen to swing music and dance, the „Swing Jugend“. Others would make trips into the country side. They would never miss their acoustic guitar and sing songs, clinging to a romantic tradition of returning to nature called „wandervogel“ (Hiking bird), a countermovement to the beginning industrialisation.
Group members recognized each other by symbols – gang colors, if you will – like the „Edelweiss“ („snow on the mountains“), a line of coloured pins worn by the members of a group in Cologne. Soon their group name „Edelweisspiraten“ has been adopted by the nazis for the whole movement.
When young people meet in peer groups, what does play a major role? Right.  The clothes!
Each group followed a dress code, like cossack boots with the socks showing up and the boys would stick a comb or a pipe in. They wore shorts made of leather or corduroy and the girls black velvet skirts and white blouses. Wait a minute! The girls? Yes, these groups were mixed, and beneath the motive of fleeing the restrictions of nazi society, many would join simply to get into contact with members of the opposite sex!
Easy to imagine, that the Edelweisspiraten were persecuted by the nazis, not only if they sabotaged or spreaded anti nazi flyers like the „Weisse Rose“ in Munich. Many of them got imprisoned, if they not paid with their lifes for their want for freedom.
When the war was over, the allied took over command. Surprisingly, they showed little interest in the Edelweisspiraten, for it had turned out that they hadn’t been real resistance fighters or clear anti nazis. Nobody expected them to be of great help in building up the new democratic state. The Americans regarded them as „enemies of our enemies“, but „our friends they are not.“
Today, there is still a debate among historics, whether those groups had been part of the resistance against Hitler or more or less rowdies, if not criminals. Those members who survived the war seemed not to be interested too much in being labeled. They insisted on having fought any reglementation. They wanted to live their life the way they wanted to, nothing more, nothing less.
In the dark days of Hitler fascism, this meant a lot. They truly have been heroes, If you ask me.