Friday, October 10, 2014

My friend Tom...

...writes in:

I tell my sons if they are interested in stories about dystopian societies and the end of the world, a popular theme today, it really happened in 1945 for many Germans, particularly in East Prussia and Berlin.

And he's right. In this passage from Soldat, the author Siegfried Knappe is on his way to Hitler's bunker. He describes Berlin in its final days:

We took one car and driver and two motorcycle runners. The city was under fire from heavy artillery, which was probably mounted on a railroad car somewhere thirty or more kilometers away, and there was also some bombing by Russian aircraft. Fortunately, the artillery was not concentrated; it was scattered all over the city, with a heavy artillery shell landing somewhere in the city every few minutes.

Smoke and dust covered the city. Streetcars were standing disabled in the streets, their electric wires dangling. In the eastern suburbs, many buildings were burning and the civilian population was queuing up in bread lines and in line to get water from any source that was still working. Civilians were everywhere, scurrying from cover to cover because of the artillery shells and bombs. To avoid creating a possible panic, Goebbels had refused to issue orders for the civilians to leave the city, even women and children, and now thousands more were fleeing into Berlin from the east. Defending Berlin was obviously going to be very ugly business, and many civilians were going to die in the fighting.

After the war, Knappe observes (my emphasis):

Germany was divided both geographically and ideologically, and it was unlikely ever to exist again as a whole nation.

Knappe also makes several references to "a country that no longer existed."

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