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11 October 2006 at 16:47

das Lichterfelde

Yesterday, while walking through Lichterfelde in Berlin admiring the architecture of the old Art Deco houses, I felt a glowing sense of being at home, of wanting to live here. When I phoned the aunt last night, she told me that my great grandfather had lived in Lichterfelde, perhaps in one of those very houses I had seen.

So I asked for the address where my great grandfather used to live, and today I went back to Lichterfelde again, to find and photograph his old house. Like most of my plans, it started out well, before going off the rails. I got out of the S-Bahn at the beautifully restored station:



Then I found the street where he used to live, full of grand old villas like this one:



But at his actual address, the house had long ago been knocked down and replaced with flats.

So then I went in search of his last known address, a block of flats near the station. Alas, the ground where that building had stood, was now an S-Bahn railway line.

But of course everything balances up in the end, and I had one bit of luck! I stumbled upon a truly historic building, an old barracks. It started out as a Prussian officers' quarters in the 1800s. Goering was trained there, and it became an SS HQ during the Third Reich.



On June 30, 1934, the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler murdered Ernst Rohm and began to eliminate Rohm's anti-capitalist SA forces, replacing the old Nazi party brownshirts with Heinrich Himmler's SS. An SS firing squad operated at the Lichterfelde Barracks. Shots rang out every twenty minutes like clockwork as SA men were put before the wall, followed by the command: "By order of the F├╝hrer. Aim. Fire!"

After the war the building became the main American army barracks, and now that the US military has gone elsewhere, it has been turned into the Archives of the East German Secret Police (STASI). So people who used to live in East Germany can now go there to look up their own data, and find out who was spying on them or informing on them.

So it's a building that has seen some historic changes. One day it may even be reborn as an Al Qaeda training centre.

The surprisingly friendly security guys told me I could have lunch in the canteen. I ate my sausage and sauerkraut sitting outdoors at a table with a view of where the SS firing-squad shot the SA leaders.

It was a nice lunch, but someone should really tell the sadistic basturn working on the cash desk that the SS has been disbanded. She was unnecessarily mean-spirited. Sadly, I didn't think of my SS retort until much later.

Sources acknowledged.

Blogger ion said...

She on the cash-desk was probably from the other (Stasi) side. Meanwhile, if you're inheriting the palace at Potsdam, good on yer. They have some smashing magnolias in the inner garden.  

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Blogger hotboy said...

Adolf! Heil! What a brilliant post! The big red building ...Oh, how evocative of the old days! Ernst and the dressing up in ladies underwear. Those were the days! I'll bump off your aunts at no cost! Just give me a hut near that old red building and I'll salute and goosestep every time you come in the room. That should help! Hotboy  

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Blogger Menzies Milngavie III said...

I say!

Wonderful snaps.

MM III  

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