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Who can see love, joy, caring? Who can see the sacraments of our humanity? What are their colors? Who can see the smile of our humanity, the glist of the precious gem that we are as the greatest manifest of life on the Earth. If one peels away the superficial, underneath we find the everlasting qualities that poets have voiced, and composers have set to music, the substance of our humanity that the cares of the ages have not eroded, that shine through that faces that we often foolishly build around ourselves.
The story is situated in Leipzig, Germany. The story and its dialog are a part of Chapter 7 "Glow of the Invisible" of my novel "Discovering Love" that is the 1st volume of my series of 12 novels "The Lodging for the Rose."
It is a fictional story about our humanity with a historic dimension, a humanist story with an echo in Russian movies.
When the morning broke I found myself still with Helen. I couldn't remember though when we fell asleep, and how we got back to bed during our long drawn-out talking and explorations the night before. It seemed that I was the first of us to awake. Not knowing what to do, I dozed off again until I heard the piano being played. The music was unfamiliar. I stood behind her and applauded after the last bars were played.
I noticed the kettle on the stove. Then the view from the kitchen window caught my attention. The last time I had stood there, it had been all dark outside. Before us lay the railway plaza. As far as I could tell we were high above everything around us.
"Is this the tallest high-rise in the city?" I asked, when she entered and looked through the cupboards, evidently for something to eat that we hadn't eaten the night before. "Let's have breakfast out in town," I suggested. "It's my turn to treat us."
She stopped looking. "I know a place you will like," she said. "It's a few blocks back into the center of the city, will this be Ok?" She emphasized, Ok and smiled. "Also, this isn't just the tallest high-rise in town. It is the only one."
"It's a pioneering effort then," I replied.
"No, it isn't that, Peter. The ground is too soft here in most places to support tall structures. There is too much sand in the ground. This is not Manhattan, Peter, that's built on a gigantic rock that has been flattened out by the great glaciers during the ice ages. The ground in Manhattan supports anything you care to build, a hundred stories plus."
"You mean the World Trade Towers," I interjected.
"It's not possible to build those here, Peter. If you have access to a car, I can show you what I mean. I can show you quite a few amazing places. Are you interested? I mean, after breakfast of course."
My smile must have answered her.
"So, its settled then," she said, and turned the stove back off.
The place she had in mind was a sidewalk cafe at the edge of a plaza. "Have you always lived here?" I asked after I had purchased the standard fare of the morning, consisting of butter, bread, jam, and some sort of coffee. And best of all, the place was sunny, and protected from the wind.
"We lived at the edge of town," she said. "My father had a bakery there. The bakery may have saved his life. Because of it, he wasn't drafted into the war. He was needed where he was, to serve the war effort as a baker. Our area was 'kriegs wischtig, meaning, it was important for the war. A large aircraft manufacturing plant had been built at the edge of our village. It might have been one of the biggest. The workers all lived in a sprawling apartment complex that was so famous at the time that the streetcar stop and the entire route was named after it. Across the way from the plant was a pilot school. The plant supplied the warplanes, the school the pilots, and my father baked for them all, and the community suffered the pains when the pilots didn't return. Most of my friends in school didn't have their dad return home, when the war ended. It took me a while to realize that everyone of my friends were affected that way. I never knew their fathers."
"You lived under Hitler then?" I said quietly.
"Hitler was like a ghost. We never saw the man, only pictures, but we heard him on the radio. This seemed almost mandatory. Everyone was afraid in those days. When a friend of the family had her husband drafted, she took me with her to the barracks to see him off. The barracks were three-story buildings encircling a large parade square. One building featured a picture of Hitler that was nearly half as tall as the building itself. I was only five years old then. When I saw the giant poster I pointed to it, exclaiming something about it being a large 'pull off.' We had played with pull off pictures that one soaked in water until they could be pulled off their backing and be pasted into a picture book. My reference to Hitler as a big pull-off had caused such fright that we immediately left without seeing her husband, whom we never saw again. I was deeply affected by this, since I had caused the fright and couldn't see a logical reason for it.
"But the worst came later," Helen continued, "and it was of a kind that it took me some years to realize what had happened. My smaller sister had complained of a headache. Being concerned, my parents took her to the city hospital. When we came to visit her the next day she couldn't recognize us anymore, and a couple of days, or so, later, she was dead. A doctor confided to my dad that she had a brain tissue infection that might have caused complications later on, and that the policy was in such situations, to close the case. They pulled a portion of the spinal fluid that would cause her to gently fall asleep. Many years paused till I realized that the doctors had murdered my sister, acting under orders by the state.
"It took me just as long to realize later that fascism was not only the Nazi's hallmark," she continued. "When the war ended our state of the art aircraft plant was demolished. It was razed to the ground and the site cleared. It took a dozen years to get this done. The victors of the war had demanded the destruction. A year later, a new plant was built to produce much needed agricultural machinery. I couldn't figure out for a long time why a defeated nation, after all its suffering, had to be deprived of its capacity to recover itself. I didn't really understand this until I began to understand the nature of empire whose masters ruled the postwar period."
We drove past the place where the aircraft plant had stood. She told me that quite early after the war all the school children were served a hot luncheon in the plant cafeteria, before the demolition began. Then the lunches stopped and most of the kids went hungry. We also drove to the great sandpit that she wanted me to see. There, right in the middle of nowhere the construction of a harbor had been started. A concrete pier had been built and a grain elevator next to it. A canal leading to the harbor had also been built, partially. Then the construction stopped. She suggested that the project would never be completed, as river-barge transportation has become obsolete in the age of modern railways. Only the sand had remained - the sand that much of the city is build on, and some great pools in the sand for the kids to swim in.
"The first thing that was rebuild after the war," said Helen, "was the concert hall and the opera house. This was done before even the railway station rebuilding was completed. Amidst all this hubbub of madness and destruction it seemed important to the leaders of the city to rebuild that which is most related to the great human sacrament as a foundation for the society's own inner rebuilding. And it had an amazing effect. During the early stages of the demolition of the aircraft plant, the kids that had played among the ruins had found aluminum tubing that they had filled with a homemade explosive and then hammered the ends shut. They placed them into campfires for the big bang effect. Can you imagine the madness, kids making explosives after a horrible war? One kid lost his hand when the explosive went off hammering the end shut. Some of these 'bombs' were placed on the streetcar tracks for the great boom they made. One even blew a wheel off. These sort of things happened in many places around the city, as many similar plants were demolished so that the aluminum tubing wasn't hard to come by. But once the opera house and the concert hall was in operation again, this madness somehow stopped. The sacrament of a great culture seemed to have this percolating effect. Of course, other causes might have contributed.
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