"Lost in Deutschland" vorher

Dieses Blog begann auf Deutsch - im Archiv befinden sich eine ganze Reihe von Texten über das Engländersein in Deutschland - von 2008 bis 2011 sortiert. 2008-2009 wurden zudem Video-Berichterstattungen auf Deutsch zum Thema hier veröffentlicht.

Monday, 14 January 2013

January taster extract: Tony Benn in Germany

In early 1957, Tony Benn took off for a short stay in Germany on the invitation of the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft (an honourable institution which exists to this day, and to whom I also spoke in 2012). He flew to Berlin and, while shocked by the devastation, also perceived just how quickly Germany had recovered. On his way back, he stopped in Hanover and Bonn, where he met Willy Brandt, still Mayor of Berlin at the time, before flying back from Düsseldorf.

The entries about Germany can be found in Benn's diaries (available here) and are well worth reading. In the upcoming anthology, you'll find a longer extract than the one reproduced here.

Monday 14 January 1957
An hour’s work on my speech after breakfast and some progress but still depressed at the prospect and suspecting more and more that it would be a terrible flop before a bourgeois English-speaking Union type of audience.
Mr Trevor Davies and Mr Dees of the British Educational Commission collected me by car and we drove through the Tiergarten, under the Brandenburg Gate and along the Stalin Allee to the Soviet Cemetery. As Dees said, the Soviet sector is like Salford during a strike; compared with the lights and shops and buildings of the Western sector, the East was unbelievably dreary.
The rubble from the bombing still remained and the people looked tired and cold and ill-fed and ill-dressed.
The Soviet cemetery is a gigantic place, set in woods and marked at one end by a huge mound atop of which is a small circular chamber. The absence of individual headstones in the mass grave is a startling reminder of the victory of the monolithic state over the men and women who serve it.
Not even the symbolic sarcophagi which are lined up to flank the burial area and have bas relief stonework and extracts from Stalin’s speeches can erase the dehumanisation.
At 8 to the Centre for the lecture. I was paralysed with fear and had taken a whole Benzedrine to induce confidence.
There were 300-350 people of all ages and various nationalities present. I was at a rostrum on a platform. I talked slowly and deliberately, and they were very attentive and could apparently understand what I said. I tried a joke or two and they worked so that proved the intelligibility to the audience. In fact it was a great success, and there was a lot of applause, a pause and a second round.