Wednesday, May 31, 2017

German Fashion

I’m not sure there are any people in the world who have a stranger sense of fashion than the Germans. Who else would think it appropriate to wear dark mint green trousers with a light mint green shirt?  Or yellow trousers with a purplish-blue shirt?  Or pinkish-red trousers with a reddish-pink shirt?  I saw all of those in Berlin in the course of just 24 hours.  Germany is the only place where my lack of a fashion gene is not social hindrance.

When I checked the weather this morning it said it would be warmer than yesterday; in fact, today was the coldest day of the trip.  I wore shorts and a t-shirt and was nearly cold.  In fact, I put on long pants and wore a windbreaker when I went to dinner tonight (though I really didn’t need the jacket).  The sky was a deep blue, broken up by occasional clouds driven by a strong breeze. 

There’s still tons of pollen, though.  I had a fit of coughing last night and then remembered I had forgotten to take my allergy pill.  It only helps so much, so I went to the pharmacy this afternoon and explained I needed something against coughing.  “A dry cough or” and then she said something I didn’t understand but pantomimed something coming up from the lungs.  “Dry,” I said, “dry, dry.”  She went into the back and brought me small box containing 22 mg Dextromethorphan pills and told me to take one every six hours and not more than four a day.  They worked really fast.

This morning I headed back to the Bundesarchive in Lichterfeld.  A few months ago, the files that I examined in hard copy two years ago were microfilmed, so I headed down to the microfilm room. They handed me two rolls and I found an empty machine with a printer and then faced the task of putting on the microfilm.  I’ve been using microfilm machines for over two decades now, but it seems that no two are ever the same.  Each one has their own unique way of putting the film on the roller.  I ended up calling the clerk over and I watched her struggle and struggle to put it on.  While that made me feel like less of an idiot, I could see the researcher near me also needed help and was glaring at me for monopolizing the clerk.  Eventually, the clerk figured out how to do it but then seemed perplexed by how to properly frame the images so they were level.  Eventually she gave up and went over to the other woman.

I figured out how to right the image in about a minute and started going through the roll and quickly found the material I wanted.  I decided to print them out, but when I hit the print button nothing happened.  I think I ended up hitting every button on the microfilm machine and printer in the hope of getting it to work.  No luck.  I looked for the clerk, but she had her hands full with the other researcher, who had somehow managed to unspool several yards of microfilm, and was now trying to roll it back up and move to another machine.  As the clerk was walking by I tried to ask her but the other researcher glared at me and said “in a moment.”  I went back to the roll and just started copying things out by hand, just in case I couldn’t get it to print.

Eventually, I was able to flag down the clerk who tried pushing many of the same buttons I had already pushed.  None of them worked.  She left to handle another researcher and I began to wonder if this clerk had ever worked in the microfilm room before.  Eventually, I flagged her down again and after a few minutes, she found the problem:  the power button to the printer was “off” (but located in the back of the printer, at the very bottom, where no one would ever see it).  Once it was “on,” everything worked fine.

By noon, I had everything I wanted and was on my way.  My plan was to visit the Brücke Museum in Dahlem.  I’ve been several times, but I wasn’t able to go two years ago as they were closed while setting up a new exhibition.  It wasn’t that far from Lichterfeld, so I thought I might as well visit it while I’m in the area. 

First, though, I stopped for lunch in Zahlendorf when I changed buses. I went into a little shop and asked for “ein belegtes Brot mit Salami, bitte” (a salami sandwich), but the clerk said in a slight huff “es ist ein Panini.” “Entschuldigung,” I replied, “die Panini bitte.”  It wasn’t bad, but a sandwich would have been better.

After another coughing spasm (I hadn’t gotten my medication yet), I stopped nearby for a large café au lait and a slice of cheesecake (it is Shavuot today) and read my book.

Then it was off to the museum.  I had mapped it out, but oy, was google maps off course.  Luckily, I still found it.

I think I first fell in love with Die Brücke art movement when I saw the Merzbacher Collection in 1999 at the Israel Museum.  Among the artists who really blew me away was Emil Nolde.  I since learned that he was an anti-Semite and a Nazi (though persecuted by the regime for being a degenerate artist).  They had several of his pieces on display, and one of them was my favorite painting I saw today.

It’s called “The Hunter’s House (in Alsen)" and was painted in 1909.  Nolde’s thick brush strokes, in which underlying colors smear through, creates an intense vibrant scene.  Like his red poppies I had seen in 1999, no photograph can really capture how they look in life.  As the clouds raced over the sun, the painting was alternatingly in shadow and light, highlighting the rough texture of the layered paint. 

Some other intense paintings I enjoyed were Nolde’s portrait of “Herr Sch.” (1915):
Erich Heckel’s “Shell-Shocked Soldier” (1916):

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s “Portrait of Edwin Redslob” (1924):

I took a short nap this afternoon and then went to a coffee house to translate the material I copied at the archives.  For dinner, I decided to try the new Chinese restaurant my pension has every evening.  I had relatively low expectations, but I decided to order the crispy duck with sweet and sour sauce.  I was amazed how good it was.  No fat on the duck, but lots of crispy skin.  To keep the skin crispy, the sauce was on the side.  Some of the best Chinese duck I’ve ever had.

After dinner, I went for a walk for nearly an hour, then headed back to finish translating the memos I found in the archives.  Not sure entirely what to make of them, but they show a flurry of activity in April 1942, while making reference to a Balz’s file, which does not appear to have survived.  Kind of frustrating, actually, with the most critical document, which references a conversation with Goebbels about Balz (which Goebbels does not mention in his Diary) is undated! According to Goebbels, Balz should not be permitted to return to broadcasting, but no further steps should be taken against him. However, the memo number leads me to think it’s from April 1942 (not that I’m anywhere close to being an expert on how the Nazi bureaucracy numbered its memos).  Even more confusing is the handwritten note in English written at the bottom of the memo date 1946, years after the original memo was prepared, indicating that the Allied security services have permitted Balz to return to work. 

Tomorrow, I’ll try to figure out what to with this stuff.  I’m hoping the material I see at the Film Archive on Friday will help sort this out.  In the meantime, I intend do some laundry in the morning before visiting the Berlinesche Galerie in Kreuzberg.  Tomorrow night, I’m seeing Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust in West Berlin.

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