A Science Career Against all Odds: A Life of Survival, Study, Teaching and Travel in the 20th Century
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Today is Sunday, June 17, 2007. Father’s Day. Naturally, the obligatory, carefully selected cards, phone calls, and small gifts arrived from the children and grandchildren. Best wishes for Father’s Day were also the first words in the morning from Heidel, my wife of 54 years, although for many years I had made the comment: “I am not your father. ” But, in the frame of my life’s experiences th th in the 20 century, as I intend to summarize them over the next few years, the 17 of June has much deeper significance. This was the day in 1953 when we finally fled from our life of oppression which had lasted 20 years. Two successive dictatorships, one of Hitler and the other of Stalin, caused the most horrific slaughter of civilians and soldiers, eclipsing all prior history. During these first years of my life, I was plainly lucky to survive. After this day, I had a much better chance to experience the freedom needed to lead a life of creativity, satisfaction, and ultimately prosperity, all directed largely by our own decisions. th The 17 of June 1953 was a Wednesday. I stayed in the apartment of my parents in my hometown of Brandenburg, in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the former Russian occupied zone of Germany. The summer vacation of the Humboldt University in East Berlin, some 40 mi further east, had just started. But, I was alone with my father, “Vati.
accompanying them. It was surprising that nobody stopped us. Is it not suspicious when on a warm day a lady in a fur coat and two little boys with their school bags and an older son with two heavy suitcases enter the train for Berlin? The excuse of a summer vacation might not have worked. This left Vati in Brandenburg to secure the business. For me, the exam in ‘Marxism-Leninism,’ which was forced upon me (see page 4-26), was to be held on June 12. By now, I knew that I had to fail this exam to
main entrance to the University is shown in Figure 4. The 200 mi round trip was not cheap, so I chose the train, known as the “schwäb’sche Eisebahne,” a slow series of local trains. I left in the morning, but arrived only in the late afternoon in Frankfurt after an enjoyable, long trip through the countryside, changing trains two or three times. Heidel met me at the Hauptbahnhof (see Figure 11, below) and we explored the Figure 4 University of Frankfurt with Heidel. Winter “Senckenberg Anlage,” a
trying to hit Herrn Kleiber. For a long time it was a story told at the dinner table to friends. To me, Vati reiterated my need to be more courteous to grown-ups and that I should not aggravate the fellow any further since he had to get along with him. To my surprise there was no mention of any punishment. Frank and I had our revenge half a year later when we saw Kleiber’s son, about one year younger than I, in the yard. We had a penny, so we asked him: ‘Do you want this penny?’ He did. Frank
Figure 8 The Grünewald Madonna of covered with snow and the 12,372'“Wildspitze” in the Stuppach, painted 1518. From a postcard. background. Then, one of these days on going home from school, I discovered a new smell. A smell that was later only too common, typical of burning wood, paper, textiles, and tar, doused with water to prevent full combustion. It is in the air whenever a building burns, and the fire is being extinguished with water. Soon I saw a fire engine in front of our house. Running
meat, low level of filler, and its faint taste of liver. For many years thereafter, I was very hesitant to eat liver sausage. The salami, blood sausages, headcheese, and bologna were much better in this respect. In these you can still recognize most of the ingredients. Not all the work in Lütte was butchering. The animal stables needed to be cleaned out and many things were to be carried from one place to another. Most memorable was a delivery of feed grains. Many neatly stacked bags were lying