THE SOVIET PUTSCH
Berlin, August 19, 1991
On that morning we awoke to the news of an attempted coup by Soviet hardliners to take control of Mikhail Gorbachev. We are glued to the TV positioned on the floor in front of the dining table, watching the events unfold on CNN. Suddenly those Soviet soldiers in East Berlin don’t seem so harmless anymore. Here in Berlin it seems we are in the middle of everything that’s happening. Like Rob said, it’s the center of the universe. I have lost my innocence! No need for Germans to accuse me of being a naïve American any longer. I have been educated in these past few months. I remember how threatening it seemed when Camilla suggested we live in an East Berlin besetzteshaus. That first night crossing Warschauer Brücke into the darkness of East Berlin seems so distant now. In just a few months they have been able to illuminate the darkness with neon signs glaring from sparkling new Western style shops. Perhaps they wanted to change it quickly so a coup would be less likely to succeed. Now that it has been “Westernized” my fear of East Berlin has been replaced with sadness. Something valuable has already been lost. Now I find myself longing for those timeless strolls through dark streets that took me back to memories of my 1950s childhood.
Nothing has been more life altering than the stories told by survivors of Hitler’s Nazi rule. I have unwittingly been thrust into the position of documentarian of the stories of the last survivors of the holocaust. There have been nights when I woke up in a panic from nightmares that were made more real by the fact that they had actually happened where I was sleeping. My personal process was one of awakening. I wanted so much to hang on to all of my American idealism that makes Germans label me naïve. I want to believe that the core of all human beings is goodness. But as each story passes through my ears to my heart, I have to acknowledge that maybe I really was naïve! No matter how good we claim to be or want to be, there are situations where average people turn into monsters that epitomize the very concept of evil. It is much more difficult to separate oneself from reality when the pictures on the TV tube resemble the pictures just outside your doorway. It is much more difficult to imagine myself separate from the stories being told when the storyteller is holding my hand.