I’ve just watched the second “Hannibal” episode with Francis Dolarhyde where we see a short flashback with young Francis at his grandmothers table. Checking my WordPress reader I also saw a new post from “The Book of Esther” who is reporting from her holiday in Czech Republic here.

Which leaves me with mixed feelings…

It’s only a 2,5 hour drive from Nuremberg to Prague. I once even overheard an American at Nuremberg airport, while obviously answering the question on his cell phone where he was at the moment with “in a small town in southern Germany near Prague”. I think actually the majority of Nuremberg’s citizens have been to Prague at least once or even go there regularly for a weekend trip.

I haven’t.

Maybe this has to do with my Bohemian grandmother, who had to leave her house and all her belongings in Czechia and flee with her mother and my baby-aunt (her husband hadn’t survived Hitler’s Stalingrad siege) during WWII.

I’ve often tried to imagine the horror she must have felt – from the few stories she told over and over when I was a kid. How would one feel getting a note of one’s husband’s death, with a newborn baby, that will now never see his father? Also her mother – my great grandmother (who I only got to know as a sweet round little old lady) was many times illegally crossing the border at night, WALKING from Eger to Nuremberg (this is a 1,5 hour DRIVE now) to maintain contact with relatives during wartime – and my gran always dreaded that something might happen to her too …

When the war was over – from the moment it became possible again, my grandmother regularly went back on day trips, to gaze at the house in which she grew up, lost in memories. The one time, I accompanied her, witnessing how she invaded the privacy of the people now living there like: walking past the picket fence back and forth, craning her neck, pointing with her finger, commenting on building alterations that had been made – made me feel really uncomfortable. Of course I felt for her – she clearly never got over these traumatic events: there she had seen her father happy for the last time, before he’d returned broken, from years in a russian prison (I can tell you that in reality this looks nothing like “Lucas North”). By the garden gate she’d received her first kiss from the husband who then went to fight for Hitler’s mad war and never returned. Somehow all of this always tainted my interest for visiting the Czech republic – despite loving the wonderful Czech children movies from the 70s 😉

So, this daytrip with my then 70 year old gran, about 25 years ago, really has remained my only visit there. Something deep within still makes me NOT want to cross that border again. Funny enough – my great grandmother NEVER went back there as long as she lived. So – in a way – todays musings fit perfectly with the Dolarhyde story: trauma our ancestors leave us with.

9 comments

  1. Nuremberg, a small German town. Hah.

    They definitely do leave us with traumas. I’ve been to Eger a few times, and Prague, and a few other places, always with Germans, and they felt uncomfortable there and so did I. I think even apart from personal experiences there is still a lot of tension along that border, a lot of anxiety about loss and gain on both sides, and of course, if one were ripped from one’s history in such a violent, involuntary way, it would be much, much worse.

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      1. The first time I was in Prague, it was a university excursion and we were in a big bus with German license plates, coming from Gießen, I think, and people on the street gave us the Hitler salute. That would tend to make one feel not welcome, and that was 1999. I also remember acutely the palpable fear in the former East German in the mid-1990s about the possibility of property reparations. No one wants to remember these awful pasts, I think, not least if they cause turmoil in the present.

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        1. Oh yes. My mother inherited in the mid 90s my grandfather’s small house south of Berlin. His sister had always remained there while her three siblings were living in Western Germany. I still remember packing parcels with coffee and tights for her as a kid… so when she died and left the house to my mum, we went there with my grandmother and my mum, to clean the house and the neighbours told some stories about all those “Westler”s trying to snatch the best building plots or reclaiming property.

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        2. Oh my goodness, yes on the Hitler salute! In the 80s/beginning 90s my parents lived in Germany and of course had a car with a German license plate. Several times in The Netherlands people did the Hitler salute when they saw our German car drive by, i hated that!

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    1. OK, I couldn’t resist after all (too curious!) and just HAD to read this blogpost you mentioned in your reaction on my post.

      Wow, yes, I can see how this would be hard for you, feeling uncomfortable as a German coming here to the Czech Republic.And what a story to have in your family! This also makes me wonder: do you also feel this difficulty when going to The Netherlands? Or would that bother you less as you don’t have that immediate historical connection? I know the Dutch have been very very negative about Germans in the past and it must feel umcomfortable as well for Germans to visit. I know many many years ago a German friend of mine who visited felt very umcomfortable in the Netherlands. 😦

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