Things I learned that spring 1954
Hitch-hiking through Europe after war student finds defeated Germans ten times richer than Spaniards. Though law graduate he does manual jobs to earn his bread; he sees West Germans pampered by capitalism so as to fight communism. Nazis now allies.
Things I learned that spring ‘54
Fernando García Izquierdo
Observing the world.
One wind blew me here, and another one blew me there, and I lived, saw and tried to analyse what I observed. The home I had left behind was very poor. About other differences that I observed there was this one: there still existed, among the inhabitants of the northern European countries I visited, a feeling of belonging to a set of humans, race, much superior to the rest. This feeling or instinct, it will be said, is common to all civilised humans. It did not exist (then) generally among Spaniards, who are always accused of being haughty.I saw nowhere this feeling of (let me call it) racial superiority more than in West Germany.
And Germany had just lost a War.
About other changes I observed I will say that I never ceased to be marvelled by them. I worked there to earn my daily bread, and I hope to be able to communicate to the reader what I saw and felt. It is by observing real life, I think, that we humans can best understand one another and save our species and save the planet.
I made my father suffer.
He could not understand how a son of his, about to occupy a post, “un puesto en la Administración o la Magistratura” preferred to go awandering and see, observe... and dream. I was then twenty-three.
And I was on the road.
My first destination was England, where I arrived in June, 1953, at the very moment of the Queen’s coronation. “Elisabeth II Regina”, worshipped by millions and millions of humans around the world. Perhaps the reader knows the story of an empire where the sun never set. It has all blown up now, but what I saw at the time confused and marvelled me. I never forgot what I learned those years working in that country under the Volunteer Agricultutal Camps scheme.
Back to West Germany.
Anyhow, I have written already about the empire that lost hundreds of thousands of young men on the Continent. For instance in Leverkusen, near Köln-Lindenthal where I lived, the British High Command had given orders that the advancing soldiers should slow down their advance (artillery-like) because the region was full of “interesting” factories, full of patents and other technological progress.
In the early fifties I was a proletarian.
In England I moved from camp to camp and got to know about landowning, almost feudalism. I wrote home regularly, letters or postcards, which my parents and brothers read with great interest. Specially my father who said I “made a good analysis of the ambience”. He was trying to be nice; for I knew he disliked hearing that, after so much effort, years of studying hard, one of his sons had become a manual labourer; he had worked so hard to spend money on my education.
Sometimes I felt nostalgic.
All living beings are attached to the earth to which they belong. I thought with nostalgia of my homeland, the exquisitely pure sky of my Madrid, “like the perfect blue crystal from Venice,” had said Azorín. And I hadn’t yet been to the terribly industrialised ZONE of the Ruhr with its black sky
I found myself stranded in Cologne.
It was wonderful after all that someone stole my money in the Cologne youth hostel and in the Studentenschnelldienst I was given the status of a foreign student and, just by chance, I found myself livlng on the university campus, in Köln-Lindenthal; by an unusual combination of circumstances, I became an intellectual-proletarian as those that in the Renaissance abounded in Salamanca. West Germans were so generous with me, trying perhaps to show they did no longer dislike Mediterraneans.
University students those days in that country did not study like the rest of the Europeans I knew; for them ‘the course’ lasted ‘one semester’, and it happened just then that many students were spending their “semestrial” vacations at home, and I was given temporarily one of the beds left free.
I shall soon be explaining how this came to happen; but let me first say that I don’t remember to have seen any female student on the university campus those days; adding however that, for the reasons mentioned, there were not many male ones either.
What accommodation was I given?
In each room of the residence where I went to lodge, there were two beds. In a word, I shared my room with a law student called Klaus, who had not gone back home for his holiday. He was an excellent person, and we became good friends. He spoke a little English and seemed pleased of the occasion now offered to him to improve his English, rather than teach me German.
When I made the acquaintance of the student who ordinarily used my bed (and who at the time of my arrival was with his parents), I found he was likewise very nice. I don’t remember his name as well as I remember that of my room-companion, but I think he was called Heinrich, likewise a law student. He at once became ultra-helpful, too, taking the step of asking his Papa to find new accommodation for himself in the residence, in order to let me go on undisturbed where I was.
Klaus took me to his home in a village.
His parents and his fiancée lived in the country, near Wüppertal. He insisted I had to go one weekend with him and meet them, for he wanted to introduce them to me.
Anyhow, one Saturday we reached Klaus’ village partly by bus and partly by a lift in a farmer’s car, a big Mercedes, that took us to the very door of the ancestral home of which my room-companion had been talking almost since my arrival. The weather was excellent that weekend, for during the previous two days it had been raining persistently.
Almost the only other thing I remember quite vividly of that weekend is that I danced with my friend’s fiancée in the village square, where some popular festivity was celebrated that Sunday.
Seeing me so abandoned and without a girl, he felt pity for the Spaniard and invited me to dance with his fiancée. Invitation which I rejected at once, not because I disliked the girl, whom, on the contrary, I found blessed with all the qualities of the nordic race, but because I am a catastrophic dancer.
I saw my friend frown. I shouldn’t have rejected his suggestion. I can still see in my mind that expression, that pure state of disbelief. “Please, it is not that, Klaus,” I said, “but really I don’t know how to dance.”
Nevertheless, I tried dancing with Klaus’s girl, or rather I was following her steps for the young woman was an agile dancer. I also vaguely recollect her wearing some colourful regional dress, or blouse and skirt.
Of other relationships and friendships.
I always found diligence in the Germans of my age, by whom I was befriended and whom I befriended, a quick decision and great nonchalance; desire to help which was pleasant to see and enjoy. All those young men I met, with no exception, had been drafted by the Government of the already dying III Reich (during the last horrible months of the war) and were supplied with the uniform of a fallen Nazi. Soldiers at the service of DEAD FASCISM. Uniforms often stained with blood of those who were going to dominate the world, “Make our Race Strong Again!!!” Sixteen-year-olds provided with a rifle and sent to the front where they were killed or made prisioners by the advancing Soviet Army. All forgotten!
Never mind, every one was so nice, I was paid for my work and I learned things chatting with friends, in English.
I always adapted myself to the medium.
Wherever I’ve lived and worked I’ve become at once one of them, and that is the impression I have when I think of the West Germany I first visited in 1954. I hope that the picture I give on this pages is accurate: a flourishing society, at any rate, I saw. But though the impression was undeniably one of progress and conquest, I noticed many physical scars of the war. War and horror that still was going on in many other less privileged chunks of the planet.
Already in 1944, capitalism-imperialism.
Actively fabricating ordained horror. I perceived most clearly in 1954 in Cologne. The Cold War was not only a detail of history. It was the instrument by which perfidious bloodsuckers would send to sleep for ever whole populations of Western Europeans. Even today we continually hear (we freeworlders) stories about ‘Stalin’s Crimes’, etc., etc., etc.
The Franco-German Frendship.
The two well-known and powerful heads of state, Der Alte Adenauer and General De Gaulle, met repeatedly at that time, in order to consolidate the union that was to serve first in central Europe, and then in all Europe up to Sebastopol for TOTAL UNION against… against whom, with what special purpose?
Speculations, you will say.
But it is real history I am propounding. The joint now called the E.U., was created ostensibly to ensure that there would be no more wars, but which in fact has caused with the USA more conflict in the entire planet (Irak, Syria, etc.), for the purpose of securing the continuous domination by the elites… but I halt, I notice I am deviating, again, from the subject-matter of this article.
E.U. and ‘militarismo’.
One day, my friend Klaus told me to catch a train to Bonn, and gave me a detailed note of where I would see him… He did not speak of where I’d meet him, but to see him. I followed his directions to the letter, and came to a main plaza where I think I saw an ancien army of foot and horse, and which now I remember.
I had been hearing for over a fortnight at the Studentenschnelldienst of “hussars” being recruited, to constitute the escort surrounding “our Alte Chief of State” on the arrival of the neighbouring country’s chief of state.
The applicants for this job had to be blond, strong and German to the very bone. At any rate I went to Bonn, which was situated only a few miles south of where I lived; and saw my friend in the distance. I was confused and pleased at the same time, for I had not liked the way he had summoned me, but had accepted because I knew him, and knew he didn’t mean any harm.
He was in fact a real foot soldier, part of an Ancient Hannoverian Regiment. I confess that I am not perfectly clear about the details; this happened about seventy-five years ago.
I saw Adenauer and De Gaulle, behind my good friend and seventeen or eighteen soldiers in full-dress uniform, thinking of all I’d read about the “Job” in the students’ bureau in Cologne and in the local press, the official visit of the French leader, the special interest in this visit taken by the leaders of other countries belonging to the Free World, and all the pomp and ceremony.
I’ll also mention herein that the uniformed job just mentioned was well paid and Klaus came back to the residence with a set of records by Beethoven, Wagner and Brahms; for I had forgotten to say, herebefore that my room-companion was a good musician who possessed a record-player, and for a few days we heard music all the time, and I saw him lifting his arms in the air as if he were conducting an orchestra.
Let me tell you about my jobs.
I did a lot of well paid jobs, I mean, jobs paid by the hour. Like “teppichklopfen.” When this German word suddenly comes to my mind (seated as I am in my armchair, recollecting the past), I see myself working one day at a big mansion or manor house, belonging no doubt to a wealthy baron or multimillionaire, more correctly stated today as a captain of industry.
When I reached my destination, at about quarter past eight, by public transport, I went straight to the back door of the building, or “service entrance”, where I was received by what might have been a housekeeper, in any case a majestic woman now walking with me in the magnificent grounds of an imposing property. She was tall, strong and probably around forty. The least talkative person I’ve seen in my life. Nor did she make any effort to try and understand my bad German. I did see straightaway what I was supposed to do; For we two came out upon a lovely part of the grounds, with trees and hedges and flowers.
Somebody had just lain out, hanging from a steel cable between two trees, an immense Persian rug. I could still see two maids in the distance going away from these two trees precisely.)
My companion said something and left, handing me two very solid racquets, with one of which I began banging furiously upon the carpet. A cloud of dust now started to cut away the lovely vision of the trees and flowers of a moment ago, those sunrays that I had see filtering aslant among the thin green trunks of a multitude of trees in the distance. And I went on banging rather mechanically at the precious Persian rug. Soon I realised I was banging partly to no use. I had to come nearer and do the banging sideways, getting nearer. Experience is the mother of Science, and I did my job so well that in two or three hours I had fulfilled my obligations and began getting ready to receive my pay. What had been a colourful garden in the morning was now coated with dirty dust. I’lI also mention that in my solitude I was constantly being reminded that I was being watched.
It was only now I realised how tired I was, near paralysed and not knowing what to do, except trying to wipe my glasses clean. The woman that brought me to the spot had supplied me with a cap and a big handkerchief to protect my person from the dust. Even so my eyes and mouth and every part of me was filthy.
I began to retrace my steps to the manor house. As I passed by a bow-window, I saw my reflection in the large glass, and I almost fainted in disgust: I looked like a ghost. But for the hair on my head I was coated with dust. At that very instant I saw in a window two maids laughing at me.
The woman that took charge of me in the morning led me directly to a bathroom. Afterwards I was taken to the large kitchen, where the same woman served me liberally with food and drink and left me alone. When she reappeared, she paid my due and then accompanied me all the way to one end of the grounds.
In the shelter, waiting for the bus that would take me back to Köln-Lindentall I counted the bills the serious dame had handed to me and laughed. I had received a tip which was double the stipulated wage.
West Germans were generous. No. Magnanimous is the correct word.