Friday, January 28, 2005

Encounter at Friedrichstraße

On Wednesday evening we screened the wonderful Good Bye Lenin! as the latest in the international film series. In my introductory remarks I recalled a personal anecdote that seemed, somehow, to connect to the main themes of the film. In the mid-1980s I travelled by train to see a friend who was teaching in Wrocław, Poland, and to get a better understanding of the political upheaval initiated by Solidarnosc. Naturally, the train journey took me through the divided Berlin. At the notorious Friedrichstraße Station the East German border guards tapped wheels, searched under the train, clambered onboard and began their systematic passport check. Old Polish ladies muttered away at the peremptory rudeness of the German comrades as they rifled through belongings. Then it was my turn. After a few moments one of the guards decided the book I was reading was worth further inspection; he confiscated it and told me he had to consult a superior. Time passed. And without warning the train pulled out of the station and began its journey eastwards. I never did get the book back and, as a result, never finished reading it. The book? The second volume of Neil Harding's Lenin's Political Thought.


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