A young mother stands at the edge of Kurfurstendamm, a gateway to a city left scarred by war. Holding a small bag of shopping, she wants to return home to her children.
The rain is falling so hard that it swells in the street and turns the road into a quick-flowing stream. A dark day in Berlin.
As she prepares to cross, a voice calls: “Wait! Halt, Bitte! Wait!”
It was an young British soldier. Smiling, he laughs at the woman and points to the sky and holds out his hands, turning them upwards as if to catch the water.
The woman smiles. The soldier moves closer. Gently he takes her hand, then swiftly pulls her close and lifts her off the ground.
Surprised, the mum lets out a scream of laughter: “Put me down! Put me down!” as the soldier, ankle deep in water, carries her across the road to the other side.
Wiping wet hair from her eyes, she smiles at her new friend. “What’s your name? Would like like to come home with me for dinner?”
It was the start of a six month affair between the young man and the mother-of three.
Lincoln, England, March 2012
“I wasn’t a saint when I was in the army you know,” a grandfather tells his grandson. “The war had ended, I was posted to Berlin. I knew I wouldn’t see your Nanna for six months. If I was lucky. To be honest, I didn’t know what would happen.
“The British soldiers always treated the German women with respect. They liked us. We liked them. I had a relationship with a woman a few years older than me. It started after I carried her across the road. It was raining heavily. I didn’t want her to get her feet wet from the water in the street, it was deep. I was already soaked through in my army uniform. I said: ‘Wait! Halt, Bitte! Wait!’.”
Neue Christstraße, Berlin, November 2012
Another late night, two friends talking in a bar. One is from England, visiting Charlottenburg, an area filled with Allied soldiers after the end of WW2.
“Look at this,” said the German. “I got this photo of my grandma. She had an affair with an English soldier in 1946.
“She was in her early 30s. My mum remembers a British soldier, she still says “a Tommy”, who was a regular visitor after the war. She and her siblings were always happy when he came for a visit. Mum says, he was a tall, nice and gentle person. My mum was eight by the end of the war. She still can remember the smell of his uniform. But she doesn’t recall his name. My grandfather was a PoW, he wasn’t there.”
“My grandfather had an affair with a German woman from Charlottenburg,” said the English visitor.
“You can have the picture. I’ll email it to you. Show it to your Grandfather. You never know,” his friend replied.
West End, Leicester, January 2013
A telephone call between the two friends.
“My Grandfather seemed absolutely convinced he knew your Grandma from the pictures,” said the Englishman.
“I asked my brother to show him them. It was all highly secretive. There was no mention of who it might be, when or where it was from. He is very well so there is no confusion.
His first response to the pictures was clear: “I recognise her near the Olympic Stadium, Berlin, 1945-1946″. My mother was there at his house at that moment today and he didn’t want to talk too much. I telephoned him later. He’d told my brother it was likely he had a relationship with the woman he believed to be the woman in the picture.
He talked of a day of heavy rain in Berlin. He carried her over a flooded road and that’s how the romance began. He spoke of a ‘posh’ house near a well-known road.
I took this to be ku’damm but I could be wrong.
He also mentioned a zoo, I took this to be the one near the Tiergarten but there are other zoos.
That was pretty much it apart from him reminding us that it was 70 years ago.”
Charlottenburg, Berlin, February 2013
“My aunt came with some other memories: She says there was something with his teeth, maybe a broken one? She remembers because she was always sitting on his lap and could see his teeth when he was laughing. She also wants to know how old he is now? She is searching for more photos.”
His English friend said: “He told me was a boxer in the army, and not a particularly good one. It’s possible he had lost some teeth.”
To be continued…