These are pictures of my mother who was born during World War II, my Nazi grandfather, my grandmother and their wedding invitation. Before the end of the war, they were a happy, hopeful and loving family. The war ultimately not only made all of Europe suffer but my family as well. After 4 generations who have been in this house, I have decided to turn around and face this past.
In 1945, the occupying Russian soldiers had plucked cherries from the garden that my grandparents had planted during World War II. While the Russian soldiers where in the house, they had spit the pits onto the floor. These pits, left there reddish purple stains on the green living room carpet. This became my mother’s first memory. These cherries are from the same tree.
My mother where she walks her dog 3 times a day, where once the Berlin Wall stood, armed with guards, attack dogs and trip wire machine guns. As a child, she and my grandmother awoke one day to find the burial ground and tombstone of my grandfather had been leveled and the Wall had been built on top of it. His body was never recovered. My mother and her dog are now free to roam. It is also along the road Germans walked during the mass expulsion from new found land in Poland, after World War II. This new territory for Poland had been a part of Germany since the middle of the 1700s.
This is the story of a house built in 1941 in East Berlin. Four generations of my family have experienced the events of World War II, Russian invasion, Polish expulsion and Russian occupation via the Berlin Wall in this house.
These photographs attempt to break open the legacy of my family’s personal trauma and the dark memories of violence, loss, terror, separation and suppression.
There were always ghosts in the house. Breathing, moving, slowly. Changing the shadows. Whispers of movement of articles of clothing. They were memories. Not actual spirits. They were things that happened in the house in the past and they stayed. They didn’t leave. And they were thick. They were not loud. They were the things we did not talk about.
My grandparents planted a hazelnut tree in the garden during the war. These nuts are from that tree. A photo of my grandmother and mother, an ideal looking Nazi family, during World War II. The crucifix belonged to my great grandmother who also lived in the house.
Remnants of the East Berlin wall where my mother walks her dog every day.
Apples from the original apple trees planted in the garden in 1939. I have many memories of my grandmother eating two every night before she went to bed. And I pulling one off the tree as I was playing.
Momma looking out into the garden at twilight, in the room that my grandmother threatened to kill my four year old mother and suicide herself when the Russians began to invade Berlin. The Germans were terrified to end up in the hands of the Russians. My mother screamed and ran around, finally to convince my grandmother to let them live. The house that keeps my mother safe and warm and also traps her in a past that is cruel, full of love and death.
In the room, next to the basement bomb shelter. Old wicker baskets and jugs from the old family farm.
Me holding the white currants that my grandparents planted during World War II. Their intentions continue to nurture me. Often my grandmother would make jellies from them.
My mother and her dog roaming free over land that was once the ‘No Man’s Zone’. This “death strip” was up to 160 yards wide and contained hundreds of watchtowers, miles of anti-vehicle trenches, guard dog runs, floodlights and trip-wire machine guns to keep the East Berliners from escaping into the West.