Monday, 9 March 2009 search of the FLOTTEN STRASSE

I was very struck by the place B described in our recent interview. The place was a dorm, where in 1968, together with other ‘guestworker’ women she lived in, while working for AEG Telefunken (German radio and television company) The same place had been a forced labour camp in the World War 2 (I will post an extract from my interview with B here very soon). She described the dorm, and said it was in the Flotten Strasse, and that it was still a police station, and that in the basement the beds and the linen were still there from the time it was a hospital (right after the war). So, I went the next day to the place to have a look. The street runs parallel to the overground train tracks, so one side of it is industrial and for the most part occupied by different companies. Some buildings were built after the WW2, but some were from an earlier time. There was no police station though, and so I tried to decipher from her description which was the building she lived in, 40 years ago.

It was Saturday, bitterly cold wind was blowing, and the whole place was quiet and felt deserted. I walked around, looking for the signs, traces, some marks which will speak of the time past…Those that catch my eyes I photograph, the defunct train tracks which suddenly emerge from the ground, as if they are coming out from some dark, internal space (were all these building connected by the train tracks), old rusty signs, ‘new’ signs (well can’t quite say new, more likely to be put there in the 70’s), the lamp posts, tall windows with dirty black grime on it, inside are the lamps on the long cords hanging, ‘Private Grundschtück’, metal gates, trees, tall and strong and black, the wire, short windows (or are they doors?) with lace neatly hung on it (does anybody live or work here?)…I enter one of those ‘Private Grundschtück’ places and half expect a security guard to come out yelling ‘verboten’, but nobody is chasing me out, so I continue…I come across an old porter cabin and speak to the man inside in my broken German. He is from the West Bank, has been working here for 20 years. The place inside looks warm and smokey, he offers me a cup of tea but there is another men inside, and I decline. I explain I am looking for the place, which was a forced labour camp, then a dorm for the guestworkers. He points to all the buildings behind him, and says I can go and have a look. I decide not to get drawn into the whole conversation about Israel and the West Bank (well, at least not yet, I will be back), but again think of all the tangled histories and how their tentacles just seem to get more and more woven in with each other, and I wonder what patterns repeat and which are undone, never to be repeated again!?

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