Timm Rautert Berlin . The hole in the world

Berlin . The hole in the world

I recall exactly. On 9/11/89 I was in Frankfurt am Main. Since 1980 Karl Otto Pöhl had been President of the Deutsche Bundesbank, this was good enough reason to take pictures of him. During the photographing in Pöhl’s office, something sparkled so beautifully golden. They were Pöhl’s cuff links in the form of golden ten mark pieces of the long faded German empire. Neither Pöhl nor I knew in Frankfurt at this morning that another empire on German soil would fade this evening. Karl Otto Pöhl should then later become the great fiscal opponent of the “Chancellor of Unification”. He warned against disastrous conditions in the GDR after the reunification and he was for the creation of a Special Economic Zone and a currency exchange at 1:2. The great chancellor dismissed this as nonsense. Because of too little influence Pöhl then resigned in 1991. He is turning eighty years in the upcoming year. At noon I then drove on to Weil am Rhein in order to take pictures of the just finished Vitra Design Museum by Frank O. Gehry. I stayed at the Atlas Hotel on Alte Straße and just there I should meet a man struggling with enormous tasks. I had switched on the TV set while unhurriedly controlling my cameras. It was late and puzzling sounds of a press conference leaked to my ears from the international press centre at the East Berlin Mohrenstraße, I looked up. The subtitles on the TV set announced the response of Günter Schabowski, member of the SED politburo. He had answered the critical question of an Italian journalist on the travel law of the GDR: “… and therefore we have decided to now make a rule enabling every citizien of the GDR to leave the GDR via the border crossing points.” Now I was awake, my cameras were forgotten. In response to the enquiry from the group of journalists “When does this go into effect?” the fighter, struggling with himself, answered: “According to my knowledge – that is immediately, at once.” There you go. Atlas Schabowski, the world on his shoulders. 

And me – stunned – rushed into the hotel bar. I told a lonely gentleman at the counter about the fall of the Wall. He thought and even told me that I am nuts. I have never been treated more impolitely at a German hotel bar. But when the bar keeper switched on the TV everyone was flabbergasted as the German Parliament had interrupted its evening session and everyone was singing the national anthem. The gentleman treated me to a beer and politeness was re-established with several drinks.

Berlin was 860 km away from Hotel Atlas and Basel was 7 km away. Berlin was much nearer in my head and Basel so distant. But I only arrived in Berlin on November 13. I directly went from the actually overcrowded Tegel airport to Potdamer Platz. The steadily prevalent barren setting there was still barren but around one spot of the wall many people were swarming. And there it was, a hole in the world, the ‘anti-fascist protection wall’ did not protect any more. Estragon and Wladimir were standing on hastily produced trash containers, since one did not know who would come, and were waiting, naturally.