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Bellerman Strasse 2: Aunt Cilli Baked a Birthday Cake

Comfortingly, the Kietz around the Bellermanstrasse / Prinzenallee (Prince Alley) belongs to the area “Gesundbrunnen”, even though the character localities weren't very apart from one another with all the tenements.

Admittedly, I was an easily scared child, and had for myself an inaccessible corner in the two room apartment with inner toilet exposed, which I assumed housed ghosts.

I remember that my providers only ever used gas or electricity when a chip was in placement. That's how in the evening the petroleum lamps would set the mood. But that all changed with time for all the tenants.

Most of the time we sat together at the kitchen table, due to the oven spending scant pieces of heat our way. Behind “my seat” - I sat with my back to the window - there was also the faucet with a drain, subsequently, a small narrow door would open the way to the pantry. A narrow window to the courtyard would also be subsequently opened after use of the toilet, that could only be freely opened with a long iron rod designed to open and shut it. This was due to the space below the pantry being offered as a welcomed storage space for designers.

The unknown remained to be the ground floor, because it made rustling noises, and had the occasional bit of unexplainable racket come from there, because Aunt Cilli always pushed the enamelled bath tub forward, behind those were two suitcases with a ominous travelling basket with a cover. For that reason alone was why little light came through the window into the bathroom, and after continued annoyance from me, did it finally end in me not needing a petroleum lamp to go to the bathroom.

Finally it was the big day: my 6th birthday in a sheltered environment. And Aunt Cilli certainly won my affection with her old time saying: the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

The seemingly small but powerful figure, with the beautiful black hair, was able to cook, roast, and bake. Not a surprise when she worked for the Earl of Arnim and cooked in the castle kitchen situated in Bad Muskau for multiple years. I was impressed by the delicious pound cake, which made my birthday wish in the end epicurean.

Aunt Cilli baked it for me, but wasn't there for coffee or the rest of the evening that Wednesday. She had to assist her former Berlin employer in their distress.

So what happened between the two genuine men on that late afternoon remains unforgettable.

In the middle of the kitchen table there slowly burned a candle. To the wall there lay my presents, a paint box on top of a drawing pad. Between my cake plate and candle wafted the comforting scent of the pleasant atmosphere. Father had arranged everything and of course, the beige cup with cocoa. In addition, I was allowed to sit on his ancestral throne, who disclosed the straight look out the window. It was still daylight. My Dad leaned, as so often on such occasions, almost to the bottom of the cooker, first crosses his arms over his stomach.

“So my boy, that cake is for you, and you alone. Nobody will take a piece from you. Enjoy it.” 

What child may initially not grossly bite, almost swallow ravenously when other memories start to fade in?
Promptly my father was already admonishing advice:

“Hans, there is no need to eat so quickly, it is solely your cake.” He put his smokers pipe into his mouth, lit it, and stood at his usual position of being in front of the oven, trying to hold a conversation with me. He aroused my interest in boxing, for drawing, told, of course, from his own experiences, while I gradually take one piece after another out from the trimmed dark circle of the pie plate and was happy again and again on the small crispy edge, the beautiful drawings of the chocolate dough ran in my mouth, tasty - just to bite into.

With certainty I was a better eater than conversation holder, and to me the conscious piece of wisdom rang through my stern upbringing held throughout, never eat with your mouth full.

Outside, dawn was coming, the candle stub was bleakly giving light. My father blew it out. A strange twilight crept through the windows.

More than half of my birthday cake I had eaten under the described conditions without leaving the chair once. It was the promise that this cake was mine alone to eat. No one was there, no powers tried to clear the table, to deprive me of the cake, because one of them may even want to eat tomorrow.

With time, my chewing movements slowed down, cocoa was refilled. And in the middle of the stories my father interrupted by pulling on the pipe, I took advantage of the fact that he reported a birthday child, a boy who was about the same age as me.

“Have you seen him?” I asked

“Yes I did, he seemed a bit older than you”

“And blonde?”

“I think so, yeah”

“And what did he get for his birthday?”

“Well, he asked for a platter of crumb cake all to himself”

“Oooh” I replied, Aunt Cilli was also very talented at making that cake.

“Only so the boy ate the very thick crumb cake. He was allowed to, because the whole plate with cake belonged to him alone. No one would scold him.”

“He had it good” I thought to myself, remembering the slaps on the hands while trying to do the same. Aunt Cilli allowed me to eat while preparing the delicious butter crumbs but only from the rest of the grater bowl.

“As the boy ate half of the cake from the platter, he suddenly became very tired”

“Why father? Did he not have a nap?” I inspected myself, was I tired? No! I just didn't eat quite as quickly.

“No, no! He did have his nap”

“But he fell asleep father?”

“Yes, he fell from the chair, broke his arm, and could never become a boxer.”

I wanted to become a boxer, “Brandenburgischer Meister” to be exact, just like my father. The already positioned piece of cake in my hand was laid to rest on the platter, I braced my feet with my chair against the lower shelf board from the kitchen table, pressed my chair back, and stood up.

Years later my father confessed to me the distress brought from his anxiety on that afternoon on 30 October 1935. Given my Cavalier gluttony he feared the worst. Continue to next episode...

By Hans Horn
Translated by Florian Schmidt

This is the second of a six piece biography from Hans Horn, in which he recounts his distant childhood memories in Bellermanstrasse. I'm happy to translate his work and offer it to the public, due to the lovely story that it is. Hans Horn sadly, passed away in 2012 from skin cancer at the age of 83, and we are remembering him through this translated work. 

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