Bellerman Strasse 1: My First Real Home in Berlin

My genuine father and my new mother, “Aunt Cilli” had gotten me out of the orphanage “Alte Jakobstrasse”

The childish fascination, to be in a double-decker bus, not to mention being able to sit in the first row on the second level of a double decker, was something my father and I shared.  So for the first time I consciously experienced the turbulent bustle of the big city of my birth place: Berlin. Lollipop men, trams, bridges, bicycles, cars, humans, houses, towers, churches. Bur everything stayed unknown, nameless.

Exiting. Lead by my father in the right hand, mosaic tiles under my shoes, sometimes walkway cement, sometimes just the curb. A wide, dark brown, door was what awaited me as a goal, Bellerman Strasse 93 – a two tone colored four story housing surface in the middle of an eternally long housing line.

He let got of my hand, and pressed down on a door knob, pushed between himself and the door a suitcase, opened a crevice just big enough for me to fit through. In that moment, I stood in a tunnel, dark, that's what my first impression of entering my new home was.

We came through a long courtyard, that on the right hand side's wall was completely covered in nothing more than ivy. In the front of me were three more tunnels, but despite that we turned to the left of the ivy covered courtyard into the “first wing”

Again, two dark brown doors beside one another, again the left was taken, that my father opened without much effort, as we went two stairs up onto the ground floor, then we went up eleven followed up by eight more stairs onto the first story, at the first sign of another left turn it was called “stop!”

The apartment door opened and my aunt stood there.

“Well, why don't you two men come in?”

My father nudged me, to a point where I walked forward without needing a nudge, due to the invitation. Somehow we all fit together as three people in the corridor as the apartment door closed behind by us. On the left was a door to the first room, the kitchen, with the door open you could see the window peering at the ivy wall

Everything felt sort of constricting, although new, unusual, strange. I searched for security in my father, and listened to his advice.

“Well then, Hans, then just call me Aunt Cilli”

It stayed like this for the first few weeks. The upbringing influence of my aunt began with a well intended concept: “Who wants to be a sickle must bend in time”
Aunt Cilli would scold me with the almost stereotypical repetition of “why?”

With time I made myself more and more comfortable with the attributes of the apartment. Soon I noticed that my new home was above the rooms of a restaurant, well, to be more precise, above a pub. Which explained various noises made during the night hours, when the majority of the five hundred or so living in the area were asleep, and only once in a while would the entrance be opened too abruptly and suddenly would it hit the wall.

I heard, lying still in the bed, the bar patrons playing pool, or some loudmouth was laughing about some joke he had heard, and was able to distinguish whether it was the women's or the men's bathroom that was being used.

The owner, Frau Handke, had a chubby stature, and was able to get her will through with relative ease. How many of the hundreds of relatively created renthouses was our four housed courtyard house one of hers, put together in the tightest room at the most minimal “living comfort” for the people to have been created.

“Back then the city was a territory from Oranienburger Gate to Hamburger gate that was moving ever more into the Wedding territory”

On my arrival the house belonged to the Commerce Council P. Meyer out of Vienna. This inner city district was once primarily lived in by workers and families. Wedding counted as a worker district, a hinterland of industrialization.

“There was a lot of social wrongs in Wedding, that are unbeknownst to us in this era. People vegetated in the housing, which explained a statistic that stated that infant deaths were 42% as opposed to the general 5.2% statistic in the surrounding areas. Next Episode...

By Hans Horn
Translated by Florian Schmidt

This is the first 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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