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Willkommen! At the helm of European policy, champion of the Euro, home of the largest economy in the union, Germany would appear to be one of Europe’s biggest success stories, its eyes fixed firmly on a brighter, stable future for the continent.
But the submissions to this month’s issue of Litro would seem to tell a different story. The Germany they describe is haunted by its past. There is an air of uncertainty and at times, tension to each of these pieces—whether born of regret of past actions, fear of unresolved confrontation, or simply the frustration at not being able to leave history behind.
In Jeremy Tiang’s Schwellenangst, the central character is advised against visiting the abandoned Nazi resort of Prora on the island of Rügen—“Go to Binz instead,” she is told. “Nicer there. Not so much history.” We walk through the grounds of E.E. Mason’s beautiful desolate Blühende Landschaften, watching an indifferent nature reclaim layers of history—from affluent Berliners to German Wehrmacht to Soviet occupiers—Lenin is left, “abandoned to overlook the empty bramble-filled bowl of the fountain.” Heidelberg, A Beautiful Life, an extract from Florence Grenede’s memoir Out of Silence, tells the story of a family’s post-war success, but one which shrouded in mystery as thick as smoke from the cigarettes, while in Jim Ruland’s The Fall of Berlin (Oil on Canvas) the narrator recounts a tale of despair and deception, the consequences of which reach from the past to the present. Love by the Wall by Robin Wyatt Dunn offers us a slightly different view of Berlin—regrets already forming in the city’s marshy foundations; and Pippa Anais Gaubert’s Berlin Ghost Story finds the narrator literally becoming a ghost—a condition which gives her a way to relieve the pain of reality, but one for which there is, sadly, no cure.
Although only the one mentions it explicitly, in many respects, all of this month’s stories are ghost stories. But while Germany may have a haunted past, it’s the way these stories confront it, the frisson of tragedy that runs through each of them, that makes them so compelling.