Wednesday, April 21, 2010

One Beats My German Heart

I am German. I lived in Germany for five years of my life -- as a child from 1968 to 1971 and again as a teenager from 1982 through 1984. My paternal lineage is German, as my last name is Volker, though all my maternal lines are typically Irish. That combination has been considered the most common in America through the 20th Century. It could be eclipsed soon, but to be German/Irish/American is to say you are "white."
I am thinking of my heritage more conspicously, though, in terms not of the myths handed to me by relatives, family, and ancestors, but by the facts of my own history and the discovery of History I have made through my own studies and life.
I have a draft now called "One Beats My German Heart," concerning Post War Germany, my family's time there, my father's profession and what that means in terms of revelation over the years for Dad to transform in our memories from 'salary man' to 'spook.' I approaching German culture through the lens of Rainer Fassbinder's films, as his life & career span the same period -- 1946 to 1984; the year of Fassbinder's birth as well as my father's first tour of duty in war torn West Germnay through my own Sophomore year in High School and Fassbinder's untimely death in the middle 80s. It's a bigger way of taking in the idea that the lineage of my father's family in Germany is broken by a few decades -- the 1920s & 30s, the 90s & 00s -- otherwise, it still lingers, as my niece was suppose to be stationed by now in Germany, but for the Icelandic Volcano's Plume. She's in the Army now & off to Deutschland, ja. In the next decade, the Teens of the 21st, i will likely find my way way back there and see the remnants of my family's place and the box of my own memories rich with Schwäbisch Hall, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Western European vacations to Spain, Italy, France.
As a college student in the mid-1980s, i was profoundly shaken & bothered by seeing Fassbinder's film, Querelle, at the Underground Lecture Hall in Missoula around 1987. It was a scandal, but mostly because it was Gay and German and somehow beyond the pale. They gave refunds and an apology! It made me realize film can be strong dope. It has also resonated throughout my life that to be "German" is something to have to answer for, as though no other people has demon seeds in their genetic garden. It is much like the guilt of homosexuality in a post-Victorian society that had yet to come to terms with it...again.
Querelle: a more complicated rebuttal was never told.
I have always felt compelled to defend Germans. Willing Executioners? Perhaps. Are we as Americans any different now? Perhaps not.
Fassbinder, the film maker, is handy for bringing everything to the proverbial table but completely in a German context and at a very certain time that i can recall as my childhood & teenage years. The funk of his movies, the very texture of them, seems to describe my own memory of the smell of Middle Europe between the Second World War and the Fall of the Wall.

5 comments:

leslie said...

love it...glad to read your heart's contents )pardon the pun). I'm going to rent "Querelle"!

DbV said...

Thank you for posting on my blog, Leslie, as so few do. I really am intent on migrating my main ideas from FB to Fleeting House.
Querelle is stylized and heavy. Not the best place to pick up on Fassbinder, but seriously impressive to me as a guy coming out in the middle 1980s. Brad Davis is an icon.

DbV said...

That said, you've seen Berlin Alexanderplatz and i haven't so it isn't as though you are finding Fassbinder for the first time, is it?!

Debbie said...

I'll try to comment... I've tried before but it's been frustrating because it didn't work for some reason... (I was probably too impatient to figure it out!)

Lineage... I found it interesting that dad's mom was directly from Ireland and his dad directly from Germany. First generation. Mom's dad also heavy german roots. I also very much identify with my german ancestory/heritage. I remember being in Kindergarten in Germany, 1st and 2nd grade as well. To this day although I don't know much german at all, the language sounds very familiar to me, like a comfortable blanket. Remember mom's german friend, Lucy? I think that was her name. Mom identified with german folk as well and often would say that she understood how they were when others would get offended by mannerisms.

So, this is my test post. I hope it works. xo

DbV said...

i am understanding the Irish ties to the German roots as so many Americans have experienced. It is the most common combo, in fact.
Thanks for posting here, Deb. This idea of the family lineage through Germany is a big deal to me at the moment and i'll be posting more here. I'd appreciate clarification especially where holes are obvious.
Dean V.