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.
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