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The Aftermath – Rhidian Brook

February 13, 2016

TAThe RAF dropped more bombs on Hamburg in one weekend than the Luftwaffe dropped on London in the entire war

Hamburg in 1946 was in the British Occupied Zone and Colonel Lewis Morgan was charged with overseeing the rebuilding of a devastated city and the de-Nazification of its defeated people.  The streets swarm with feral children, decomposing corpses lie unburied – “a phantom city comprised only of ash and rubble”. “The Aftermath” opens in September 1946, three years after the Anglo-American air raids code-named “Operation Gomorrah” — “the Hiroshima of Germany” — set the city of Hamburg on fire, killed more than 40,000 inhabitants and displaced 1 million others.

Morgan requisitions a fine house on the banks of the Elbe, where he is joined by his grieving wife Rachael and only remaining son Edmund. But rather than force its owners, a German widower and his traumatised daughter, to leave their home, Lewis insists that the two families live together. This key part of the plot is based on and inspired by the true story of the author’s grandfather

The denazification process carried out by the occupying powers entailed the filling in of a 133-question fragebogen that would determine the degree of a German citizen’s collaboration with the regime. “From this they were categorised into three colour-coded groups – black, grey or white, with intermediate shades for clarity – and despatched accordingly.”

Brook bases his story on the true experiences of his grandfather, who served in the CCG

I had to look up deliquesce = (of organic matter) become liquid, typically during decomposition. Also esel = donkey.

It seems to me that it isn’t always a good idea to help people. Casting your bread upon the waters doesn’t always rebound in a good way.

TA 2 Quotations:

“Don’t try to be kind – this is regarded as weakness. Keep Germans in their place. Don’t show hatred: the Germans will be flattered.”

“When all is said and done, Germans are bad.”

“`It says we must not fraternize with the Germans. What does that mean?’
`It means… being friendly. It means we are not to enter into relationships wit them.’
Edmund considered this. `Not even if we like someone?'”

`the event was now vague and crepuscular’

She could smell his bacony sweat and admire his sinewy, glabrous forearms

`He could see the cello of Rachael’s hips’

‘She could see he was preoccupied. Preoccupied with the occupied. His mind was divided into two zones, the larger, and by far more interesting, being the zone of work, with its needy subdivisions. He was fine as long as the other zone – the domestic zone inhabited by her and Edmund, the Luberts, the staff – was able to take care of itself with minimal input from him…but just for now she wanted him to engage with her realm, however small.’

“`And now you make me live here with these people.’
`Everyone here – everyone in this house – has experienced loss.’
`I don’t care. I don’t care if everyone in the world has lost a son. The pain would be the same. I didn’t agree to this…’
`None of us agreed to this. But we must make the best of things…’
`The best of things. Always the best of things! You seem more concerned with the needs of our enemy

“The ghost of a tremendous noise hung over the scene. Something out of this world had undone this place and left an impossible jigsaw from which to reconstruct the old picture. There was no putting it back together again and there would be no going back to the old picture. This was Stunde Null. The Zero Hour. These people were starting from scratch and scratching a living from nothing. Two women pushed and pulled a horse cart stacked with furniture between them, while a man carrying a briefcase walked along as though in search of the office where he once worked without even a glance at the fantastic destruction that lay all around him, as if this apocalyptic architecture were the natural state of things.”
“In the months after The Catastrophe, when people were finally allowed back into the city, Lubert had come here nearly every day. Although it was autumn at the time, something strange had happened to the vegetation: trees and bushes that had been burnt in the summer raids suddenly bloomed again and, completely out of season, lilac and chestnut produced blossom. The new tolerance of the soil subjected to heat allowed for a freakish colonization of the ruins by plants and flowers.”

“The mind remembers what the soul can bear.”
“Rachael could find no solace in other people’s tales of woe. Pain was uniquely one’s own, and undiminished by a democracy of suffering.”
“It was somehow easier to love a person who wasn’t there.”
“Lewis could feel something swelling inside him, at his sinuses and in his chest. He had worked hard to keep this ghost at bay, but now it was pressing in, coming to claim its dues. The tears were coming, and he had to swallow to hold them. He stood up.”
Ozi was dumbfounded. There, in the middle of the English newspaper, was the razed residential area of Hammerbrook where he had once lived. This was where he had seen windows melt and roads bubble and a woman’s clothes ripped from her body by an invisible thermal wind. He could hear the sound of that wind again — like some­one playing every note of a church organ at the same time. He could see the red snowflakes of ash falling, the door­ways burning like the rings of fire through which circus lions jump. Sorbenstrasse. Mittelkanal. People stuck in the melted asphalt. Mutti’s hair on fire! Brains dribbling down noses and from split temples. Bodies like tailor’s dummies, shrunk to half his size. Tombenbrandschrumpflieisch’ was what they called them. ‘Bodies shrunkbyfire.’

Lubert held the glass to the light of the fire, making whisky flame and flare.

`In a god who becomes an infant? This is hard.’ He tilted the liquid in his glass; the crystal refracting the gold. ‘It’s eas­ier to believe in a strong man than a weak God.’

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