Nossack called it The End but as I read, I realized, as he realized, that it could’ve also been called, The Begin. Hamburg burnt out, and burnt out, again. The silence of the city became deafening. People turned their cheek to the sky, its sin. Prayers walked silently, without uttering God’s name. Time waited – the clock tower’s hands stuck at sixteen until one, when planes lit the night with dying dreams. The bombers, the bombers, the bombers, a flaming circle fueled in fuel. Life began its slow burn. Sleep had met its end. Red smoke rising behind tight lidded eyes, carbonized flesh marking every scene. Even in waking, their hell remained. Yet, believers waited on a dream. A phoenix from the flame.
Ashes to ashes,
a phoenix from the flame -
Do dreams rise again?
I came across The End while checking in materials. I took it home because it was a slim, translated work that seemed more philosophical, than typical WWII memorabilia. The book was written by Hans Erich Nossack, three months after the Allies bombed Hamburg in 1943. Nossack was on vacation, in the country, at the time, far enough to be safe, but not so far that he didn’t see the sky burning, or hear the planes bombing. When he went back to Hamburg days later , he confirmed that his life as he knew it was gone. Over time, he became drawn, as well as puzzled, by the silence of everyone around him. No complaints, no accusations, not even many tears. Granted, shock was part of the equation, but Nossack felt it deeper, questioning the futility of it all. In this bombing, one’s tragedy was also another’s tragedy, no matter the graveness of loss. Nossack interviewed hundreds, as well as taking pictures of the death and destruction that filled Hamburg’s streets. A handful of those photos are included in this book…disturbing, but necessary.
(sidebar…I wrote the first paragraph as a practice of experimental prose. The first “draft” was first written on my ‘stream of consciousness’ page. The haiku was added as an attempt at a Halibun, which is a haiku coupled with a descriptive piece or a picture. This whole piece is an experiment. You’re kind if you’ve taken the time to read. I let it ride because I believe the book is worth mentioning, even to those who would never read a war book. Normally, neither would I…this one is worth consideration.)