Podcast Episode 4

Manfred: We booked the trip from Melbourne, Australia, for 105 pounds, which was pretty good for that time, on the Castel Felice. Then we met another passenger who was Philip Atkinson and he was chumming up to us because he wanted Aussie’s to talk to. And so he talked to me and Mandy and he’s still a good friend today and that was in 1961.

Philip Atkinson: I'm Philip Atkinson. I was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1937. I met Mandy and Manfred on the ship the Castel Felice in August 1961. Manfred and I shared the same cabin and this is why we got the same assignment for the dinner get together every day. Mandy was with a bunch of girls in the same cabin around the corner. They were an extremely happy couple together and it was wonderful to see Mandy and Manfred travelling to Germany to get married. It was just a great experience. We bonded very well together. The trip took about 4 to 5 weeks. It was a slow trip but an enjoyable trip. One night we had a dress-up party and we swapped our clothes around. I had the pants he had the top and then vice-a-versa. I think the reason we got along well was because we had the same sense of humour.

Sound Bite: U.S. Documentary about the Berlin Wall snippet:

Manfred: So when we came there we thought anything can happen? That’s a police state. You can get shot and poor Mandy was worried because she, she had never experienced that, like being in Australia, peaceful country and all of a sudden coming into a place that is ruled by the army and police. Berlin was cut into four then. Three Western and one Russian and we couldn't go anywhere. But once, once you get to Berlin and you don’t cruise around the wall you wouldn't know you're in a police state. But yeah, when you have people rioting and all that sort of stuff then you know you’re in not a peaceful place, like Australia.

Simon: So once again, you’ve been in Berlin before when there's a lot’s of death and mayhem and then you’re going back into the fire again. How many shootings and so on were going on then?

Manfred: All the time! People got shot, well over a 1000 people got shot on the border. Germans from Germans, you know? Not from the Russians, the Germans used to shoot them, yeah! (Sighs) Yeah!

Philip Atkinson: The only problem living in Berlin was the wall, which stopped so many people escaping the East Berlin sector. But we saw it in the papers and on the news all the time.

Sound Bite: Documentary about the killing at the Berlin Wall snippet: Our loudspeakers told the Communist guards that to shoot a refugee was murder. They would be held accountable. They could not claim orders from higher up. Murder is always murder!

Philip Atkinson: The worst case was when Peter Fechter was killed by the wall.

Sound Bite: Documentary about the killing at the Berlin Wall snippet: On a Friday afternoon, they shot an 18 year old boy as he was trying to scale the wall into West Berlin. They let him bleed to death on their side of the wall. Then they took his lifeless body and took him away.

Philip Atkinson: And he bled to death in “no man’s land”. The “Vopos”, “Vopos” are the East Berlin border guards.

Sound Bite: Documentary about the killing at the Berlin Wall snippet: His name was Peter Fechter. He was an apprentice bricklayer.

Philip Atkinson: The people were yelling out for the guards to go and rescue Peter. Unfortunately, they just disregarded the situation altogether. It was disgusting that they let him bleed to death as a young man.

Sound Bite: Documentary about the killing at the Berlin Wall snippet: udspeakers We mourned him on our side of the wall. A few yards from where he fell.

Philip Atkinson: It was very gruesome! It was the cause of quite a big riot in Berlin after that about this young boy dying.

Sound Bite: Documentary about the killing at the Berlin Wall snippet: Peter Fechter was one of fifty people who died trying to escape during the first year of the wall. We mourn them all.

Simon: Because East Berlin was one of the few Communist cities Westerners could visit, the Deutsches Democratic Republik or East Germany, setup East Berlin as a "shau fenster" or display window to how successful Communist society looked. Unlike the rest of East Germany, the Soviet sector of Berlin always had full shelves in the supermarkets and boasted the top orchestras and opera in the world.

Manfred: Because Mandy was a foreigner and she could go into the East, I couldn't because Berliner’s weren’t allowed in anywhere. West Germans were. Berliners weren’t. Because that was a special punishment for them being in Berlin but Mandy used to go to the opera and to the theater and all that in the East because we had American friends and Filipino friends and then they use to take her out but I couldn't go with them, so she used to go out with all my friends. She went down to Grandma's place into the East and she saw it all first hand.

On the first of June in 1962, Mandy and I got married. Wonderful! We had a wonderful marriage ceremony in German and in English. It wasn’t easy for Mandy to understand the German during the ceremony, so the pastor said that he could do part of it in English and on top of it we had our best friend from the ship, Philip and he was at the reception as well as takin us with his own car to the little island in the lake in Berlin for the honeymoon. So Mandy was relieved not to have German all the way through at the wedding ceremony and also afterwards because Philip stayed with us for a while.

Philip Atkinson: The wedding day was something everyone was looking forward to. The German tradition of having a horse drawn carriage, I’d never seen before. The carriage was pulled by two horses. After the wedding was the reception and the food there was “ausgezeichnet”. In English means, it was excellent! The wedding day absolutely marvellous and it was good to see Manfred bringing the German traditions into it.

Sound Bite: U.S. Documentary about the Berlin Wall snippet: Since the construction of the wall, the morale of the troops has gone up 100%. The American soldier now knows that he has a mission. Dedicated soldiers going about their mission. Your American soldier is the best in the world. These are the best soldiers in the world! Along this length of Berlin street the only remaining border crossing between the Soviet and American zones of Berlin, they bear a heavy responsibility, maintaining our rights here, while avoiding any incident that may lead to serious, international repercussions.

Manfred: Berlin we had about three or four places to go into the East. And one of them was Checkpoint Charlie, which was the very first and the most prominent one. The Americans were in charge of that one and all I could do as a Berliner, though I was from Australia and had my address in Australia, but I wasn’t naturalised, I could only watch my wife and some of her friends, Philip included, to go across to the opera or whatever else in East Germany. So that was pretty sad, because I was left on this this side of the border and they went and had their entertainment over on the other side.

Philip Atkinson: Every time at Checkpoint Charlie, when you drive your car into East Berlin, the Vopos would come out and check your car, you go in and sign a declaration and then you take your car and go into East Berlin. One night I had girlfriend there and I put her on my shoulders and she stole a DDR flag. DDR is Deutsches Democratic Republik flag. Highly illegal of course. On the way home that night, I had it under my drivers seat and the Vopo came out to check the car and as he moved my seat forward it came off the rails and he said “Ah, sorry I’ve broken your seat”. But he didn’t check anything else. Thank goodness! Because that’s I’d put the stolen flag. My land lady, the next morning, really gave me heaps and said I could have got three months jail time. Ah well. You do things when you’re young.

Manfred: Because Checkpoint Charlie was in the end, the only exit point from West Berlin to East, the Russians, well the East Germans actually, came up with tanks, almost fighting the Americans. The Americans said that wasn’t to be, that’s not going to be! So, they went in with their tanks and organised that so it never happened again.

To show solidarity between the Americans and the Germans, especially the Berliners, John F. Kennedy came to Berlin, where I lived in the Rathaus that’s in Schoeneberg. I was only 20 metres from the dais where he stood and said “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

Sound Bite: John F. Kennedy speech in Berlin 1962 snippet: I am proud to come to this city as a guest of your distinguished mayor who has symbolised throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. In the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

Manfred: And everybody cheered! 120,000 people were there. It was a beautiful sunny day and we just felt so much akin to the Americans because they, until then, had saved us from the Russians, because our city, Berlin, was the same as Vienna, quartered. Three parts to the Western world and one part for the Russians and so we needed help and Kennedy supplied that. “Ich bin ein Berliner!” he was recognising Berlin for what it was and also putting himself in the situation as a Berliner. We were so grateful to the Americans because they saved us from the Russians at war’s end as well as in 1949 they had the airlift to support the Berliners who were cut off from the rest of the world by the Russian planes and they flew in everything for one whole year. Anything! Anything they brought in by aeroplane. Every one minute, one aeroplane was landing in Templehof (Berlin airport) which was only about five minute from where I lived and every one and a half minutes another aeroplane would take off. We had an alliy in the America. A strong ally in America, who would not blink when the Russians put anything over them and that saved us. That saved us in Berlin.

Sound Bite: John F. Kennedy assassination news snippet: I am The president’s car is now turning off Elm Street and it will only be a matter of minutes until before he arrives at the trade mart. It, it appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route. Something, I repeat, has happened in the motorcade route! Parkland Hospital, there’s been a shooting! Parkland Hospital has been advised to stand by for a severe gunshot wound. Here is a bulletin from CBS News. President Kennedy was shot as he drove from Dallas airport to downtown Dallas. It is reported the sound of a bullet rang out. A secret service man was heard heard to shout from the card “He’s dead!”

Manfred: I was quite deeply shocked when they assassinated John F. Kennedy. I was fishing here in Wangaratta in the river and I had my transistor with me and I heard the news that he was assassinated just very shortly after he called himself “Ich bin ein Berliner!” It really went to the cord of me. And I didn’t think anybody would shoot a president, but, I mean it has happened before and it will happen again and it’s very sad to know.

Manfred: What to do with all the bricks and mortar in a devastated city? Where would you put it? Well, there was an ingenious idea! They made a great big hill. Which they called “Teufelsberg”. “Devil’s Hill”. And it was higher than any of the high house in Berlin. Because every brick they could find was put there. Then it was planted with trees and grass and in the Winter we used to have a beautiful, beautiful ski slope and toboggan slope. That’s what we used in Winter and in Summer they used it for soap box derbies, so a wonderful place and a wonderful idea to get rid of the old mortar and part of the war that was behind us now. The whole hill is an irony. What was so bad before and so tragic, with the bombing of Berlin and the destruction of Berlin, to make a special place for recreation and fun! Because we used to play with kites, skis and soap boxes. All from the rubble!

Even though the war finished ah, you know, quite awhile back, in 1945 and we all thought that it was the end of everything and the future was coming up.

Simon: What have we learnt?

Manfred: Well, nothing, we never learnt anything! People haven’t learnt!

Simon: If I think about your childhood, I think how extremely unsettling it would have been and scary.

Manfred: Children don’t feel scared. You said, that it’s unsettling, children in a war zone, maybe scary but not, unsettling. When you see pictures of the war now, the wars that we have got, you will always find the children playing, scooters and ball and all that, they couldn’t care less what the adults were doing, or what the bombings are doing. They sure are scared at the time when it happens, but then kids rally very quickly and forget about it.

Simon: So did you think that kids have got resilience?

Manfred: Aw! Fantastic resilience! Because you can see me at 6 years under the house for 12 hours, that was it! But, forgotten, except for the memory that is ingrained and that will never go. But I mean that doesn’t, doesn’t result in hate or anything like that. Adversity always makes a man stronger and that’s what I found, in my life, that whenever there was a problem, I went back to what did I do before? And I solved the problem. The war sort of did help and so, you’re not bereft of things when things do happen but you always sort of seems to get a way through, somehow.

Simon: Do you wish that you had had a childhood that was much more calm?

Manfred: Nah! Even though I had the childhood that I had, during the war time, I was still privileged to be with my grandmother and playing, um, cops and robbers and whatever else? I still had freedom to do what I wanted to do. Most times, except for the very end time, then, that was just different, you know. Once we were in the bunker, that’s it! But while we were still running around, nah.

Simon: So you don't wish that you had a life living in a home that was carefree and calm?

Manfred: Nah! Nah. It was just normal childhood experience, yeah. We were down on the street and all that sort of stuff, yeah.

Simon: So how do you think that a childhood like that has helped you in the rest of your life?

Manfred: It helps even if you have bad things happen to you, it helps you in later life, ‘cause it makes you more resilient. And, and I’m always gone for that. Because people that live in a peaceful place, they’re much softer and less able to jump out of their troubles when it comes, than people that lived and got through at the other end.

Simon: Maybe when I was a child, that came across as you being a bit hard? That you didn’t have emotions? So what was your emotions? Were? Did you have emotions? Did you become?

Manfred: No. Nah! Thinking about my emotions? I had plenty of emotions and a used to, ah, no, it’s alright, nah, leave it at that, I think?

Emotions, you, always have emotions, whatever? You, ooh, you can’t, you can’t cut your inner person out. That inner person will come out. One way or another. Either you cry or you’re angry, or, you’re thoughtful, or. You know? There’s lot’s of emotions, there’s a lot of different emotions.

But he just have to live through it I ‘spose?

Simon: But there you go again, being a bit tough. What about your emotions are you expressing your emotions?

Manfred: I could cry if you wanted me to?

Simon: (Moving towards his father) Actually I just want to say.

Manfred: What?

Simon: I’m very, I’m actually very impressed (embracing Manfred and patting him on the back while holding him)

Manfred: (Laughing) Go away!

Simon: No, I’m saying that

Manfred: (Embarrassed) Are we finished yet?

Simon: No, the stuff you shared that you’ve shared.

Manfred: (Trying to cut the interview short) Yeah! Yeah!

Simon: Helps me to know myself better.

Manfred: Alright, we go? We go? Are finished or what?

Simon: We’re finshed!