Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD
(1910 - 1995)
I was born in a part of Berlin which was developed after the Franco-Prussian
War (ended in 1871). The streets were named after battles where the
Germans were victorious, such as Weissenburg, Metz, and so forth.
The streets were laid out according to the plans of Paris. Broad boulevards
planted with trees would radiated from central points. Real estate
became precious and behind the 'front’ of solidly built four—story
high sandstone houses, cheaper houses were erected around courtyards.
These houses were called Hinterhauser (houses behind houses.)
They were usually quite dark and airless, buildings with small apartments
with toilets opening from the stairway and used by several tenants.
But about five minutes from where I lived was THE GARDEN, as we children
called it; it truly was a garden for children, a kindergarten in the
real sense of the word. One would not know this garden existed from
the street, as solidly built houses surrounded it. However, if you
walked through the entrance of one house, you came to its courtyard
and from there entered, the garden. It was a tract
of land of about three to five acres, which to a child's eye seemed enormous.
It belonged to a nursery and part of it contained rows of flowers and greenhouses.
We were forbidden to enter this area and we rarely did. The other section of
the land was divided into small parcels of land, separated by bushes. There were
large trees, maples, oaks and fruit trees, plums, cherries, apples and pears,
which grew free and unattended; we were allowed to pick up the fallen fruit.
These small parcels, about 20 by 40 feet, were rented out and every year
my parents would pay for the privilege to have a lot. Here I formed my earliest
friendships, some lasting until today. None of us attended a kindergarten, private
or municipal, and we could let our imaginations run full course without supervision.
Among the games we played were War: the first world war was taking place at that
time. I refused to be a soldier, and therefore was demoted to being a nurse to
tend the wounded. We also played ball, hopscotch, ring-around--the-roses,
marbles, and invented games. Children are cruel. If a new child came whom
we did not like, he or she was excluded from our games. In the course of the
year the child would disappear, not to come back again. We would act out dramas,
with corpses lying around all over the place; in the fall there was a harvest
This garden played an important role in
my life but by the age of twelve more important events took place outside
this confined area. I had outgrown it.
After my husband died in 1977, I
returned to Berlin in 1978 with my daughter and a fifteen--year old
grand daughter. The house I was born and grew up in had withstood the
bombing of World War II. It was in the Eastern zone. I did not want
to revisit it, but my daughter insisted. She wanted to see where I
had spent my youth. While we stood in front of the building I suddenly
remembered the garden.
some difficulty I found the entrance--way of the house we had to pass
through in order to get to the garden. There, separating it from the
courtyard we found a newly erected wall. My daughter and grand daughter
helped me to look over the barrier. There was a tremendous heap of
rubble, the remnants of all the houses of the neighborhood, which had
been destroyed in the air raids on Berlin. No trees or flowers reminded
one of this garden of Eden from which we had been expelled. It taught
me, that memories are just that: to be visited in one's mind only and
not to try to find them in reality.