Tuesday, October 4, 2022

A Car Park over painful history…

Writer Subbarao Gollapudi with son-in-law Abhishek at car park

Handsome, hardworking and yet humble is my son-in-law, Arun Abhishek. He had moved to Germany for employment, ten years ago after completing Masters in automobile engineering. After he married my eldest daughter, Sivani, a visit was always on the cards. Recently, he officially became a ‘German Citizen’. When he revealed it, I quipped, ‘Oh my God, what’ve I done? My daughter married a Nazi!?’

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Writer Subbarao Gollapudi with tour guide Roni

Unlike native Germans, who allegedly, lack a sense of humor unlike human brethren in rest of the world, he laughed. Last fortnight I visited Germany. In many ways this trip was special because I intended to spend more time with them apart from exploring the beautiful countryside in late summer.

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Germany’s, is an incredible story of how a nation that got pulverized in World War II, rebuilt from the ruins by sheer perseverance, extraordinary skill in engineering and technology. It made giant strides in the automobile industry, outshining other nations. Today, it is the world’s automobile manufacturing hub. Ironically, nations like USA, Russia, England that pummeled them in 1945, have fallen behind. Vehicles zipping away on magnificent autobahns with practically no speed limit are perhaps a testimony to their prosperity and success.

Hitler’s wife Eva Braun and dog Blondi

Sivani, who’s also employed, and Abhishek stay glued to their respective computer screens from Monday to Friday, oblivious of the world around them. On one weekend they drove me to Berlin, the seat of Germany’s power as also the ‘ground zero’ of its 20th Century’s turbulent history. Three of us joined a walking tour starting at the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of bustling Berlin metropolis. The tour guide, a young woman, Roni, described the tumultuous days towards the end of World War II. After a walk, through the imposing Holocaust memorial, everyone looked overwhelmed. Like others my heart was filled with profound sadness. Sensing the despondent mood of the participants, Roni declared, ‘hold on to your emotions, we’re going to a significant place next, she said, ‘follow me.’ We walked behind her in silence.

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Hitler in his final days

‘‘This is it folks…’ she said standing in the middle of a sprawling Car Park. Vast vacant land rather wasted expensive real estate, I thought. Only a few cars were parked!

‘Friends, approximately hundred feet below this car park, once upon a time lay Adolf Hitler’s fortified bunker. On 30th April 1945, after it became clear that Germany would lose the Battle of Berlin, he and his wife-for-a-day, Eva Braun, killed themselves by taking cyanide. Hitler, for good measure shot himself on the head, to ensure certainty. When it came to choosing death – be it for others or his own, he never faltered and made it sure! To check the effectiveness of cyanide he first tried it on his dog Blondi, who died instantaneously’ Roni concluded grimly.

There was a stunned silence. We needed time to absorb the impact of Roni’s description.

What an end to an infamous dictator who harbored grand illusions of conquering the world?!? In a sense, a befitting epitaph for a tyrant, a megalomaniac who caused death to a million Jews including children. Really? A Car Park?!?

‘Look, we are sorry for whatever happened’ Roni said somewhat apologetically, ‘we can’t do anything about it. We would like to erase the painful past and move on’ she stated and paused.

 ‘By the way, we don’t like Nazi jokes. They aren’t funny… So please… Also, while you’re in Germany, don’t utter the word ‘Hitler’, it’s not funny too…’ she added with a wry subtle,nonetheless, chilling finality.

Dankeshön’ she said that meant, ‘Thank you so much.’

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G.V. Subba Rao
G.V. Subba Rao
G.V. Subba Rao is an MA, MPhil in English who is a novelist. Son of late Gollapudi Maruti Rao, he is Managing Director of Srinivas Theatres Pvt. Ltd., Chennai.

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