Sunday, April 16, 2006

04.10.06 Germany: Weimar

Weimar was totally intense. I never got quite comfortable in the town where Hitler came to power; in the town that sits in the shadow of the notoriously murderous Buchenwald concentration camp.

We drove in via clean, cobblestoned streets and pleasantly pastel townhouse facades, when we were suddenly assaulted by a huge eyesore--a dirty, brown, broken-windowed ramshackle of a place, covered with graffiti. Ah, this must be our stop. Check the tourbook. Yup, this is where we screen tonight.

Despite my initial skepticism, I came to have a lot of respect for the Gerberstrasse youth center, especially noting how badly its neighbors wanted to get rid of it. Especially noting how it seemed to be the only place in town that wasn't tidily sweeping the city's ugly past under the carpet. Especially because the building stood as a giant,"Fuck You" to the former Gestapo headquarters across the street.

(The Gerberstrasse)

The wierdest part about Weimar is that, save for a few words in my Lonely Planet book, I would hardly have known about all the skeletons in its closet. There were no indications at all that "This is the building where the town's Jews were rounded up" or "This tower was built by Hitler himself" or "This is the hotel where Hitler was given a master suite, and a balcony was built so he could address his adoring fans in the plaza below." Thank goodness for Pierre from the Gerberstrasse, who took us on an "alternative city tour" and shed some light on these painful truths. He also showed us Neo-Nazi rally points and a formerly Jewish-owned shop which is now home to a line of insidiously disguised Neo-nazi propoganda sportswear. I'm not kidding.

(Pierre from the Gerberstrasse)

Pierre is sort of like an anarchist Santa Claus--a jolly, big belly presides over his combat boots and his head is topped with an eclectic mix of dreadlocks, bald spots, and shaved parts. Pierre is sort of the patriarch of Gerberstrasse, and he invited us there to help prepare his ragtag, leftist group of misfit Israel supporters for their upcoming trip to the Holy Land. Interestingly, Pierre led one such group before, with a punk band from Romania, and they put on the first ever hardcore show in the Palestinian territories, at a Christian youth center in Beit Jala.

After two hours of Pierre's tour, I was completely creeped out, and emotionally and physically exhausted. I really wanted to explain to Johannes how i was feeling, but I couldn't quite make out the words. He seemed completely understanding anyway, G-d love him. Fortunately, some comic relief came at the end of the tour, when Pierre showed us the garden where famous Weimarian Goethe did much of his writing. In attempting to describe Goethe's amorous ways, Pierre explained, "Goethe was a big fucker." Now, there's a t-shirt.

Not too surprisingly, our screening was a disorganized mess. Johannes attempted his lecture, but we didn't even have a post-film discussion or set up our merchandise. It was probably all for the best since we were both so tired. We stayed in the squatted building adjacent to the Gerberstrasse. I was still feeling pretty freaked out and matters weren't helped when I realized that I would be sleeping in the big, dormitory style room reserved for bands all by myself. I timidly tucked into my bottom bunk and read the graffiti on the wall: "Va'adat Kishut Tour Summer 2004." Seeing that someone from one of the bands from the movie had apparently slept in this very same bed, my heart swelled. I realized that I really wasn't alone in that room after all.

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