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We were number 4 in the waiting area for citizenship claims at Rathaus Schoeneberg. The waiting area has no information desk and no display board that indicates what number is currently being served. We knew how important it was to show our number and hand it to the local official when it was our turn to go in. We were there to deliver documents for our adopted son Samuel’s German citizenship application. Sam was the only member of our family not to receive his citizenship last fall (see More Bureaucratic Sludge at the Finish Line).

I had counseled myself to keep the meeting low-key and uneventful, a quiet transfer of documents from applicant to bureaucrat. But Frau Mittag (Mrs. Noon) provoked me by saying that Sam’s application would not be approved unless we provided another type of legal document. I then let her know what I thought of the bureaucrats in Berlin and their qualifications to process applications by German Jews for restored citizenship. While we tersely conducted our business, Frau Mittag repeatedly asked us to give her our laminated card with the number 4 on it. But I couldn’t find it amidst all the papers I had spread out on her desk. I figured it would show up when I cleared everything away at the end of our meeting. She continued to pester us about this petty detail, disrupting our efforts to push Sam’s paperwork forward.

We eventually found the green number 4 under our camera, which I had brought along to take some final shots of the bleak area within the Rathaus that was the source of so much aggravation for me. When I finally handed her the number, she responded with a grim look and curt farewell as we walked out the door. Now we will have to wait once again to see what the German authorities have to say about giving our legally adopted son the same rights as his siblings. They still have not told us why his Montana birth certificate and U.S. passport are insufficient evidence to establish that he is our son.