The dark and abbreviated days of winter felt far behind me as I strolled through the Volkspark on my way to Rathaus Schoeneberg yesterday morning. Spring in Berlin is a time when anyone can feel at home here, when every other person on the street is intimately engaged with an ice cream cone, cradling a fresh flower bouquet, or sporting a crazy new fashion statement (including green, orange, blue, pink, and purple hair!). I had high hopes that the stress and frustration of trying to move my German citizenship application forward were also behind me. I had finally been contacted by a local official who was processing my application and needed to see just a few more documents.
Her name was Frau Mittag (Mrs. Noon) and she needed a copy of my previous marriage certificate and divorce record. During a year of immersing myself in the past, this was a part of my personal history that I had not planned to encounter. The problem was that these vital records were in storage in Montana and not easily accessible. I worked up the courage to contact my former spouse (thank goodness for email!) who graciously agreed to make copies and send them to me. Surely this had to be the last emotional hurdle to clear before my application was approved.
A further promising sign came from Frau Mittag herself who was quite pleasant when I presented her with my documents. She assured me that my application would soon be forwarded to Frau Blankenburg with the Senatsverwaltung fuer Inneres und Sport (Senate Department of the Interior and Sport), where it would receive a final review before my certificate of citizenship would be issued. I’ve decided not to ask why my German citizenship application is going to an office in charge of sports. I just hope Frau Blankenburg is as nice and efficient as Frau Mittag.
I guess I can go back to eating mango ice cream and enjoying Spring in Berlin. Yet the past is always present here. Berlin has been preoccupied with the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial and the media is full of stories about how West Germany could have captured him earlier and how it tried to influence the trial proceedings in Israel. We spent an entire afternoon at the Topography of Terror last weekend in our continuing efforts to gain some partial understanding of life during the Nazi era. We visited the site of a forced labor camp and saw the barracks where more than 2000 prisoners were housed. After stopping for ice cream at the Sony Center on the way home, we once again found ourselves trying to reconcile Germany’s National Socialist past with the vibrant and welcoming Berlin we live in today.