About The Book

Recollections of a Hamburger intimately captures one young woman's coming-of-age during her nation's recovery from war and reveals how the power of memory shapes our lives forever.

Excerpts from the book

1941. We had been lucky so far and our house hadn't been hit, although there were plenty of apartment houses in the neighborhood that had window panes and bricks missing and some that had only partial walls standing. People who endured raids in bunkers never knew what they would find of their homes after the explosions ceased. Maybe they had a home to return to, maybe not.

1948. I thought of the young man I had seen walking up and down the main shopping street by our house, who persisted in looking up at the sky every few seconds and then down again, over and over, all the while mumbling words to himself and waving his arms. We called him the Sternengucker, star gazer, just because he was always looking up, perhaps looking toward heaven but seeing something other than the sky. Shoppers in the neighborhood knew him and stepped out of his way, because he paid no attention to what was going on right in front of his eyes. He may have been expecting a bomb to drop down on him, because at times he became quite agitated. Had he, a helpless observer of death shooting out of the sky, seen a bomb drop or explode? Maybe he had watched bombed people die. Maybe right then he was still running to a shelter, in his head hearing the hissing sound of bombs that wouldn't leave him alone.

1960. The next day, the American evangelist Billy Graham came to Hamburg. To save souls, I imagine. A huge tent was set up in the Stadtpark, and it quickly filled up, mostly with young people. I couldn't explain why so many people turned out unless they were as curious as I was. Here was a flesh and blood American who hammered out short sentences accompanied by stabbing gestures, so unlike the restraint of our ministers in delivering our Sunday morning sermons. When Graham asked us to come forward if we wanted to accept Christ into our hearts, I and a few hundred others leaped toward the stage, where we stood to receive some kind of blessing from this divine motivator, this advance man for Jesus Christ. I myself felt holier than thou from the experience of being completely swept away by the moment. What was the matter with me? I had grown up thinking that religion had a quiet, intensely private quality. You went to a little neighborhood church on Sundays, you listened to the pastorís good words, you sang, you prayed, and you and your fellow churchgoers felt a tinge of righteousness. The subdued feeling I often carried home with me after a Lutheran service was a far cry from the frenzy of the Graham service.

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