You have to admit it looks good. The sausages are tender and the curry is spicy.
I like Berlin. It’s very hip, the people are friendly. We ate in a great bistro last night with friends of my German editor Steffi Schnurer. They all love their city, and are proud of it. We have some time to kill before the afternoon’s signing, so one friend, Tina, drew us an elaborate map that covered two sides of a place mat, just to be sure we would see all the sites and knew where all the best cafes were.
I’m staying in East Berlin. East Berlin is a city that’s heavy with baggage for Americans. It was ground zero during the Cold War, and it is the birthplace of many iconic images of Hitler and World War II. Just a few yards from where I am walking was the Wall that divided the city until it was torn down by its own people in 1989. There is nothing left of it; no sign of it anywhere, just a little space between peoples’ houses. And so strong is the Nazi stigma in the American psyche, that as recently as a month ago on August 29 , Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used it as an analogy to describe anyone who disagrees with him or the Bush administration's policies: He compared Hussein to Hitler and claimed that critics of the Iraq war "seem not to have learned history's lessons." He said,"can we truly afford to believe that somehow, someway, vicious extremists can be appeased?"
Come on. As if any American believes that. I’m no politician, but common sense says Donald Rumsfeld should avoid Nazi comparisons like the plague; he’s got all the charm and credibility of a dusty, old SS officer.
Behind me is the Reichstag. It is the building where the German government works. In 1933, terrorists attacked the Reichstag and burned it to the ground .
Hitler claimed, but never proved, that communist enemies were behind the attack, and used this horrifying incident to justify the rise of the Third Reich, his invasions of other countries, and to justify his crack down on anyone who disagreed with him at home.
This is the University Library. When Hitler felt his critics were getting out of line, he called for their books to be burned.
In the middle of the square is a small glass opening. When you peer in, you see a faint, ghostly rack of empty shelves.
The plaque reads:
IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS PLACE THE NAZIS BURNT THE BOOKS OF HUNDREDS OF AUTHORS, PUBLISHERS, PHILOSOPHERS AND SCIENTISTS ON THE 10TH OF MAY, 1933.
“That was only the beginning – - where they burn books, they will burn people as well.” Heinrich Heine , 1820
When I first read this, I felt a chill. And a little surprised that this monument to the Book Burning even exists. But then I realized it was a sign of hope. This monument, like the Wall disappearing from neighborhoods, is proof that governments that try to frighten their people, divide them, or force them to comply by destroying their critics always fail. Always.
I know Mr. Rumsfeld isn't a Nazi, and he isn't calling for anyone to burn the internet, but we are all stomping around on thin ice. A little less name calling would be a good thing.
Anyway, it's hard not to think about this stuff when you're right here.
Back to comics. We were running a bit late so we hopped in a taxi. At the Grober Unfug comic shop we found a nice crowd waiting.
The first person in line was wearing a handmade Boneville skyline sweater.
I was having a good time, and got a bit carried away, making as many sketches for people as I could.
I may have overdone it with my arm, which tires out after a couple of hours. I’ll have to take it easy at the next signing.
The line continued to snake around the shop for three hours. We ended the evening at a nearby Austrian restaurant, where respected pop culture journalist Lutz Goeliner joined Steffi, me, and shop owner Bernd Henning for some wine, beer and conversation.
At one point, talking about the German translations, Steffi said that she spent so much time sifting over each word in every balloon, that she got in trouble with Joachim. Then Lutz surprised me by revealing that he had translated the final third of the BONE story when it was printed in black & white by Carlsen. Lutz claims he was forced to do it. He didn't like the translations, and often said so. Either start translating the comics yourself, he was told by Carlsen, or stop complaining. He then spent the next four days stuck in his apartment trying to create a dialect in German for Ted the Bug! It is nice to know that someone would care that much about the stories. I was so touched that I forgot to take a picture of my dinner…