A while ago I was talking with the Hausmeister here and when he said he was from Silesia I both knew just what he was talking about and also remembered that five years ago I had only the foggiest idea. The protagonist in Siegfried Lenz’s Heimatmuseum references the Winterschlacht in Masuren in the middle of a lengthy sentence which he continues while I am halted, stumped. Where is/was Masuren?

Wikipedia: “Masuria was the only region of Germany directly affected by the battles of World War I“.

I have been to this place. It rained off and on that day. Crossing the border from Lithuania I stopped the car briefly to swap from the Lithuanian to the German SIM. Parts of the Schanze bunkers sat askew, huge moss-covered concrete slabs cast about by explosives like a child’s wooden blocks — this is such an overused metaphor that I would normally avoid employing it but here it’s quite fitting. There was a small Polish museum to narrate.

At Tannenberg once grandiose structures are now literally just a few bricks poking above the earth, accompanied by signs to suggest what had been.

I went to these sites to see martial relics of the alien, of the invader, the occupier. Lenz’s dozent speaks of the weaver’s lore, of dye materials, of the sensual human-scale world of cloth, yarn, fabric, the cultural world of the Masuren inhabitants. Before the camps.

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