Saturday, May 26, 2012

Heil hope, dashed

This trip has been so focused on the war, or wars, partly through choice, with visiting Stalag Luft III, but mostly because that's simply how it is in Europe, that today in Munich I just went with the flow and topped it all off with a Third Reich walking tour. Berlin is the other half of that story, of course, but Munich is where it all began and Eric (from the US) was a well-informed and interesting guide around the significant locations. Few are more significant than the upper hall of the Hofbrauhaus where every night tourists come to bend their elbows and sink a few steins in rowdy jollity, most of them probably in total ignorance of the fact that just above their heads is where Hitler announced the birth of the Nazi Party.

It was a very odd feeling to sit there and listen to the familiar story and know it had taken place on that very spot. Even more unexpected, though, was when we left to follow the path of the march of the Beerhall Putsch that took place three years later, from the Hofbrauhaus to the Odeonsplatz, and Eric described how the marchers had been fired on by soldiers. As he told the story, Hitler's bodyguard, "a big, fat Bavarian", flung himself on top of Hitler, taking four bullets for him "which didn't kill him, because of the fat" but in the process dislocating Hitler's shoulder.

Well! I never expected to feel any sympathy for Adolf Hitler, but just for a moment, I actually did. And immediately, I wanted to know which shoulder it had been. "No-one's ever asked me that before," said Eric, "but it was probably the left, because of the salutes." That was exactly why I was asking, of course - remembering all those crisply raised right arms, I wanted hope that my rapidly withering arm has a normal future ahead of it. But no. Scheisse. So afterwards I went to a Biergarten for some elbow-bending of my own. The left one.

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