Postcard from Anita-Berber-Park

Long-term readers may recall that the name “Strange Flowers” was originally inspired by some tortured Expressionist verse penned by 20s Berlin provocateuse Anita Berber to accompany her dance routines (“strange flowers and greenhouse plants, painted people and listless sounding bells…”). The doomed performer occupies a special place in our hearts, so it was particularly exciting to learn that a new “Anita-Berber-Park” was to be dedicated in the Berlin district of Neukölln, just a few blocks from Strange Flowers Towers. It occupies a now deconsecrated cemetery, an offshoot of the burial ground across the road where Berber herself was laid to rest in 1928, aged just 29. While the park was being readied, local papers were outraged to find that earth movers had inadvertently dug up graves, cracking open urns and sending ashes of the deceased flying around. Frankly it seemed like the kind of morbid Grand Guignol scenario that might well have ended up in Berber’s poetry.

Excitement at this new development soon shaded into regret when it transpired that said dedication would take place when Strange Flowers was taking its summer holiday. Nonetheless I duly cycled down on my return to capture some views of the area, which I present here. Still intact are the landing lights for the adjacent, and equally de-commissioned Tempelhof Airport, indicating just how low the planes came in on approach, no more respectful of the dead than the jets buzzing Böcklin’s inspiration off Corfu. Otherwise the park is dominated by a handsome avenue of plane trees, although some parts have – in honour of its namesake? – been left wild.

And while I may never shock the bourgeoisie with my naked dancing, and have left it far too late to die of dissipation at a young age, your writer does now have something in common with Anita Berber – this afternoon in Rathaus Neukölln I became a German citizen.

A dreaded sunny day

A satisfied park patron

“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord”

Further reading
Scarlet woman
Goddess of the night
Berber’s Berlin
Strange Flowers guide to Berlin (part 2, part 3 and part 4)
Looking ahead
Dances of Vice, Horror & Ecstasy
The Anita Berber lifestyle collection
AB is back again
The rose and the bomb

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13 comments

  1. CDM

    Wonderful pictures and fascinating history as always, James! I was just reworking a scene at a cemetery in Paris which includes Harry and his friend Jacques Rigaut …I’m sure Harry would have highly approved of the merry dance of the ashes you describe! What better than to be turned into a living work of art. Inspired to dig up more about Anita…CDM

  2. Another one who would make a great movie! And Jacques Rigaut, for that matter…

  3. john

    Stirring up ashes at Temple Hof! Sic Transit Mundi!

  4. Congratulations on joining the leading country standing up for civilization. If you can’t die young you can at least live in a society they appreciates art and hisTory

    • It does seem to have a better grip on democracy than some countries that have had a lot more practice at it…

      • Well USA immaturity Inc with infantile paralysis at the moment and a resident in the White House with a vacuum between his ears where a brain that has never been graced by a decent thought is.

      • john

        Sinclair Lewis would have a field day with the Hew Hess Hay! Babbitry crossed with Gantryism!

  5. A stroll down that tree lined path in Anita’s park looks very inviting. One could even hop, skip and dance down it to honor her. Your citizenship news, which I admire, by the way, reminded me later to mention Elizabeth von Arnim to you. Look her up! An Australian writer, who moved to Germany and, as I recal, changed her citizenhip a few times, finally becoming an American. I’d enjoy reading your take on her colorful life here in Strange Flowers, as I think she’s just right for the boquet.

  6. Congratulation on your “Umsiedlung” James. May Saint Anita bless you with much Vice & Ecstasy!

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