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  • Day10

    Joseph Goebbels' Geburtshaus

    August 19, 2015 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    I work in Rheydt, a suburb of Mönchengladbach. It’s something of a backwater - small, working class neighbourhoods, surrounded by thick, dense woodland. The pace of life is slow, almost too slow. There is a slight brooding in the air, but nothing sinister.

    I was surprised, then, when I found out yesterday that Rheydt was the birthplace of Joseph Goebbels. The only man even more frightening, more anti-semitic, more committed to the destruction of European Jewry than Adolf Hitler, was born in this town? I didn’t believe it so I searched online, and sure enough these nonoffensive streets are the ones he once roamed.

    After a bit more searching, I located his childhood house to be number 202 on the Odenkirchener Straße. Spooky, really spooky. The house is less than a mile from my office, and I’ve spent the last two months walking past it whilst on the way to and from the train station.

    Germany goes to great lengths to recognise the crimes committed during the Nazi period, and there are reminders -- deliberate reminders -- everywhere you turn (see the Stolpersteins). Nethertheless, it comes as a surprise that a house once occupied by one of the fiercest men of the 20th century could remain intact and occupied. I would have thought the temptation to demolish it, eradicate it would’ve been all too great. But there it stands, the house Joseph Goebels grew up in, right in the centre of Rheydt, Mönchengladbach.
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  • Day5

    Rheydt, Mönchengladbach

    June 8, 2015 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Rheydt was, at one point, a town in its own right. But overtime it grew. Eventually, its borders merged with Gladbach's, and the two became indistinguishable from one another.

    I work in Rheydt on a street called the Stockholtweg, which runs parallel along the perimeter of the densely wooded Zoppenbroicher park. From the first floor office, there are great views of the park. Calling it a park though, I think, is somewhat misleading; the tress are so densely packed together as to make the area impenetrable.

    I've taken to catching the train to work instead of driving. I find the whole 'driving on the other side of the road' thing quite easy. But Düsseldorf is a whole different kettle of fish.

    The train is great, though. 80 Euros for a months pass. And I can go anywhere within the region and take a friend, for free, on any train, tram or bus during the weekend. The views, too, on the commute from Düsseldorf to Mönchengladbach are spectacular. The terrain is uncannily flat, there are old windmills everywhere, there are miles of dense pine forest, and clearings of farmland and allotments. We are, after all, 15 to 20 miles from the Dutch border. The flatness and windmills shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.

    When I get off the train at Rheydt, I have a ten minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof -- through the Mönchengladbach suburbs -- to the Stockholtweg. I brought my camera along with me today and took some pictures. For there is something I find fascinating about working class Germany.

    There is a eerie stillness, like there is less going on than there should be, a slight brooding. I think its because of the buildings. They look so ornate, with facades more suited to a Baroque palace somewhere east, in the old Habsburg lands. Imperial looking buildings built for the working class? A working class -- much like in Britain -- no longer needed, surplus to requirement? As I walk through the suburbs of working class Mönchengladbach, I can't help but feel there is, lurking behind the still walls, a Rosa Luxemburg or a Christopher Isherwood.
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