More tales of old East and West Germany… when Berlin was divided in two by the Berlin Wall and, for West Germans to get into West Berlin, they had to drive through part of East Germany.
“In the 1970s,” Rudiger Schmidt told me in Nuremberg yesterday, “I went with my mother to Berlin.
“If you went to the border, the East Germans asked you Are children on board? Do you have weapons? and my mother was very nervous, because she was old and she thought, if she said something wrong, she would be sent to Siberia.
“I was driving to Berlin with my mother beside me and an East German policeman asked Are children on board? and I said No and, at the same moment, my mother said Yes. He looked into the car, asked Where are the children? and my mother said This is my son.
“The policeman did not find it funny.
“Have you heard of Die Toten Hosen, the rock band?”
“No,” I said.
“They are from Düsseldorf and started in the early 1980s.”
“What does Die Toten Hosen mean?” I asked.
“The Dead Trousers,” replied Rudiger. “In Germany, if a situation is boring and nothing is happening, you say That’s dead trouser – tote hose.
“Just after Die Toten Hosen had started as a band, they went on a tour through Germany and drove from West Germany to Berlin and I went with them in the tour bus. The driver of the tour bus was from Cologne and people from Cologne think they are very funny.
“When we arrived at the East German border, the East German policeman asked Weapons, explosives, children? – He did not ask Do you have weapons, explosives, children? – He just asked Weapons, explosives, children?
“So the driver of the bus, who was from Cologne, said Oh, well, give me two weapons and twelve children.
“The policeman said Please park over there and take all things out of the bus.
“It was about 2.00am in the night and we had to do it. We took everything out of the car and the policeman went inside and was checking everything when the driver of the bus said Oh, while you are inside, please check the oil.
“The policeman did not find that funny.
“We had to take the wheels off the bus, take the seats out of the bus and we did not have the tools to do it – the screwdrivers and the spanners. We just had our little knives. The East German policemen were standing there for two hours laughing at us. We had arrived at the border at 2.00am. When we were finished, it was 7.00am in the morning. All because the driver from Cologne had made these two little jokes.
“Die Toten Hosen were going to play two concerts in West Berlin and one concert in East Berlin… but to play the concert in East Berlin was not allowed, so we each had to go into East Berlin via different border checkpoints to take in the instruments.
“The place where they played was a church and, because it was forbidden, you could not have any posters. Nothing.”
“This sounds dangerous,” I said.
“It was kind of dangerous,” said Rudiger. “They started the show and soon after that a guy came into the church and said Down the street on the next corner they have grilled chickens – You could not get grilled chicken in East Germany every day. Maybe once a month you could get them.
“So this guy said: Down the street on the next corner they have grilled chickens and everyone ran out of the church and the band was left with no audience. Nothing. And that was it. The concert was over.”