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Ozersk

Original Text

Ozersk

 

die Buchstaben verschattet

auf diese Tastatur fällt kein Licht

ich bin unterwegs

mit zehn Fingern

ich schreibe drei Namen

dort und abseits am Fluß

hier und fremde Namen

auf einer Brücke am Mühlenwehr

hinter der Stadt mündet der Fluß in einen Toten Arm

Kopfsteinpflaster wo ich stehe

Hungerharke hinter mir die Stadt

zwischen Scheune und Amtgsericht auf der Straße

ich schreibe Ozersk

Darkehmen

Angerapp an der Angerapp

Hafer und Holunder

Schnee-Bunker

Dommert & Sammael

und hier ist nichts seitdem und alles geschehn

was geschieht geht über die Straße

ein Totengräber

dem Gott in den Bäumen erschien

als goldenes Licht:

 

ICH ZÄHLE BIS ZEHN

DIE MÜHLE BLEIBT STEHN

ICH ZÄHLE BIS HUNDERT

DIE MÜHLE GEHT UNTER

ICH ZÄHLE BIS TAUSEND

DIE MÜHLE GEHT SAUSEND

 
© Manfred Peter Hein / Agora Verlag Berlin
  • Country in which the text is set
    East Prussia, Russia
  • Featured locations
    Ozersk, Darkehmen, Angerapp (an der Angerapp)
    Ostpreußen / Kaliningrad oblast
  • Impact

    “Ozersk“ is the today’s name of Manfred Peter Hein’s hometown Darkehmen. Then a small town in East Prussia, it is situated in the Kaliningrad Oblast today. The poem consists of 29 lines, arranged in a seemingly uncoordinated structure, but in fact resembling memories gradually surfacing in the author’s mind.

    The poetic persona is typing the three different names given to “Ozersk” during history (the Prussian “Darkehmen”, “Angerapp” during the Nazi regime to give it a more “German” sound, and later on under Russian regime “Ozersk”). According to the author’s memories in his autobiographical telling Fluchtfährte, his father once mentioned, that Angerapp should have to be called “Angerapp an der Angerapp”, meaning Angerapp at the river Angerapp. These words place the reader into the time when Hein was a child and his hometown under Nazi Regime, while the poem’s title reminds the reader that this is a place of the past: “Darkehmen” does not exist any more, as well as “Angerapp” - but only the Russian “Ozersk”.

    With his “ten fingers”, the poetic persona now “wanders” and encounters places of the town: a bridge next to a mill, the river, the cobblestones on the road, the barn and the regional court, elder and oats. He sees bunkers (probably from the times of WW I and II), and “Dommert & Sammael” probably the name of a Jewish store, which evokes associations of the Reichskristallnacht (“Sammael” is the name of the Jewish devil; “Dommert” is a typical Prussian family name rhyming with “Donnert” - thundering). “The smell of fire mingling with other smells, smells coming from weeks ago: the smell of indecent busy friendliness of a manufactured goods store that the mother in search for a little coat for the scion does enter after all and then rather shouldn’t have,“ is what Hein remembers of the Reichskristallnacht in the Fluchtfährte, and it sounds just as if the name of the described manufactured goods store could be “Dommert & Sammael”.

    After the mental stroll through the village, the speaker comes to a conclusion: “since that moment, nothing and everything has happened here”: on one hand, the village did not change, all the places are as they were before, “only a gravedigger” is walking across the street; but on the other hand, nothing is like it used to be: history left its traces on the former German town which has become Russian since. If the only one left is the gravedigger, there will be no more people to bury. Only in 1991 former inhabitants of the town were able to return to it (and Hein, too) - over 40 years after having been forced to flee from there. However, Hein wrote “Ozersk” in 1965 - exactly 20 years after the end of WW II - which probably is no coincidence. The mentioned gravedigger, by the way, is likely to be Eduard Fischer, one of the few inhabitants who did stay even after Russian occupation. It was he who had, according to the poem, an epiphany of God appearing in the trees, reciting a counting-out rhyme finishing the poem with: “I COUNT TILL TEN / THE MILL STOPS THEN / I COUNT TILL ONEHUNDRED / THE MILL GOES DOWN / I COUNT TILL THOUSAND / THE MILL ROARS AWAY”.

    The Thousand-Year Reich proclaimed by Hitler has been roared away as well as the existence of the author’s childhood hometown. “Ozersk” is a poem which reveals how historical events (war!) can destroy people’s lives, their homes - but never the memories they attach to these places: “Nothing has been happening since then - and everything has happened”. Turning personal memories of the time of the third Reich and his escape into collective memory is one of Manfred Peter Hein’s key motives, therefore making “Ozersk” one of the key poems in his oeuvre. It is not surprising that it ranges among Johannes Bobrowski's favourite poems (Meine liebsten Gedichte. Berlin (DDR): Union Verlag 1985) - as well as it is number one of Hein’s poems in anthologies. 

    Theresa Heyer

  • Balticness

    The East Prussian landscape reflected through the historical changes this region has experienced during and after the two World Wars places the reader into a typical Baltic Sea environment.

     

  • Bibliographic information

    Written on 18th March 1965, first published with the title Oziersk in an anthology edited by Peter Hamm: Aussichten. Junge Lyriker des deutschen Sprachraums. München 1966, p. 38 cx. Later on published in: Manfred Peter Hein, Gegenzeichnung. Gedichte 1962-1972. Darmstadt 1974, p. 36 (as well as in the extended edition Gegenzeichnung. Gedichte 1962-1982. Berlin, Darmstadt 1983, p. 36).

     

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    Icelandic  2005  Gauti Kristmannsson 
    Latvian  2004  Amanda Aizpuriete 
    Polish  2011 

    Przemysław Chojnowski

  • Year of first publication
    1966
  • Place of first publication
    München