Bernd 1948

Hanover (Germany)
Frankfurt am Main
University Lecturer
Museum Director

JUNE 1951: On the farm where I was born, there is a bad-tempered labourer. While we children are playing, he catches a chicken, places it on a block of wood and chops its head off. He thrusts the chicken into my 5 year-old brother's hands – and the chicken keeps flapping. My brother opens his hands crying and the chicken runs a couple of yards away.

NOVEMBER 1959: I go to the university hospital with a protracted inflammation of the middle ear and am kept there for four weeks. This illness will be with me for the rest of my life.

APRIL 1961: I visit Edinburgh as part of a school exchange. During the introductions at the school I say: "It's nice in England." The headmaster looks at me sternly, taps me on the shoulder and says most emphatically: "Never forget: You're in Scotland, not England."

MAY 1965: As part of a German-French youth exchange I am able to attend the Cannes Film Festival as a German youth delegate. I have a number of intense encounters with famous artists.

AUGUST 1966: During a young people's protest march, I see the police arrest one of my classmates. It is claimed that he resisted arrest and kicked, bit and spat at the police. I make a witness statement that this was not the case and am then myself accused of breach of the peace. The reason: The demonstration was over by that point and I no longer had a right to be there. This does lasting damage to my faith in authority and politics.

NOVEMBER 1973: My father dies of complications following an operation. When we say goodbye to him I hardly recognize him – his struggle with death has changed him so much.

NOVEMBER 1989: By chance I learn from the evening news that something is happening in the GDR. That night the wall comes down. I sit in front of the television all night following what is happening. I think of Stefan Zweig’s "magic moments of humanity" and am certain that I am experiencing the greatest shift in the world that will happen in my lifetime.

SEPTEMBER 2001: On 11th September I am sitting with a friend, sending out invitations for a symposium we have planned. Another friend rings and tells me to put on the television, there has been a plane crash in New York. We sit in front of the screen spellbound and watch the second plane fly into the tower and the whole complex then collapse.

APRIL 2004: I am back in New York again for the first time and stand in front of the ruins of the twin towers. The damage in the area is still drastically evident. I remember my many previous visits and experiences I had there. And at the same time I can see the images of the attack before me as if I had seen it on TV yesterday.

APRIL 2013: I become sixty-five and retire. But I still want to do a great deal and not just sit round twiddling my thumbs or enjoy life purely for myself.