Posts Tagged ‘Truemmerfrauen’

Currywurst – German Cousin of the Hot Dog

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Currywurst is a German national Schnell-Imbiss, a fast food. It is the German cousin of the American hot dog. In the beginning, Currywurst was an inexpensive, filling meal purchased from street vendors. Today, it is also available in many upscale restaurants from Germany to New York.

What is Currywurst?

Currywurst is a grilled sausage that is cut into slices (when I grew up, it was split lengthwise) and dowsed with a sauce. The secret lies in the sauce, which in essence consists of stewed tomatoes, curry, and spices. Depending on the vendor, the sauce may be flavored with sweet Indian curry, powdered mustard, hot chili, lemongrass, paprika, or chopped onions.

Currywurst success story

Made from grilled pork or beef, this quick meal originated in the bare-bones kitchen of a Berlin woman during the Berlin Blockade and Airlift of 1948/1949. Herta Heuwer was a hands-on woman. When Berlin lay in shambles at the end of World War II, Heuwer did her part by becoming a Truemmerfrau (rubble woman). She became one of the many women who are credited with putting Germany’s war-torn cities back together by separating reusable building materials from tons of useless debris so that reconstruction could begin. http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/legacy-of-rubble-women. Herta Heuwer became a Truemmerfrau who helped to put Berlin’s district of Charlottenburg–the district I grew up in–back on its feet in 1946. A couple of years later, during the Berlin Blockade, she bartered with her British occupiers for a few spices. Condiments were largely unattainable in those days. After she had traded spirits for a little Worcester sauce and ketchup, she experimented with these spices at home and ended up with a sauce that she poured over boiled pork sausage. The dish caught on with the working class. Soon Heuwer opened a street side stand and sold Currywurst with a slice of whole grain bread on the side. Her business took off. Six years later, her sales amounted to 10,000 servings a week. After patenting her sauce under the name of “Chillup,” Heuwer opened a fast food restaurant at Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse 57 in Charlottenburg, not far from where I grew up. Ms. Heuwer never disclosed her original recipe and never sold out to mass-production food companies.

Herta Heuwer plaque installed at Kaiser-Friedrich-Str. 57 at the corner of Kantstrasse, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Herta Heuwer plaque installed at Kaiser-Friedrich-Str. 57 at the corner of Kantstrasse, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Currywurst consumption today

The Deutsche Currywurst Museum estimates that 800 million Currywursts are consumed in Germany every year, 70 million in Berlin alone. Even the Volkswagen car manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg produces 3.5 million Currywursts per year in its own butcher shop.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

Field Station Teufelsberg

Monday, April 8th, 2013

The motto, In God we trust; all others we monitor, was never more applicable than in West Berlin during the Cold War. During those years, the US National Security Agency (NSA) erected a Field Station in the British sector of the city where I grew up. Located at the edge of Berlin’s largest forested area, the Grunewald, the post’s mission remained shrouded in secrecy. Rumors had it that the purpose of the station, used by both American and British personnel, was to eavesdrop on the communications of East Germany, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries.

The complex stood atop of the Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), a hill that was man-made from close to 424 million cubic feet of World War II rubble. Between 1945 (the end of the war) and 1950, it had been the job of Truemmerfrauen (rubble women) to sift through tons of debris, pick out reusable bricks, chip away the mortar, and to load them onto carts and lories as reconstruction material. The leftover refuse was then lugged to the Grunewald and other locations in the city. It was from this rubble, that the 377-foot-highTeufelsberg was created; and on top of it, the NSA erected a 262 foot-high spy station.

The first intelligence units moved onto the mound in July 1961. More permanent buildings were erected in 1963. Three huge globes and two radomes topped the facilities. Over the years, the station grew into one of the West’s largest intelligence-gathering posts. Its secret mission continued until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 after which the station was closed and the equipment removed. But the building shells remained, and they are still standing today.

The 1990s brought talks of preserving Field Station Teufelsberg as a spy museum. Six years later, the site was sold to developers with plans for a hotel, a restaurant, and a museum.  But the project was abandoned when funds ran out. In 2008, American filmmaker David Lynch tried to turn the site into a Transcendental Meditation Center but could not secure the city’s approval. More recently, there have been calls to preserve the site and turn it into a memorial.

Also visit http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle-/legacy-of-rubble-women/ to read about the work of the Truemmerfrauen (rubble women).

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

Legacy of Rubble Women

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Rubble women, or Trümmerfrauen in German, were at the heart of the German reconstruction following World War II. When the war ended in 1945, Germany’s large cities lay in ruins. Bombings and ground fighting had left behind tons and tons of rubble. If all of this debris had been loaded onto railroad cars, the resulting train would have been 99,500 miles long and stretched four times around the earth.

Since so many men had died or were still held prisoners of war, it was up to the surviving women, children, and the elderly to clean up the mess. In Berlin, forty percent of all structures in the city had been destroyed, and 60,000 Trümmerfrauen went to work. Some volunteered, others were conscripted by Allied law. With few tools, these women carried off the debris, including steel girders, beams and wall sections, and formed human chains that handed small pails of rubble from one person to the next. With their bare hands, the rubble women loaded the debris onto carts and lories. Because of the lack of horses and motorized trucks immediately after the war, they often ended up pulling the wagons themselves.

Rubble was the main postwar reconstruction material. Before materially sound bricks could be reused, Trümmerfrauen had to knock or scrap off the mortar. Although the work was hard, it only paid 0.70 Deutsche Mark ($0.35) per hour. Even for that time, it was an extremely low wage. But most women volunteered for something other than pay: They worked for an upgrade of their food ration classification. Food was so scarce that in some cases it amounted to barely more than 700 calories per day. While non-working residents fell into category V-the lowest classification-heavy laborers, which included Trümmerfrauen, fell into category II. This higher classification translated into 400 grams of fat per month-twice the standard ration-100 grams of meat, and one pound of bread per day. Because it was a way to survive and to feed their families, rubble women came from all walks of life, from worker families to members of the previously well-to-do upper class.

But it was not until 1987 that the German Government remembered its still living rubble women for their contribution to the postwar reconstruction by giving them a small increase in their pension benefits.

Also visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/field-station-teufelsberg/ to read about what happened to all that debris.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.