Tag Archives: Germany

Free and bound

After Carla, Narrator and Man have visited the English Church, they walk to the Catholic Begijnhof chapel. At the entrance Man explains:

“In spring 1942, I have received the first sacraments [1] of the Catholic faith in this Catholic chapel with the official name Johannes and Ursula chapel. In 1671, this chapel had started as a hidden chapel by connecting two houses in the Begijnhof to create a Church space. The former city council had approved the plans for the reconstruction on the condition that from the outside one cannot see that in here a Catholic chapel was located.
Katholieke Begijnhof kapel buitenzijde[2]
With the receiving of the first sacraments in this Catholic Begijnhof Chapel my faith had changed from Jewish to Catholic to the outside world. Via friends of my aunt at the Civil Registry in Rotterdam, I have received a few days later my other name Hermanus Jacobus Maria Leben including accompanying identity papers; from that moment on my name was Man Leben instead of Levi Hermann. With this other identity on paper I arrived through a number of intermediate steps at the farm of my godparents in South Limburg [3]. Although I have had the best time of my life at their farm, the free rendering of the poem by Rudyard Kipling [4] about the loss of his son during a fight on the Western Front in Great War had been in my life for a long time:

“Have you news of my mother?”
Not this tide.
“When do you think that she will come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide

“Has anyone else had word of her?”
Not this tide.
For what has disappeared, will not return
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide

“Oh, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide, nor any tide,
Except she had given her child —
with this wind blowing to that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide and every tide;
because I am her sun
given with this wind blowing and that tide! [5]

Much later, much later, in the preparation of saying Kaddhish in memory of my mother, the following haiku came into my life:

Wind takes you along
Volatile and fatal
From Hades’ realm.

After honouring my mother and father in the Jewish commemoration Kaddish [6], the following haiku came into my life. I always carry this haiku with me wherever I go and stand:

Where I go and stand
Your voice and your face
This tide and all tide

The long version of this haiku is the following poem:
Wherever I go, wherever I am
This tide and all tide
within this wind blowing I hear Your voice.

Wherever I go, wherever I am
This tide and all tide
within this wind blowing You’re near.

In every voice, I hear
In every face, I see
This tide and all tide
Your face.

Wherever I go, wherever I am
This tide and all tide
The passing of my life
Your face.

Let us enter the chapel”, says Man.
“You were so lonely”, says Carla.
“All one, never lonely as you had been in the solidified time. Let’s enter the chapel”, says Man.
Carla, Man and Narrator enter the Catholic Begijnhof chapel.
Katholieke Begijnhof kapel binnenzijde[7]
After visiting the chapel, Carla, Man and Narrator have a drink at the Spui.
“A long time, my memories of the Catholic Begijnhof Chapel had been vague and diffuse, but now I am old, it seems that my baptism, confirmation and first communion took place yesterday, so clearly I see and smell these events from my memories.
I also remember my dislike of the priest who has given me the first sacraments of the Catholic Church. An aversion to authority is a constant in my life. From childhood on I wanted as little as possible to do with power, because it brought me no good. Now I must admit – with shame – my mistake to the influence and – especially at the time – to the courage of the Catholic priest in Begijnhof Chapel; to him I owe further my life.
Although this priest had probably followed the Catholic canon law, he went – risking his own life – at least beyond the profane requirements of the occupier in the Netherlands and he also went beyond open undercurrents of anti-Judaism in the Christian church since this church under Constantine the Great had become the official church of the Roman Empire.
The anti-Judaism in Christianity had probably had its origins in the usual rivalry between religions in the struggle for survival, and had been shaped in the struggle for dominance between both religions and in the pursuit of purity of faith.
Before the Christian church under Constantine the Great had practically become the official church of the Roman Empire, Christians had to deal with prosecutions . In addition, they had to bend in many places in Asia Minor to the Jewish precepts and laws. The Christians could only express their dormant and sometimes outright hatred of the Jewish in words, sermons and writings. The Christian faith had emanated from and had built on the Jewish faith and rules, but as adolescents move away from their parents in order to start their own life, so the Christians moved away – and sometimes rebelled against – the Jewish faith and Jewish law and rules. Although at that time the Christians in Asia Minor had rebelled against the Jews, as descendants of the Jews – on the road to independence – both beliefs were closely linked. Also a very significant group of Christians – called Judaizers [8] – were sympathetic to Judaism: in addition to the Christian Sunday rest, they practiced the Sabbath rest, they fasted with fellow Christians and observed the Jewish rules for fasting, they celebrated the Christian Passover in the church and in their own circles the Jewish Pesach. The Christian church leaders – seeking purity of faith – were not pleased with this mix of both believe; they wished to establish the renewal of the Christian faith and eternally safeguard it in the future whereby simultaneously introduce rigidity, hierarchy and authority. In addition, the Christian church leaders wanted to establish a homogeneous block in their struggle against paganism [9]. Perhaps the Christian church leaders were more anxious about the temptations and paganism in their own sections or in their selves, than about the paganism in the outside world. An organization or person with inner doubt often tries to derive securities from the vicinity: if the environment offers security and support, the inner uncertainty will have less incentives to manifest themselves. This corresponds to a liar who do every effort to let the environment appear honest in order to avoid being caught.
In 313 AC, the Christian church was liberated from persecution under Licinius and Constantine the Great – the emperors respectively the Western and Eastern Roman Empire – with the Edict of Milan [10], by the words ” that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best” [11 ]. Although there had arisen freedom of religion within the Roman Empire by this Edict, in reality shortly after the Edict the Christian church had become he official church of the Roman Empire. At the Council of Nicaea Constantine personally made sure that the Christian Easter and the Jewish Passover were separated [12]
Around 380 AC the anti-Jewish rhetoric had reached its peak at that time in Johannes Chrysostomus (Church father, and later Archbishop of Constantinople from 398 to 403 AC). In Antioch – in that place Johannes Chrysostomus was a normal priest – was a substantial group Judaizers, despite all efforts of the Christian church to separate Christians and Jews. With his ” Preaching against the Jews ” Johannes Chrysostomus had tried to end the habit of Judaizers definitively. He compared the Judaizers with mortally ill fellow Christians that had to be cured of the Jewish plague. With all his extraordinary rhetorical gifts and his extraordinary charisma, he had disreputed the Jews in these sermons by comparing them with the lowest earthly beings around. The ultimate argument of Johannes Chrysostomus in his anti-Jewish sermons was the proposition that – without exception – all Jews were “the murderer of Jesus Christ”: herewith the Jews had call upon themselves all their misery and rejection of God. The influence of these sermons has been enormous; the translated sermons had been distributed within the Christian church. By the sermons of Johannes Chrysostomus the attitude of Christians towards the Jews had been profoundly affected; latent dislikes of the Jews have been given a voice and the image of the “Christ Killer” stigma had been inculcated [13].
Johannes Chrysostomus[14]
Before the Reformation, especially Antwerp and also Amsterdam were refuges for Jews from Spain and Portugal, and later to people of other faiths or dissenters. After the fall of Antwerp during the revolt against Spain in the Low Countries in 1585 AC [15], many – most prosperous – refugees had moved to Amsterdam. During and after the Reformation, Amsterdam has been – to a greater or lesser extent – a refuge and a kind of haven for dissenters and beliefs of others faits. My parents had relied on it as they had fled from Frankfurt am Main to Amsterdam in 1934 to escape from the effects of the other regime in Germany.
With the rise of the other regime in Germany in the 30s, xenophobia had been connected with the always latent aversion to Jews, coupled with the memory of shame of the loss of the Great War and the repayment of the war debt – that had caused a crisis and hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic between 1921 and 1923 [16] – linked with the urge to permanently establish and sustain innovation in Germany permanently. The result was a widely accepted dictatorship in Germany that had accepted no other voice and a society that wished to eradicate existing fears by projecting uncertainties on scapegoats. Removing the scapegoats from society might also remove the fears and uncertainties; this mechanism cumulative in dictated persecution of Jews that was strictly executed by the bureaucrats.
In the prime of my life I had the idea that I could shape my own life, that I could liberate myself from my past by free choices, that I did give shape to my own future shape. This liberation had largely taken place, but I have owed my whole life and the way I’ve lived for a very large part due to the Christian Church, to John Chrysostom and the consequences of his Sermons against the Jews, and the authority of the priest who has given me the first sacraments of the Catholic faith in this Catholic Begijnhof chapel. As much as I had tried to escape hereof, and how much I had resisted ‘ve done myself in the prime of my life, now I’ve peace with it. Free and bound”, says Man.
“Once I read somewhere that Church History is all encompassing. Arguably I think this is correct”, says Narrator.
“Shall we have lunch. Mid-afternoon we can continue with “Free and bound” in a personal relationship with God, during and after the Reformation. Then I suggest to continue with the rise of capitalism in Holland amongst others caused by the Reformation. Do you like of this proposal”, says Man.
“That is good. Shall I continue with the personal relationship with God? ”, says Narrator.
“Afterwards I will continue with the rise of capitalism”, says Carla.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrament
[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_Chapel,_Amsterdam
[3] See also: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012 p. 21 – 21
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling
[5] Free rendering of: Kipling, Rudyard, My Boy Jack. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Boy_Jack_%28poem%29
[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhofkapel_(Amsterdam)
[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaizers
[9] Source and see also: Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, p. 154
[10] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Milan
[11] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I_and_Christianity
[12] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 266
[13] Source and see also: Trouillez, Pierre, Bevrijd en gebonden – De Kerk van Constantijn (4e en 5e eeuw n. Chr.). Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2006, p. 155
[14] Image of Johannes Chrysostomus in the Hagia Sophia. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Chrysostom
[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Antwerp
[16] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic


Five common realities – facts and logic 2

“On my trip on foot from Rome to Amsterdam, I had stayed a few weeks with friends in Florence. One of my friends had taken me to Piazza del Carmine to show the Santa Maria del Carmine Church containing the Cappella Brancacci”, says Narrator.

“On the outside it looks like a weathered warehouse, although the main entrance suggests otherwise,” says Carla.

“Many churches in Italy look closed on the outside; the beauty is shown inside, “says Man.

“For the tourists the access to the Chapel is through the door on the right side in white stucco wall of the monastery, but first we look at the Church,” says Narrator.

Santa Maria del Carmine[1]

“It is true, the wealth is inside the Church. This abundance is too much for me “, says Carla.

Feiten en Logica 2[2]

“I brought you here to show the ceiling in combination with the walls. By the painting on the ceiling, it seems like the Church passes directly into the heaven. In this part of the church heaven and earth are joined together, with the transition of the walls to the ceiling as separation”, says Narrator.

“The ceiling is a half cylinder, but by the very cleaver “trompe d’oeil” [3] in the painting on the ceiling, the spectator seems to be drawn into heaven. The medieval scholasticism is shown in all its splendour on this ceiling”, says Man.

 “Artificially, but cleverly made”, says Carla.

Feiten en Logica 2a[4]

“The Cappella Brancacci [5] is on the right side of the altar; for our visit to the frescoes we must enter the chapel outside via the monastery’s entrance on the right side of the Church”, says Narrator.

“That is done to limit the visit of this Chapel and with the revenue the maintenance of the chapel can be paid”, says Man.

“I show you these frescoes in the chapel, because the two main painters of this Chapel personify the transition from the Medieval to the Renaissance. Masolino da Panicale painted the people to ideal images according to the Scholasticism in a medieval style, while Masaccio depicts the people as individuals in all their glory and wealth. On the upper part on the right wall of the chapel, both styles can be seen in one fresco”, says Narrator.

Feiten en Logica 2b[6]

“I prefer the ideal images of the people made by Masolino; Masaccio’s individuals are – in my opinion –  also ideal images, that wish to show their profane opulence and earthly well-being too obviously,” says Carla.

“I’m stupified by this transition of style, world view and display within a fresco”, says Man.

Feiten en Logica 2c[7]

“Now I will take you to the Uffizi Art museum on a 15-minutes walk from this Chapel. There I wish to show you a self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer. I already bought tickets, so we do not need to stand in the line”, says Narrator.

“May we visit the Basilica Santa Maria del Santo Spirito [8] designed by Brunelleschi? This early Renaissance Basilica has beautiful dimensions”, says Man.

Feiten en Logica 2d[9]

“Is there the Crucifix of Michelangelo?”, asks Carla.

Feiten en Logica 2e[10]

“That is correct, let us first have a drink on the square in front of the Basilica,” says Narrator.

After visiting the Basilica Carla, Man, and Narrator go to the Uffizi Museum [11]. First they look at the Renaissance paintings, including “The birth of Venus” by Botticelli.

feiten en logica 2f[12]

Then they arrive at the self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer.

feiten en logica 2g[13]

“I wish to show you this self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer, because with this painting Dürer ignores the Scholastic ideal image of a man at the end of the Middle Ages; he transcends in this self-portrait also the individual presentation of earthly wealth and profane splendour of the Renaissance. Here is a man that we can meet in the streets in Germany today. This self-portrait has the characteristics of a contemporary photo; It looks like a snapshot “, says Narrator.

“Marvellous, except his clothes, I might meet him today on the street in Germany. After many centuries with images of people like the painter and the spectators thought they looked like or thought they should look like, Dürer and his contemporaries noticed how people looked like in reality and they had the skills to depict it in a painting. When I see this painting – that actually is a picture or snapshot – I am reminded of the essay “On Photography” by Susan Sontag [14]. She states in this essay that people feel the reality so overwhelming, that they need the framing of a picture to be able to observe and process an image of reality. This self-portrait is quite familiar, but at the same time I still miss an awful lot. I would like to ask so many questions to this man; I really would like to meet him for a few days and to live with him together in his world. This self-portrait gives a glimpse of the man Albrecht Dürer and at the same time the portrait deprives my image of him. Susan Sontag in her essay did go one step further: she states that the reality is so inconceivable and overwhelming, that people need the use of a camera to shield themselves from the environment; only through a picture or photo, people can experience and digest the framing and stillness of the really; holidays are really experienced at home while viewing the photos”, says Man.

“I have the same mixed feelings: wonderful to see Albrecht Dürer and at the same time it is unreal. When you mentioned the essay by Susan Sontag, I was reminded of the “Theory of the look” by Jean Paul Sartre [15]: by my look at the self-portrait, I make a thing of Albrecht Dürer and thus I deny his person and memory a large part of his freedom. This portrait is for me a “pars pro toto” where the part – the self-portrait or picture of Albrecht Dürer – takes the place of the whole. My question upon seeing the self-portrait remains: “Who are you?”, says Carla.

“My American beloved had studied on the question “Who are we?” in Sweden and later in a monastery in America. Maybe he had found an answer to this question by solving Buddhist question [16] and maybe this “pars pro toto” – that people need in their observations – fits very well within the metaphor of “Indra’s Net” [17]”, says Narrator.

“Perhaps you are right with this metaphor; people look at a glass pearl within Indra’s Net and they experience in this – indirect – manner the entire interconnected Net of glass pearls that reflect in each other. Tonight at dinner, I would like to share with you my view on “facts and logic” of “Who are you?”. Today we have a wonderful start on this part of the search for “Who are you?” didn’t we?”, says Man Leben.

“Later I’d like to show you the world of ordered chaos, but now I’m tired. Narrator, thank you for this tour and both of you, thanks for your company. I need my afternoon siesta. See you tonight at dinner”, says Carla.

“I’m glad you appreciated my preparation. I’m going to visit a good friend this afternoon”, says Narrator.

“Then I will visit two book stores this afternoon”, says Man.

[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_del_Carmine,_Florence

[2] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_del_Carmine_(Firenze)

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trompe-l’%C5%93il

[4] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_del_Carmine_(Firenze)

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brancacci_Chapel; the frescoes in the chapel can be seen on this Web page.

[6] Fresco on the upper part on the right wall of the Chapel. Source image: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaplica_Brancaccich

[7] Detail of the Fresco on the upper part on the right wall of the Chapel. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappella_Brancacci

[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santo_Spirito,_Florence

[9] Floor plan of the Basilica. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santo_Spirito_(Florenz)

[10] Crucifix made by Michelangelo. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santo_Spirito

[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffizi

[12] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffizi

[13] Self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer

[14] See also: Sontag, Susan, On Photography. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1978

[15] See also: Nārāyana, Narrator, “Carla Drift – An Outlier, A Biography”. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 34

[16] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 99 – 136

[17] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 65 – 67

Narrator – A man without qualities

Note: this post is a study in loyalty and betrayal; the persons and situations in this post are fictitious.

On a rainy afternoon during the second winter in Copenhagen, I met a man who would change the next five years in my life. I only learned the birth name of this man after his death; in my presence he called himself Raven. Suddenly he stood silently beside me. After he had introduced himself, we had diner in a small restaurant near Nyhavn. That night we spent together and that night he slept in my attic room. In the course of the next five years, I have met him with intervals in many places in Europe; usually he stayed an evening and a night, sometimes we were a few days together.

During these years he told me about his past; he was taciturn about his work, but I understood that his profession had to do with trust and betrayal in all shapes and gradations. His work consisted of unnoticingly retrieving confidential information in other countries, and of the dissemination of altered or misleading information. Like me, Raven spoke many languages and dialects fluently and without an accent; also in this way he adapted himself as a chameleon to his environment. He regularly changed name and passport.

Rush Hour by[1]

From our conversations I understood that Raven was born in London near the end of the First World War. Several years before the Second World War he moved first to Heidelberg and later to Munich for his study philosophy and linguistics in Germany. There he met two friends for life – he called them Fox and Bear.

Fox was a fellow student who had grown up in the Rhineland and Bear was the father of their girlfriend. In all circumstances they remained faithful to each other and thus they had betrayed everything and everyone in their environment.

At the beginning of the Second World War Fox and Raven retrieved strategic information in Germany for Russia and England. Bear was a high officer in the German army who prevented Fox and Raven for their doom, because Bear despised the new regime in Germany with all his being, and because he loved his daughter dearly. During the Second World War Raven went off to England several times and he returned in France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany to disseminate misleading information and to retrieve new secret information with the help of acquaintances and relatives. Hereby he had deliberately endangered the lives of his relatives; some of his family had not survived the war.

At the end of the Second World War Bear was made prisoner by the English. With help of his contacts in England Raven had assured that Bear could soon start soon a new life as a businessman in Germany.

After the war, Fox – with his preference for socialism and communism – decided to start working for the secret service in East Germany; he received a key position within this service.

Raven – with a tendency towards tradition – returned in June 1945 to England to work for a British secret service. First he said goodbye for good to his girlfriend – the daughter of Bear. She married Fox one month later. In February of the next year, a daughter was born from this marriage who looked like Raven, but she had the character of her mother.

Throughout the Cold War – invisible to the outside world – Raven was head of the Eastern European operations. Also in this position, he had endangered the lives of colleagues, friends, acquaintances and relatives; a number of his family did not survive their missions in Eastern Europe.


The emptiness caused by the death and absence of so many loved ones remained anywhere and any time in his life. With this fathomless emptiness and with his constant fear of discovery he did penance for his actions and for the betrayal of everyone and everything in his environment.

The following afternoon, he met an older sailor from Rostock in a bar in the Nyhavn. Later I understood that this sailor was his study friend Fox. Raven asked me to distract the attention from his entry in the bar.


This was the beginning of my small contributions to the work of Raven in the area of loyalty and betrayal that lasted until his death five years later. After his death, a distant cousin who had succeeded him in the work for a secret service, asked me for information; within this investigation I was involved in a meeting with Fox.

For Raven, I looked for meeting places and places to sleep that changed sometimes for unclear reasons. I distracted attention when Raven wanted to meet someone unobtrusively, because with my black/blue colour and my exuberant appearance I stood out anywhere. And I served as a beacon to see if a location was observed by opponents.


Was Raven also faithful to me? The answer is: as far as he could be within his activities. Looking back, I would never have wanted to miss the friendship and relationship with Raven, and I have had no regrets of my small share in the work of Raven.

[1] Source image: http://otravida.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/march-26th-rush-hour-by-george-segal/ ; a photo of the sculptors “Rush Hour” made by George Segal. See also: Histoire de la Vie privée. Tome 5: De la première Guerre mondiale à nos jours. Red. Ariès, Philippe et al., p. 8

[2] Tanks at Checkpoint Charlie on October 27 during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. Bron afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War

[3] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyhavn

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Smiley

Narrator – On foot through France 3

Via the GR 5 in France I walked from the Jura to the Vosges. This area was more populated and I found less easily a place to sleep. On a rainy evening at twilight I was only welcome when I paid for my overnight stay. My stories and my kindness were not enough. I had no more money and after a few kilometres walk I found a place to sleep in the open air. Covered in plastic I spent the night vigilant. The next morning I was clammy and benumbed. After an hour walk I was warm again.

In the Vosges there were sufficient opportunities to spent the night in the wild. It was beautiful weather. At night the moon and the starry sky gave me comfort. During the day I enjoyed the beautiful view. At a few places I could almost oversee my whole way from the snowy Alps.


During my walk on the mountain peaks of the Vosges I met new ghosts. A century ago this chain of peaks formed the border between Alsace in Germany and Lorraine in France. The road – Route des Crêtes – was built by the French army during the First World War [2]. The road is situated on the French side of the chain, so the road was less vulnerable for the German guns. The ghosts of the victims during these many wars between France and Germany accompanied me to the Luxembourg border. On this part they were my companions. I promised that my breath would be their breath as long as I lived just as my breath was already the breath of the villagers. Once I hoped to arrive home together with them all.


The path on the mountain peaks was congested; I got help and support of many people. In the valleys I felt less at home. By cover in the valleys I could not see the road; I felt trapped. I wanted to keep an eye on the road. Without sight on the heaven and earth, the ghosts of the villagers and of the fallen soldiers came before my eyes [4]. Only much later could I could unite heaven and earth; afterwards I had no more difficulty to fall asleep anywhere – even within walls and in valleys.


With a companion in the North of France I made a small detour to the Maginot line [6]. We saw the remnants at Michelsberg [7] and Hackenberg [8]. We were surprised how a society could feel safe and sheltered behind this dark burrows in the ground filled with terror for the society on the other side. With my eyes on the road, unity had many faces, and two had no duality. The Maginot line – as part of the many wars between France and Germany – fell beyond my comprehension.


At Schengen I illegally entered the other world of Luxembourg. Later the treaty for free movement of people in a part of Europe was agreed upon at this place. After such a huge detour with so much suffering and madness of everyday life, unity could finally be restored. It remains curious that a Treaty on paper is needed for a unit that is for my mother as natural as breathing, moving eyes, hands, and moving legs for walking; unity with many faces and two without duality.


Much later – on the 12th of October 2012 – the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union, because the European Union and its predecessors had contributed to peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe for more than sixty years. So much effort for a contribution that is as natural as breathing.

In Luxembourg, I entered a fairy-tale troll country.

[1] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Col_du_Grand_Ballon.jpg

[2] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Route_des_Cr%C3%AAtes

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rothenbachkopf_nord.jpg

[4] See also: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 70.

[5] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Vosges_val_munster.jpg

[6] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maginotlinie

[7] See also: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouvrage_du_Michelsberg

[8] See also: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouvrage_du_Hackenberg

[9] Source image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ouvrage_du_Michelsberg

[10] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_(Luxemburg)

Carla Drift – Nomadic existence

Carla Drift – Nomadic existence

I cannot write more about my work in the area of crimes against humanity, because I will bring other people and myself in great danger. With state secrets, secret services, authorities and powers which have added stark dark pages to history, one cannot be too careful.

In Western Europe, many people think that this dark pages are written by authorities and powers in distant countries. From South Limburg I did not have to travel far. South Limburg itself had never had many ambitions to fulfil a role in world history, maybe robber gangs like the “buck riders” [1] added a few footnotes to history. I leave further research into black pages in history by South Limburg to others.


From my village in South Limburg I did not need to travel far for a number of my investigations. With a few hours walk to the East, I arrived in Germany with crimes against humanity during the Second World War. With a few hours walking to the West, Belgium is located with Congo as black pages in history; in elementary school we only learned the abuses against fathers and sisters and massacres of innocent believers, but later more became known [3]. To the North, Holland is located with its dark history in the slave trade. Also dark pages were written during the suppression of rebellions in Indonesia [4] where a President of the Council of Ministers [5] in his early years has personally played an active role. Finally – against the wishes of Holland – Indonesia became independent after a war that was called police actions [6] in Holland. I was involved in investigation into war-crimes during this war. Furthermore I have done research on all seven continents – also in Australia with Aborigines and in North America with the world power.


After every research in the tropics, I came home exhausted and sick. Luckily I still had places at home where I could recover. In Amsterdam I had my room in the house of friends of Man and me for a long time. When I came home in South Limburg there were always happy faces – when I came and when I went again; I was always greeted as the prodigal daughter but I was too independent and bold – “vreg”; the pastor, the Mayor and the City Council noticed this pretty fast. In short, several temporary places to recover and to make preparations for new investigations with all adventures involved. Always under a disguise playing a game of hide-and-seek in order not to be unmasked with all fatal consequences involved.

About 10 years ago, I left my room in Amsterdam, because the friends of Man and I decided to live in a smaller apartment at their old age. Their beautiful house in the Centre of Amsterdam was sold. I left my room with a rucksack, a sleeping bag, a bivouac sack, lightweight camping gear and some clothes. All my books were in the University libraries – with a number of library cards easily accessible. I sold my other belongings. All in all, an enormous wealth.

Several years ago I came back from a research in the tropics – but now I was seriously ill. I did not recover fully: after small efforts I was quickly tired. I noticed in my body and soul that tropics years counted double; After some 20 years in the tropics I had reached my retirement at the age of 50 years old . With my savings and some small consultancies, I could bridge the time until my “state pension”.

After a nomadic existence of researcher with recovery periods in Amsterdam with friends and in South Limburg with family, I was now dependent on a new place to live. In South Limburg I did belong any longer in the society of the village where I grew up – I left too long ago. My father and mother were proud grandparents of the children of both my sisters. These nephews and nieces were almost independent – two were studying, one was craftsman and the youngest was still following high school. My sisters were happily married with nice partners. My friend from my childhood was well either. He came along when I was in Amsterdam for a visit to world city with all its challenges. Sometimes he visited me abroad. How welcome the home nest in South Limburg might appear, I did not belong there any more.

I was a nomad, but a nomad who needed a roof during bad weather and cold nights. Through friends I bought a caravan that was adapted for wintertime.


There was another problem: I had no driving licence and I did not want to get one. Trough acquaintances in South Limburg, I bought a small tractor. My father checked the tractor on shortcomings. I think no tractor was ever so thoroughly checked, because my father intuitively felt that this might be one of the last things he could do for me – his problem child and apple of his eye.


The village waved me goodbye when I left with tractor – caravan combination and I waved back, again only happy faces. The following post is about the treks with this tractor – caravan combination.


My publisher has its new website available:


[1] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokkenrijders

[2] Source image:  http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokkenrijders

[3] See also: Reybrouck, David Van, “Congo – Een geschiedenis van”. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2010

[4] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atjehoorlog

[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrikus_Colijn

[6] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politionele_acties

[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aborigines_(Australi%C3%AB)

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravan_(aanhangwagen)

[9] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractor

Man Leben – school time

Ein Weg durch das Abenteurer, das man Leben nennt [1]

 You continue with your school time in Holland:

“In the summer of 1946 my aunt visited my godfather and godmother in Limburg. She stayed for one week. After this week I moved with my aunt to a village near Rotterdam. The departure from my godparents was not easy; fortunately I stayed on a regular basis with them at their farm: every time special.

In the train near Rotterdam I was surprised that a country could be so flat and empty. And so full of canals small and even smaller. Later I understood that this was the result of a centuries-long co-existence with the water and a necessity to keep the polders dry.



When we arrived at our new home, my aunt had sad news. My father and mother had not survived the war and the consequences of the other regime from Germany, that had over-flooded the Netherlands. My father died in Auschwitz [4], my mother did not survive an illness in Dachau. Furthermore, my aunt never talked about this time of war. I never asked her about it: it was obvious that it was too painful. After the war, a distant family relation helped her with a post at a Trade Office in Rotterdam.

In Holland I lived in a Christian village, I went to a Christian Grammar school and we went to a Christian Church with quite different habits. Still my aunt asked me to study the Jewish scriptures on a regular basis; this legacy of my ancestors was not denied. Everything was strange, even my first name was strange and in the beginning my German-sounding last name caused reservations. I could understand the people, but they responded differently. By my accent and behaviour I remained an outsider. After the war there was lack of almost everything and people were very frugal. In Holland milk was widely drunk – preferably a litre per day; in Limburg only a little milk was put in the coffee. At celebrations a slice of cake was offered instead of an abundant treat of fruit flan; for an important feast in Limburg, the woman next door delivered 24 different fruit flans at the baker for baking.

Over time I became accustomed to our new life in Holland. I got friends at the new school, I silently was in love again and after 6 years I received my diploma for Grammar school. Then I started my study at the University of Technology in Delft”, you say.

“Jo Ritzen, who studied physics at Delft University of Technology, wrote in his autobiography [5] that the transition from Limburg to Holland was the biggest change in his life. Your changes are even bigger”, I say

“For me there was no choice. It came as it came, it was as it was and it went as it was; just like the weather or the wind”, say you.

The following post is about your years of study in Delft.


– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”

[1] Translation: “A way through the adventure that one calls life”

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Tussen_Bergambacht_en_Schoonhoven,_panorama2_foto2_2010-07-04_13.41.JPG

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:MolenVanafDijk.JPG

[4] The name Auschwitz is derived from the Polish town named Oświęcim near the camp. Many Jews who live in Oświęcim before the war, named this place Oshpitzin – the Yiddish word for guest – because this place was known for its hospitality before the war. See: Glassman, Bernie, Bearing Witness – A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace. New York: Bell Tower, 1998, p. 4

[5] Ritzen, Jozef Maria Mathias, De Minister – Een Handboek. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 1998

You: Man Leben – South Limburg

Die Zeit die man leben nennt [1]

Until the end of 1941 you have lived your early childhood in Amsterdam as a Dutch boy.


No existing man and place has been model for one of the main characters and places. Their names might be Allman, Everyman and Everywhere.

Just before your eighth birthday you said goodbye to your parents. After a night of staying at your aunt, you arrived by several places in between and with a new name Jacobus Hermanus Maria Leben – they called me “Man”– as Catholic boy on a farm in South Limburg.

On your eighth birthday you ended up in a country where a language extends as far as you can watch [3]. So many foreign armies have set foot on this country that the new regime from Germany brought no shocking change. But the manner in which one lives and who is allowed to life here, the Pruusj – or German – the Dutchman has nothing to do with. In 1942 life went on as it has done for many thousands of years.

You continue with your primary school years:

“A long journey on foot, on a bike, by train and on a carriage followed when I left my aunt. A number of nights I have lodged with different people. In between I am renamed and baptized Catholic. I still use this name. At the end of the trip just before sunset I arrived in a different world; a farm near Valkenburg [4]. I could understand no one. The farm looked like a castle surrounded with walls and buildings and everything smelled unlike anything I was used to. The farmer and his wife – who I have adopted me as their (temporarily) godfather and godmother – and the servants were kind. First I got supper, bread, and many delicacies. I was tired and I fell fast asleep in a strange bedroom. The next morning began the rhythm of the farm, Church and school: first I helped with milking of the cows, then I went to the church – a strange world – had breakfast and then to school. The pastor introduced me in the classroom. Odd looks; I could understand no one. After school I helped on the farm. Later I also played with classmates. I remained an outsider at school: I could learn far too well.


After the period of habituation, this is the most beautiful time out of my life. Everything was stable between my eighth and twelfth year. In that time I got used to the seasons, the change of light and the rhythm of nature. I still carry the field flowers with me, the Church with the processions through the fields, and the golden yellow light from that time.


Soon I was allowed to confess like all children of my school. After some classmates did there confession, the door of the pastor opened, he opened the door of a brutal boy. The boy received several  slaps – in a farmers’ environment this did not really hurt – and he was allowed to carry on with his penance. I actually had not sinned, but I decided to invent a few small sins; my first deviation from the right path – more followed later.

At the age of 10, I unexpectedly fell in love with a girl in the village. It seemed that lightning struck, so fiercely and unexpectedly; Everything was covered in a white glow. From then on life was different with extra feelings and concerns. Nobody has ever known of my first love.

Later I never more helped so open-minded on the fields with ploughing and sowing. The smell of freshly ploughed earth only smelled of growth and bloom. After I left South Limburg, another – sad – smell was added [7].

In between in September 1944 the other regime from Germany was expelled from South Limburg without any clashes in our village. Near Aachen, in the Ardennes and in North Limburg there were fierce fights. A new regime from the West arrived with first the sensation of change and later habituation; life re-took its rhythm.

In the summer of 1946 my aunt came. With her I moved to a village near Rotterdam. I moved from an environment that is completely Catholic to an area that has a strict inner faith and guilt with a sharp “F” and hard “G”. As I look back, this move is – next to having children – the biggest change in my life “, you say.

“These changes should have been shocking for you”, I say.

“In Limburg, it came as it came, it was as it was and it went as it went; and not otherwise. Falling in love was a change. After this lightning struck, life was no longer the same, no longer carefree as before. I have had a very good time in Limburg. Around 1975, I have again lived two years on the same farm: again a good time. The shocking changes came when I moved to Holland”, you say.

The next post is about your grammar school years near Rotterdam.

– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”

[1] Translation: “The time one names life”. There exists a film with a similar title; see: http://www.tvspielfilm.de/kino/filmarchiv/film/die-zeit-die-man-leben-nennt,1318419,ApplicationMovie.html

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AmstelAmsterdamNederland.jpg

[3] In France until the time of Napoleon, the languages did not extends further than one can watch. See:  Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007

[4] No existing farm or neighbourhood in the area of Valkenburg has been model for this post.

[5] Examples of farms in South Limburg. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Houtemstgerlach.jpg

[6] Source image: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=1361079

[7] This may remind of the title of a novel by: Pavese, Cesar, La terra e la morte.

You: Man Leben – the first years

Wie kann man leben, wenn man nicht sterben will [1]

In the previous post you have told in a nutshell the history of your foreparents and parents – until the moment you came in their lives. No existing person has been model for one of the main characters. Their names could have been Allman and Everyman. Now you will continue with your first years of life:

“On the evening in March 1933 when I came into the life of my parents, they decided to leave Frankfurt am Main. They moved to Amsterdam with abandonment of many of their possessions. They have never told me, but I think I am conceived during that night within a cocoon of love, hope and consolation.

First a sketch of the time and area wherein I came to life. After the defeat in “A war like no other, a war as everyone”, Germany fell into a deep economic crisis with high unemployment. In 1923 due to the reparations, the hyperinflation of money – the confidence inspiring “object in the middle” – was so enormous that the salary earned at the end of the morning had to be converted in one bread, because in the course of the afternoon that money became worth only a few slices. At that time my grandparents have based a small capital in sound currency in Switzerland and the Netherlands.


My foreparents and parents have always been outliers in every society – also in Germany – with all consequences thereof. In the second half of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s Germany created an overwhelming dynamism, hope and wrath – icy wrath [3].  Motorways were built, industry flourished, an huge urge to life came into existence and the soldier’s boots were prepared for a mars forward. “Everything on the puff; who is going to pay”, said the grandmother of Hermann Simon in Heimat – Eine deutsche Chronik [4] after visiting her family in the Ruhr area. The future price was still unimaginable [5].


In order to establish this mutual trust in the German society, a “person in the middle”, “objects in the middle”, “myths” and “rituals” [7] were necessary. Also a scapegoat in society was quickly found; my grandparents, parents with other descendants of my ancestors were identified as collective bearers of evil. By the sacrifice and removal of the scapegoat from the society, the German people thought to remove all evil from society. It started with destruction and small harassments and it continued with smoke offerings wherein Synagogues and books were burned in the Kristallnacht in 1938.


When in March 1933 the other government in Germany had obtained all powers, my parents decided to leave: they didn’t want to be sacrificed. My grandparents remained.

I was born in Amsterdam in early January 1934. Also Amsterdam was in a financial crisis. With the small base capital deposited by my grandparents in the 1920’s, my parents could start anew in an district similar to the Rivierenbuurt [9]. My father went into trade. I grew up as a Dutch boy in Amsterdam.

In May 1940, the other government from Germany also engulfed the Netherlands. Some acquaintances of my parents committed suicide in despair, because they did not know another way out. My parents continued their lives. In September 1940 I went to elementary school. Except the “J with yellow star” on my clothes, life continued as usual until the end of 1941. On a night before I went to a sleepover at my aunt, my parents told me that I would stay away for a long time, but that eventually everything would be fine.

I stayed at my aunt for one night. Via several intermediate stops and a new first and family name I ended up on a farm in South – Limburg (The Netherlands). From that time my official name is Hermanus [10] Maria Jacobus [11] Leben; I was baptised Catholic. They called me Man – a name that against the wind carries far over the fields “, you say.

“I originate from South – Limburg. I recognized your first name “Man” right away. In South Limburg there are so many names that carry far over the fields. Mat of Matthew, Wiel of Wilhelmus, Sjraar of Gerard,  Sjang or Sjeng of John, Joep of Joseph, Pie of Peter, Nant of Ferdinand, Sjier, Sjoef. In all these names have faces for me”, I say.

“I also carry these names and faces with me”, you say.

“And your parents?”, I ask.

“I always carry my parents with me. In 1942 – nearly a year later, a sister was born named Carla [12]. That is the only thing I know about her. Still always if I see women of her age with some similarity in appearance with my family, I look if it is her. Once I read: “If there is even a hair’s breadth of difference, heaven and earth are clearly separated” [13]. There was also written: “The Supreme way is not difficult, it simply dislikes choosing”. Later more”, you say.

The next post is about your school time in South – Limburg.

– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”

[1] Translation: How can one live, when one doesn’t want to die.

[3] See also: ”Wrath, icy wrath that brought countless horrors” in the post of 31st of Augustus 2011: A war like no other – the leading players

[4] Source: Reitz, Edgar, Heimat – Eine deutsche Chronik. 1984 See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimat_(Edgar_Reitz)

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll and for the toll of the Spanish flu at the end of the Great War: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic

[7] See former posts with the same titles.

[8] Photo of the fire in the Synagogue in the Börnestraße in Frankfurt am Main during the Kristallnacht on 9th of  November 1938. Source of image: http://www.frankfurt.frblog.de/ostend-industrieviertel-mit-juedischen-wurzeln

[9] Description of the history of refugees from Germany in Amsterdam during the Second World War: http://www.zuidelijkewandelweg.nl/tijdtijn/razzia%27s.htm

[10] The name Hermanus consists of “Herr” and “Man”. Possible the German word “Herr” is connected to the verb root “√hṛ” meaning “to offer, sacrifice” and “take, take away” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. See also the first Chorus in the Cantate 131 of Johann Sebastian Bach: ”Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir. Herr, höre meine Stimme, lass deine Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!“. Translation: “From the deep, Lord [3], I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice, let your ears hear the voice of my doubt!”.  “Man” “man” means “think/consider/observe”.

[11] Probably this name is closely linked to the verb root “√śak” meaning “be able/capable” in Sanskrit.

[12] The name Carla is composed of “car” meaning “to move, to wander” in Sanskrit and “la” meaning “undertake or give”.

[13] Bron: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 – case 17, p. 54.