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German spoken here

Erschienen in "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung", Nr.1, 6. Januar 2013

Von Fotograf Frank Schultze und Autor Jan Rübel

A café in Frankfurt, Germany, is the regular rendezvous of a dwindling handful of senior citizens. They argue, tell jokes, listen to music. Conversational topics range from bienenstich to Birkenau.

Three ladies at table 3 lean forward to examine the bienenstich. “No good,” one says. “To see these almonds, you need a magnifying glass,” the second sighs. The third arranges her bronze-colored silk scarf and launches into a polemic against caramel: “Just a dash of honey, please!” The old Hungarian folk song Csárdás wafts across the room from an accordion in a far corner. It seems so quiet. The melody seems to float above the heads at the four long tables, disappearing into the 18-foot ceiling.

“On the transport we talked about nothing but cake recipes,” Nora O. recalls. “We were so hungry.” She is 88. Lilly M., 89, agrees. Both are from a small village in eastern Poland. “I never saw her in Birkenau,” Nora says, holding up her fork. “Even though we were in the same traffic jam.” They had had their heads shaved and were standing in line for the gas chamber when it was declared full. “We met in Bergen-Belsen.”

Another woman interrupts, her coffee cup vibrating on its saucer. “Could you talk about something else besides cake recipes for once?” …