Our House in the Middle of Iraq

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The ghost of Saddam Hussein lingers somewhere amidst the ruins of East Berlin’s former Iraqi embassy in Pankow. The story of the building is kind of amazing: Sometime around the cataclysmic events of the German reunification and the first Gulf War, the entire embassy staff was ordered to leave the country – most likely because of its previous activities, which included such niceties as hiding explosives and plotting assassinations in the West.

Since the building lost the protection of the German government in 1991, it became the target of many scavenger hunters and now certainly looks the part: Books in Arabic lettering are strewn across the floor, much of the furniture has been moved outside looters left no object unturned. It is virtually impossible to find anything among the ruins of the grey concrete structure that has not been destroyed, set on fire or smashed against the wall. Anika and I had hoped to discover some of the materials mentioned in the aforelinked New York Times articles:

Propaganda materials litter the building’s spacious interior. A filthy red cloth banner lies in the corner of one room entangled in the cord of a broken telephone. On it is written in gold paint, ”Long Live the Arabic Baath Party and the German Democratic Republic’s Communal Fight Against Israeli Colonialism and Imperialism.”

Alas, we were roughly 20 years late to the party.

Curiously, the Iraqi government of yore had managed to sign a contract with the notoriously poor East German government, granting them unlimited possession of the property. If I can rely on my rather limited knowledge of international law, this means we spent the afternoon on Iraqi territory.

Typewriter

1982

Danger, High Voltage

Die Luke

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Fahrenheit 451

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