12 Pages

Thieves, imps, andHoly Prostitutes—

Growing up in Germany after the Second World War was an experience of shame and mourning. In twelve years of masterfully orchestrated genocide, Germany had also succeeded in the massacre of its own culture, and nobody was talking about it. The pressures of “good behavior” and moral “cleanliness” were turning the Germans into Herr und Frau Saubermann-Mr. and Mrs. Clean. Everyone was busily sweeping the dirty past under the rug of a newly rich, respectable nation (a “washing powder nation,” as I liked to call it). The group of young intellectuals I allied myself with found it hard to breathe in this clean air. Sex was not clean; it could not be mentioned. Homosexuality was a crime. Any woman who did not properly long for family and motherhood was perverse.