There are few places left in Berlin where the experience of American occupation after the Second World War is still vividly felt. The most famous (and touristic) is the crossing between the American and Soviet sectors at Checkpoint Charlie. The US Army headquarters was in Zehlendorf, where some of the buildings have been taken over by the State Department and others were razed to the ground. Still scattered around the city are a number of American chapels, schools and dedicated libraries –but these remains are few and exert little presence.
For me, the most vivid reminders of the American occupation (which lasted until 1994) are the US Army Baseball/Softball diamonds which remain on the site of the old Tempelhof Airport (see my previous blog entry). The diamonds are non-descript. The Berlin’s Mixed Softball League, which will take them over this year, has some weeding to do.
What I find most surprising are the scoreboards, whose vintage technology seems transplanted from a fifties cornfield at the centre of the North American continent. I see the bulbs illuminating, the crack of the ball propelling from the bat, the shuffling of feet through the sand, and American voices calling out strike. The scene is perhaps illuminated, at night, with young American servicemen, transplanted from their distant realities, rushing between the bases. Overlooking it, most poignantly, are those two words, ‘Home’ and ‘Guest’.
And ultimately, there is another word, which is ‘Out’.