opened the celebrity round at Hotel Morgenland on February 21, 2019. He presented his family history:
The apple tree
“For years I ran away from my story. Then I reinvented it.”
For his family’s novel, actor Christian Berkel traced his roots. He has visited archives, read correspondence, and traveled. The result is a great family novel set against the backdrop of an entire century of German history, the tale of an unusual love.
Berlin 1932: Sala and Otto are thirteen and seventeen years old when they fall in love. He comes from the working class, she from an intellectual Jewish family. In 1938, Sala has to leave her German homeland and finds shelter with her Jewish aunt in Paris until the Germans invade France. While Otto goes to war with the Wehrmacht as a medical doctor, Sala is betrayed during an escape attempt and interned in a camp in the Pyrenees. There, people quickly die of hunger or epidemics, and those who survive until 1943 are deported to Auschwitz. Sala is lucky, she is put on a train to Leipzig and goes into hiding.
Shortly before the end of the war, Otto was taken prisoner in Russia, from which he returned to destroyed Berlin in 1950. For Sala, too, peace marks the beginning of an odyssey that takes her all the way to Buenos Aires. There she tries to build a new life, fails and returns. For ten years they have not seen each other. But when Sala sees Otto’s name in the phone book, she knows she never forgot him.
Christian Berkel narrates his family’s suspenseful novel with great elegance. It leads over three generations from Ascona, Berlin, Paris, Gurs and Moscow to Buenos Aires. In the end, there is the story of two lovers who could not be more different and yet do not let go of each other throughout their lives.
Photo: Gerald von Foris