die Buchstaben verschattet
auf diese Tastatur fällt kein Licht
ich bin unterwegs
mit zehn Fingern
ich schreibe drei Namen
dort und abseits am Fluß
hier und fremde Namen
auf einer Brücke am Mühlenwehr
hinter der Stadt mündet der Fluß in einen Toten Arm
Kopfsteinpflaster wo ich stehe
Hungerharke hinter mir die Stadt
zwischen Scheune und Amtgsericht auf der Straße
ich schreibe Ozersk
Angerapp an der Angerapp
Hafer und Holunder
Dommert & Sammael
und hier ist nichts seitdem und alles geschehn
was geschieht geht über die Straße
dem Gott in den Bäumen erschien
als goldenes Licht:
ICH ZÄHLE BIS ZEHN
DIE MÜHLE BLEIBT STEHN
ICH ZÄHLE BIS HUNDERT
DIE MÜHLE GEHT UNTER
ICH ZÄHLE BIS TAUSEND
DIE MÜHLE GEHT SAUSEND
Country in which the text is setEast Prussia, Russia
Featured locationsOzersk, Darkehmen, Angerapp (an der Angerapp)Ostpreußen / Kaliningrad oblast
“Ozersk“ is the today’s name of Manfred Peter Hein’s hometown Darkehmen. Then a small town in East Prussia, it is situated in the Kaliningrad Oblast today. The poem consists of 29 lines, arranged in a seemingly uncoordinated structure, but in fact resembling memories gradually surfacing in the author’s mind.
The poetic persona is typing the three different names given to “Ozersk” during history (the Prussian “Darkehmen”, “Angerapp” during the Nazi regime to give it a more “German” sound, and later on under Russian regime “Ozersk”). According to the author’s memories in his autobiographical telling Fluchtfährte, his father once mentioned, that Angerapp should have to be called “Angerapp an der Angerapp”, meaning Angerapp at the river Angerapp. These words place the reader into the time when Hein was a child and his hometown under Nazi Regime, while the poem’s title reminds the reader that this is a place of the past: “Darkehmen” does not exist any more, as well as “Angerapp” - but only the Russian “Ozersk”.
With his “ten fingers”, the poetic persona now “wanders” and encounters places of the town: a bridge next to a mill, the river, the cobblestones on the road, the barn and the regional court, elder and oats. He sees bunkers (probably from the times of WW I and II), and “Dommert & Sammael” probably the name of a Jewish store, which evokes associations of the Reichskristallnacht (“Sammael” is the name of the Jewish devil; “Dommert” is a typical Prussian family name rhyming with “Donnert” - thundering). “The smell of fire mingling with other smells, smells coming from weeks ago: the smell of indecent busy friendliness of a manufactured goods store that the mother in search for a little coat for the scion does enter after all and then rather shouldn’t have,“ is what Hein remembers of the Reichskristallnacht in the Fluchtfährte, and it sounds just as if the name of the described manufactured goods store could be “Dommert & Sammael”.
After the mental stroll through the village, the speaker comes to a conclusion: “since that moment, nothing and everything has happened here”: on one hand, the village did not change, all the places are as they were before, “only a gravedigger” is walking across the street; but on the other hand, nothing is like it used to be: history left its traces on the former German town which has become Russian since. If the only one left is the gravedigger, there will be no more people to bury. Only in 1991 former inhabitants of the town were able to return to it (and Hein, too) - over 40 years after having been forced to flee from there. However, Hein wrote “Ozersk” in 1965 - exactly 20 years after the end of WW II - which probably is no coincidence. The mentioned gravedigger, by the way, is likely to be Eduard Fischer, one of the few inhabitants who did stay even after Russian occupation. It was he who had, according to the poem, an epiphany of God appearing in the trees, reciting a counting-out rhyme finishing the poem with: “I COUNT TILL TEN / THE MILL STOPS THEN / I COUNT TILL ONEHUNDRED / THE MILL GOES DOWN / I COUNT TILL THOUSAND / THE MILL ROARS AWAY”.
The Thousand-Year Reich proclaimed by Hitler has been roared away as well as the existence of the author’s childhood hometown. “Ozersk” is a poem which reveals how historical events (war!) can destroy people’s lives, their homes - but never the memories they attach to these places: “Nothing has been happening since then - and everything has happened”. Turning personal memories of the time of the third Reich and his escape into collective memory is one of Manfred Peter Hein’s key motives, therefore making “Ozersk” one of the key poems in his oeuvre. It is not surprising that it ranges among Johannes Bobrowski's favourite poems (Meine liebsten Gedichte. Berlin (DDR): Union Verlag 1985) - as well as it is number one of Hein’s poems in anthologies.
The East Prussian landscape reflected through the historical changes this region has experienced during and after the two World Wars places the reader into a typical Baltic Sea environment.
Written on 18th March 1965, first published with the title Oziersk in an anthology edited by Peter Hamm: Aussichten. Junge Lyriker des deutschen Sprachraums. München 1966, p. 38 cx. Later on published in: Manfred Peter Hein, Gegenzeichnung. Gedichte 1962-1972. Darmstadt 1974, p. 36 (as well as in the extended edition Gegenzeichnung. Gedichte 1962-1982. Berlin, Darmstadt 1983, p. 36).
Language Year Translator Icelandic 2005 Gauti Kristmannsson Latvian 2004 Amanda Aizpuriete Polish 2011
Year of first publication1966
Place of first publicationMünchen