At the end of the road – the Hans Fallada Haus, Carwitz

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The writer Hans Fallada, perhaps best known in the English speaking world for his 1947 classic Alone in Berlin, was born as Rudolf Ditzen in Greifswald in 1893. He died, fifty three years later in the year Alone in Berlin was published, at the age of 53. The headlines of his biography suggest an extremely eventful, often tragic, half century of a life:

Sustains injuries, kicked by a horse
Contracts typhoid
Kills friend in a duel as part of a suicide pact
Committed to asylum (where he starts to write)
Morphine addiction
Prison
Troubled marriage
Best-selling debut novel
Jailed for “anti-Nazi activities”
Declared “undesirable author”
Divorce
Alcoholism (and violence)
Mayor of Feldburg (appointed by Soviets)
Returned to Asylum
Alone in Berlin written in 24 days
Death in Berlin

Unlike many of his fellow writers, Fallada chose not to emigrate, despite being arrested and declared undesirable by the Nazis. Instead he retreated inside Germany, to the house in Carwitz where he lived from 1933 until 1944. The house is in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, within a golf shot of the Brandenburg border, in a landscape of forest and lakes that feels, even today, incredibly isolated. The village has one road in and out, and the Fallada house is at the very end, where the cobblestones fade away to the muddy entrance of a farmer’s field. If you were looking for a place of inner-emigration, it is harder to imagine something better.

Now the house is a museum, devoted to the life and work of Rudolf Ditzen/Hans Fallada, and to its credit it does not gloss over the more troubling aspects of the man’s personality, not least his treatment of his wife. The contradictions of a man, his actions, his life and his work are also deftly explored in the detailed biography More Lives Than One by Jenny Williams. Having read the book, there was not much to be discovered at the Hans-Fallada-Haus, except for the understanding of why a man who hated the Nazis but could not bring himself to leave would retreat to this house at the end of the lane, and how, looking out over the fields towards the reed-lined pond, it might be possible to imagine away the rest of the world and convince yourself everything was going to be okay in the end…

Hans-Fallada-Haus, Carwitz

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Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig

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