Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

March 2017

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is…”

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is…
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Bimbo. Well, no one uses the name Bimbo anymore, but in earlier times it was a popular name for exotic creatures. You know how it is -- everyone gets a name. In any case, I am Bimbo and I am a monkey who was given this name sixty years ago. I am a very small monkey. And I don’t grow since I am made of velour. I am still the same size that I was sixty years ago.

Back then I lived in Berlin in barracks on the factory grounds of Wachmannstrasse. These were church barracks in a refugee camp for people who had come from the other part of Germany. The children’s hour was always the best thing there. I had so much fun with all the refugee children there.

At first I belonged to a deaconess. But then a very skinny vicar arrived and the nun asked him: “Can you play with puppets?” And he answered: “Yes, I can.” Then she picked me up and said: “Here, take this monkey.” And the vicar put his hand inside me and placed a finger in the head and his thumb and pinky in the arms. I came alive and said to the children: “Can you guess my name?” They started guessing and figured out what my name was. “Now we’ll play hide-and-seek. I’m going to hide and you have to call out for me.” They all began calling out “Bimbo!” But I didn’t hear them. The skinny vicar said: “You aren’t calling loud enough ... call louder.” Then they called out so loud that the barracks shook. And that’s how we became friends!

And I ended up staying with the vicar my entire life. But now I’m back in Berlin where there are again many refugees. But I won’t be playing with the children anymore. Instead I am going to tell my story about what life was like in the refugee camp back then. My younger colleagues will have to take over the job of playing with the children. I hope they do it as well as I did.

Gift from Ehrhardt Wichmann, vicar for the spiritual guidance of refugees, Berlin 1960-61