I loved the look of the window when I spotted it left out for the binmen a while back. But the brown paint that had been applied in a very slapdash fashion to the frame and metal handle was very ugly. At home, I took a wire brush to it and brushed the flaking paint off the frame and freed up the metal fittings and glass panes as best I could with paint remover. Finally I washed the panes with soapy water to remove the grime and last remnants of paint.
Cleaning the window, it suddenly dawned on me that I was looking through the window, a window. A window that in its original position had been a cellar window facing onto the main street of our village, just a few inches above the footpath. On either side of the glass I held in my hand, life had gone on for decades and decades. I got goosebumps as I thought of all that had occurred during the lifetime of this simple window.
As you may know, I live in Germany, not far from the border to Alsace and on the banks of the Rhein. The second world war had a huge impact in this area.
Perhaps through this window the the feet of the local Catholic priest may have been seen passing by in the period before his internment in the concentration camp in Dachau. Or possibly afterwards, when he returned to the village in 1945 and, incredibly, resumed his job. Was this cellar left empty during the evacuations of villagers in 1939 and 1944? Did the panes rattle in their frames when the nearby bridge over the Rhein was blown up in March 1945? What was observed through it during the occupation of the village through French forces in the post-war period?
Does this cellar window feature in the film that was shot in the village in 1957? Or did it, ten years later, witness the celebrations of the twinning with a town in Normandy brought about by a French soldier who was stationed in the village after the war? Did it see people take to the streets in celebration after the Wonder of Bern, Germany’s surprise World Cup win in 1954? Or the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989?