[FOUNTAIN]A suitcase of memoriesI still have a suitcase in Berlin/ That is why I have to return / Happiness of days past / Is all in the suitcase / The streets of Madeleine, Paris, were glittering and beautiful / And walking in Rome is also beautiful / Having a glass of wine on a summer night in Vienna is also fine / But even as you laugh / I think of Berlin / Because I still have a suitcase in Berlin.
These are lyrics from the song, “Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin,” by the German actress Marlene Dietrich, who died in 1992. In her signature deep voice, the lyrics showed her longing for her hometown, Berlin. To say you left a suitcase in Berlin means you will forever miss the place.
Marlene Dietrich was arguably the best German actress of the 20th century. She was also the only actress to draw the admiration of the Japanese writer, Siono Nanami. No other person embodied the love and hatred of the German people as she did.
Dietrich made her film debut in 1930 in “The Blue Angel,” directed by Josef von Sternberg. She shot to stardom with her mysterious persona of sexual neutrality. She moved to the United States in the same year as the movie was released and became a U.S. citizen in 1939. During World War II, she performed for U.S. troops deployed in Italy and Germany. For her service in that capacity, she received the Medal of Freedom from the U.S. government and the Legion d’honneur from the French government.
But that was when her unhappiness began. In a1960 tour of Europe, Dietrich was labeled a traitor when she visited her homeland. She would never return to Germany again alive. Living in France, she sang, “I still have a suitcase in Berlin.” In a paraphrase of the words of the Buddhist monk and poet, Manhae, who said, “Living things are the dear ones for Buddha and philosophy is the dear one for Kant,” her dear one was Berlin.
After she committed suicide at age 91, her body was moved to Berlin and buried beside her mother. In 1997, she was honored in Berlin; Dietrich was resurrected as Germany’s best actress.
Earlier this week, former President Kim Dae-jung visited the Blue House. It may not have been perfect timing, considering the by-elections last Thursday and the beginning of investigations into cash transfers to North Korea. But perhaps Mr. Kim had left a suitcase at the Blue House. Or maybe President Roh Moo-hyun left a suitcase in the heart of Mr. Kim.
by Yoo Jae-sik
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.