This is the story of the Alexander House, a small country cottage 30 minutes drive south of Berlin, Germany.
Our Family History
Dr Alfred Alexander was a famous doctor who lived in Berlin about 100 years ago. His patients included Albert Einstein. He is my great-great grandfather.
He had amazing parties in his apartment in Berlin. At the weekends he liked to drive out to his country house in a small town called Groß Glienicke.
History of the House – 1927 to today
Dr Alexander built his cottage in 1927 on the banks of a beautiful lake. My family used to go there most weekends until the late 1930s to relax, have parties and swim in the lake.
Unfortunately the Nazis came and took the house away from them just before the second world war and they came to England with nothing and asked for all their things to be sent afterwards (including the family Torah).
Over the next few years the house was used by the army and squatters and then abandoned and was becoming ruined until my cousin decided to rescue it.
The Clean up!
The clean up all started in the morning about two months ago. I flew out to Berlin one Friday night with my Mum, Dad and my brother and we met my cousin Thomas with his wife and daughter. We had dinner with some local people who had saved their house recently.
The next day, Saturday morning, our family and the local community all helped to clean up the house from about 10 in the morning until we were all exhausted after lunch-time.
We spent the day filling wheel-barrows with leaves and bushes and trees from the garden and masses of junk from inside the house. Me and Thomas looked through a hole in the floor and found lots of interesting things:
- A film negative with photos of families that lived there after our family had to leave, including wedding photos that took place at the house
- An English and a maths test; and
- A very old newspaper from the 1950s
I also found a variety of horrible things as well, including:
- A room full of bottles, old clothes, toys and mattresses left behind by the squatters.
- Millions of spiders and cobwebs (that was the worst part!)
- Shoes and socks
- And overgrown bushes.
A camera crew filmed the clean-up. That was one of my favourite parts!
When we had finished cleaning up, I helped to plant a cherry tree in the garden where there used to be a cherry orchard. Next time I go back I hope it will have grown and there might be some cherries on it that I can eat.
At the end of the day Mum was so hot and tired she jumped into the freezing lake to cool down. We worked out that she was the first member of our family to swim in the lake for about 70 years!
Today and the future for the house
Today we are trying to turn the house into a museum so other families can learn about the history of the house.